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Aussie invention wins $55k to help save our wildlife from major threat

Cats and foxes are known to be lured into bushfires zones by the smell of smoke.

No, you’re not looking at a spacecraft dropped on an alien landscape, the new structures in this photo are actually designed to help wildlife.

The flat-packed habitat pods are designed to be emergency shelter for native creatures whose homes have been destroyed by bushfires. It’s hoped they can provide safety when feral animals like cats and foxes rush in.

ReHatch inventor Dr Alexandra Carthey told Yahoo News Australia invasive predators actually respond to the smoke and can travel hundreds of kilometres to burn areas.

An image of the pods on a burnt out landscape in NSW by the ocean.
The ReHabitat pods received a $50,000 prize, along with a $5000 people's choice prize at Taronga’s HATCH Accelerator Program. Source: Supplied

“It’s terrible because they're not a native predator. And they’re adding this extra pressure to what is already a highly stressed ecosystem,” she said. “Any injured homeless animals that are wandering around after making it through the fire stand a really low chance against these cats and foxes that are coming in.”

How many pods are being made?

While ReHabitat has not yet been produced at scale, that’s about to change. On Thursday, Dr Carthey was awarded a $55,000 grant from the Taronga Conservation Society which she’ll invest in taking her habitat pods to the next stage.

“We think we can create somewhere between seven and 10,000 pods with that money,” she said. “We also think having won this grant, private conservation groups will want to invest further.”

A chart that shows the regeneration of forests and the impact on wildlife after fires.
The pods are designed to provide shelter to wildlife when predators invade after bushfires. Source: ReHabitat

As an ecologist, Dr Carthey is determined the manufacturing of her invention won’t harm the environment further. They will initially be created in Australia using recycled paper, and then if manufacturing is sent offshore to meet demand ahead of the fire season, worker rights and sustainable processes will be priorities.

Pods will help provide unified response to bushfires

When the next fire season comes, Dr Carthey believes her invention will form part of the response to help wildlife across the country. They could be delivered alongside supplies of food and water as part of a “unified response”.

“Last time, there was all of these animals injured after the fires, but we didn’t know what to do,” she said. “Next time there’s a fire we want to be able to say: this is what we need to do. And we’ll be able to do it at scale.”

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