How these orange dots on trees are saving 'desperate' wildlife in bushfires

·Environment Editor

Orange dots are being spray painted in forests to help drought and bushfire-affected native animals.

Ordinarily, Australians are discouraged from feeding wildlife, but severe weather conditions have left many mammals, reptiles and birds in desperate need of human help.

When people see an orange dot, they are encouraged to fill the water station at the bottom of the tree or leave food in the hanging baskets provided by volunteers.

NSW Central Coast woman Lisa Diggins, 41, started the grassroots initiative to empower communities to help thirsty and malnourished animals.

Now she says she’s seeing the idea take off across Australia.

NSW Central Coast woman Lisa Diggins started painting orange dots on trees (left) to show where water and feed stations (right) for animals were needed.
Lisa Diggins (left) began painting orange dots on trees to show where water and feed stations (right) were needed. Source: Supplied

“It’s just an easy locator for people to find our feed stations,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“Generally we would just like people to put out some pellet food, or vegetable scraps, or some water.

“Animals are desperate and suffering, so every little bit of water helps.”

As she spoke with Yahoo News Australia, Ms Diggins was travelling down from setting up a feeding station in Bucketty, on the NSW Central Coast, where last Tuesday a farmer reported finding a koala who had died of dehydration.

With waterholes drying up, animals across many areas of Australia are struggling to find water.

A sick-looking koala, injured by fires, at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
Estimates suggest more than 500 million native animals have been killed by the bushfires. Source: Getty Images, file

“It is quite eye-opening – it’s a mass devastation,” she said.

“People can just get this going in their backyards in suburbia, it doesn’t have to be in bushland.

“Where we’ve put the stations, there has been scratchings on the ground from wallabies and wombats, and there have been lots of birds too.

“I’m really proud of the way things are coming along.”

As animals like koalas venture down from trees in search of water, they are increasingly coming into contact with humans.

On the left, three people surround a ute with supplies for wildlife and on the right is a man distributing water to animals.
Volunteers work to distribute water to wildlife. Source: Supplied

Reports from wildlife carers suggest many are being run over by cars, attack by cats and dogs, or being shot on farms.

Volunteers hope the orange dot movement will provide clear direction to help wildlife thrive again.

‘It’s really dangerous at the moment.’

Until the bushfire season began, Ms Diggins had never worked with wildlife before, so she is learning as she goes.

While the initiative has generally been hailed as a great way to help wildlife, there has been some concern online over the dots.

An image of an animal skeleton on a dry patch of grass.
Ms Bankes believes drought is affecting wildlife as much as fires. Source: Michael Dahlstrom/Yahoo News Australia

Emergency service crews regularly use spray painted symbols on trees to highlight dangerous trees, marking them with an X, K or yellow dot.

Many forests that have been devastated by bushfires remain dangerous and falling trees remain a threat to walkers.

Ms Diggins explained she had let the Rural Fire Service in her area know about the work she was doing and they had been supportive.

She is working to get her work sanctioned by the authorities and encourages people considering entering fire-affected areas to consult with their local fire authorities first.

“With the trees coming down it’s really dangerous at the moment,” she said.

“People need to be smart about the areas they are entering and I just hope they’ll use common sense.”

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