$165,000 'garden hose' set to save bushfire-battered wildlife: 'First of its kind'

A world-first invention is carving the way forward for Australian ecosystems, still reeling from the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires.

Billions of animals were killed or displaced and millions of hectares of habitat destroyed in what's been described as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history.

A red neck Wallaby sheltering near burnt out bushland near Cobargo, Thursday, January 16, 2020. Source: AAP
A red neck Wallaby sheltering near burnt-out bushland near Cobargo in January, 2020. Source: AAP

In New South Wales alone, it’s estimated 5.5 million hectares of tree hollows were lost in the 2019/2020 mega-fires that possums, gliders, micro-bats and birds use for breeding, shelter and protection.

“Hollows naturally form in trees that are more than 70 years old, so losing habitat trees in a bushfire has a devastating impact on the mammals, reptiles and birds that use those hollows for shelter and breeding,” Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said.

Branching out with world-first technology

Conservation biologist Matt Stephens is at the forefront of recovery efforts in NSW, creating more than 800 new nests and roosts with his invention, the Hallowhog.

The Environment Officer for Transport NSW spent a decade developing the world-first tool, which somewhat resembles a garden hose.

A photo of conservation biologist Matt Stephens holding his invention the Hallowhog. Source: NSW Government
Conservation biologist Matt Stephens is behind the Hallowhog, a world-first invention which is being used to rebuild natural habitats destroyed by bushfires. Source: NSW Government

“I enlisted the help of an engineering company and have extensively trialled and refined the tool over the past two years,” Mr Stephens said.

“It’s the first tool of its kind and combines hardened steel and tungsten carbide cutting blades to provide the safest and most efficient way to carve a large cavity through a small hole, meaning that the tree’s living parts are left intact.”

The NSW Government has invested $165,000 into the project, which is faster and less invasive than using a chainsaw.

Screenshots of footage which shows native animals using the man-made hallows. Source: NSW Government
The world-first technology has already created more than 800 new hollows that will provide displaced animals with a space to nest and roost for an accumulated 56,000 years. Source: NSW Government

The new hollows will provide displaced animals with a safe space for an accumulated 56,000 years.

“Unfortunately, we know the risk of more intense and more frequent bushfires is a real possibility due to climate change,” Environment Minister Matt Kean said.

“This cutting edge technology will help our native animal species to recover from the impact of fire by providing breeding habitat so animal populations can bounce back.”

Mr Stephens is aiming to install more than one million hollows over the next few years.

Wet spring fuelling fears of horror fire season

Australia’s east coast will cop a serious soaking in spring, according to climatologists.

The latest seasonal outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting above average rainfall for people living in the east of the country as well as cooler days and warmer nights.

It follows a wet and warm winter, which means there is plenty of lush grass around.

The Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for spring 2021 warns this could mean an increased fire risk as the grass dries out and cures.

The seasonal bushfire outlook for Spring 2021 shows an increased risk for grassfires in the east. Source: AFAC
The seasonal bushfire outlook for spring in 2021 shows an increased risk for grassfires in the east. Source: AFAC

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