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Firefighters Save World’s Only Grove of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines From Australia Fires

Australia Sustainability News National Parks
by Eben Diskin Jan 17, 2020

The Australian wombats have been grabbing headlines for saving fellow wild critters during the bushfires, but they’re not the only heroes that have emerged during this disaster. Firefighters succeeded in their efforts to protect the world’s only grove of Wollemi pines, a prehistoric species of tree “that has outlived the dinosaurs,” according to NPR. Only 200 of these trees still exist in their natural environment, all of which are inside the canyons of Wollemi National Park west of Sydney.

They were believed to be extinct until 1994, when Australian national parks officer Davi Noble rappelled into the canyon and discovered the trees. Now they’re in immense danger from the bushfires burning around the park, and firefighters have stepped up to preserve the ancient trees.

To this end, air tankers dropped fire retardant around the trees, firefighters set up an irrigation system to keep the trees wet, and teams of specialists descended from helicopters to ensure that everything was proceeding accordingly.

Although the blaze did char a few trees, and managed to kill two, the Wollemi largely emerged unscathed thanks to the firefighters’ efforts. The government places such a high value on the trees’ safety that it’s even keeping the exact location of the Wollemi grove a secret, to avoid tourism-inflicted damage.

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