Nearly three months after the bushfires, I visited the coast south of Sydney last week. It was wonderful to see how resilient old Mother Nature can be after all the devastation. I found mile after mile of burned forest furred with new green growth, like this stretch in Mogo state forest:
It was an impressive demonstration of the ability of eucalypts to survive extreme temperatures – on occasions steel signs were melted by these fires – and it was noticeable that it was the thicker limbs that survived. This tree in the Currumbene forest was one example:
As this close-up shows, the regrowth can emerge from anywhere, even through the charred thick bark on this tree-trunk in Mogo.
This also happens with banksia trees:
Many small shrubs can regenerate from their roots, which are sheltered by the earth even as the above-ground stalks are being cooked by the heat. This one was in the Blue Mountains:
After reports of the ferocity of this summer’s fires, I was prepared for the worst. I had seen it before, in the aftermath of the bad 2013 fire in the Warrumbungle Mountains. The next photo was taken nearly a year after that fire, and you can see that while all the lower trees survived, those further up the hill are gone for good.
This didn’t happen with the South Coast fires. They were intense, but also too fast-moving to really kill the trees. This buoyed my spirits.
The other encouraging thing I found was the almost complete recovery of the Mogo Zoo. Here, on the worst day of the Currowan bushfire, the staff had had to battle all day to save the zoo and its animals from annihilation. (There’s a fine account by Jane Cadzow of their ordeal here.)
This is a wildlife blog, so I don’t normally include zoo photographs—I’m a bit ambivalent about zoos generally—but I’m making Mogo an exception. I’ve been to the zoo before, and it’s one of the good ones, with reasonable space for its animals and an obviously caring staff. Besides, after such a dramatic event, I wanted to see how the animals had come through their ordeal by fire. In the event, I found them pretty chilled.
For example, this lion was quite at ease as it sat in the sun:
The pygmy marmoset on the right was more concerned about the bit of hair on its tongue from grooming its mate.
The meerkat, serval and deer all seemed quite relaxed:
Also happy was this red panda, as a redhead pandered to it.
Black and white ruffed lemurs always look startled, even when calm.
High in its island eyrie, a siamang was enjoying the view.
A cheetah raised its head briefly to check me out before dozing off again:
“Fire? What fire?”