The devastating 2020 Black Summer bushfires consumed half of Kangaroo Island, destroyed more than 100 houses, killed two people, hundreds of thousands of native animals and more than 50,000 sheep.
It was the worst disaster in KI’s history but its impact is now growing worse as a new biodiversity catastrophe spreads across the landscape.
What has been widely unreported is that the wildfire burnt through 95 per cent of the island’s 20,000 hectares of pine and blue gum plantations. The blue gum plantations were inhabited by a large population of koalas, with the survivors now under major threat from the upcoming clear-felling of the trees.
The plight of KI’s koalas became a worldwide focus following the bushfires, with money being donated from around the planet to save them. Those who donated would be shocked to discover there is no management plan for the koalas as they begin to be forced from their blue gum homes.
It is feared the koalas will be forced into the small amount of surviving native vegetation, stripping trees and causing further deterioration of the environment. It is inevitable that thousands of koalas will die slow and painful deaths from starvation and malnutrition. Given the intense global focus on KI’s koalas, this issue has the potential to damage Australia’s conservation reputation.
Furthermore, blue gum wildings (seedlings) have spread exponentially from the original plantations, infesting creeklines, adjacent native vegetation and roadsides. These fast growing trees compete aggressively with native species, sucking huge amounts of water from the soil, eventually forming a monoculture that impacts native fauna and flora.
Adding to this catastrophe is the possibility that the 4.2 million tonnes of trees will be knocked down and burnt if they cannot be transported off the island. The carbon emissions from this event would be another devastating blow for the climate.
Daniel Clarke is an award-winning journalist and independent filmmaker who runs South Australian-based companies Ninti Media and Ad Hoc Docs, based on Kangaroo Island.
Winner of the Freelance Category at the 2022 South Australian Media Awards for his work in film and the written word, Daniel is a passionate Director/Producer whose work focusses on environmental, regional and social issues.
Dan’s films have been bought by Foxtel’s History Channel (1-hour doc), the BBC (footage for The Travel Show), Amazon Prime (2 x feature docs), SBS and NITV. Locally, his films have been nominated 4 times for Best Documentary at the South Australian Screen Awards, as well as a Best Film nomination for Saving Warru in 2018. Daniel also received Best Editing and Best Sound Design nominations for his post-production work on Voice from the Desert. He recently won Best Editing in the 2021 Fleurieu Film Festival.
Daniel’s documentaries have also been selected for screening at festivals in New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, France, India, New Zealand, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. He has directed and produced 7 documentaries for NITV’s Our Stories series and has released a 4-part documentary television series about the history and rehabilitation of Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary.
He also films and produces content for WWF Australia. Daniel studied Documentary Film Production at Langara College in Vancouver, Canada and received extra training at NG Media, an Aboriginal-run media organisation in the remote central desert.