A first of its kind new app, Help Wildlife Near Me has launched in the Blue Mountains today, assisting Australians to protect bushfire affected wildlife. The app works by providing critical information on local wildlife populations, emergency responses to injured animals, and wildlife protection volunteer and learning opportunities.
Funded by the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants program and supported by the Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery Program for Wildlife and their Habitat, the app was developed in response to the Black Summer Bushfires which saw many Australians rally to protect fire affected wildlife.
However as Dr Kellie Leigh, Executive Director of Science for Wildlife and creator of Help Wildlife Near Me says, a lack of evidence-based information and coordination prevented their efforts from having maximum impact, and in some cases put both wildlife and people at risk.
“In a crisis, volunteers do the best that they can to protect the people and wildlife around them. But sometimes these generous acts can inadvertently do more harm than good,” said Dr Leigh.
“For example, there were images of people offering koalas water straight from a drinking bottle in the same way we would drink, but that can lead to aspiration pneumonia because koalas normally drink with their heads down”
“Increasing the effectiveness of community participation in conservation activities and future emergency responses for wildlife is imperative, especially in the event of large-scale fires.
“The Help Wildlife Near Me app will better harness the collective action of grass-roots efforts, by providing communities with critical information to ensure future emergency responses for wildlife are safe and effective for both people and animals.”
The app brings together the knowledge of wildlife experts from across NSW, including public land managers, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, local Councils, Local Land Services, Landcare groups, the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Advisory Committee, WIRES, RSPCA and Blue ARC. These stakeholders will not only use the app to share their expertise with the community, but to stay informed of the different projects and activities in progress in order to identify gaps in conservation efforts.
Landcare NSW CEO Turlough Guerin applauded the project, saying that it provided a one-stop-shop for local communities to skill up on how to protect native animals in emergencies, and supported strategic long-term wildlife recovery through participation in wildlife and habitat conservation.
“Projects like the Help Wildlife Near Me app are what Landcare is all about. By bringing together a diverse range of insights and experience from multiple stakeholders, this app will save countless animal lives and improve community and environmental resilience after disasters such as the Black Summer Bushfires.
“Landcare NSW supports many groups to run projects that require the assistance and expertise of local volunteers and we’re looking forward to growing participation and impact through the Help Wildlife Near Me app.”
With the potential to be scaled to support disaster affected regions across the country, Dr Leigh is now aiming to secure more funding to roll the app out nationwide.
Download the app for iOS and for Android