Breaking News, News from the Field

Urgent response to devastating fire at North Head

13 Nov. 2020
© Joey Clarke/AWC

On 17 October, a NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service hazard reduction burn at Sydney’s iconic North Head jumped containment lines. The uncontrolled and intense fire moved rapidly across the headland, burning through approximately 62 hectares of bush and a substantial section of Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC’s) project area. Our team has been on the ground since the day after the fire, rescuing wildlife, creating shelters and assessing the impact to the headland.

At North Head, AWC is contracted by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to deliver research and monitoring projects (of extant wildlife, feral predators and the Critically Endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub) and reintroductions of locally extinct mammals. AWC is not contracted to deliver fire management at North Head.

This year we were celebrating a decade of effective conservation partnership at North Head, including the successful reintroduction of three locally extinct species including native Bush Rats, Brown Antechinus and Eastern Pygmy Possum.


Image B North Head © Joey Clarke/AWC
AWC Wildlife Ecologist Dr Viyanna Leo inspects the damage caused after the out of control fire at North Head.


All equipment (camera traps, SD cards and data) in the burnt area has been destroyed, along with much of the habitat where we carry out threatened wildlife reintroductions and areas of the headland’s Critically Endangered Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub. Experiments running at the burn site have had to be abandoned.


Image C Tunnels North Head ©Rhiannon Khoury/AWC
AWC’s team is installing refuge tunnels to connect patches of unburnt vegetation and provide shelter for surviving animals.


We are still measuring the impacts, but our urgent priority is rescuing wildlife. Using vital lessons learned from our Kangaroo Island and Wollombi Valley projects, we are installing refuge tunnels, nest boxes and watering points and providing supplementary food for surviving animals.

Taronga Zoo vets are treating injured wildlife at their clinic, and we want to thank them for this much appreciated support. AWC is also working with National Parks and Wildlife Service and Sydney Harbour Federation Trust during this stage of the response.

We are monitoring for feral predators on a daily basis in this exposed environment and it is crucial that we stop feral cat and fox incursions.


Image D Eastern Pygmy Possum © Joey Clarke/AWC
AWC has reintroduced three locally extinct species to North Head, including Eastern Pygmy Possum. Rescue efforts are now underway to find surviving animals.


Time is of the essence – we must act now to protect surviving wildlife.

If you would like to support our recovery efforts, we would greatly value your help to purchase urgently required materials and equipment to replace what has been lost in the fire.

  • $5 will buy two rechargeable batteries
  • $20 will pay for banksia netting
  • $25 will buy one nest box to shelter wildlife
  • $30 will buy one SD card to gather camera trap data
  • $500 will pay for a single artificial refuge tunnel
  • $1,000 will buy one Reconyx infrared camera trap for monitoring feral predators (including all weather casing, SD card and batteries for 1 year)

AWC ecologists are in the field at North Head, delivering immediate action and implementing our response plan. To donate, please click below or phone 08 9380 9633.

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