Australia's dinosaur-era pines live on after bushfire rescue

Australia's dinosaur-era pines live on after bushfire rescue
An aerial view of Wollemi National Park where endangered Wollemi Pines are being protected from bushfires by a specialist team of remote-area firefighters and parks staff at New South Wales, Australia mid-January 2020. Reuters
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Sydney: Australia's Wollemi Pines survived the dinosaurs, and now firefighters have nursed them through the country's worst bushfires in generations to live another day.

The giant prehistoric trees were thought to be extinct until 1994, when authorities found 200 of them in a national park near the Blue Mountains north-west of Sydney.

Australia's dinosaur-era pines live on after bushfire rescue
A member of the specialist team. Reuters

Since kept secret to protect them from contamination, their location has been devastated during a bushfire season that has razed about 11 million hectares (27 million acres) across the country's southeast - an area roughly a third the size of Germany - since September.

The Gospers Mountain 'megafire' wiped out most of the trees' home in Wollemi National Park, but they emerged virtually unscathed after air tankers dropped fire retardant and firefighters set up irrigation systems to protect them, the government said.

Australia's dinosaur-era pines live on after bushfire rescue
A helicopter hovers overhead as a specialist team of remote-area firefighters and parks staff inspect the endangered Wollemi Pines. Reuters

As the fire approached, firefighters were winched in by helicopter to activate the irrigation systems while other aircraft dropped water along the flames' edge to minimise their impact.

"While some trees are charred, the species has survived this summer's fires," New South Wales state Environment Minister Matt Kean said.

Australia's dinosaur-era pines live on after bushfire rescue
A member of the specialist team of remote-area firefighters and parks staff sets up a water pump to protect the endangered Wollemi Pines from bushfires. Reuters

Kean did not say when the operation took place, but the state's Rural Fire Service said this week that, with the arrival of light rains and a dip in temperatures, it had downgraded the Gospers Mountain fire to "under control".

Bushfires are common during Australia's summer but this fire season started unusually early.

Australia's dinosaur-era pines live on after bushfire rescue
An aerial view of Wollemi National Park. Reuters

The blazes have killed 29 people, destroyed more than 2,500 homes and killed or injured an estimated 1 billion native animals, wildlife academics say.

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