After experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades, the Australian wildfire has already burned through 18 million acres of land, making it one of the largest wildfires the world has ever seen. (I believe the largest on record is the 1987 Black Dragon Fire in China / Russia).
No one knows exactly how the fires started but the best speculation I’ve seen is that because of the dryness from the drought a lightning strike began the blaze. So far it’s killed almost thirty people (including several volunteer firefighters), burned several thousands of people out of their homes and killed almost one billion animals. The devastation to the animal population is so extreme it might wipe entire species out and hasten the endangered koala into extinction.
An aerial view of the wildfires East Gippsland on January 2, 2020. Dale Appleton/DELWP via AP
Smoke from the Australian wildfires is pumping horrible amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and created a smoke plume above Australia almost as large as the United States. Which, is kind of terrifying to comprehend. Thankfully, cooler temperatures and mild winds are helping Australian firefighters finally get ahead of the blaze. From an AP story speaking with Dale McLeon who is one of the fire response managers on a team bulldozing small trees and burning scrub ahead of the fire’s path, in hopes to stop it from spreading:
“This fire took a major run about seven or eight days ago, and with the weather changing now, the weather settling down, the fire has settled down. The fire behavior has changed. So we're able to get in front of the fire now, get on the offensive.”
But the fire fight is far from over and the Australian blaze will continue to burn for months, so, we’ve yet to even understand the full scope of damage and the cost of human & animal life. With that in mind, I’ve found a few legitimate links in ways you can help:
Quite recently, and accidentally, I came across this six year old video about a photographers wild encounter with a family of mountain gorilla. It’s already been viewed almost 12 million times so it’s not like I am the first person to find it. That being said, it immediately charmed even my dark soul and made me wonder who the folks in the video are.
Which lead me to The Common Flat Project, the blog of John and Pam King. So who are these wildlife humanitarians? According to their site:
“In recent years John and Pam King have been pursuing a lifelong passion to experience and record the earth’s wild places and wild things through their photography. They co-founded The Common Flat Project in 2011 to foster a message of conservation and raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity on our planet especially on Cape Cod.”
The Common Flat, I have found out, is a tidal area off the elbow of Cape Cod and is part of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. That appears to be where John and Pam King spend the majority of their time and life. Their online gallery of the area is lovely and has landscapes, flora and fauna from all four seasons. They’ve also brought their photographic eye to all corners of the world and have captured images, as far as I can tell, on just about every continent.
Which is how, sometime in 2011, they ended up in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwest Uganda. The National Park, from John and Pam’s blog - is remote and very difficult to get to and at the time of the blog post was home to some 350 mountain gorilla. Several years later, that number has remained about the same, which means it houses roughly, half the known mountain gorilla population. The rest of the several hundred known surviving mountain gorilla population is in the nearby Virunga Mountains, a volcano region on the border of Uganda.
Anyway, as the Kings point out in their blog, “... young gorillas are curious about humans and may approach, this is very rare. Adult gorilla to human interactions are virtually unheard of among the local rangers.”
Well, the Kings had a three day permit within the Park and imagine their utter shock when, on day three they find the one of the gorilla families had tracked them down just to - well, hang out with them for a while! You can read the Kings' full account of their experience here.
As far as I can tell the Common Flat Project is still going strong and John and Pam are still neck deep in nature photography and wildlife conservation and I’m thankful to both of them for sharing their photos with the world.
John and Pam King’s hardcover book, Wild Cape Cod: Free by Nature (2012) can be purchased here.