Firefighters rappelled into a secret location to try to save the remaining Wollemi Pines from burning in the huge Gospers Mountain Fire in New South Wales, Australia. After it started from lightning on October 26, the fire burned 512,000 hectares (1,265,000 acres) before it was contained a few days ago. With only 200 of the trees left the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Rural Fire Service attempt to keep the location a secret.
Below are excerpts from an article at the Sydney Morning Herald:
Contamination from pathogens brought in by visitors could devastate the remaining populations.
“When the pines were discovered in 1994, you might as well have found a living dinosaur,”[NSW Environment and Energy Minister Matt] Kean said.
Cris Brack, an associate professor at the Australian National University, said fossil evidence indicates that the trees existed between 200 and 100 million years ago and were once present across the whole of Australia.
“I knew the [grove] was exceedingly threatened by the fires,” he said.
Aging the current crop is difficult because they may be cloned from only a few trees or even a single individual. As such, the plants could be as old as 100,000 years, Professor Brack said.
The firefighters set up a sprinkler system to keep the ground fuels wet while air tankers and helicopters dropped water and retardant to keep the fire from spreading into the very hard to access grove of trees.
One population of a couple of trees burned, but the remaining 200 made it.
Researchers say the pines have survived fires in the past but the blazes this summer have been abnormally hot and large. Since they were discovered 26 years ago the trees have been propagated by nurseries in Australia and abroad.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kelly. Typos or errors, report them HERE.