The Federal Government has announced $50m funding for an Emergency Wildlife and Habitat Recovery Package in response to fires. Conservation-based zoos are expected to play a major role in the recovery challenge with in-house specialist veterinary and husbandry expertise, and critical care facilities such as those at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital.
In some parts of the world, price incentives, proprietorship and devolved responsibility for management, accompanied by effective regulation, have increased wildlife and protected habitats, particularly for iconic and valuable species.
AWS has been arguing for some time that the private landholders can play a larger role in wildlife conservation than is currently permitted. We have been advocating trials of the concept based on international experiences.
Notwithstanding the current announcement, the need for private sector involvement is even more urgent now. Expenditure by governments to address threatened species conservation was already falling short of achieving objectives.
A key step is enabling landholders, community groups, and investors to have a form of wildlife custodianship, possibly by leasing animals on land outside protected areas. This would encourage them to get involved in rehabilitation programs, breeding animals, innovating and assisting further colonization/range expansion. The process could be applied to damaged animals so enabling them to find new homes on private lands. The role of government in this undertaking would be as the regulator rather than the (sole) owner and manager of wildlife. The area of land given over to biodiversity conservation would increase and currently under represented areas would be incorporated into conservation goals.