How animals began dying before the Australian bush fires

The ancients believed firmly in omens, a belief which need not be interpreted in supernatural terms. It is often said that animals flee in advance of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. In Australia last week, it seems animals reacted as distinctly to the extraordinary heat that heralded the country’s awful fires. Reason no. 762 to take climate change seriously: a love of small, furry creatures. From the Sydney Morning Herald: The end of climate certainty |

When hundreds of small, grey-headed flying foxes began falling from the sky at Yarra Bend in suburban Melbourne, for some it heralded the awful events that would later unfold. It was Wednesday, January 28, one day into the ferocious heatwave that would wax and wane before returning with terrible intensity last weekend.

That first day, calls began pouring into Wildlife Victoria. As the bats were dying en masse in the city, ringtail possums were falling out of trees in the bush and distressed kangaroos, too weak to jump, were baulking at fences.

About David

I am an environmental writer, journalist and speaker living in Cape Town, South Africa.
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5 Responses to How animals began dying before the Australian bush fires

  1. Eric says:

    The confluence of factors on 7 February in Victoria have not been seen before in the last 150 years of recorded weather – low rainfall, relative humidity and high temperatures.

    The highest temperature recorded in Victoria set a record – 3 degrees higher than the previous highest temperature (in February 2009). It is out of the ordinary to break the record by that much.

    While it is difficult to attribute a specific incident to climate change, but the increase in temperature fits closely to the changes predicted by climatologists.

    In my part of the world (the Garden Route) I have spent the last few weeks cutting a firebreak around the perimeter of my house and moving dead wood well away. We have had very high temperatures for the past 2 weeks. 36 degrees is forecast for today.

  2. Audrey says:

    I am not sure how earnest could ever be horrible.

    For what it’s worth, just read your thoughtful comment re PBHS on booksa, and it occurred to me as it often does while reading your blog, that this world could do with a few more like you.

    I am awfully depressed about the world at the moment, having been a cautious optimist for most of my life but lately having come to a point at which I no longer believe we have a crack at anything at all. I really think that all is lost for the world and what’s more, that that’s as it should be. Maybe I’m just angry, and tired. Maybe I need to go into the Karoo and breathe for a while.

    Please keep writing this blog. I need to change my mind.

    • hello Audrey,

      I have often felt that all is lost for the world. It is hard to find ways to avert that despair without actually resorting to denial! But here are some of the thoughts I brandish at despair:

      Supposing civilisation does collapse in the next few years under the combined weight of climate change, a 200-year solar storm destroying our electrical grids, energy crisis, food shortages and terminal moral collapse. Somewhere, sometime, amidst all that chaos, despite my own probable helplessness, I might still be able to help someone else, or laugh at the insanity of it all, or just find a spot of shade and a moment of peace. These are all things I feel are worth holding out for.

      At times, as well, when I have been despairing completely about the world, it has not been so much because the world is awry, but because I myself have been awry, in my case, usually rather ill with depression. (Since we are of course part of the world, I know it’s hard to say whether it makes much sense to try to separate them.)

      Once upon a time, this planet was a seething, apparently rather hellish and inhospitable place, lifeless, barren. It could not have been possible to look upon it and imagine the infinite variety of life, compassion, music, Beethoven and Britney, oak trees and afternoon tea, fynbos and making love. Yet all these things are now here. So who know what wonderful things may yet come to be, despite our current destructiveness?

      Our senses and sources of information are so limited that it’s probably best not to trust them when making decisions on whether or not to despair about everything.

      Thank you for your generous comments. I hope you’ll find that breathing space soon, whether in the Karoo or in yourself.

      The eternal paradox is that without feeling the world’s pain, we cannot ease it.

      • Audrey says:

        I never thanked you for this, back then, didn’t know how and was in a deep hole. But just so you know, it made a difference, and I am beginning to find that breathing space. Thank you.

  3. Audrey says:

    There. Just back from a whirlwind tour of Incite. So much to think about. And bits to be glad about, too.

    And what a priceless find, the guardian cricketVSjargon column. Too good!

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