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Arson Attacks Causing Damage to AWC Sanctuaries

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: February 18, 2022 9:55 pm

Australian Wildlife Conservancy Fires

An unplanned fire sweeps the Picaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary

Photo Credit: Sally Gray/ Australian Wildlife Conservancy

The Australian Wildlife Conservancy have issued an urgent call to tackle an increase in arson across Australia's Cape York Peninsula. The issue was revealed at the 2022 North Australia Savanna Fire Forum this week.

Since 2014 it has been revealed that 260,000 hectares on Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary have been impacted by arson.

Sally Gray, Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) Assistant Sanctuary Manager at Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary in Far North Queensland spoke to government officials and conservation groups about the importance of regional collaboration to reduce the impacts of arson. This will protect against the threats to the Cape’s unique ecosystems, critical habitats and local wildlife including threatened species such as the Red Goshawk.

AWC have spent a decade investing in fire management planning at Picaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary in Far North Queensland. As part of this prescribed burning will occur as soon as the country can carry fire. This helps to limit the spread of intense late season fires to protect crucial old-growth habitat.

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To help protect the ecosystem Sally Gray from AWC proposed that the industry develop a regional plan that could reduce the risk of unplanned fires, including chopper sharing for faster response times, increased reporting to the police and Rural Fire Service, and work closely with local media to raise awareness of arson attacks as they occur.

“In the Cape, unplanned fire is a very complicated business,” Gray explained. “We have huge amounts of biomass material unlike many other regions and we have a tight window to control burns before they reach critical habitat and threatened species. Species impacted by these burns can include the Red Goshawk, Australia’s rarest bird of prey, which is fledging during the late dry season.”


“When we get to the fire season at the end of the year, fire danger is extreme. I hope that by working together, we can better manage and reduce the extent of destructive burns due to arson.”

Gray works with her partner and Sanctuary Manager Graham Woods to help protect the 160,000 hectares of ecologically diverse landscape at Piccaninny Plains. She is urging the community to ensure arson does not become normalized in the community.

“We need to stop normalising these unplanned fires in the region because the truth is, it’s not normal and by turning a blind eye we’re giving arsonists a free pass to continue carrying out illegal activity.”

AWC carry out the largest non-government prescribed burning program on their sanctuaries across Australia. This helps to prevent the prevalence of destructive fires by up to 50% on their sanctuaries.

Learn more about the Australian Wildlife Conservancy on their website – Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Australian Wildlife Conservancy Fires

Smoke from an unplanned fire at the Picaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary

Photo Credit: Sally Gray/ Australian Wildlife Conservancy

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