Sydney: Australian firefighters battling the raging bushfres across the country, have successfully managed to save an extremely rare grove of ancient trees from destruction, with specialist teams going to extreme measures as the blazes closed in, authorities said.
The Wollemi Pines in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales (NSW) state are the only known members of their species in the world and are sometimes called the “dinosaur trees” due to their prehistoric origin, reports Xinhua news agency.
“Wollemi National Park is the only place in the world where these trees are found in the wild and, with less than 200 left, we knew we needed to do everything we could to save them,” NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said on Thursday.
As the fire front approached the trees’ confidential location, firefighters doused water and flame retardant from the land and sky, creating a barrier and subverting their destruction.
As well as aerial water-bombing jets, firefighting specialists dropped into the location by helicopter to create a makeshift irrigation system powered by a generator.
While parts of the trees were charred and the surrounding bushland levelled, the Wollemi Pines survived largely unscathed as the fire front passed through the area.
The unique trees were thought to be extinct, until they were accidentally discovered thriving in the Australian wilderness in 1994.
Kean said that the latest operation would act as a lesson for future conservation efforts.
“The 2019 wildfire is the first ever opportunity to see the fire response of mature Wollemi Pine in a natural setting, which will help us refine the way we manage fire in these sites long-term,” he said.
“Illegal visitation remains a significant threat to the Wollemi Pines survival in the wild due to the risk of trampling regenerating plants and introducing diseases which could devastate the remaining populations and their recovery.”
The bushfires have so far claimed the lives of 28 people and billions of animals since it first erupted last September.
Rain and cooler temperatures in recent days have helped firefighters contain the dozens of active blazes in Victoria and NSW, the most-affected state, where 20 casualties have been recorded.
The fires have also destroyed more than 80,000 sq.km, an area larger than Ireland or Panama, charring more than 2,000 houses.