The Kinglake fires were just one of several Black Saturday bushfires on February 7, 2009. The Kinglake region was one of the worst hit, not just in human loss, but also from the destruction of hundreds and thousands of hectares of animal habitat. The fate of several endangered and vulnerable species in the Black Saturday bushfire areas are still, one year later, uncertain. However, on the anniversary of Australia’s worst national disaster, here’s a Black Saturday good news story.
King Parrot Creek – Inside the Kinglake Fire Zone
Between Kinglake and Strath Creek in Victoria is King Parrot Creek, venue of the 2009 Kinglake fires. Following a fire, the water quality of creeks and rivers can be severely affected, not just from riparian damage during a fire, but from quantities of silt entering waterways in the days, weeks and even months following. Imagine then – with the ferocity and intensity of Black Saturday – the effect on King Parrot Creek’s water quality.
King Parrot Creek is home to the endangered Macquarie Perch. A great little fish, the Macquarie Perch is found in both river and lake habitats; especially the upper reaches of rivers and their tributaries. They are a quiet, cautious fish and can be black, silver-grey, blue-grey or green-brown in colour.
During the Victorian bushfires, as the Kinglake fires and others blackened the earth, the Macquarie Perch began to suffer. Already under stress due to drought and a parasitic infection and now facing reduced water quality, the future of King Parrot Creek’s endangered Macquarie Perch looked at best, precarious.
As part of a National Recovery Program for Macquarie Perch, this population of fish were being closely monitored. In the beginning of March 2009, with water quality deteriorating, the decision was made to relocate the fish and the Department of Sustainability and Environment staff had the job of catching them.
In total, 35 Macquarie Perch were caught and transported to fish refuges. MDBA Native Fish and Community Engagement Officer at the Arthur Rylah Institute, Fern Hames, who is also part of the recovery team, says the Macquarie Perch were ‘in grim condition’.
Shortly after relocation, three fish died, but Vern says they were surprised there weren’t more deaths. The drought, the parasites and then the fire – these fish had been through so much, and now they were also coping with a new environment. Vern says, ‘we were thinking we would lose more’.
Under excellent care in their relocated areas, however, the Macquarie Perch thrived. So much so, on December 3, 2009 they were returned to King Parrot Creek.
‘We took them out rather thin and in poor health and we returned them fat and healthy,’ says Vern. ‘And so far so good – the fish are doing well.’
Immediately following the Kinglake fires, things looked mighty grim for King Parrot Creek’s population of Macquarie Perch. And although they are still an endangered species and are far from being declared otherwise, at least for this population of 32, they have survived and the future is positive.
Raising Money for Animals in the Kinglake Fire Zone