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Byron Shire
June 26, 2024

Task force to probe Tweed Coast fires

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Koala-protection campaigners say they are sickened by the latest fire to ravage the Cudgen Nature Reserve and that destroyed endangered koala habitat and which is now subject to a police task-force investigating deliberately lit fires around the state.

Several fires believed to have been deliberately lit late last week and over the weekend burnt a large part of the reserve and adjoining land in the Kings Forest housing development site, as well as areas around Cabarita and along the Tweed Coast Road.

While the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which inspected the area during and after the fires, reported no injured koalas or wildlife from the fires, a wildlife expert says that’s because they’ve either been incinerated or fled the area.

The fire was still smouldering yesterday in the peat-heavy central part of the reserve.

Tweed Byron police crime manager, acting Inspector Saul Wiseman, told media the case would be referred to the ongoing Strike Force Toronto taskforce, which is investigating deliberately lit bushfires in NSW.

Inspector Wiseman said it was too early to determine whether the fire was deliberately lit, but a detective had been put on the case.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary animal hospital’s senior veterinarian Michael Pyne said that as at 5pm yesterday, no injured wildlife had been brought in.

Mr Pyne told Echonetdaily, ‘it’s a pretty rare thing if we see anything from such fires as unfortunately animals tend to flee or are burnt to death’.

He said he was unable to tell what the survival rate of bushfire-affected wildlife was as ‘birds are able to fly away but reptiles and ground mammals can’t, they all still lose their habitat’.

Team Koala president Jenny Hayes said the adjoining Kings Forest development site for around 5,000 homes was one of the few areas on the Tweed Coast where koalas lived and roamed.

Ms Hayes described the latest bushfire there as ‘sickening’, saying that ‘of course there would be no evidence’ of casualties from the fire as ‘it would incinerate them’.

Tweed Shire Council’s Koala Connections project manager Sally Jacka told media the fires were a real concern as the reserve was a stronghold of the Tweed’s dwindling coastal koala population and any losses could be the death knell of the surviving koala colonies, believed to number around 140 individuals.

Anyone with information about the fires can call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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