Blackwalking: salvaging life after a bushfire

‘Blackwalking’ takes both a physical and mental toll on wildlife rescuers, particularly during the 2019-2020 bushfires.
By Australian Geographic March 10, 2020 Reading Time: < 1

In December 2019, Australian Geographic travelled to the mid-north coast of New South Wales to assist a group of animal rescuers and conservationists on what’s known as a ‘blackwalk’.

People who embark on these trips are known as ‘blackwalkers’ and are required to do everything from assisting or euthanising injured animals, to leaving out food in strategic positions in the immediate aftermath of a bushfire.

Senka Pupacic on the lookout.

Frances Pike’s property sits right next to Doyle’s River, north west of the village of Elands. Along with volunteers Tilly Gray and Senka Pupacic, Frances searches the area for signs of life.

Before the bushfires, the area had suffered the effects of the drought, which made it easy for the fire to travel right up to the riverfront.

One firefront made it all the way to Frances’s doorstep, but luckily abated.

Images of burned animals and charred remains flooded news reports, and those on the firefront salvaged what was left. It’s estimated that billions of animals were lost in the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires. 

Today, blackwalkers continue to enter burned areas with food and water, which is critical to the survival of animals who managed to escape the bushfires, but were left with few resources.

Special thanks to the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife.

This footage was shot by Patrick Wiecks and produced by Angela Heathcote.