A secret operation conducted by some specialized firefighters saved a group of “Wollemi Pines” from the flames, a species of prehistoric trees also known as “dinosaur trees”. Less than 200 of these trees exist in nature and are hidden in a gorge in the Blue Mountains, north-west of Sydney.
With the flames dangerously approaching the area, some specialized firefighters, in addition to installing some anti-fire countermeasures around the affected area, also installed an irrigation system to provide moisture to the grove, according to officials. Matt KeanEnvironment Minister of New South Wales described the operation as “an unprecedented environmental protection mission”.
The researchers believed that trees, which grow up to 40 meters and date back to the Jurassic period 200 million years ago, were extinct. However, a discovery in 1994 brought their existence to light. The remote location of the grove is a well-kept secret to protect trees from visitor contamination. “The illegal visit remains a significant threat to the survival of the Wollemi Pines in nature due to the risk of trampling on regenerating plants and introducing diseases that could devastate the remaining populations and their recovery“says Kean.
The trees were harvested and distributed in botanical gardens around the world to preserve the species, but Australia’s gorge is the only “wild” place where shrubs grow. Despite the good news, the fire situation in Australia, however, remains critical: the flames caused 28 human casualties, destroyed more than 2,000 homes and burned 100,000 square kilometers of land (a larger area than South Korea or Portugal) and killed around one billion animals.