The catastrophic 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires had an unprecedented impact on native wildlife following a nearly decade-long drought in many parts of Australia.
The fires burned millions of hectares of land, including threatened species habitat, and an estimated twenty per cent of Australian forests were impacted. As a result, hundreds of species are now closer to extinction, with a WWF Report confirming that almost three billion animals were fire-affected, including 143 million mammals, 2.46 billion reptiles, 180 million birds, and 51 million frogs.
WIRES' Emergency Fund, established to address the immediate and long-term impacts of disasters on Australian wildlife, has been pivotal in providing emergency aid, bolstering wildlife rescue and rehabilitation capacity, and supporting habitat and species recovery. We're immensely grateful for the overwhelming support from local and global communities, allowing us to expand our impact significantly.
Our Emergency Response and Recovery Plan outlines how we've strategically allocated the $90 million raised in early 2020. Ensuring responsible fund management is our top priority; we've taken rigorous measures for oversight, including collaboration with external experts. This includes a review by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), annual external audits of our financial statements, a review of fund expenditure by an independent investigative accountant, and a full forensic audit by an independent external auditor. Your contributions make a remarkable difference in Australia's unique and vulnerable wildlife.
All Emergency Funds are allocated, with over 20% of the funds expended and the remaining funds committed to multi-year programs. All plans will be strategically reviewed regularly by WIRES Board and Management, and WIRES will release annual Emergency Fund updates until all funds are expended.
Emergency funding to WIRES has been vital during record disaster seasons, fostering core wildlife programs and launching new ones nationwide. With compounding threats to wildlife such as habitat loss, natural disasters, disease, climate change, and human-wildlife conflict, WIRES is undertaking large, strategic projects to enhance long-term wildlife support.
The Emergency Fund kickstarts these projects, but sustained funding is needed for their long-term success. It's the ongoing support of our donors that makes these impactful projects for wildlife possible.