The secret mission to save Australia’s prehistoric trees

The secret mission to save Australia's prehistoric trees

An ancient pine grove, whose ancestors are said to have stood tall among dinosaurs about 200 million years ago, was saved from Australian bushfires in a covert fire-fighting mission.

Firefighters in New South Wales (NSW) have been mandated by the local government to save the prehistoric Wollemi Pine Grove, which is located in a secret location in the 5,000 square kilometer Wollemi National Park northwest of Sydney.

The oldest fossil of the rare pine species dates back 90 million years and the pine is said to have existed during the Jurassic period.

Large fire-retardant air tankers were thrown into the remote grove as part of the mission, while special firefighters attached to helicopters were shut down to set up an irrigation system to protect the trees from catching fire.

Parts of Wollemi National Park were hit by the devastating bush fires and some of the valuable pines were burned.

“Wollemi National Park is the only place in the world where these trees are found in the wild. With fewer than 200 remaining trees, we knew we had to do everything we could to save them,” said NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean in a statement.

“The pines, which were thought to be extinct before 1994 and whose location was kept secret to avoid contamination, have benefited from an unprecedented environmental mission,” he added.

The New South Wales government has carried out a detailed scientific assessment, and although some trees have been damaged, the species has survived, he said.