Speaker Profile


Leanne Taylor
Chief Executive Officer
Improving Emergency Outcomes for Wildlife

Despite rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife 365 days a year for almost 35 years, nothing could have prepared WIRES or the Australian community for the devastation of Black Summer. Fires burnt continually for 240 days during one of the worst droughts on record. Millions of hectares of land were destroyed, much of which was threatened species habitat and almost 3 billion animals have been estimated to have been killed or displaced in the largest wildlife tragedy in modern history. By January 2020, the world knew that the scale and severity of Australia’s fire season was unprecedented, as was the tragic toll on native animals. Whilst responding to the emergencies on the ground, in the first 12 weeks of 2020, there were over 86,000 calls to WIRES’ 1300 number, over 4 million visitors to WIRES’ website and over 500,000 emails from individuals wanting updates and offering to assist. Australia had the worst mammal extinction rate in the world pre-fires and hundreds of species have now been pushed closer to the brink of extinction. With the future of more species at risk than ever, and the likelihood that extreme weather events, including natural disasters, will continue to occur with higher frequency and intensity, it is imperative that major changes are implemented to better support native animals. Many lessons were learnt last summer, and we have a critical window of time to ensure they are implemented to improve future emergency outcomes for wildlife.