If you would like to donate, please follow this link to our Go-Fund-Me page.

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Kangaroo Island has seen some devastating fires over the last month. The first fires started on the 20th of December and whilst burning some assets, including houses, was contained to a relatively small area. Since this initial fire, hot, dry and windy days have seen the original fire continually jump containment lines and grow in strength. The KI fire has now burnt some 200,000 hectares of the island, destroyed some 40,000 head of livestock, consumed around 60 houses and taken 2 lives.

The loss on the island has been reported heavily in the media, none more so than the impact the fire has had on the island's wildlife. The loss of wildlife is still being measured, however the loss of habitat is easily measurable. Around 60% of the island has been burnt with the Western end of the island being the most heavily effected. The Western end of the island contained some of the most pristine wilderness areas in Australia and provided a haven for all kinds of fauna including honeybees.

In the aftermath of the fires, alongside the farmers, beekeepers are assessing their losses. Currently we have reports to government of 1100 hives being lost in the fires. The island, pre-fire, was home to around 4,000 hives of the Ligurian honeybees which was managed by 50 individual beekeepers. The devastating fires have consumed over a quarter of all the hives on the island. The Ligurian strain of the honeybee is unique to Kangaroo Island and is recognised as being the last most pure strain of that honeybee sub-species in the world.

Individual island beekeepers have sustained significant losses. Reports of some beekeepers loosing all their hives, honey extracting plant and infrastructure are starting to filter through. Others have had their hives spared but have lost all their bee sites and flora that would normally sustain their bees. The immediate need of the beekeepers is to obtain supplementary feed for the hives to keep them alive until the fires are controlled and the beekeepers are able to find alternative forage for their hives. The intensity of the fires will mean that a lot of the vegetation across the island will take many years to recover as the hot fire has killed large areas. This may mean that the beekeepers will need to feed their hives for some time to come, long after the 24 hour news cycle has passed and the attention on the island has diminished.

The Ligurian bees where introduced to the island in 1884 to protect their genetics and shortly after the government of the time passed legislation that proclaimed KI as a bee sanctuary in 1885. This status still stands today with KI being one of 5 protected zones in Australia where no apiary products or bees can be introduced to the sanctuary. This protection has limited the introduction of common honeybee diseases that are endemic on the mainland making the islands bee population unique and incredibly important.

The genetic pool on the island has been significantly reduced with a number of if not all of the breeding facilities destroyed. The island beekeepers in the medium to longer term will need assistance to setup a new breeding facility to assist in the production of queens and maintain the Ligurian strain for the future.

The importance of sustaining the Ligurian honeybee strain is not only local but has significant global implications. World wide we are seeing the global honeybee population decrease due to numerous reasons. The global environment we live in means that honeybees are also being transferred across the world and the genetic diversity is being lost. Maintaining a genetically different strain of honeybees will allow the global beekeeping community to access unique genetic material.

Honey production is the prominent income source for many beekeepers on the island but some individuals have built businesses exporting queens and bee packages off the island within Australia with some exporting across the world. Maintaining the last remaining, most pure, genetic pool of Ligurian honeybees in the world is incredibly important, however, without assistance the future of the island bee population is looking dyer.

The South Australian Apiarists Association (SAAA) has setup and manages a "go-fund-me" page. This will be managed in conjunction with the Kangaroo Island beekeepers group that will assist in delivering the funds to where it is needed as quickly as possible. The South Australian Apiarists Association was formed in 1945 and is a membership based not-for-profit association that represents all beekeepers in South Australia. The association is a member body of the national honeybee organisation and is recognised as the state's peak body.

The SAAA is not a registered charity as we find ourselves in an unprecedented circumstances and therefore will not be able to offer a tax detectable receipt for donations. We can, however, assure you that any donation will not have any administration fees attached and that the funds will reach the beekeepers in need in the shortest possible time frame.

Any funds donated will be used in the immediate short term to assist beekeepers with supplementary feed, cleaning up sites where hives once stood and help with the recovery of the island beekeeping industry where needed. Depending on the amount of funds generated, in the longer term the funds will be used to secure the genetics of the Ligurian honeybees through establishment of a breeding program that will assist all island beekeepers.

If you would like to donate, please follow this link to our Go-Fund-Me page.