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Two Birds might be Purposely Starting Wildfires in Australia

An article in Newsweek at first sounds like an April fool’s joke, but further research seems to indicate there may be some truth in the theory. Brown falcons and black kites are apparently picking up burning sticks and dropping them elsewhere to start new fires, then feeding on the small animals running to escape the flames.

Bob Gosford, a lawyer who works with Australia’s aboriginal people, has collected 15 accounts of birds starting fires and cultural geographer Mark Bonta says it’s “standard knowledge” among the aboriginal community and firefighters in northern Australia.

“The birds aren’t starting fires from scratch, but it’s the next best thing”. “Fire is supposedly so uniquely human.” Bonta admits their findings won’t be accepted by the scientific community until they have video of the birds’ behaviour. That’s why they’re asking people around the world to keep an eye out for fire-starting birds and to have their cameras handy.

If this is true it opens the possibility that humans weren’t the first to tame fire

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Neil Bibby was Chief Executive Officer of the Country Fire Authority between 2002 and 2009 and Managing Director People and Innovation