Building lifesaving shelter for ground-dwelling species in the wake of fires

Building lifesaving shelter for ground-dwelling species in the wake of fires

By Pamela Jolly  July 20th, 2023

A wildlife ecologist and her innovative start-up, ReHabitat, are developing biodegradable shelters to safeguard ground-dwelling species against future bushfire seasons.


Wildlife ecologist and research scientist, Alex Carthey, is utilising her expertise in studying the predatory behaviour of foxes and cats to develop lifesaving shelters for native ground-dwelling animals, aiding their survival in the dangerous aftermath of fires.

Following the devastating 2019-20 fires, which affected billions of animals, Alex founded a start-up called ReHabitat. Drawing upon her extensive knowledge of the hunting habits of introduced species, and the shelter requirements of our native species, she created biodegradable, flat-pack refuges for wildlife.

Bandicoot foraging amongst habitat pods (Image credit: Emily Hegarty)

Bandicoot foraging amongst habitat pods (Image credit: Emily Hegarty)

ReHabitat's shelters are pyramid-shaped structures made from thick cardboard. These innovative designs provide native animals with shelter and protection in the aftermath of fires when natural shelter is in short supply, reducing their chances of being captured by predators, like cats and foxes. When grouped together, these shelters create internal corridors of hidden surfaces, which are ideal for lizards to bask and warm themselves.

Before the introduction of these shelters, few options existed to assist vulnerable wildlife. Makeshift cover using piles of brush, bark, and nearby materials was commonly employed, but it further disrupted the already damaged ecosystem. Trials with chicken wire tunnels proved difficult and time-consuming to remove after vegetation regrowth.

Teaming up with Alex Goad, an experienced industrial designer known for successfully converting smooth concrete harbour walls into thriving marine ecosystems, the duo are creating a lightweight and compact structure that is quick and simple to install. As the shelters decompose, they contribute to the creation of a new ecosystem, attracting insects that break down the material and serve as a food source for recovering wildlife.

The multifaceted innovation of ReHabitat caught the attention of judges at HATCH, Taronga Conservation Society’s accelerator program. The habitat pods emerged as the winning pitch from the intense 14-week mentorship program for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Cameron Kerr AO, CEO of Taronga Conservation Society Australia, commended the habitat pods, praising them as a simple yet effective solution to combat threats to wildlife and habitat degradation that poses a significant threat to biodiversity both within Australia and worldwide.

"The devastating black summer bushfires made it clear that we all need to do more to protect our wildlife," said Kerr.

HATCH winner Dr-Alexandra Carthey and Cameron Kerr Taronga Conservation Society (Image credit Taronga Zoo)

HATCH winner Dr-Alexandra Carthey and Cameron Kerr Taronga Conservation Society (Image credit Taronga Zoo)

Alex Carthey intends to utilise the grant money her idea attracted to prepare for the upcoming fire season. By stockpiling habitat pods, she aims to provide rapid deployment for wildlife protection as soon as bushfires strike. Her ultimate goal is to reverse the trends of decline and extinction for Australia's wildlife, particularly small mammals like bandicoots, bettongs, and potoroos.

Congratulations ReHabitat and Taronga Conservation Society on this collaboration. It showcases the power of bringing together unique expertise to develop simple yet effective solutions that significantly enhance the chances of survival for Australian wildlife.

How you can help

Be part of efforts to build habitat for native Australian wildlife by joining upcoming National Tree Day efforts. Visit to find a planting location near you.

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


Pamela Jolly

Pamela is a Marketing Communications professional with over 10 years experience working for both agencies and organisations in communications, travel, finance and retail industries. Pamela loves to be in nature riding a bike, skiing, appreciating the trees at her local park or exploring wild places abroad with her family.

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