Since devastating wildfires began raging across Australia previous year, news emerging from the country has often been dire: 15.6 million acres of land burned, at least 28 people killed, more than one billion animals estimated dead.
A week before a massive wildfire bore down on the rare trees, the local government secretly enlisted specialist firefighters to help save them from the blaze.
With flames approaching the area late past year, firefighters deployed air tankers to drop fire retardant in a protective ring around the trees and specialist firefighters were winched down into the gorge to set up an irrigation system to provide moisture for the grove, officials said.
A firefighter rappels into a gorge in the Blue Mountains of Australia, as a crew tries to save Wollemi Pines.
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service personnel inspect the health of Wollemi pine trees in the Wollemi National Park, New South Wales, Australia.
Fewer than 200 of the trees exist in the wild, hidden in a gorge in the World Heritage Blue Mountains northwest of Sydney, which have been hit by one of the biggest of the bush fires that have been ravaging much of Australia for months.
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Then, once the fire neared the one-of-a-kind trees, helicopters poured water from above onto the fire's edge.
"That helped just to slow the intensity of the fire as it approached the site", Crust told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"With less than 200 left, we knew we needed to do everything we could to save them", Australia's environment minister, Matt Kean, said in a statement.
The Wollemi pine, or Wollemia nobilis, can grow to more than 130 feet tall and is covered with soft, brown nodules that have been described as looking like both "chocolate crackles" and "rabbit feces". Experts believe the pines are an invaluable link to Australia's prehistoric past, and have estimated the grove could be up to 200 million years old. Subsequent analysis revealed that Noble had "stumbled upon not only an unknown species, but also a tree outside any existing genus of the ancient Araucariaceae family of conifers", Stephen McLoughlin and Vivi Vajda report for American Scientist.
The Wollemi Pine had only been seen in its fossilized form.
Although a few of the dinosaur trees were lightly singed by the blaze, the safety measures successfully protected the grove-and the surrounding fires were reportedly contained earlier this week.
"These pines outlived the dinosaurs, so as soon as we observed the hearth approaching we realized we wanted to do each half we might to save tons of them", Kean said.