Call Out For Victorian Nature Stories!

environment-victoriaVictoria’s native species are under pressure. Too many are threatened or endangered, and the laws that are supposed to protect them aren’t working. But these laws are about to be reviewed by the Andrews government.

This is our chance to make sure the places we love and the plants and animals that live there are protected. Governments need to understand how important this is. Environment Victoria has put out a heartfelt plea to all Victorians. They want to hear our stories about threatened plants or animals we care about.

Helmeted Honeyeater, Victoria's critically endangered bird emblem

Helmeted Honeyeater, Victoria’s critically endangered bird emblem

Whether it’s the beach, the bush, the mountains or a beautiful river or lake, many of our amazing native plants and animals are under threat. Victoria has around 100,000 different species. Too many of them are in trouble – 21 percent of bird species, 18 percent of mammals, 39 percent of frogs and 21 percent of plants are listed as threatened in Victoria, and are on the downhill slide towards extinction.

This is staggering.  Even common species like Kookaburras, Willy wagtails and River Red Gums are not as common as they once were. The problem is that our plants and animals are losing their habitat. The areas that they can call home are shrinking as cities expand, logging destroys forests and agriculture becomes more intensive. And the laws that are supposed to protect them have proved powerless to stop the  decline in numbers. Too many species are on the path to extinction.

Now the Andrews government is reviewing our threatened species legislation, the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, and this is our chance to strengthen the laws so that they really do protect our native plants and animals. Environment Victoria is planning their submission, and they need our help.

Have you got a threatened species story to share?

Blue Banded Bee

Blue-banded Bee – my favourite bee! Fabulous photo by Steven Riding

Some of Environment Victoria’s member groups have great stories to tell about their efforts to rescue threatened species. Like the Friends of Merri Creek, who have been working to help the Blue-banded bee save an endangered plant!

Blue-banded bees are one of the few insects that can pollinate the endangered Matted Flax-lily. Unfortunately the bees can only fly 300m at a time. The Flax-lily populations along the Merri Creek in Fawkner and Reservoir have thinned out so much that they are too far apart for the bees to travel from one to the next.

matted-flax-lily

Matted Flax-lily

So the Friends of Merri Creek have raised over $25,000 to establish pollination ‘stepping stones’ between the populations to help the bees reach all the Flax-lilies and keep this important endangered species going. What an amazing project!

Environment Victoria will be using these stories to illustrate their submission – have you got one to share?

In 2017, we have a great chance to improve protections for our threatened species and make sure our natural environment stays healthy. So before the year wraps up, why not share a story about a plant or animal that’s important to you?

National Tree Day

National Tree DayToday is the 20th anniversary of National Tree Day, the country’s largest community nature-care and tree planting event. Each year over 250,000 people take part in National Tree Day events at 3,000 sites organised by councils, schools, businesses, communities and Toyota Dealers across the country. Since Planet Ark launched National Tree Day in 1996, more than three million participants have planted 21 million native trees, shrubs and grasses.By taking part in National Tree Day, you’ll be joining thousands of individuals in making a difference, connecting with nature, beautifying your local neighbourhood and inspiring positive environmental change.

Carnaby's Black Cockatoo

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo

To celebrate National Tree Day this Sunday, WWF-Australia, with the help of supporters and volunteers, are planting 3,000 black cockatoo food trees at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s Karakamia Wildlife Sanctuary in the state’s southwest. WWF spokesperson Shenaye Hummerston said planting food trees like banksias, marri and sheoaks would help to bring black cockatoos back from the brink after a dramatic decline in bird populations in recent years.

‘Black cockatoos are well-loved in Western Australia with their characteristic haunting cries and big personalities but they are also under serious threat,’ said WWF-Australia’s Threatened Species Conservation Officer, Shenaye Hummerston. ‘Black cockatoos have lost many of their food trees and homes after many years of land clearing for agriculture and continuing urban development. We need to act now to save these amazing birds from extinction and planting food trees is one way to help do this.’

KarakamiaTwo species of black cockatoo – Carnaby’s and Baudin’s white-tailed black cockatoos – are found only in the internationally-renowned biodiversity hotspot known as Southwest Australia. Karakamia Wildlife Sanctuary, named for the red-tailed black cockatoo (“karak”), is home to all three threatened species of black cockatoos. Southwest Australia has the highest concentration of rare and endangered species in Australia and is considered one of 34 global biodiversity hotpots but land clearing for agriculture and urban development, along with introduced species, have exacted a huge toll.

‘The loss of habitat not only affects the availability of black cockatoo nesting hollows but also food availability. Loss of food is a major contributor to black cockatoo decline,’ Ms Hummerston said.

I will plant some more trees in honour of National Tree Day. Hope you can plant some too! BB14

Happy Endangered Species Day!

Endangered Species DayLast Friday was international Endangered Species Day, designed to highlight the plight of many at-risk and critically endangered plants and animals. They are disappearing between 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate – with dozens going extinct every day. Over 40% of the world’s species are estimated to be at risk of extinction, primarily from human activities driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species and global warming.

Australia is far from immune. In fact it is facing an extinction crisis, with the worst mammal extinction rate in the world: 30 native mammals have become extinct since European settlement. To put this in a global context, 1 out of 3 mammal extinctions in the last 400 years have occurred in Australia.

Rewilding Australia 1I love to write about our unique wildlife, and the people who fight to protect these birds and animals. My current work-in-progress explores the concept of rewilding. Rewilding means restoring habitats to their original condition (as much as possible) and reintroducing animals and plants that are locally extinct.

Rewilding Australia is a registered charity that supports the reintroduction of our apex species like devils and quolls. With the re-establishment of these predator species, combined with a range of large-scale fox and cat control programs, our other smaller Quollsmammals may then be able to survive. Farmers and community organisations from all around Australia are embracing this vision and pitching in to help. Some examples include predator-proof fencing, breeding programs and protecting wildlife corridors. Click here to read a story on an exciting quoll rewilding project.

I’m excited about the concept of not only conserving, but of actively rebuilding eco-systems. It has also given me the idea for my new book. I’m sure the challenges involved will make for some dramatic story-telling!

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Celebrating Women In Conservation

Women in conservation breakfast

Bush Heritage Australia and Trust for Nature are pleased to invite supporters to the fourth annual Celebrating Women In Conservation fundraising breakfast 2015.

Held in Melbourne in the week of International Women’s Day, this fourth annual breakfast is an opportunity to discover new perspectives, as well as celebrating the role that women play in conservation. I’m hoping to be there. It’s for a very good cause!

The MC is science journalist and bestselling author Tanya Ha.

Molly Harriss Olsen

Molly Harriss Olsen

Guest speaker Molly Harriss Olson will share her transformative ideas about decision making in conservation. Named as one of the 2014 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence, Molly has convened, chaired and been a member of numerous sustainability initiatives over more than three decades, including The World Economic Forum’s Global Leaders of Tomorrow Sustainability Index Initiative. Molly worked in the White House as the Founding Executive Director of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, appointed by President Clinton.

Molly is the Founder and Convenor of the National Business Leaders Forum on Sustainable Development and co-founder of EcoFutures and Earthmark. She serves on the Green Building Council of Australia and the AMP Sustainable Investments Alpha Advisory boards, and is CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand.

2015 CELEBRATING WOMEN IN CONSERVATION BREAKFAST

DATE: Thursday, 5 March 2015
TIME: 7.00am for a 7.15am start
VENUE: RACV City Club, 501 Bourke Street, Melbourne
COST: $75 per person; $700 for a table of 10

Book here. Please direct all enquiries to Amelia Easdale at Trust for Nature on (03) 8631 5809 or at ameliae@tfn.org.au.

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National Tree Day

Nat Tree Day 1Today is National Tree Day. Combined with Schools Tree Day it is Australia’s biggest community tree-planting and nature care event. Co-ordinated by Planet Ark, these are special days for all Australians to help out by planting and caring for native trees and shrubs to improve the environment in which we live. National Tree Day started in 1996 and since then more than 2.8 million people have planted almost 20 million seedlings! It is held on the last weekend of July every year – this is the optimal planting time for the majority of Australians towns. However this might not suit certain areas, so you can find a date that suits you. As Planet Ark says, “every day is Tree Day”.

Nat Tree Day 4The organisers put great store in local provenance. This term describes native plant populations that naturally occur in a given area. Many native plant species can be found to occur across a broad geographic area or range. For example, hairpin banksia (Banksia spinulosa) naturally occurs across 3 states, from coastal Victoria to Cairns. However, the plants growing in a specific area have adapted to the local conditions over a long period of time. Although of the same species, a hairpin Banksia from southern Victoria will have a different genetic makeup to it’s cousin in Cairns, just as the same species of plant found on the coast will be different from that growing in the mountains. Different populations containing local genetic variations are called provenances. For true local provenance, the individual plant is grown from seed stock from parent plants within the same population (or as close by as possible). Preserving local provenance populations is an important way of protecting biodiversity. For more information visit the Benefits of Local Natives page.

Nat Tree Day 3One of my favourite singers, country music legend and former Australian of the Year, Lee Kernaghan has supported National Tree Day for over a decade.

“I grew up out in the bush and everyone living and working in regional Australia knows how important trees are to the land. National Tree Day is all about individuals, communities and the country coming together to plant trees and to make a big and positive impact for our great nation and future generations,” Lee says.

This year the campaign aims to reach the milestone of planting its 20-millionth seedling. Everyone can help by getting involved in one of the hundreds of organised community events, or just planting an indigenous tree in your own garden. Every tree makes a difference!

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Bush Heritage Australia

Bush Heritage 2Since I dedicated my last book Billabong Bend to Bush Heritage, I thought I should write a post about it. Bush Heritage is a non-profit conservation organisation dedicated to protecting Australia’s unique animals, plants and their habitats for future generations. They have a simple and practical formula for protecting the bush – buy land of outstanding conservation value, then care for it

Liffey Valley Reserves in Tasmania – the first Bush Heritage Reserve. Photo: Wayne Lawler

Liffey Valley in Tasmania – the first Bush Heritage Reserve. Photo: Wayne Lawler

The organisation began in 1991, when Dr Bob Brown bought several hundred hectares of old-growth forest in Tasmania to save it from logging. Using prize money from an environmental award as the deposit, he sought donations to gather the remaining funds, and Bush Heritage was born.

My fictional property of Billabong Bend is based in part on the beautiful Naree Station, acquired by Bush Heritage in 2012. Located on the inland floodplains of northern NSW, Naree sits at the head of the nationally significant wetlands of the Cuttaburra Channels and Yantabulla Swamp. During flood events it becomes home to an incredible fifty thousand breeding water birds and is rated as one of the twenty most important water bird sites in Australia.

Bush Heritage 4Bush Heritage currently owns and manages thirty-five reserves throughout Australia, covering nearly one million hectares. Reserves are managed like national parks – the land is legally protected, with the intention of safeguarding it forever. Bush Heritage also builds partnerships with farmers. These partnerships account for a further 3.5 million hectares of land under conservation management. Their long term goal is to protect more than seven million hectares by 2025. This will only be possible with our help.

Bush Heritage 2If you need a gift for someone who cares about the environment, how about sending a Bush Heritage WILDgift? Not only does your friend or family member receive a beautiful card featuring stunning photography from the Australian bush, but together, you also make a real and lasting contribution to nature conservation in Australia. For ten dollars you can provide a warm, safe nesting box for the endangered red-tailed phascogale. For twenty-five dollars you can save a slice of the outback, helping to buy one hectare of native habitat. Every hectare makes a difference!

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Lights Out For The Reef

Great Barrier Reef 3Last night thousands of Australians, including me, took part in Earth Hour, an event that kicked off a year-round campaign against climate change. It is a worldwide movement for the planet organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and it began right here in Australia as a lights off hour in 2007. Earth Hour engages a massive mainstream community on a broad range of environmental issues.  Households and businesses turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol of their commitment to the planet. The event has now been embraced by 7001 cities and 152 nations across the globe. And in 2014, Earth Hour will focus attention on one of the world’s most iconic and threatened places: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Barrier Reef 1This topic holds particular significance to me, as the new novel I’m writing is set on the Queensland coast at the southern tip of the reef. It is about a zoologist with a passion for marine mammals. As the largest living structure on the planet, the Great Barrier Reef stretches for over two thousand, three hundred kilometres, and is so large it can be seen from space. It contains three thousand individual reefs and nine hundred islands. Incredibly rich and diverse, it extends over fourteen degrees of latitude, from shallow estuarine areas to deep oceanic waters.

Great Barrier Reef 2Channel ten screened a special television event last night just prior to Earth Hour. It revealed the true story of what’s happening to the reef due to climate change, dredging, pollution and over-fishing. The program was grim viewing. The Great Barrier Reef has shrunk by fifty percent in the last twenty-seven years. Let’s hope 2014 can mark a rally to action, and we can convince politicians to protect this unique wonder of the natural world.

And now to the winners of the prize draw. Congratulations to Karen Stalker, Mary Preston and Jenna O. You have each won a book. I’ll be emailing you all shortly. 

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