Operating in great secrecy, a band of conservationists is working to save a tiny parrot thought to have been extinct for 100 years – and you can help.
Bush Heritage Australia, a not-for-profit organisation proudly supported by Flight Centre Foundation, is raising funds to purchase a 56,000-hectare pocket of land in western Queensland, where the Night Parrot was re-discovered in 2013 by ecologist John Young.
Global interest in the discovery was so intense that the exact location of this only known population (fewer than 100) remains a closely guarded secret to protect the nocturnal, mostly ground-dwelling bird.
“It’s very secretive for obvious reasons,” says Bush Heritage Australia’s Liz Hackett. “It’s a critically endangered bird but also there are people who would like to see it, and poachers might be a problem ... It’s a race against time for the little guys.”
Bush Heritage needs to raise $5 million over three years – half of it before December 31 – to save the Night Parrot.
It’s all part of the organisation’s mission to save Australia’s wildlife, by buying land of good conservation value, or working in partnerships with other landowners to manage the land.
“So we try and bring it back to its natural state – if it was a past cattle station or sheep station, we remove all the internal fencing and as many ferals as we can, like foxes and cats and rabbits, and then nature usually just takes its course and comes back with a flourish,” Liz says.
The organisation also works closely with farmers and traditional owners.
“When we first purchase reserves, we do what we call a cultural heritage assessment, and make sure that we’re respectful of everything they have on the reserve or any past sites that were used for indigenous purposes,” she says.
Another focus of the organisation is bushfire mitigation – this summer the backyards of vulnerable native animals like the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat are at extreme risk.
That’s because their home in the Bon Bon Station Reserve in South Australia is under constant pressure from buffel grass, a highly flammable and invasive weed that dramatically increases fuel for bushfires.
Bush Heritage is seeking your gift to conduct fire and weed management activities at Bon Bon and its other nature reserves, which cover about one million hectares throughout Australia.
Last financial year, FCF contributed $220,000 in untied funding to the organisation, and has committed the same amount this financial year.
FCF General Manager Anita Russell says the foundation supports Bush Heritage Australia because “our beautiful country and its unique and diverse species and habitat needs to be protected, and Bush Heritage do that in a collaborative and restorative way”.
She adds: “Supporting their programs enables the foundation to be involved in a brighter future for our country, as well as our future generations.”
Bush Heritage recently began managing Hamelin Station in Western Australia. The 202,000-hectare property, complete with accommodation, sits on 32 kilometres of coastline that borders the Shark Bay World Heritage area, including Hamelin Pool Marine Reserve and its 2,000-year-old stromatolites, which are complex living organisms that relate back to life more than 3.5 billion years ago.
Flight Centre’s annual conference for the Infinity business is this week conducting a Shark Tank-style activity to brainstorm and pitch ideas to help Bush Heritage further develop an eco-tourism solution at the property.
“Hamelin Reserve is a magnificent part of the coastline with huge ecological significance in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area in far western WA and we hope to come up with some great ideas that can help Bush Heritage’s work in protecting it,” Anita says.
Bush Heritage’s Liz says FCF’s contribution is extremely important, as it allows the organisation to use funds where they are needed the most.
“Just knowing than an organisation of that magnitude here in Australia thinks our work is so important is really special,” she says. “And it allows us to get on with our conservation and saving all the wildlife.”
Flight Centre staff in Victoria also visit the Nardoo Hill Reserves in north-central Victoria each year to learn more about Bush Heritage’s work to protect the state’s woodland ecosystems and all they house.
“There’s nothing like getting people on to our reserves to really make them understand what we’re doing and how important the work is,” Liz says.
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Bush Heritage Australia holds an annual Women in Conservation Breakfast in partnership with Trust for Nature, for which FCF provides a travel prize. This year’s speaker was Molly Harriss Olson, who worked in the White House as the founding executive director of the US President’s Council on Sustainable Development, appointed by Bill Clinton. Next year, the event will be held on March 3 at the RACV City Club in Melbourne. Watch the Bush Heritage Australia website for details.
Next year, Bush Heritage Australia celebrates its 25th anniversary. The organisation started out in 1991, when Bob Brown bought 241 hectares of native forest in Tasmania’s Liffey Valley to save it from potential clearing, paying the deposit with his prizemoney from an environmental award. The campaign to pay off the remaining $200,000 was the birth of Bush Heritage. That land is now the Liffey River and Dry’s Bluff reserves, parts of which are UN World Heritage listed.
• Make a gift to the Flight Centre Foundation. All of FCF’s operating costs are covered by Flight Centre Travel Group, maximising the impact of your donation. Donations support Bush Heritage Australia and similar key programs at the foundation’s five other charity partners.
• Make a gift directly to Bush Heritage Australia to help conserve Australia’s nature reserves. Better yet, become a Friend of the Bush and give an affordable gift every month.
Visit the reserves
Some reserves are open for day trips only, while others have basic camping facilities. Hamelin Station Stay provides rustic shearers’ quarters, as well as caravan and camping sites. Each year, Bush Heritage Australia also offers guided visits to select reserves.
The Liffey River property – a 45-minute drive from Launceston in Tasmania – has an easily accessed 3.5-kilometre interpretive walk through the white gum wet forest, myrtle beech-sassafras rainforest and stringybark dry forest, which is home to wedge-tailed eagles, white goshawks, spotted-tail quolls and Tasmanian devils.
Say you care with a WILDgift from Bush Heritage Australia’s website. Gifts range from $6 to protect the nesting mallee fowl on Charles Darwin Reserve to $500 to protect Naree Station in northwest New South Wales. The recipient will receive a beautiful card featuring stunning photography from the Australian bush, and together you will make a lasting contribution to nature conservation in Australia.
Lend a hand
Bush Heritage Australia welcomes all fundraising efforts, and lists details of how to begin on its website. It also has “very, very enthusiastic volunteers from across the country”, says Liz.
“Many of our volunteers work across the country to support the hands-on activities required to manage our reserves and we also have a large number of volunteers involved at all levels of our organisation. They offer their individual skills and experiences and work either from our Melbourne office or remotely from their part of the country. Check the Bush Heritage website to get involved.
* Featured image by Steve Murphy