A Letter from Bonorong

This piece was written for BBC Wildlife Magazine as part of my PR work as manager of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania.

It can be found at http://www.discoverwildlife.com/tasmania/letter-bonorong

Hot damn, it’s good to be a greenie in Tasmania right now. In the place where it all began, a new, smart and (if green is your colour) sexy brand of environmentalism is evolving. Instead of chaining themselves to trees, Tasmanians are now working out ways to buy the bulldozers.

Conservation v2.0 is a cool chowder of pragmatics and ideals. It sees economics as a tool rather than an enemy and it looks to the microscope rather than the megaphone.

I manage a wildlife sanctuary called Bonorong (www.bonorong.com.au). We are situated just north of Tasmania’s capital Hobart. In my work I have come into contact with many driven and creative people who share in this vision of a new conservationist creed. I want to share with you a little of what we do at Bonorong and the work of a couple of organisations that get our juices flowing.

Our mission is to run a tourism business which uses its profits to kick as much A for the environment as possible. In this way we use the traditional tourist dollar (Tasmania’s strongest industry) to encourage protection rather than exploitation. The term ‘social enterprise’ is relatively little known in Australia, however many of us are starting to use this term to describe our use of for-profit tools for non-profit jobs.

Bonorong works like this:

We offer guests a genuine and moving experience. Tasmanian wildlife is like no other, and you get to experience it in a setting which is nothing like a zoo. Get personal with the animals on hand-feeding night tours. Many of our residents are rehabilitating towards release, we want you to share in these stories. If everyone just played with a baby wombat now and then, I swear, world peace might be on the cards. It’s an inspiring place to hang around.

In return, you help us to protect Tasmania’s environment. Your entry fee covers the costs of running the sanctuary. Money after this, which would traditionally be profit, goes into our project fund. This fund operates a diverse range of large and small conservation projects.

For example, we:

  • Operate Tasmania’s only 24hr wildlife rescue service
  • Rehabilitate injured and orphaned wildlife and release them back to the wild
  • Fund and manage research on Tasmanian devils in the wild
  • Breed the now endangered devils in safe captive programs
  • Run free school education programs on saving wildlife
  • Train wildlife keepers, carers and rescuers

We definitely aren’t here to get rich, but we are having a bloody wonderful time. We describe it as doing well by doing good.
The great thing is that we are not alone. Tarkine Trails (www.tarkinetrails.com.au) is another Tasmanian tourism business committed with visionary aspirations. They take guests on life-changing bushwalks and retreats amid ancient temperate rainforest in Tasmania’s famous Tarkine region. This world-calibre forest is not currently protected and is threatened by active interest from forestry and mining companies. The mission of the Tarkine boys is to create an alternative economy in the area. If tourism becomes a viable and competitive industry, then there is every chance that this natural jewel will survive.

When they are not busy saving the southern hemisphere’s largest temperate rainforest, the lads also engage in some collaborative work with Bonorong. The latest is our devil population monitoring project. The Tarkine remains free of the terrible cancer which remains the devil’s greatest existential threat. With extensive fundraising for equipment, and some sneaky logistical planning we have organised for Tarkine Trails guides to become data collectors in one of the largest and most remote camera monitoring surveys ever undertaken in Tasmania. This will aid us in protecting the Tasmanian devil from the impending tragedy.

Along with tourism businesses taking steps towards environmental responsibility there are some fantastic organisations creatively building a better future. The absolute stand-out amongst these is the Tasmanian Land Conservancy (www.tasland.org.au). These guys buy and sell land. Sound simple? Mostly it is. When they buy land they place a protective covenant on it which stops anyone wrecking the place for a century. Then they sell it to someone who wants a little piece of environmental heritage for themselves. These guys started in 2001 with less money than it takes to fill a Holden ute. Now they have established 20 000 hectares of high-value protected land across Tasmania. How cool is that?

That’s the story in Tasmania at the moment. There are many more businesses and organisations adopting innovative, inspirational approaches to conservation. There is a genuine feeling that what is happening here is special and we are all working towards the same thing. As the world changes more and more rapidly, Tasmanians are evolving new ways of keeping things just as they always have been.

Karl Mathiesen
Manager, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Protecting Tasmanian Wildlife
593 Briggs Road, Brighton, Tasmania 7030
Phone: (03) 6268 1184 | Fax: (03) 6268 1811
Email: info@bonorong.com.au | Website: www.bonorong.com.au

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