Time to Act

Article | Sep 2022

TIM FAULKNER has dedicated his life to native wildlife conservation and education. He is co-owner and director of the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby, NSW, and managing director of Aussie Ark. Originally established to house and breed an insurance population of Tasmanian devils to protect them from extinction, Aussie Ark is a charitable organisation focused on creating a long-term future for threatened Australian species.

Tim shares with us the drive behind his new book, Aussie Ark, an illustrated biography featuring stories and lessons from a remarkable life on the frontline of animal conservation.

Of all the jobs I’ve done in my life – which include relocating a male crocodile in an effort to increase his chances of getting lucky; extracting venom from some of the world’s most deadly snakes and spiders; filming TV shows that have been broadcast in over 170 territories worldwide; building conservation organisations from scratch; and, of course, co-owning one of Australia’s premier wildlife tourism attractions – writing a book was something I didn’t see coming!

But here’s the thing: I’m passionately Australian and if there’s anything Aussier than drinking from a tinnie in a tinnie while catching a few barramundi, it’s our native animals. As much as I’d love to say to you, ‘Don’t worry, mate, everything is hunky-dory on the home front’, our extinction numbers aren’t great. And by ‘aren’t great’, I actually mean they’re shocking.

Aussie Ark by Tim FaulknerLet me put a few things in perspective.

There are just 500 000 elephants, 100 000 orangutans and 80 000 humpback whales left in the wild. Everyone accepts that these are alarming numbers and, worse, that the remaining animals – at risk due to poaching, climate change and habitat loss – are declining at a rapid rate.

Now let’s talk about Australian native species numbers. Australian sea lion numbers are below 2000. Our Tassie devil population is somewhere between 14 000 and 15 000. Koala numbers, which are slightly more difficult to count, are estimated to be as low as 4 ,000. There are fewer than 1000 numbats, fewer than 200 northern hairy- nosed wombats, fewer than 100 Gilbert’s potoroo and fewer than 50 orange-bellied parrots … I could go on with dozens more endangered Australian species. (And I do, it’s at the back of my book.)

Eighty-seven per cent of Australia’s extraordinary mammals are found nowhere else on the planet. Same goes for 93 per cent of our reptiles, 94 per cent of our frogs and 45 per cent of our birdlife. If we lose them, there’s no chance of ever getting them back. The thing about extinction is that it’s permanent.

While you may only think of the koala, kangaroo, crocodile, platypus, devil and the extinct thylacine when you think of Australia, we are actually home to thousands of precious and unique species. Not only is it devastating to think about losing them from a ‘bragging rights’ perspective, their loss has and will continue to dramatically impact our biodiversity and ecological systems because every living organism plays an important and interconnected role.

When I talk to kids and their families at the Australian Reptile Park, I like to explain that biodiversity is essentially one big puzzle made up of billions of different organisms. If you’re missing some of the pieces to the puzzle, it’s impossible to put it together to enjoy the big picture. Our job is to not only work on putting pieces back into Australia’s puzzle, but to also stop more pieces from being taken out. And in some cases, we need to take out the pieces that shouldn’t be there, for example, the horse, rat, pig and cat …

But I didn’t write this book to be all doom and gloom. I wrote it because there are a lot of people pouring their hearts, souls, money, time, resources and expertise into finding solutions to these problems. From the people I met early in my career, to the incredible team at the Australian Reptile Park who I’ve come to call family, to the countless hands working around the clock at Aussie Ark, I want to share the stories, movements and actions I’ve been part of over the last 20 years so that you can see that there is hope when it comes to restoring Australia’s biodiversity.

I’ve spent over two decades watching the demise of our incredible fauna.

If a kid from Greystanes who left school at the age of 14 to do work experience and never went back to formal education (and pretty much didn’t know anything about the world outside of Greystanes until his early twenties) can find himself part-owning and operating Australia’s largest reptile park, antivenom operation, animal preservation program – and was once named Australian Geographic’s Animal Conservationist of the year – then you can do what it takes to help restore and protect Australia’s biodiversity! Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to clean the wombat enclosure. All I ask is that you consider how things were, how they are now and how we’d like them to be. (I’m also going to ask that you don’t laugh when I talk about getting stuck up a tree while trying to escape the unwelcome embrace of a cassowary.)

From the time I could focus on an object, I’ve had my eyes glued to things that slither, climb, claw, wrap, shake, hop and burrow. Pretty much as soon as I could walk, I was hot on my father and uncle’s tails in search of blue-tongue lizards, turtles and goannas (to name just a few …). Did you know that Australia has more species of reptiles than any other continent on Earth, including giant pythons, the second largest monitor (the outback perentie), and the 10 most venomous snakes? That alone was enough to get me out of bed and out the door as a kid! My family valued exploring the bush and I spent a lot of time immersed in nature and invested in the rich history of our land, our people and our animals.

My kids are part of a generation who will inherit the burden of trying to live in this country without a healthy biodiversity. Because of this, I’ve never wanted to work on a puzzle more in my life. I’ve spent over two decades watching the demise of our incredible fauna. I’ve been ‘on the tools’ so to speak and I’m finally at a point where it’s time to rally the troops, get all hands on deck and put an end to the catastrophic loss of wildlife that makes Australia so Australian. Are you with me?

 

ABOUT AUSSIE ARK

Aussie Ark was established in 2011 as ‘Devil Ark’, with a focus on saving the iconic Tasmanian devil from extinction. Since then and due to overwhelming success, the role of the organisation has expanded, and now has vision of creating a long-term future for our threatened Australian species.

Aussie Ark will secure wild sanctuaries to conserve our native wildlife, free from unnatural predation. Aussie Ark is an adaptive, innovative, private organisation, committed to changing the trajectory declining species. Aussie Ark is an incorporated association, registered environmental organisation and charitable institution under the Australian Charity and Not-for-profit Commission.

Find out more about Aussie Ark

Author: Tim Faulkner

Category: Biography & true stories, Earth sciences, geography, environment, planning

Book Format: Hardback

Publisher: Echo

ISBN: 9781760686956

RRP: $45.0

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