Ms Grace Heathcote, Mr Greg Irons
1Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Brighton, Australia
To ease the impact of some of the many threats facing wildlife in Tasmania, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary operates with a focus on projects to conserve, rescue, rehabilitate and rerelease native species. These include a wildlife rescue service, education outreach, breeding programs, conservation projects and research. The programs are run with strong community involvement, fill gaps in the protection of wildlife, and are often pioneering firsts in Tasmania.
The Bonorong Wildlife Rescue Service was established in 2010 to transport injured and orphaned animals to wildlife carers or veterinary attention. Since that time the program has received over 23,000 calls and has become busier each year, starting with approximately 1300 calls in the first year and fielding almost 6500 calls in 2016. Reports of 41 coastal species (from pelicans, penguins and petrels to swans, seals and sooty oyster catchers) accounted for 7.8% of these calls. Most frequently these animals were entangled in fishing hooks, lures, sinkers, rope and netting; had been hit by vehicles; were orphaned fledglings; or had been attacked by cats or dogs.
In addition, by 2010 the only seabird carer in Tasmania was unable to cope with the numbers of birds in need. To help, Bonorong established Tasmania’s first seabird rehabilitation facility. A key component of this, and first in the state is the large seawater pool, crucial for the successful rehabilitation of a number of species such as penguins that require re-waterproofing, and albatross that require “aqua-aerobics” for strengthening before they can be released.
Greg became the director of Bonorong at just 25 years of age, and since then has transformed it from a tourist park into a Sanctuary for conservation excellence with a focus on programs to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife, as well as a strong focus on environmental education. His ability to recognise where help is needed and develop programs to deliver tangible outcomes has quickly made him a key figure in Tasmanian wildlife conservation. In a community where environmental concerns are often prominent and polarising, Greg’s growing profile puts him in a position to create change and influence others.
Greg’s work led to him receiving the 2012 Young Tasmanian of the Year Award; a Southern Cross Young Achiever Award for Environment; and a Pride Of Australia Award for Environment.