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Want to get involved in hands-on conservation in Australia?
Last October, the Conservation Ecology Centre near Cape Otway in Victoria, Australia announced the birth of four Tiger Quoll joeys. The announcement was significant because even 10 years ago, Wild Tiger Quolls were thought to be extinct in Cape Otway and because this was the Centre's first attempt at creating a breeding program.
In the last few years, the Conservation Ecology Centre established the Great Ocean Ecolodge as an ecologically responsible social enterprise where all profits would be invested back into wildlife conservation. Not only are vital funds being raised, but the Ecolodge also provides opportunities for people all over the world to get involved in exciting, hands-on conservation.
I had the chance to pose some questions to the Founder & CEO of the Conservation Ecology Centre, Lizzie Corke, to elaborate on the Centre's achievements.
How is the birth of just 4 healthy Tiger Quoll joeys helping to conserve the species?
Tiger Quolls are the largest remaining marsupial predators on the Australian mainland and populations across the entire range were dramatically affected when the species was hunted for their fur and to protect the chickens of early settlers. As apex predators, Tiger Quolls naturally exist at low densities, so the removal of even a few can have a significant effect on the population of an entire region. Today, populations continue to be threatened through fragmentation of their habitat leading to isolation of small populations, competition, and direct predators by introduced foxes and cats.
These Tiger Quoll joeys really are playing a vital role in conservation because they are assisting us with improving detection techniques for Wild Tiger Quolls. They are doing this by providing scats (droppings) for training a team of detection dogs and enabling us to learn more about their behaviour.
The official Tiger Quoll Conservation Program has only been running for two years but it is a very successful approach to conservation and we plan for it to be an ongoing effort, combining research with on ground action and working with our community for sustainable conservation outcomes.
What other projects is the Conservation Ecology Centre undertaking in 2013?
Along with Tiger Quoll conservation, we also focus on conservation of one of Australia's most loved icons, the koala. Koalas across Australia are facing a range of conservation challenges and here on the Great Ocean Road, declines in habitat pose a great threat.
Koalas in Victoria can be found in quite high densities in areas which support their preferred eucalyptus and, in a number of areas, these habitats are declining rapidly leaving stretches of dead trees and large numbers of koalas isolated in pockets of habitat.
In this region, much of the preferred koala habitat is located on private land so we are working closely with the community to coordinate management practices across the landscape. We are working to build resilience in the habitat through revegetation, investigating issues around germination and reintroducing traditional land management practises such as mosaic burning to restore the habitat.
How can visitors to Great Ocean Eco Lodge become more of a partner in conservation?
Because all profits from the operation of the Ecolodge support the conservation programs guests are assisting just by being here! Our guests can get more hands on through the Conservation Insights and Expeditions programs where they join the conservation team out in the bush to collect vital data and assist with on-ground action.
Ecolodge guests can play a long term role through becoming a conservation guardian or becoming a valued partner through their organization – corporate partnerships are a great way for companies to become meaningfully involved in conservation.
As a non-profit organisation, the Conservation Ecology Centre relies on the generosity of supporters to seed fund priority conservation and research projects. Every donation, no matter how small, has the potential to save wild lives and wild places. Many of our projects that receive government or corporate funding are initially established by our community (both Australian and international).
What message would you give to visitors that don't have an impression about eco-travel in Victoria, Australia?
Victoria is an incredible destination for eco-travel. It is very easy to step out of the city and become immersed in spectacular landscapes which abound with wildlife. From beautiful coastlines to cool temperate rainforests, woods, and deserts there is so much to experience. Here on the Great Ocean Road every bend reveals another stunning vista of wild oceans, sheltered beaches, towering cliffs and places where the forest seems to almost tumble into the sea.
Check out our other trip to Tasmania.
Photos by Mark Watson, Lucia Griggi, Mark Chew, and Kyeong Woo Kim