THE PROJECT'S ETHICAL IMPACT ON THEIR COMMUNITY
This Project is a working wildlife sanctuary set in an 80-hectare Wildlife Park. The objective “conservation through education” is grounded in the concept that every person who walks in the gates, guests, staff and volunteers, gets to experience the animals’ world. Unlike a zoo where animals are on display, the Sanctuary Park’s animals can choose whether or not to interact with humans.
Hardly surprisingly, however, because of the amazing relationship between the staff and the animals, there are always lots of animals around. The free-ranging kangaroos, emus and wallabies are clearly intrigued by their human visitors, seeing the humans as being there for the animals’ entertainment, rather than the other way around.
Where do the animals come from and how are they rescued?
Many of the animals are, or are the offspring of, unreleasable wild rescues. They have come into care because they have been ill, injured, orphaned, displaced or lost their habitat e.g. due to land clearing for new housing estates. They have recovered and are healthy, but they either have a permanent disability or dependance on humans, or their homes have been destroyed so they have no place to go back to.
They have been assessed and are not stressed by human interaction, and they can look forward to a permanent home at the Sanctuary Park where they can be as wild or as cared for as is appropriate for each individual animal.
Others are part of important breed-for-release programs where animal institutions across Australia are cooperating, under scientific direction, to build up dwindling wild populations, or reestablish locally extinct wild populations, of threatened species. These programs include eradicating introduced predators from natural areas, treating and controlling disease, improving genetic diversity, and rehabilitating habitat, so that the animals from the breeding program can be safe in the wild and their populations can become sustainable.
Are the animals ever released? How are the animals looked after and what is the process with look after them?
The Sanctuary Park acts as a halfway house for some wild rescue animals that have regained their health but need to learn or relearn wild behaviours before they can successfully be released into the ‘big’ wild.
Other rescued wild animals, e.g. with permanent vision deficits, may not be releasable into the ‘big’ wild, but may be able to live happy and free in the relative safety of the Sanctuary Park’s fox-proof 80 acres of bushland.
The third subset of animals do live in natural enclosures because they need a greater level of care.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PROJECT:
The Sanctuary Park and its associated Wildlife Conservation Foundation, were both started by a husband and wife in their pursuit of preserving the natural environment and the Aboriginal cultural landscape where the sanctuary is situated. They immigrated to Australia from South Africa in 1999.
Hyper aware of how Africa has lost so much of its cultural and natural heritage, they recognised the piece of land as being rich in Australian cultural and natural heritage, and in need of preservation.
The sanctuary receives no government funding which, although this presents a huge financial challenge as it is very expensive to run, it does give them the freedom to stick to their ideals of conservation through education. They have stuck to their commitment and avoided the temptation to make business decisions for commercial gain instead of for the animals’ well being.
WHAT DOES THE PROJECT HOPE TO ACHIEVE BY HAVING VOLUNTEERS?
The Sanctuary Park does a tremendous amount of formal and informal education, including hosting veterinary schools and their teachers. They can only afford to pay a small dedicated core qualified team of wildlife rangers/ animal keepers. 100% of their income goes to pay for food and medical bills for the animals, electricity to keep the sanctuary’s fox-proof fence operating, and to pay their small team who all work for minimum wages.
No profits have ever been taken out of the business. The financial and resource reality for the sanctuary is that they can only afford to look after the animals in their care. However, they would not be able to afford to run their conservation education programs which are their ‘reason for being’, and they would not be able to maintain the sanctuary in a good state of repair, especially the integrity of the fox proof fence.
This is why the volunteer program is critical. The volunteers expand the team’s ability to get their work done, and to be available to run onsite and offsite education programs. Each year, their “conservation through education” programs reach around 50,000 school and university students from around the world.
Without their volunteers helping to keep the animals safe and their habitat healthy, the team would not be able to continue their work.
WHAT POSITIVE EFFECT IS THE PROJECT'S WORK HAVING ON THE COMMUNITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT?
This Sanctuary Park is absolutely unique. There is nowhere else in Australia, or across the world, where people can step into the natural world of Australia’s weird and wonderful native wildlife, interact with the animals in a way that does not cause the animals any stress, and from this experience learn how to make a difference at an individual level. The lessons from this experience of ‘looking after the natural environment so that animals can look after themselves’ are relevant no matter where you live in the world.
This very special place gives the local community an immersive opportunity to learn how to look after wild wildlife, not just how to look after captive animals in a zoo which is the only learning opportunity available for trainees in other animal institutions in Australia.
PROTECTION AND PRESERVATION OF THE ABORIGINAL HERITAGE ON SITE
Tassin is an anthropologist who spent 10 years fighting to save Calga, the most important place for Aboriginal women in Australia’s state of New South Wales, from destruction through sand quarrying.
The New South Wales government had sold land adjacent to the sanctuary to a big international mining company and given approval for them to dig a 56 hectare wide 30 meter deep crater and remove the aquifer rock to crush it into building sand. This would have not only disrupted the local natural water supply and been devastating for local wildlife and endangered plant and animal species, but would have destroyed the cultural landscape of the Calga Valley.
The Land and Environment Court agreed that this should not be allowed, ruled in favour of the Barnards and against the government and big business, and the land is now safe for the time being. There is work underway to have the Calga Valley listed as a Heritage Site to protect the area in posterity.
Tassin and Gerald and their team, taught by the wonderful friends they have made amongst local Aboriginal elders as they stood together to protect the Aboriginal cultural landscape of Calga, teach visitors about Aboriginal knowledge of Country. They teach about historical and contemporary culture, and how to protect the water, the plants, the animals and people, and how people should live in harmony “on Country” (the Aboriginal term which incorporated everything to do with the world around us).
Workshops include how to find and harvest bush tucker (traditional bush food), how to make tools, how to make shelters, traditional Aboriginal medicines, cultural concepts and the interpretation of Aboriginal teaching sites on the Sanctuary Park property and the adjacent land across the Calga Valley.