It’s a very rare statement to hear someone say that one of the highlights of a trip was to be vomited on. As gross as that sounds Gregory Andrews, Australia’s first Threatened Species Commissioner was thrilled by the spoiling of his shirt. Food (we presume tadpoles of the threatened Golden Bell Frog) was regurgitated by an Australasian Bittern chick, a nationally threatened species. How did the Commissioner get to be in this situation in a Coleambally rice bay?
On February 16-18 2016 Gregory visited the Riverina, at the invitation of the newly-formed Landcare Irrigation Collective. The Collective is a collaboration between Murrumbidgee Landcare, Riverina Local Land Services, Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Coleambally Irrigation, Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia, the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists, the Bitterns in Rice Project, NSW Department of Primary Industries – Lands, Leeton Shire Council, Griffith City Council, and the Riverina Regional Landcare Facilitator. Orchestrating the Commissioner’s visit was the first major activity undertaken by the Collective, and has given rise to many ideas for future activities within the region.
Over the three days of Gregory’s visit, he packed in 11 engagements, meeting approximately 70 people doing work to help with the recovery of the Australasian Bittern and Plains Wanderer, both of which are nationally threatened birds, living in the productive landscapes of the Riverina irrigation areas. He was also keen to hear about the feral cat problems and what efforts were being done to tackle the problem on farms and in the towns.
Gregory is passionate about supporting our threatened species and the custodians ‘on the ground’ who are working to conserve them. When he learned that two of the Threatened Species Strategy’s 20 birds by 2020 are living in the Riverina irrigation areas, he wanted to meet with the people who are living among them, and working to protect these birds whilst maintaining agricultural productivity.
The visit has resulted in a flurry of conversation and brain-storming, and we hope to see great outcomes over the next few years as both local and federal support increases for projects and activities supporting both agricultural production and threatened species conservation across the region.
Want to re-live the excitement of Gregory’s whirl-wind tour? We’ve storified the tweet-storm that arose around his visit and you can find out here if Gregory saw a Plains Wanderer in the wild, the people he met and how he got to be vomited on by one of Australia’s most threatened birds.