A few weeks ago the New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Keen announced that the National Parks will build areas within some parks that would be fenced off so that feral cats and foxes could be excluded and the small Australian native animals inside would be able to thrive and proliferate.
I immediately thought of John Wamsley and the old aphorism that I’ve used as the heading of this blog.
My son Gavin and I had the privilege of working as John’s PR consultants a few years ago and although it was only for a short period we remained true to the cause of trying to help threatened Australian species from extinction.
John was a difficult guy to work with as he wouldn’t take advice and he seemed to want to go out of his way to antagonise people, but there was no disputing his single minded drive and dedication to preserving our native species.
Although originally from Gosford, just north of Sydney, he moved to Adelaide as he had found that South Australia was the only state that would allow him to start a private zoo.
He argued (and I agree) that it is unfair for large zoos like Tooronga Park to have a monopoly to operate as a zoo and also as the regulatory authority to exclude competition and control of our native species.
John, is a mathematics whiz and got a job as a Professor of Mathematics at Flinders University, which brought in some cash, while he developed an old run down dairy farm called Warrawong in the Adelaide Hills as a private refuge for native species. He called it an Earth Sanctuary and said it was an exclosure, not an enclosure, as it had a very cleverly designed electric fence to keep out the foxes and cats.
It became a great success and on a visit to the site (there were cabins where you could stay overnight) I was amazed at the number of small hopping native animals. They were everywhere. Bandicoots, betongs and the larger wallabies and kangaroos many bird species. John refurnished the dam to make it suitable for platypus and they thrived to the extent that some made their way out by following the watercourse only to be devoured by foxes.
Warrawong constantly won prizes in the tourist awards and ever the evangelist for preserving native species John expanded the concept of Earth Sanctuaries and tried to publicly raise funds, but he was ahead of his time and eventually the business failed.
Some of the sanctuaries were sold and still operate today. Warrawong is still going and is really worth a visit. https://www.warrawongws.com.au/
John Wamsley was hated by the authorities who fought him tooth and nail to frustrate his efforts, so it is ironic that the New South Wales Government (his home state) has now paid him the ultimate honour of copying his innovation to build feral free exclosures in national parks, which is something he once predicted to me many years ago.