Author: johnsinclair

An impoverished landscape – Part 2

by John Sinclair A land rapidly losing its wildlife — Birds As a concerned grandparent, I am conscious of the world we are bequeathing to future generations and try to compare my own childhood and youth with that of my grandchildren.  In this essay I discuss how they will miss the sound and sight of many of birds once so familiar.   The decline of birds I am describing is anecdotal but they epitomise observations made by long term bird observers throughout Australia that bird populations are plunging in almost every habitat.  Some such as the beautiful Gouldian finches have gained their endangered status due to the trapping and trafficking.  Others such as bustards, emus, some ducks and pigeons have been heavily hunted for the pot.  Some like the Gull-billed terns and the Black swans are obviously responding to habitat disturbance.  Some like the seed eating birds are vanishing before our eyes because grazing pressure lets little grass grow to seed.  Some insectivorous bird populations are being impacted by pesticides. Some ground dwelling birds are falling prey to feral predators. Some species are declining through eating cane toads. Many species are suffering habitat loss through land clearing.  However there is no explanation for why bird populations in our National Parks are also declining.  Some birds are obviously being significantly impacted by climate change. Many reasons for the rapid decline can’t be explained.   What is more worrying is that this...

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An impoverished landscape – Part 1

This essay is the first of a series of planned reports discussing the Australian landscape and its natural environment and how it has become significantly impoverished especially in recent years. A land depleted of its natural heritage After more than a half a century of exploring Australia to identify the best of its natural heritage, I must now reluctantly conclude that, despite the best efforts of conservationists and others determined to leave the world a better place for our grandchildren, we have failed.  Apart from the legacy of a world depleted of resources (their stolen inheritance), we are bequeathing them a world overpopulated by people and with a dramatically impoverished natural and cultural heritage.   Fewer than 0.01% of Australians would have seen as much of the Australian continent as I have over the past quarter century.  Even fewer would have been assessing the quality of the natural environment as closely or as critically as I have. My observations lead me to reluctantly conclude that my grandchildren will inherit a very impoverished environment. All my life I have been interested in the environment.  It began with farm holidays as a kid.  It was nurtured by my love of the bush and was developed through scouting, through travel as a student at Agricultural College specifically looking at land management, and then while traversing half a million miles to organize Rural...

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Connor’s Lost Football

A story from Kakadu July 2010 by John Sinclair for his grandchildren and others   When Connor lost his football in the tall dry grass while on holidays with his family in Kakadu he thought that was the end of the matter.  He and his sister and cousins had searched and searched in the long grass near their camp at Gunlom but they couldn’t find the ball that Connor had had for more than half his life and which he dearly loved. Still Connor was having a marvellous holiday and Connor went on to explore other parts of Kakadu and discover some amazing Aboriginal rock art in the caves. BUT the ball was lying in very dry tall grass and long after Connor and his family had returned to his home in Brisbane, an amazing series of events took place because of Connor’s football.  Perhaps it would be better to blame Connor’s lost ball AND a spark from a camper’s fire that set the long grass near Connor’s long lost ball. In Kakadu there are two very distinct periods — the Wet and the Dry.  In the Wet the grass grows.  It is green and it grows very fast and very tall.  However when the dry period arrive in Kakadu, and that is usually the cooler months, the grass becomes very brown and crisp.  That was how it was...

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Queensland’s shameful management of the Fraser Island World Heritage site

Queensland’s Fraser Island was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992 —  eight years before Sarawak ‘s Gunung Mulu National Park.  The fight to have Fraser Island World Heritage listed though started in 1974 and was a major public debate for almost two decades prior to its recognition.  It is therefore surprising that once it was listed the Queensland Government has allowed it to become so degraded that some people are now arguing that it needs to be placed on the World Heritage in Danger List. It isn’t that Fraser Island lacks the values that warranted its World Heritage listing in the first place.  It is just that the management values for Fraser Island are pre-occupied with recreation Management to the neglect of the protection of its World Heritage values. Photos tell the story On Fraser Island 4WD recreational vehicles rule all policy decisions even though environmental studies have conclusively shown the impact of the 4WDs in compacting sand in the substrate and thus accelerating water erosion.  The mobilization of sand as a result of this means that over a three year period more than a million tones of sand has been mobilized and sluiced down the slopes.  That means over a tonne of sand it relocated for every visitor to Fraser Island! Some roads are now scoured down to a depth of 4 metres and they continue...

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Malaysia’s World Heritage Management in Mulu puts Queensland Park Management to shame

Location Gunung Mulu National Park Sarawak Malaysia Gunung Mulu Gunung National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia is a stunning World Heritage site inscribed for both the enormity and magnificence of its limestone caves and for its enormous biodiversity.  At 52,865 hectares Mulu is about a third the size of Fraser Island yet it has tremendous biodiversity.  It has daunting biodiversity of both plants andanimals.  It list 3,500  vascular plants alone.  That is at least five times as many plant species as found on Fraser Island). I was surprised to see Angiopteris evecta growing right outside the HQ offices. The stunning and enormous limestone caves (Deer Cave has a roof 300 metres above the floor and you could fly a 747 into it) hold an inestimable number of bats (several million). However it wasn’t the World Heritage values that made such an impression on me but the superb and sustainable management that the Malaysian authorities have established there. There we no cars allowed in Mulu.  People have to walk although they can take a longboat ride on a river to visit some sites up-river.  The only motor vehicles I saw in the park were small motorcycles for staff to take their children to school. The walkways are wide and substantial. I estimate that this Borneo park must have had at least 5 or 6 kms of boardwalk or proper paths that...

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