Acclaimed Australian author Tim Winton has been named the inaugural patron of a new native animals trust that hopes to connect the public with conservation research and projects.
The Native Australian Animals Trust is an initiative of Melbourne University, which chose Winton because of his long-running advocacy for wildlife conservation.
“We are busy acting on the natural environment, and we often act before we actually know what is out there,” Winton told ABC News Breakfast.
“There is so much that we don’t know.
“I have had enormous inspiration and sustenance from the natural world and to be able to return the favour is a privilege.”
The idea of asking Winton to be patron came about after Melbourne University marine biologist Tim Dempster was inspired to name a newly discovered fish after the author while on a trip in the Kimberly region.
It was the start of a friendship that has now led to the creation of the new trust.
“While we were driving through the Kimberley, one of the most remote areas in Australia, we listened to Winton’s The Turning on audiobook,’ Associate Professor Dempster said.
“It seemed fitting to give one of the new species the scientific name of Hannia wintoni — or Winton’s grunter.”
Many of Winton’s novels have revolved around the natural world, particularly the ocean, and contain conservation themes.
His 1984 novel Shallows looks at the whaling industry, and his 1997 book Blueback details a young boy’s fight to save a fish he befriends.
Winton said he felt a compulsion to give back to the environment.
“I feel responsible, as a citizen,” he said.
“I mean, I am quite happy to be in the business of useless beauty as an artist, that is my day job, but I am also a citizen.”
The trust has created a new website that lists a number of projects and research areas it will focus on, and invites the public to learn more and donate to the work.
“Yes, we have funding to work on native Australian animals [but] it comes in fits and starts, we don’t get a sustained focus,” Associate Professor Dempster said.
“We are trying to create a trust that will allow us to work on animals and systems and ecosystems for literally decades at a time.”
The first major initiative of the trust will be to establish a new award for conservation research into northern Australian animals.
Its initial research has found small and medium-sized mammals in northern Australia are in decline, and the trust fears other fish, animals and birds may suffer as well.
Original Story http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-16/tim-winton-named-patron-of-new-animal-trust/8358454