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Evolutionary biologist urges us to save what’s left of our natural bushland

The University of Western Australia media statement

Why do kookaburras laugh? Why are fairy wrens so blue? Why do cicadas click in unison?

Professor Leigh Simmons, an evolutionary biologist from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences, explores the answers to all these questions and many more in a new book, Naturalist on the Bibbulmun.

Over the Noongar seasons of Kambarang and Birak (November to January) 2018-19 he walked the Bibbulmun Track with his son.

To distract from the rigours and sometimes painful realities of carrying 17kg across 1000km of WA’s remote bushlands, he documented the flora and fauna of the southwestern corner of Western Australia.

In Naturalist on the Bibbulmun, by UWA Publishing, he details his findings and much of the research discussed in the book was conducted by scholars at The University of Western Australia.

Director of UWA’s Centre for Evolutionary Biology, Professor Simmons has spent 40 years studying animal behaviour, ecology and evolution.

The book is a beginners’ guide to evolutionary and ecological processes, and an insight into the trials and tribulations of the long-distance walker. But perhaps more importantly it is a call to arms.

The South West of WA was recognised in 2000 as one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots – a region that is a significant reservoir of plant and animal species that is critically endangered.

A criterion to be part of the biodiversity hotspot club is that anthropogenic changes to the natural environment – through burning and clearing of land, and the warming and drying effects of human-induced climate change – have resulted in the loss of 70 per cent of the natural habitat.

And with human impact comes the loss of species of plants and animals that are unique to the region.

Professor Simmons believes now may be our last chance to witness and to save what remains of the ancient wilderness through which the Bibbulmun Track passes.

He hopes that his book will in some small way arouse a sense of country (boodja) and draw the reader into the small but growing mob who recognise the need to preserve the wilderness of this place, and of planet earth more widely.

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  1. Yes Minister

    Does this bloke seriously suggest we abandon ‘development ‘AKA wanton destruction / rape and pillage of the ecosystem ? Obviously he isn’t aware that atillas depend on their predations to bankroll elected scum AKA politicians to do their bidding. I can just see every councillor / politician in the country bleating about insufficient land to sustain the economic growth paradigm AKA unending feral proliferation.

  2. wam

    Some 60 odd years the Russian coach was pointing out a sunset to the Russian squad and the star forward was not enthused by this interruption to training. The coach’s reaction was there is no room for a player who lacks the imagination to see the beauty in nature and the player was sacked.
    Chocolate Bilbys were to replace Easter rabbits but too few of us recognised former was an endangered native and the latter was a destructive introduced pest. I expect the LNP boys, who hate the unions and the extremists, would like god’s creatures but they generally speaking don’t even pay lip service to conservation. Clear and build without the ‘put up a parking lot’. Indeed build high rubbish flats with not enough parking for any occupant family groups. The councils don’t have control over most of the planning permits or zoning. The pollies took control some years ago.
    Things are crook in tallarook and we have to rely on whistle blowers to protest.

  3. Brad Black

    Happily, the first step in saving the natural bushland in WA’s south west was made when Mark McGowan announced a cease of logging in native forests from the beginning of ’24. Yeeeha!

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