Thank You Thursday: The world of difference for wildlife

Looking back towards the end of last year, and the beginning of this year we still cannot forget those devastating fires that swept through parts of Australia. Last month we featured a story about one organisation working in the Gippsland region of Victoria, but because this has had such a huge impact on so many Australians we wanted to share another story of hope.

One of the more tragic of the fires was the blaze that burnt 210,000 hectares – or almost half of Kangaroo Island, and also sadly killed two people. Of 60,000 koalas all in good health living on the island, it is estimated that 30,000 perished. This remaining group of koalas are important to the endurance of the species as the Chlamydia disease is not present amongst them, unlike all populations on the mainland. Grave fears are held for the survival of some of the island’s vulnerable species such as the Dunnart, Black Glossy Cockatoo and the Ligurian Honey Bees.

After the fire had passed through, animal welfare groups were given permission to enter the blackened area. Those volunteers were absolutely taken aback at the traumatised wildlife that sat around in groups together. The survivors had no energy and seemed to have shut down. That was when South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management (SAVEM) stepped in to help.

SAVEM, an organisation of 100% volunteers from all walks of life, has an undertaking to assess, triage, shelter, treat and re-unite owners with their animals; while also trying to rehabilitate wildlife to be returned to their natural habitats. Veterinarians and veterinary nurses volunteer their specialised skills to help heal these sick animals back to health.

The SAVEM Plan has allowed vets to respond to any emergency in South Australia involving companion animals, wildlife and livestock. Even though Primary Industries and Regions SA has the lead response for livestock including horses, SAVEM is a multispecies organisation that will assist if requested for large animal incidents.

The origins of this organisation date back to February 2009 in Victoria’s Black Saturday fire. South Australia’s support to Victoria at that time, and the absence of a Plan for veterinary emergency management in SA, SAVEM was formed to make sure that when the next emergency occurred, the veterinary community in South Australia would be prepared.

An important part of the work of SAVEM extends past the initial crisis when fires are burning. Even into early February, the team have checked several sites that have required a revisit, and found wallabies, kangaroos, koalas and birds in need of assistance.

Their work now is about helping in the transition to recovery, where processes are handed back to locals. The organisation will maintain a presence on the Island until they are no longer actively needed and are committed to assisting the Island during the tough recovery years ahead.

This Thank You Thursday we say thanks to the volunteers of SAVEM for their dedication to supporting Kangaroo Island communities and animals affected by the bushfires.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

Thank You Thursday: Relief on the Road to Recovery

Since Christmas or even just before, parts of Australia have been, and in some parts still is being ravaged by horrific bushfires. As Australians we are used to living alongside these dangers, however this year has proved to be particularly shattering and injurious both to human life and wildlife.

Victoria has recently witnessed a most overwhelming, vast and engulfing fire in the Gippsland area. Gippsland is an exquisite agricultural region located along the South Eastern coast. With snowfields for those of us who prefer it cooler, to pristine forests, unspoilt beaches, and much more for tourists.

Unfortunately, most of these places have gone up in flames and now the residents who rely on heavily on farming or tourism are in despair and wondering, ‘Where do we go from here?’.

Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) is a small, unique community organisation that has been around for over 40 years and is one organisation in a sea of many supporting bushfire affected families.

Established in 1978, it is funded by donations from businesses, community groups and even individuals. All of those donations are returned to the community and no costs are deducted as the charity is run by volunteers.

Residents residing in the Gippsland areas of Bass Coast, South and East Gippsland, Latrobe, Baw Baw and Wellington who suffer loss or hardship as a result of bushfire, floods and any other acts of nature that affect their principal place of residence are given assistance.

Funding focuses on personal losses such as food, shelter, clothing, bedding and children’s educational needs, as distinct from capital items more often covered by government grants or insurances.

When an emergency event happens a field assessment team gathers data and then relays it to the Council Operations Centre, which works closely with GERF. The Committee of Management has the responsibility and final decision on distribution of funds. Any surplus is held by the fund for future relief in the above regions.

Since the dramatic and highly publicised bushfires began in Mallacoota on New Years Eve, the Fund has raised over $3.8m and have approved more than 900 referrals from community members who’ve either lost their homes or experienced severe property damage.

So this Thank You Thursday, we say thank you to the volunteer team behind GERF and all those in the community that have supported this fund. Wishing the communities of Gippsland strength and positivity as they recover and rebuild.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick

* Images sourced from Gippsland Times *

 

Thank You Thursday: Plastic Bags No More

Plastic bags… a convenient invention without foresight at the time, and now we are facing a huge hurdle not only with our waste matter; but what to do with the millions of plastic bags across the entire planet. This has been particularly a problem on the small island of Bali, where there is about 1.6 million tonnes of waste each year and 303,000 tonnes of that waste is plastic. 33,000 tonnes of this plastic leaks into Bali’s waterways causing pollution and health problems.

On June 23 this year Bali became the first Indonesian province to ban all single-use plastic bags, polystyrene and even straws, in a move that environmentalists are hoping will have a domino effect across all of Indonesia. Most of Bali’s residents are now willing to sort their waste and make a real effort to reduce, reuse or recycle. Much of the credit for this dramatic change has to go to sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen.

When these two young girls were just 10 and 12 years of age they were learning about impactful world leaders and change-makers, such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Lady Diana. They started thinking how could they, as ‘just kids’ make a difference? Playing in rice fields, walking along the road or beaches they noticed just how plastic bags had clogged up gutters and rivers. It was soon after that they founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), an organisation driven by youth to say NO to plastic bags.

In a bid to get their local government’s attention they took up a petition gaining permission to collect over 100,000 signatures behind customs and immigration at Bali Airport. However, Governor Mangku Pastika was unimpressed and ignored a request to meet the two sisters. What were they to do? Visiting Mahatma Ghandi’s house and under strict supervision of a dietitian, the girls went on a hunger strike from sunrise to sunset. It worked!

24 hours later, escorted by police officers, Melati and Isabel found themselves in front of the Governor signing a Memorandum of Understanding to help Balinese people say no to plastic bags by January 2018.

BBPB raises awareness and educates about the harmful impact of plastic on our environment, animals and health while also sharing how to be part of the solution. The girls have had many successes since such as:

  • Bali’s biggest beach clean-up – with 12,000 volunteers of many different nationalities.
  • The Indonesian Government pledging its part by the year 2025 to reduce plastic pollution by 70%.
  • A starter kit and book developed to guide young people through the process of ‘How to Start a Movement’.
  • Mountain Mamas – a social enterprise initiated by BBPB for local women giving them skills to produce alternative bags made from donated recycled material. 50% of profits goes back to the work of BBPB and 50% of the profit goes back to the village to be used for three key elements: waste management, education and health.

It has taken the sisters five years to get to this point but they have proven that ‘YOU are the ONE person who can start to make a change’. Melati and Isabel have been on an incredible journey since starting this movement, taking them around the world, including London and New York where they made an appearance at the United Nations. Their vision has inspired thousands and is really making a difference in our world.

This Thank You Thursday, we say thanks to Melati and Isabel, the Indonesian government for sitting up and listening to their youth and the BBPB teams all across the globe.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

A personal story of Parkinsons Disease The Fish Chick

Shaking Things Up: In loving memory of The Fish Chick’s Dad

Many of you may know about my Dad’s health challenges this year or may remember a very personal Thank You Thursday article I wrote a few years ago about his Parkinson’s diagnosis. The kind feedback I received at that time was lovely and I felt so supported. With that in mind, I wanted to honour my Dad once more and share the news that sadly he passed away earlier this month. It’s been a tough month for our close-knit Crocker clan, but we are reminding ourselves of how lucky we were to have him at the helm for as long as we did.

Thank you to those of you who have sent heartfelt condolences over the past few weeks as this news has filtered out. The kind messages and emails have been warmly received. Fish has never been just a job for me, it’s a vehicle that allows me to create positive change and has grown into a little community that I hope is making a difference.  It’s provided me with the opportunity to meet many incredible people and work with some amazing charities, and sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming.

My Dad was a good and much-liked business man most of his life and I know he would be just as proud of this business I have created as I am, and that makes me really happy. Thank you for being my inspiration and mentor, with the wisdom and love that you readily shared, Dad. I love you too and will miss you every day.

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Just over three and half years after I wrote this original Thank You Thursday article about Shake it Up Foundation, my Dad and his Parkinson’s diagnosis, I have a sad update to share.

Dad lived with Parkinson’s Disease for over five years with reasonably slow progression, but earlier this year he got quite unwell and things rapidly worsened. We were told that it is likely he had Lewy Body’s Dementia, which is a form of Parkinsonism, but also a form of dementia. All of these conditions are challenging to diagnose as they are so closely related and can often be misdiagnosed.

After a few difficult months of increasingly failing health, sadly, we lost our dear Daddy Fish peacefully on the morning of 2nd November 2019.

I’m so very, very sad that he is gone, but feel so very fortunate and proud to have been able to call him my Dad. He will be remembered as an incredible man of great strength, positivity and love for his family.

We’ve established a fundraising page in his memory to fund research into Parkinson’s Disease with the Shake It Up Foundation and I know Dad wouldn’t expect any less from his fundraising gal.

https://shakeitup.grassrootz.com/in-memory/in-loving-memory-of-richard-crocker

Thank You Thursday: A Sanctuary for Dumbo’s friends

For decades, elephants in Thailand have been forced to work exhausting hours in the logging, trekking and tourism industries. Use of bull hooks and chains, and lack of basic shade or cover from the elements, have all added to the appalling treatment of these gentle creatures.
A couple of months back, I had the pleasure of visiting a small, yet beautiful haven for rescued elephants while on holiday in Koh Samui.

Samui Elephant Sanctuary was established in January early 2018 as the first elephant sanctuary on the island of Koh Samui. The sanctuary offers eight hectares of lush green land for a small group of rescued female elephants. (Elephant bulls require a lot more space, so the decision was made to only keep females here.)

Samui Elephant Sanctuary’s concept of elephant care and welfare is inspired and supported by Lek Chailert, world renowned elephant conservationist, founder of the world-famous Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.

Watch this short video of Samui Elephant Sanctuary Founder, Wittaya Sala-Ngam, as he explains why he established the first ethical elephant home on Koh Samui.

Although my experience at Samui Elephant Sanctuary was tinged with sadness as we learnt about the lives of pain and maltreatment these beautiful animals had endured before their arrival there, it was truly heart-warming to see the way the staff team and volunteers care and nurture them. They shared their passion with us as the elephants roamed around the park in their own time, of their own free will; swimming in the purpose-built pool or bathing in the mud pond when they wanted to.

Led by park guides, Ja and But, we met each of the elephants, all between the ages of 46 and 61, who had only started to experience the peace and joy of sanctuary life in their most recent years. We were able to feed and walk with all five of them; Khum Phean, Kaew Ta, Mae Kham Kaew, Kham San and Cartoon, who was the first elephant rescued here and started this sanctuary. A few really loved a little pat.

While the Thai Government prohibited logging in 1989, the increase in tourism and holiday makers looking for an elephant experience over the last thirty years has not really reduced the level of abuse Thai elephants are subjected to.

More education and information for travellers and tourists in recent years is leading to a better understanding of truly ethical elephant parks and those that are not. The decisions we make can directly influence the demand for captive elephants and their treatment as commodoties.

Getting up close and personal, ethically

Unfortunately, I have to admit that a number of years ago I rode on an elephant’s back and bathed with them, at what I mistakenly thought was an elephant sanctuary. However, armed with better information and a stronger understanding, I can now make more ethical travel decisions… which is what led me to Samui Elephant Sanctuary.

Personally, I’m disappointed that I had been misled in the past about appropriate elephant-human interaction and that I had not questioned things further. However, as Maya Angelou said, ‘When we know better, we do better‘, and I definitely know better now.

Despite the work happening in today there are still an estimated 4,000 elephants living in terrible situations across Thailand. Saving and providing sanctuary for troubled Thai elephants isn’t cheap work. It can cost up to 1-2 million Thai baht (THB) to rescue an elephant. And these incredible creatures eat 30,000-40,000 THB worth of food every day, including pineapple leaves, bananas and cucumbers.

So today, on Thank You Thursday, I give an elephant-sized shout out to Lek Chailert for paving the way in elephant conservation, Wittaya Sala-Ngam for his passion for founding this beautiful place and all the team and volunteers at Samui Elephant Sanctuary for their love of the creatures in their care.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

Thank You Thursday: A new narrative for men

Many of us have heard of ‘the man cave’, a place where men hideout from family pressures – a place where they can really try to be themselves, a place to tinker with their bikes, cars and/or hobbies. But did you know there is a real man cave helping young men with their emotions and mental health?

As World Mental Health Day is acknowledged on 10th October we’re taking this opportunity to highlight this growing organisation, The Man Cave.