March 2005

Qld Premier, Peter Beattie Congratulates Zoo on Conservation Efforts

News Source: Transcript from Parliament, Wednesday 9th March, 2005

Ms MALE: My question is directed to the Premier. The human tragedy caused by the tsunami on Boxing Day and how Queenslanders responded so generously to that tragedy is well known, but can the Premier tell the House how Queenslanders have responded to help animals that were affected by this disaster?

Mr BEATTIE: Australia Zoo is a well-known institution. I want to place on record my thanks to Steve and Terri Irwin, the staff of Australia Zoo and other Queensland businesses that are helping save the animals of Aceh. Aceh is home to endangered species including the Sumatran tiger, only 200 of which remain in existence. The tsunami caused widespread environmental devastation. Abominably, this was made worse by poachers who exploited the post-tsunami chaos and the unhindered access to animals. They have ruthlessly slaughtered endangered species often simply for body parts. Australia Zoo has been assisting Flora and Fauna International, a non-government conservation body, to deal with the poachers and to protect the environment and its precious biodiversity.

Local villagers in Aceh composed what was a very effective antipoaching team. Sadly, 15 members of the antipoaching team were badly affected by the tsunami, losing family, belongings and equipment. The Irwins offered finances to help the antipoaching team get back on its feet, and many other Queensland companies, including Sci-Fleet Toyota Brisbane, Trailers 2000 and ARB Southside, donated equipment such as a four-wheel drive, a trailer, trail bikes, a generator and other equipment as well as veterinary supplies. All this equipment will stay in Aceh with the nature conservation department. The Irwins have also offered to treat elephants hurt while working as part of the clean-up effort.

The Queensland government has been liaising with Australia Zoo and helped arrange federal government support for a speedy transfer of the vehicles, equipment and documentation. The vehicles and equipment have now arrived in Aceh, so Australia Zoo personnel can begin reconstruction work with the antipoaching teams. I wish them all the best in this crucial task. I also thank staff in the Trade and International Operations Division of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet who have been working with Australia Zoo to ensure this vital work can proceed.

Steve and Terri Irwin are internationally renowned. I think they have done their own credibility and reputation an enormous amount of good by this work. They run a commercial enterprise, but they also have a heart. I think all Queenslanders should be very proud of what they have done.