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Wild About Learning!

Not one to blow his own trumpet, Peter Douglas is not particularly easy to interview. Surprising; most people aren’t nearly as interesting!

In addition to a lifetime of educating people – from school children to adult learners, Peter Douglas established and managed Dream World’s wildlife park, and managed Lone Pine Koala Park (established in 1927).

And his passion for wildlife could well be in the blood; his eldest son manages the Hermitage Research Station for the Department of Primary Industries, while his youngest son owns and operates Bonorong Wildlife park outside of Hobart.

Having completed a Diploma in Animal Husbandry at Queensland Agricultural High School and College at Gatton (now University of Queensland, Gatton), he went on to lecture and instruct both there, and at Emerald Pastoral College, for a further16 years.

His greatest interest over all these years? “Educating. Training staff, talking to school and adult groups, and tutoring.” Now ‘retired’, Peter tutors students enrolled at ACS Distance Education.

In answer to the question of ‘where to start?’, Peter recommends the ACS Wildlife Management course. “If someone came to me with that, it’d be a good start. They’d still need to do an apprenticeship, and learn the grassroots of working in a park.”He advises that budding Wildlife Conservationists not limit themselves to just one area (for example Reptiles): “Get as broad an education as possible. Read books and ask questions.”

There are several ‘levels’ of positions involved in wildlife parks. They range from those that involve cleaning enclosures, stripping old leaves and emptying rubbish bins, to being in charge of specific areas, like Macropods (which when literally translated means “Big Foot”, and includes Kangaroos and Wallabies), or Reptiles. Beyond this, there are positions like Overseer, and Manager. And it’s certainly possible to ‘work your way up’. Peter recalls hiring “Weekend Boys” at Lone Pine who lived locally. “They worked emptying bins, cleaning loos and cages. Quite a number of them continued to work there once they’d left school.”

So what message would a person with this kind of experience have for the Australian Public when it comes to Wildlife conservation? “Don’t feed wildlife! People feed Kookaburras and Magpies… what happens when you go on holiday?” and there’s a darker side to developing this kind of dependency: “Look at the Dingos on Fraser Island. We’ve had one child killed, and numerous attacks. People will do this, maybe showing off to children and others, and don’t see the harm it does.”Another issue Peter feels strongly about is the control of dogs and feral cats. “Man, cars, and dogs are the great enemies of the Koala. Keep your dogs on your property, and lock your cats up after dark.”
Lastly, and probably most importantly, because it would greatly improve both areas of concern, is education. Education is a powerful tool in developing appreciation and awareness. Peter feels that this should begin when children are still in Primary Schools, and the family home should also be a place of education, fostering in children a life long appreciation of wildlife. Who knows; they could be the Peter Douglases of tomorrow.
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