Potoroo Palace opens the gate to native species education

Potoroo Palace was alive with curious kids on Saturday for the Threatened Species Day event. 

Live music carried through the grounds from the central stage, and face painting was available, so visitors could morph into their favourite animals. 

Fitting with the theme of the day, Potoroo Palace staff gave presentations on animals that have been listed as threatened species, such as the hairy-nosed wombat and the koala. 

Resident educator John Marsh was pleased to see so many young people exploring the enclosures. He believes engaging children is the key to preserving Australia’s native species in the future.

He said the event was a chance to learn about the environment as a whole, not just the animals on the endangered species list.

“I think we tend to forget threatened species are not just animals, they are plants and waterways too. Nothing operates in isolation,” he said. 

“Just because a species hasn’t made the list, doesn’t mean it isn’t vulnerable,” he said. 

Mr Marsh also wanted to change opinions of some of native species that were often dismissed as pests, such as kangaroos and grey headed flying foxes. 

“When we think of exotic animals, our minds jump to lions and tigers, but we’ve got some of the most unique animals living right here,” he said. 

Far from being a pest, the grey headed flying fox plays a crucial role as a pollinator.

“They pollinate more native plants than birds and bees combined,” Mr Marsh said. 

He added that losing the grey headed flying fox from Australia’s natural environment would be to tip the first domino in a series of flora and fauna losses.  

“They share a very similar habitat area as the koala, for example, and pollinate the majority of gum trees that koalas eat. These species do not exist in isolation,” he said. 

Mr Marsh also stressed the importance of preserving natural habitats because captive breeding is not a safeguard against extinction. 

“I think many people believe we don’t need to be concerned about extinction because there are so many zoos breeding animals all over the world,” he said. 

“But breeding in captivity is not easy, there are genetic restrictions and specific mating rituals to cater to. Captive breeding doesn't provide us security against extinction, we have to look after what is out there.”

Mr Marsh hoped the visitors of Potoroo Palace took away an understanding of each species value in the natural environment, and that a species doesn’t need to be listed as threatened before we help to preserve it. 

This story Kids go wild for Threatened Species Day | Photos first appeared on Bega District News.