Mike and Eva Palmer see the loss of wild habitat as one of the single biggest threats to wildlife on Earth. So they decided to do something about it. Their legacy will help to safeguard native species for many generations to come.
“It’s a little oasis of bush,” says Mike Palmer of his new bush block, purchased late last year. “It’s pristine … it looks terrific. It’s got big banksias and substantial trees. I’m told it has probably been unburnt for at least a hundred years.”
The 735 hectare parcel of land that Mike is referring to sits between the Fitzgerald River National Park and the Lake Magenta Nature Reserve on Noongar country in south-west Western Australia.
Home to soaring Carnaby’s Cockatoos, whistling Western Whipbirds, wallabies, echidnas and many other species, it’s a vital refuge in the midst of a largely agricultural landscape.
“Every bit of bush is useful, but this block is particularly useful,” says Mike.
“Any birds and animals wanting to get between the national park and the Lake Magenta reserve can shelter there; it’s a sanctuary between the two.”
The strategic location of Mike’s land is not coincidental. In 2018, Mike approached Bush Heritage for advice on finding and buying a property of high conservation value that he could gift to the organisation in his will.
For many years previously, his wife Eva had been supporting the restoration of Carnaby’s Cockatoo habitat on Bush Heritage reserves, and through this work the pair had developed a deep trust of the organisation’s people and their knowledge of the local area.
A seed is sown
Eva has loved birds since she was a young girl growing up in Edinburgh, Scotland. But it wasn’t until she moved to Australia in her thirties that she developed a particular fondness for the enigmatic icons of the west, Carnaby’s Cockatoos.
“Cockatoos are so majestic when they fly. In Perth, the skies used to blacken with Carnaby’s Cockatoos – they’d come in their hundreds and thousands,” she recalls.
Numbers of this now nationally endangered bird have dropped by half in the last 45 years. Habitat fragmentation and the loss of nest hollows in close proximity to food sources are thought to be the main reasons for their decline, and Eva felt driven to do something about it.
Bush Heritage, with its vision to reconnect and restore habitat in the south-west through a network of protected areas, seemed a natural organisation to partner with.
“I think what Bush Heritage is doing, protecting and regenerating land in various ways, is a great idea,” says Eva. “I like the culture of the organisation, too.”
In 2016, Mike and Eva visited Bush Heritage’s Monjebup Reserve, about three hours north of Albany, to watch as thousands of proteaceous seedlings that Eva had helped to buy and distribute were planted in what had once been a bare wheat paddock.
Three years later they returned, but this time they were greeted with head-high banksias and hakeas, and the news that Carnaby’s Cockatoos were regularly seen feeding in the revegetation.
Forging a close connection
Bush Heritage ecologist Angela Sanders accompanied Mike and Eva on both visits to Monjebup, and says the dramatic transformation – from wheat paddock to a functioning, thriving ecosystem – made a deep impression on them.
“They were moved by what they had helped achieve,” she says. “And it’s not just Carnaby’s Cockatoos that have benefited; we’re seeing Honey Possums and many other species in the revegetation, too.”
For Mike, the planting at Monjebup and Bush Heritage’s broader work in the region are an example of the clear vision and careful planning that he sees as essential to saving the Australian bush.
“We need to accept that loss of wild habitat is the major underlying cause for the continuing decline of almost all wildlife on Earth,” he says.
A legacy for the bush
A scientific thinker, Mike appreciated Bush Heritage’s systematic approach to conservation – the way he saw Angela and her team set objectives and systematically track their progress against them. It’s what inspired him to approach Bush Heritage for help making his own contribution, which he hopes will help safeguard the future of many species well beyond his own lifetime, including, of course, Eva’s precious Carnaby’s Cockatoos.
Mike’s decision to leave a gift to Bush Heritage in his will is a powerful one. And while he knows not everyone can give in the same way, he believes it’s not the size nor the form of the gift that matters, but the act of leaving a legacy in and of itself.
“Each one of us can only do a little bit to help slow down the loss of wild habitat,” he says. “But every little bit by all individuals counts… collectively it all adds up to something significant.”
Your life, their future
Did you know that gifts in wills account for up to a quarter of Bush Heritage’s annual income? Our work protecting Australia’s precious species and unique landscapes would not be possible without this incredible support.
Currently, climate change, deforestation and introduced predators are putting unprecedented pressure on Australia’s native plants and animals, but the solutions to many of our most pressing conservation problems are right in front of us.
Bush Heritage has been implementing those solutions for almost 30 years alongside Traditional Owners, communities and other NGOs, and in doing so we have secured the protection of over 11 million hectares and more than 6000 species.
We would like to thank all our supporters for helping to make this important work possible.