Discover To Lead

Tim Willing's wealth of knowledge on the unspoiled beauty of  mangroves and rain forests in Kimberley, NW Australia.

By Sujata Devadas, December 19, 2016

Expedition leader, Tim Willing

Scottish by descent, but born in East Africa, Tim grew up in Mombasa, Kenya till the age of 12, then moved to a boarding school in Kenton, Sussex. He finished his graduation at The School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), in London University in geography in 1972, and chose Perth as his destination in 1973.

Kimberley field guy

For 20 years, Tim worked as a horticulturist in Australia, reaching the city of Broome, Kimberley Region, in 1980,  “Agriculturists and gardeners went into the bush, and  brought back seeds, fruits, flowers, roots or the plant itself requesting me for more information.  In those days, an established compilation of flora for Kimberley did not exist.”  says Tim.

“If I did not know the answers, I turned to professional botanists based in Perth who visited Kimberley for scientific work, combining this with my own field experience in Kimberley, my botanical knowledge grew. More than 2 decades later, I am the leading ‘field guy’ on Kimberley flora. I fell in love with the region and have remained there since.” says Tim.

Here are some of Tim’s photographic collection of the stupendous diversity of flora in Kimberley, Western Australia:

‘Broome And Beyond’

 

Tim co-authored a book ‘Broome & Beyond’ with botanist Kevin F. Kenneally and Daphne Choules Edinger in 1996 - a layman’s field guide, covering Broome city and the Dampier peninsula, north of Broome. 

It took 5 years to complete, valuable assistance came from amateur members of Broome's Botanical Society, who volunteered their time and effort to collect plants, press them and bring them in for scrutiny. The book was edited and published by Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management. The book is no longer in print, But Broome's Botanical Society hopes to soon put it back in publication. 

Tim and Kevin’s second book, available in print, is historical. ’Under A Regent Moon’ taps into 1890s newspaper articles earmarking events and incidences in Kimberley’s past, found in Melbourne Public Library. The book’s title refers to Prince Regent, one of Kimberley’s main rivers.

Conservation projects

Shortly after the ‘Broome & Beyond’ publication, Tim took on the job of conservation officer, under Kimberley’s Conservation Department.

His role expanded to involve projects like tagging green sea turtles nesting on Kimberley beaches and surrounding islands. “These turtles travel about 3000 kms - all the way to Indonesia and the New Guinea coast. Our titanium tags  put under the turtle’s armpit, do not rust. At the back of each tag, we offered an incentive to those who found or caught a tagged turtle if they sent the tag to Perth. Indonesians responded, receiving T-shirts as a reward.”

Kimberley has 2 internationally recognized wetlands - Roebuck Bay, 80 Mile Beach - the most productive natural systems on the earth, immensely important in cycling nutrients. Following  the Australian government’s directive, Tim covered half this area, writing down technical information and related environmental values to submit to The International Ramsar Convention Wetlands Treaty.

A third project that Tim held really close to his heart as conservation officer was saving bilbies, a marsupial, on the verge of extinction. “We initiated the captive breeding project by catching 12 bilbys to help them regenerate their population. It has been remarkably successful.

"The bilbies captured in the Great Sandy Desert were sent down to Kanyana Wildlife Centre in Perth. These bilbies have been successfully bred for re-introduction to areas where they formerly occurred." Tim recounts, "Saving bilbies requires predator-proof fencing or baiting of foxes and cats to keep the bilbies

Bilby captive breeding project, Kimberley

well clear of the critically endangered RED list." 

For more information: 

Bilby Breeding Kanyana Wildlife.

The National Recovery Plan (for the overall picture for Australia)

After retiring from his position as conservation officer, Tim now leads expeditions on a charter boat, working alongside the captain to take tourists and trainees on trips all around the coast and up the rivers of Kimberley for a duration of a week or a fortnight.

It is environmental education, interpretation and training the crew to improve their knowledge on wildlife and vegetation. He take considerable pride in showing Kimberley’s large amount of ancient aboriginal rock art, a marvel to behold, as well.

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