AgScience Corporation Plants 'Extinct' Trees


Maybe you've heard of the Dinosaur Tree? We first noted it back here. The Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) was previously only known from fossil records dating back 90 millions years, give or take a day. It was considered to have gone extinct about two millions ago, until rediscovered deep in the wilds of a National Park NW of Sydney, Australia.

With less than 100 trees surviving it was decided to keep the location secret and cultivate them for sale through nurseries worldwide to reduce the threat of poaching. This has been a huge success with the pines being a massive hit with the public. How often does one get to give away a once 'extinct' species as a Christmas pressie?

Another exercise was undertaken a couple of weeks ago to ensure this remarkable plant's continual survival. Jon Dee, founder of Planet Ark and National Tree Day brought together Bayer Australia and Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park to plant 120 Wollemi trees and seedlings in a native bushland setting, said to be only 50km from the original rediscovery site. The environment into which the Wollemi were planted is protected from feral pests by a 2.5 kilometre long electric fence, but is otherwise in as natural a state as you could expect from land an hours drive from Australia's most populous city. As John Dee puts it, "this will be the first time that the general public and schools will be able to visit a colony of the Wollemi Pine as it grows in the wild." [a small grove can also be seen inside an enclosure at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.]


The Founder of National Tree Day, Jon Dee, with Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park owner Tassin Barnard and Senior Bayer Representative Michael Walleneit.

Conservation work is rife with irony. Many of Sydney's iconic bush settings are intact only because the land was kept out the hands of developers by virtue of being military property for many years. Bayer's CropScience business is hard at work selling "insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and seed treatments." Yet here they are funding the conservation of trees, who clearly have needed no such human 'assistance', with some living specimens thought to have living root structures from the time of the Roman Empire.

What is great about projects like this, especially those that engage corporate staff
in field days, is that they inject a sense of the real environment into people's lives that is well removed from their days of staring at computer screens and dealing with issues at arms length. It makes cogs turn and brain synapses fire.

We can only change corporations when we change the people within. And humans adapt when new challenging scenarios are placed before them. Just as Ray Anderson set out to turn around the world's largest flooring corporation, Interface, after reading a book, who is to say that a hands-on conservation like Bayer's support of the Wollemi won't touch the hearts and minds of its decision makers? [Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park itself only exists because an ex-Environment Minister poured his life savings into protecting native animals from feral pests.]

It is easy to point fingers at problems. It's much harder to get down and dirty implementing solutions. But positive action trumps negative rhetoric.

Disclosure: Although having no part in the Jon Dee / Bayer Wollemi plantings, this writer is indirectly involved, being a team leader for Conservation Volunteers Australia, who recently took another corporate group to Walkabout to help with tagging of the Wollemi Pines in their bush environs.

Via media release from ::Issue Communications.

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