Young Conservationist of the Year: Kim Hands

By AG Society 19 June 2012
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Kim Hands, from the Stop the Toad Foundation, wins the AG Society’s Young Conservationist of the Year award.

OVER THE LAST four years it was with tenacious determination that ecologist Kim Hands – strategic campaign manager for the Stop the Toad Foundation (STTF) – faced the wave cane toads hopping towards the pristine Kimberley. As the organizing force behind Stop the Toad’s last three cane-toad musters and the Emma Gorge (in the Kimberley)  toad-exclusion fence, Kim’s been busy – writing grants and recruiting volunteers to come remote camp sites – then directing up to 120 volunteers on month-long cane-toad collecting and exclusion fence building missions.

“The reason I got involved is because I fell in love with the Kimberley while I was working as a tour guide for the Australian Wildlife Conservancy,” she says. “I applied for a job with them at Mornington Sanctuary, and hopped off the plane and thought, ‘yep, this is it, this is what I want to be doing.'”

The toads, invasive ferals who secrete toxins that kill unsuspecting native wildlife, are capable of laying 8000-35000 eggs per clutch up to twice a year. Manual eradication has now been ruled out by the federal government, echoing the jaded sentiments of many who have encountered the prolific feral.

“I definitely arrived and thought what am I doing? People were saying to me ‘you’re crazy, you can’t stop them,'” says Kim. “But the volunteers were amazing, they paid for their own flight up there, and used their holidays to help out on something they really believed in.” Nationwide cane-toad mustering is coming to an end, but undeterred Kim and the STTF are harnessing the knowledge they’ve accrued and turned their sights to working with scientists and ecologists on using toad exclusion fences, most notably a trial fence set up at Emma Gorge in the east Kimberley.

The AG Society tips its hat to determined young conservationists like Kim, and acknowledges conservation battles hard fought, won or lost.

Emma Gorge AG Society scientific expedition
About the Australian Geographic Society Awards
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2010 Australian Geographic Society Award winners