Tim has contributed to discussions about future fire management by reviewing an important new book about indigenous burning. In Fire Country author Victor Steffensen relays the insights he gained by befriending the last two Awu-Laya speakers of Cape York Peninsula. In the March issue of Australian Book Review Tim notes with interest that indigenous burning is portrayed by Steffensen as doing what nature wants and not as control over an estate.
Tim was recently interviewed at length by Caiyuda Kiora about what nature means to him as an idea and as something to relate to. This extended interview can be seen here.
In November 2020 Tim travelled in Chile to see Gondwanan species for his next book. The Araucaria trees, closely related to Australia’s hoop pines, were one highlight, and so were seedsnipe, which have Australia’s endangered plains wanderer as their closest relative.
In August he visited northern China as a guest of the China Writer’s Association and Jilin Provincial Writer’s Association. With ten other foreign writers, mainly from Europe, and with Chinese writers, he was taken to Changbai, the tallest mountain in north-eastern Asia, straddling the border with North Korea; to Xianghai Wetlands to see endangered red-crowned cranes; and to Chagan Lake. Communicating through translators and phone apps, Tim talked about nature and writing with Chinese nature writers.
After the program ended he travelled to Huangsongpu village on Changbai for two days of birdwatching and botanising. Tim last visited China 43 years ago and, in his closing address thanking the writer’s associations for their immense hospitality, he praised the scale of tree-planting and environmental messaging in Jilin Province. Wildlife he saw included oriental storks, Daurian partridges, brown dipper and Siberian roe deer.
Tim has an article about captive breeding and conservation in fenced reserves in the winter 2019 issue of Australian Geographic magazine. He visited Arid Recovery reserve in the South Australian desert to research this article, and drew upon visits he has made to Melbourne Zoo, Perth Zoo, Taronga Zoo, Christmas Island and the orange-bellied parrot breeding facility near Hobart.
Tim provided a report for the Australian Federal Police and Director of Public Prosecutions about the threats to biodiversity posed by a man who was caught smuggling various reptiles and fish into Australia, several of which are highly invasive elsewhere in the world, such as snakehead fish and alligator snapping turtles.
Tim is spending much of his time working on his next book.
The Naturetrek tour led by Tim to Borneo Last year was a great success, with many special species seen, including a Malay porcupine, Sunda skunk, large frogmouth and two endangered otter civets that scampered across the road one night at Deramakot reserve.
A drought-induced fruit shortage was driving orangutans towards unusual foods, and one was watched eating palm shoots, and then chewing grass shoots while on the ground. One very large male was observed in Nypa palm forest beside a river eating palm frond pith.
Tim has given fewer talks this year than usual, for obvious reasons. His most reason was a bird talk for the Nuttall Ornithological Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts, achieved via Zoom.
Returning to the pre-COVID era, Tim was a keynote speaker at at the highly successful Bird Haven Festival at Shoalhaven Heads in October 2019. Also appearing were musicians Simone Slattery and Anthony Albrecht, performing Where Song Began, a wonderful musical celebration of birds inspired by Tim’s book. They launched their CD, which is available here. They can be seen performing here. Tim spoke briefly after their performance, which received a standing ovation. Simone was interviewed about this project in Limelight.
The festival provided Tim with a chance to meet and talk with Jacqueline Nguyen, a paleontologist who, by describing new songbird species from Australia, is strengthening the case that Australia was the first home of the world’s songbirds
In early September 2019 people came to hear Tim speak about The New Nature in Newstead, Victoria, as an event hosted by Connecting Country and Newstead Landcare Group. Tim gave two other talks in the region, one as a keynote at the Wimmera Biodiversity Seminar in Rapunyup, an event supported by the Wimmera CMA and other groups, and a talk at historic Glenlyon Hall hosted by Wombat Forestcare. He was interviewed twice on regional ABC radio, and used the visit as a chance to see Ballantinia, an endangered cress in its own genus. He greatly enjoyed the company of local naturalists.
Tim was a keynote speaker at the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators Annual Conference in Brisbane in July, speaking about Where Song Began, and two days later he spoke to a sell-out audience in Noosa about The New Nature.
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart has published a book, Eat the Problem, with a chapter by Tim. The book has recipes for cooking introduced pest species, and Tim’s chapter explains why harvesting of invasive species often worsens pest problems rather than decreasing them, by turning them into a valued resource.
Tim Low with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews after winning People’s Choice at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards (Photo Matt Deller).