In August Tim 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 issue of Australian Geographic magazine. In 2019 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.
The Naturetrek tour led by Tim to Borneo in April-May was a great success, with many special species seen, including a Malay porcupine, Sunda skunk, large frogmouth and endangered otter civets. 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.
Billy Griffith’s Deep Time Dreaming became Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Tim was one of the non-fiction judges who voted for this book to share first prize in the non-fiction category, which put it in contention for the higher award. Tim strongly recommends this book about Australian archaeology.
After the devastating floods in north Queensland in February, Tim was interviewed by ABC North Queensland, ABC Western Queensland, and Radio Star FM in Townsville, warning that prickly acacia, a major weed, would spread with the floods and germinate en masse in the supersaturated soils. By August it was obvious that Tim’s warnings were justified, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed $5 million to fight prickly acacia.
Tim had an opinion piece in The Guardian in January. The paper ran a series of stories about invasive species, and invited Tim to provide an article about the breadth of the problem and responses required.
Tim produced a major report on climate change impacts on the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage Area in Queensland for the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Healthy Land and Water, Brisbane. The report assesses recent changes reported by biologists and park rangers, and provides recommendations for future national park management. The region has several species confined to high altitudes including the endangered black-tailed dusky antechinus (Antechinus arktos) and the rainforest cool-skink (Harrisoniascincus zia).
Tim is spending much of his time working on his next book. He will visit Chile in November to study the Gondwanan connections between Australia and South America.
In July last year Tim led a Nature- trek group on a tour of Borneo which was exceptionally fortunate. In one 90 minute period at night, the group saw a clouded leopard, two sun bears, two elephants and four porcupines.
The clouded leopard remained visible for seven minutes, passing less than three metres from Tim in the vehicle.
The bears were seen climbing down from their tree hole. Other species seen included lorises, leopard cats and Whitehead’s trogons.
Tim’s next talk will be at at the Bird Haven Festival at Shoalhaven Heads in October. Also appearing will be musicians Simone Slattery and Anthony Albrecht, performing Where Song Began, a musical celebration of birds inspired by Tim’s book. Tim appeared with the pair when they performed at a memorable event in St Mary’s Kangaroo Point in Brisbane in 2017. Simone was interviewed about the work in Limelight.
In early September 200 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).