Queensland philanthropists and tourism entrepreneurs Graham and Jude Turner have joined forces with The University of Queensland to establish a multi-million-dollar conservation project at Hidden Vale, an hour west of Brisbane.
In what is thought to be the largest family contribution to conservation in Queensland history, the Turners have committed more than $18.5 million to the project from the Turner Family Foundation.
The contribution includes building costs and a donation of ongoing funding to support research grants and UQ operation of the facility for breeding and rehabilitating wildlife and protecting endangered species over the next 30 years.
UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj said the project and donation were extraordinary.
“This astounding act of philanthropy will create change for conservation and also for UQ staff and students for generations to come,” he said.
The Hidden Vale UQ Wildlife Facility being made available to UQ staff and students will include a captive wildlife and breeding centre and a permanent release facility.
The facility is situated in a 3100 hectare nature refuge which has habitat for some of the rarest and most threatened species in Australia.
The project is a cooperative venture between The University of Queensland and the Turner Family Foundation.
Graham Turner – a founder and managing director of Flight Centre Travel Group, who is also a qualified vet and a passionate environmentalist – said the aim was to conserve the area’s significant natural and cultural resources and values for future generations.
“The objective is to deliver resilient eco systems with representative, self-sustaining populations of fauna and flora endemic to the Scenic Rim region, supported by applied scientific research,” Mr Turner said.
Situated near the Turner’s luxury Spicers Hidden Vale Retreat, the facility will provide wildlife education and significant ecotourism opportunities.
It will combine wildlife conservation with livestock management at the historic beef cattle station first settled in 1871.
Professor Høj said the Turner family’s commitment to the project was remarkable.
“The Turners are passionate about leaving a lasting legacy, a truly protected environment dedicated to the enhancement of threatened wildlife species,’’ he said.
“From this year, the Hidden Vale UQ Wildlife Facility will, for the first time, be able to offer students hands-on access to learn wildlife management techniques and to study a diverse range of native and endangered animals.
“This presents exciting opportunities to heighten the quality and depth of research and learning about endangered and vulnerable native wildlife.
“Hidden Vale’s size, the variety of native animals and vegetation and the opportunity to interact with cattle and pest management activities make it an ideal centre for learning,’’ he said.
Turner Family Foundation spokesman, former UQ academic and Melbourne Zoo senior vet Dr Andrew Tribe said the property was home to rare and threatened species including the glossy black cockatoo, square tailed kite, eastern bristle bird, brush tailed rock wallaby, spotted tail quoll, koala, Stephen’s banded snake, three-toed snake-tooth skink and more.