About to step our from your suburban Melbourne home and into the urban jungle? Well Chris McCormack is concerned you may be taking something for granted.
He wants you to remember that there is wildlife all around, even in the middle of the city. From unique and often unseen creatures to the more common, such as a ring-tailed possum or a magpie.
“Its not just cars out there. And it is not just people staring at their phones,” he says.
“We are surrounded by wildlife every day of our lives, whether it be small things like insects or whether it is birds and mammals.”
Mr McCormack is one of the founders of Wild Melbourne, a group dedicated to educating the people of the city about the plants and animals with which they share a space.
The project was conceived while Mr McCormack was at university studying marine and freshwater ecology. He and growing band of young scientists and other volunteers now spend their spare time seeking to tell the stories of the creatures and plants of Melbourne.
The aim is to reconnect Melburnians with the natural world.
“It was apparent to us is that people think they live in a little bubble in a city. And we kind of think of nature as being something outside a city, and in effect something outside our mental space,” Mr McCormack says.
“For us a key part of breaking down that mental barrier is highlighting the species we have here in Melbourne.”
The Wild Melbourne project has been around for two years or so, but has been picking-up speed in the past six months.
The group started out writing short articles about the animals that live nearby (a recent one focused on the Spider Crabs in Port Phillip Bay). They they have also graduated to short films (and are now preparing something longer) and are working on a public signage project for the Point Leo foreshore.
Mr McCormack says the motivating force was the idea that the more people know about the wildlife around them, the more care they will take to protect it.
The local focus was important, he said, because it emphasised to people that these were “your species, your ecosystems.” It creates some ownership.
“You can walk outside and you can see these species, they are not something you would see only on a documentary,” Mr McCormack said.
He concedes Melbourne’s biodiversity is a fairly homogeneous, a problem common to most urban areas. But there are still surprises to be had.
For instance, he mentions a pair of nocturnal Nankeen Night-herons that live in trees on Southbank. Thousands of people would walk past the birds every day not knowing they were there.
But even the more common species should not be taken for granted, he said, because even they can slip away quickly. Many creatures once common throughout Melbourne suburbs, such as the Southern Brown Bandicoot and the Eastern Quoll, are now rare or gone altogether.
“These animals we see every day we think they are mundane, but they are not. And that’s because we get distracted by our daily life,” Mr McCormack says.