Unsustainable human behaviour is threatening the survival of animals and natural environments. Increasingly, I am working towards humans and animals living in harmony. My passion is animal behaviour! I am involved in research and community work with organisations that promote animal psychological and physical wellbeing (in captivity & natural environments), and conservation. I am particularly involved in primate research and conservation (Great Apes).
As part of my Ph.D. in Animal Behaviour (Psychology, University of Adelaide), I conducted behavioural enrichment research projects at Adelaide Zoo with chimpanzees and caracals. The chimpanzees were given the opportunity to explore, play and manipulate a number of novel objects and food puzzles. The caracals were able to 'hunt' artificial prey moving along a flying fox above them.
In 1994 I spent a year observing a community of 'wild' chimpanzees in Uganda – the start of an ongoing committment to the Great apes of Uganda. I have served as a scientific expert at Population and Habitat Viability Assessments for chimpanzees and mountain gorillas in Uganda run by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG). The International Gorilla Conservation Programme consulted me for their review of Gorilla Tourism Guidelines. I have been closely involved with responsible tourism programmes in Uganda and written a book for tourists visiting the African Great Apes (published by the Travellers’ Medical and Vaccination Centre in Adelaide).
The Australian Science Communicators awarded me the “Unsung Hero of Australian Science” in 2000 for my work with African Great Apes. I am a past President of the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia as an elected member of the Board. I am also an advisor for the United Nation's "Great Ape Survival Project" or GRASP (Australasia). I am the current President of the Australasian Primate Society.
I am helping develop the area of Conservation Psychology, with a course at the University of South Australia, focusing on how psychology can contribute to changing human behaviour in order to help conserve our planet's precious wildlife and natural environments.
I have written five science books for children about animals ('The Chimpanzee Book: Apes Like Us'; 'The Gorilla Book: Born to be Wild'; 'Saving Pandas'; 'Saving Tigers'; 'Saving Orangutans') and conservation for Black Dog Books and Walker Books– with part proceeds going to conservation projects in habitat countries. These books encourage children to connect with nature and understand that we can all do something to change our human unsustainable behaviour patterns.
I have led tours as a scientific expert for ZoosSA and Peregrine travel to Uganda and Rwanda (chimps & gorillas), Tanzania (chimps at Dr Jane Goodall's site at Gombe), Borneo (orangutans) and India (tigers & Asiatic lions) to visit responsible tourism projects and research/conservation sites with proceeds going to the conservation projects we visit.