Our own Merril Halley passed away on Easter Saturday, 20 April 2019. She was our friend and colleague and will be missed by us all as a passionate conservationist who believed that she could change the world by being a force for good. Merril was an optimist and a fighter - she even says so herself in her biography below. Merril fought her cancer over seven months with the same amazing spirit that she fought for the gorgeous wildlife of Western Australia. And despite her illness, Merril continued the battle for our planet to the end - she is an inspiration to us all. Among many projects that Merril has run, and many species she has helped to protect, one of Merril’s major legacies from her time in WA is the recovery of the black-flanked rock-wallaby. She played a major role in bringing several local populations back from the brink of extinction, driven by passion and pragmatism. Merril was a true stalwart for threatened species and environmental conservation, not just across Australia but also our region. Together, she and her partner Chris worked for WWF-Cambodia, while Merril also managed one of Asia’s most significant ‘conservation banks’ (Malua Biobank), which encompasses 34,000 hectares of orangutan habitat in Borneo (Malaysia). “I will always remember the time I spent with Merril in the ancient gorges of Kalbarri National Park as we radio-tracked recently re-introduced black-flanked rock-wallabies. This groundbreaking project was emblematic of the person that Merril was: someone with the strength and determination to do the hard work to save Australia’s unique wildlife and with a deep love for Australia and its wild landscapes.” Darren Grover, WWF-Australia Head of Living Ecosystems “Merril’s passion for nature was so strong that it was impossible not to admire. It was in her DNA. There’s a deep and personal sadness at her loss, something that all of us feel at WWF. But she leaves an incredible legacy – all her amazing work helping to save the threatened species of Australia and in particular in the southwest Australia region.” Dermot O’Gorman, WWF-Australia CEO Our thoughts and prayers are with all her family, friends and colleagues. Merril, you are missed by us all.
Merril in her own words
I’ve always enjoyed the bush and been in awe of the world’s natural environments. I can’t remember an epiphany that led me to work in conservation; it was more of a growing commitment. It started at school, with two great biology teachers, and led to graduate and postgraduate studies. I came to realise that the planet was in trouble and developed a desire to do something to help. At WWF, I’m responsible for managing our threatened species program in southwest Western Australia. This region is a globally significant biodiversity hotspot that supports many species found nowhere else in the world. I have the best job because not only do my team and I contribute to protecting these species, we get to see them in the wild. I’ve also been fortunate to work in Cambodia for WWF, and in Borneo I was the project manager for Southeast Asia’s largest biodiversity bank. While there’s a great need for conservationists internationally, I also felt the need to return home to do what I could for Australia’s threatened species. We have the worst record for mammal extinction and we need increased efforts to address the many issues leading to the disappearance of our wildlife.
DESPITE THE ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS, I’M OPTIMISTIC THAT ORGANISATIONS LIKE WWF, WITH HELP FROM OUR SUPPORTERS AND THE BROADER COMMUNITY, CAN TURN THE TIDE AND PROTECT OUR BIODIVERSITY AND AMAZING NATURAL PLACES.