Environmental work lands scientist and vet an OAM
ENVIRONMENTALIST Claire Oelrichs has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal.
Ms Oelrichs, from Coopers Shoot, is an environmental scientist and veterinarian.
She's been awarded the medal for her contributions to conservation, particularly in Indonesia.
She and her late husband Ian, who'd earlier received an OAM for his contributions to landscape architecture, had a long connection with Indonesia to help protect National Parks and wildlife at risk of extinction.
Claire's conservation work began when she travelled to see the orang-utans in Indonesian Borneo in 2002.
"Survival of the Tanjung Putting National Park seemed to depend on the Rimba Lodge, which was then failing," she said.
She and Ian found a team of investors to grow eco-tourism there and Ecolodges Indonesia was established.
The organisation has grown to become the primary base for wildlife tourism in Indonesia.
"It rapidly became apparent that people wanted to join me to visit wild places in Indonesia" Ms Oelrichs said.
"I became a tour guide by default."
Ms Oelrichs spent time with a baby elephant that had been rescued after two weeks trapped in a well in 2006, in Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra.
"Sakura was very ill and unable to stand," she said.
"She would take off my shoes with her trunk so that I would sit and play with her."
The locals asked her to help them close the remaining wells in the park.
"I said sure, then I wondered how on earth I would achieve it," she said.
But she enlisted the help of generous individuals and donors and over three years, more than 4000 wells were filled in.
"After this the locals asked me what I would do next to save the Park," she said.
"And I answered, what do you suggest?"
Thus began the Save Indonesian Endangered Species Fund, established in 2009.
The Fund has focused on habitat regeneration and fire prevention while also assisting with
through International Park Tours and Southern Cross University where she completed her Bachelor of Environmental Science in 2014.
Claire and Ian's sons have carved their own paths in conservation. Cooper, a senior data
scientist based in Berlin, works pro bono for SIES while Dexter works full time in rhinoceros conservation from his base in Nuremberg.
To find out more about Claire's work, visit www.siesfund.org.