I’ve arrived in Brisbane and am getting ready for the International Sea Turtle Symposium that begins on Saturday, Feb. 14. Sea Turtle Restoration Project is organizing an informal discussion about the threats to sea turtles from ports and shipping on Monday. And on Wednesday, STRP campaigner Wences Magun from Papua New Guinea will present a summary of his recent work along the North Coast in Madang Province with communities to protect beaches and waters for leatherback sea turtles. We will also be busy forwarding a resolution to establish a marine protected area for Pacific Leatherbacks along the coast of Costa Rica. Wence and I have also been invited by Friends of the Earth Australia in Brisbane to give a talk about sea turtle protection and threats on Wednesday night.

Brisbane is situated on the East Coast of Australia in Queensland on the Brisbane River that curves like a rainbow serpent to the Pacific Ocean. This area has been spared the flooding to the north and the tragic fires far to the south in Victoria outside of Melbourne.

Being from California, the wrath of wildfires is well-known to me. But the extent of the damage and death toll is still shocking. The disaster in Victoria hit closer to home when I realized that I stayed for several days in one of the towns that was wiped out on Black Saturday: Marysville. Just before leaving Australia in November 2007, I stayed in a lovely caravan park in Marysville, a few hours northeast of Melbourne. On recommendation of my friend and colleague Cam Walker of Friends of the Earth, I hiked in the Cathedral Range north of  town, looking for koalas. I never saw one, but spent hours climbing through eucalytpus forest and over rocky sections high above the green farms below. This morning on television, animal rescue workers were shown bandaging the burnt leg of a koala that somehow escaped the blaze.

Tonight Australians will come together via television in a special broadcast  featuring Australian stars including Nicole Kidman to raise funds for the families who have lost their homes and loved ones in the fires. My heart goes out to the people of Australia – my second home.