Welcome to each of you and thank you for spending your evening with us.
To start, I propose a toast inspired by one of America’s foremost conservationists, and its 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt. He said: “It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it.” It is because of Roosevelt’s vision that the U.S. National Parks are celebrating a grand centennial this year. Let’s raise our glasses to Australia and the United States, and our collaborative efforts to preserve and protect our exceptional environments.
One of my priorities as Ambassador is to help protect the global environment. As a former director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., I have been engaged in the conservation of our world’s precious flora and fauna for a long time.
It is not a coincidence that environmental stewardship is also at the heart of the U.S.-Australia bilateral relationship. Among the many U.S. organizations key to our cooperation, none are more important than The Nature Conservancy and the San Diego Zoo. Joining us this evening from these organizations are my good friends Lynn Scarlett and Bob Wiese– two tremendously dedicated individuals who care passionately about the environment and everything in it.
Tonight, Bob and Lynn will discuss their important work in Australia and around the world. It is an honor to have them here to engage and to pursue more formal alliances with our valued Australian counterparts. We want this to be an evening of open discussion and substantive exchanges. Don’t be shy; please interrupt and please ask questions.
Our joint environmental endeavors cover a broad range. The United States and Australia are collaborating on everything from species conservation to coastal restoration to the development of clean energy. Minister Greg Hunt’s leadership was key to the success of COP-21 in Paris last year. Our cooperation was in the spotlight at the World Parks Congress and Rainforest Summit in 2014 and last year’s Threatened Species Summit. Australia is a leader in renewable energy and developing the blue economy. The pioneering innovation happening here in these areas promises to transform the entire Indo-Pacific region, and the United States is excited to work with Australia on these initiatives. Our mutual goal is healthier, more resilient ecosystems that benefit both people and wildlife in Australia, and communities worldwide.
As Bob will tell you, the San Diego Zoo treasures its relationship with Australia and with the iconic Australian animals it cares for – koalas, Tasmanian devils, cassowaries, and most recently the Lord Howe Island stick insect. The zoo’s koala colony is the largest outside of Australia. It began with the arrival of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in 1925 – gifts from the children of Australia to the children of America. The latest animal ambassadors to travel from Australia to San Diego made the journey just last month. The unique stick insect, or tree lobster, is a lot less cuddly than a koala, but no less important to biodiversity. Together, the San Diego Zoo and the Melbourne Zoo will work to sustain populations of this severely endangered animal.
The Nature Conservancy has a history of close cooperation with the Australian government and Indigenous communities on a wide array of conservation and restoration projects. Its Great Southern Seascapes program is a fantastic example of how to manage Australia’s rarest, most delicate ecosystems in a way that is both ecologically and economically viable.
If we continue to work together and support people like Bob and Lynn – our conservationists, scientists, and researchers – we can leave our children a world where the breathtaking diversity of flora and fauna aren’t just in books or museums, or zoos, but in their natural habitats as well. We can leave our world richer and more abundant than it was given to us.