A new book spreading conservation awareness around the region's Australasian Bittern bird species was launched in Griffith last Friday at Calabria Family Wines.
'Bernie and the Bunyip Bird' was written by former Griffith resident and teacher Ann-Maree Thompson, and was illustrated by Jen Thompson.
It tells the story of a Superb Parrot named Bernie who embarks on a journey to find the elusive 'Bunyip Bird', whose cries are sending other animals scurrying.
The story is set in the Riverina rice fields, which are home to the Bittern, and features an array of colourful characters in the form of native Riverina wildlife.
The author Ms Thompson said her connection with the endangered bird dates back to her early years growing up in the MIA.
"I grew up on a rice farm at Hanwood and first heard about this mysterious bird when I went on a Ricegrowers' Association Bittern spotting tour at Coleambally," she said.
"We actually saw some Bitterns and learned that the species may have given rise to the Bunyip legend which really piqued my interest and inspired this story."
Ms Thompson said the book was an extensive project, with research taking ten years to compile. She also said she wanted the book to help educate Riverina students on the region's wildlife.
"I thought it would make a great educational children's book, particularly as all the characters are based on vulnerable species in our local area," she said.
"But it's also quite informative for adults as it highlights how our environment and food production can work together to protect native species."
The book launch foreshadowed the upcoming Bringing Back the Bunyip Bird: Australasian Bittern Summit 2023 in Leeton next year.
The summit will feature farmers, scientists, conservationists, wetland managers and bird watchers discussing conservation efforts for the species as well as tours of their natural habitats like rice crops and the internationally recognised Fivebough Wetlands.
Senior Local Lands Services officer, Anna Wilson, who spoke at the book launch, said Bittern conservation was vital in ensuring healthy wetlands.
"It's important that we do everything we can to ensure the long-term survival of the Bittern as they are considered a flagship species for encouraging and promoting healthy wetland management," she said.
"There are many projects currently being undertaken to aid their conservation, and the summit will further support this work by leveraging the experience of expert speakers from across Australia and New Zealand."
The Australasian Bittern Summit will be held Tuesday, January 31 to Friday, February 3 at the Historic Hydro Leeton.
'Bernie and the Bunyip Bird' can be purchased via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at News & Gifts on Banna Ave.
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