President's Report 2013

Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on August 19, 2013 at 3:10 AM


Welcome to new members


This vital meeting comes at a time of decreasing activity. Numbers have declined largely due to the absence of a totally dedicated research leader and publicist such as Peter Chapple was in his lifetime. Field research has suffered as a result, also a degree of isolation due to our scattered membership. Longstanding members of the team are much less active due to the weight of years, illness and family responsibilities. What we need, or order to resume our respected career of useful research is a team willing to participate in all the work of a team: continuing field research, background research, administrative tasks, and communication.

While still actively seeking not only the DNA evidence that alone is acceptable to Science and Government, we also expand patterns of evidence that only the hard-core sceptic attempts to refute. We owe a debt to thousands of people who have contributed to our database.

We define ourselves as a scientific research group, also concerned with strategic wildlife management although non-partisan and non-activist. For this purpose our stated aims are to ‘Set up liaison and mutual assistance with relevant government and professional organisations concerned with biodiversity’. ‘To research and assist in managing uncommon, rare and endangered species of animals and plants in the Australasian region.’ Decline in the networking we used to do is also due to some pretty serious misunderstandings of our intentions. From time to time members have left, discouraged, or to pursue their own individual interests. But with continuing enthusiasm our loyal members maintain their activities.

Some of our collected evidence was accepted years ago at a meeting at the Taronga Park Zoo as indicating an identification of Puma, ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, but we were then told to leave it to the experts, and ignored. Several members left, discouraged. Earlier, a review of a Deakin University study came to a similar conclusion regarding the identity of black leopard sightings in the Winchelsea area, beyond reasonable doubt. Both of these conclusions were ignored in last year’s government report, as was our offer of access to our records.

However, our focus must change to suit circumstances. Our main focus has become thylacine evidence. Field research can mean fun and excitement. But the reliable recording of it is more humdrum, unless you have a personal target. Yet it is the collected evidence, the patterns of activity that support our hypotheses, that lead us to convictions ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Without this, the protection of habitat for the probable thylacine loses priority. With the amplification of big cat evidence, the protection of farm stock becomes more important, and a predator competing with our ‘incredible survivor’ should perhaps be acknowledge and hunted.

Nobody hates the word ‘filing’ more than I do! But without it the maintenance and preservation of the biggest collection of valuable evidence in the country will be endangered, and patterns of evidence lost. I have long advocated area coordinators to take responsibility for organising field work, recording, networking and admin in particular areas, while maintaining the confidentiality and precautions laid out in our Code of Ethics.

The more people willing to put their names to a particular job, the more efficient our work will be, and the less any individual will be overburdened. One thing is certain: I’m off admin. From today I will focus entirely on book-related work, and I need the support of every gift of time or talent that every one of you can offer for that purpose.

Dorothy Williams (President)

Australian Rare Fauna Research Association Inc.



As Research Coordinator I can only bring you a challenge. The big question is: Can we still carry out team research of real value? in addition to the humdrum administration jobs necessary for communication and incorporation?

What is our research task? Our stated objectives are to:

Ÿ Compile, collect and analyse data to assess the status of the species under review.

Ÿ Carry out fieldwork and document its results.

Ÿ Educate members in wildlife research and management techniques.

Ÿ Devise conservation strategies.

As this was quickly recognised as an impossible task for one person, ARFRA has always existed to gather together a team able to carry out different parts of it.


How do we carry out these tasks?

Ÿ Collecting sighting and other reports, preferably through interview, and evaluation of witness reliability.

Ÿ Recording reports chronologically for the Yearbook; completing report forms for area files.

Ÿ Gathering and diagramming various statistics from reports.

Ÿ Multilevel mapping of all such occurrences.

Ÿ Field work: following up sightings by searching for supportive evidence e.g. prints, scats, scratchings and predation.

Ÿ Listening posts: visiting ‘hot spots’, or recording nightly if living on or regularly visiting a wild life corridor.

Ÿ Careful, sceptical evaluation of such evidence.

Ÿ Determining direction of movement in a particular area.

No single one of these tasks will ever be considered ‘proof of existence’ of any specific species. The Committee’s new recommendation is that Shedquarters be open on the first Saturday of every month for work on the database.



To form and test hypotheses about species – both positively and negatively – with sufficient evidence to outweigh all reasonable doubts. Statistically, the sheer number of reports firmly identifying animals as ‘panthers’ and ‘thylacines’, together with the acceptance of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ status for each of Puma and Panther, in addition to DNA indicating a panther-sized version of the domestic cat, makes it highly improbable that no such animals exist. Our job then is to build evidence to the point where either the thylacine too is accepted beyond reasonable doubt, or an alternative identification is established. Also, to maintain and preserve our valuable database.



1st Saturdays, monthly, for work on the database. Quarterly meetings for educational events, socialisation, and inescapable formal stuff.

Field trips to explain and explore your area, as arranged. Constant communication from your area to the Research Coordinator.



Monbulk, monthly. Your own home and/or area. Otherwise as arranged or offered.



Everybody, of course! (leaving me to focus on researching The Book and coordinating your contributions.)


Please be aware that if there is no ongoing research to coordinate, our only job is to prepare the database for storage.

Dorothy Williams (Research Coordinator)


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