Radio regular: Gary Opit
By Jonathan Atkins
Gary Opit isthe man you want walking by your side if you’re in a national park. He prides himself on identifying wildlife and the chances of him not knowing what he sees are very slim.
For ten years Gary has joined the ABC North Coast every week for his wildlife segment, “I began wildlife talkback in February 1997 when the
ABC was looking for someone to identify all species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and spiders from listener descriptions.”
As an Environmental Scientist, he has assisted Australian Government’s in all areas of conservation and is highly regarded in the Australian Crypto world as an authority.
Gary reveals, “I studied Australian environmental sciences at Griffith University in the mid seventies. I’ve spent a couple of years in Papua New Guinea studying the wildlife. I worked with the Bishop Museum of Honolulu doing three month expeditions into the wilderness collecting wildlife. I lived with Stone Age people that had never seen a white man before and who would run away screaming every time they saw me because they thought I was a ghost.”
Gary sure has seen a lot but he never stops wanting to see more.
‘I’ve always been interested in wildlife and the natural environment since I was a small child. I still have a set of wildlife cards on my shelf that I collected from cereal packets as a kid. I’ve always had an enquiring mind and a great desire to identify every single thing I see,” Gary explains.
A passion like the one Gary has for wildlife can often be one passed down from family but it was totally the opposite for the young explorer.
Gary smiles when recalling, “My parents were business people and they had no particular interest in wildlife, my parents didn’t even particularly like driving out onto a gravel road. I was just naturally interested in the environment from an early age and I was off into the bush at every moment and they were forced to support me because that’s all I ever did.”
One thing Gary has been happy to see is that, “There has been an enormous awareness of the environment and how important it is to humanity.”
But for a bloke who loves to share his knowledge, Gary hasn’t seen a similar increase in interest for people wishing to identify animals and plants.
Climate change is a big problem according to Gary, “It’s very noticeable that there’s been a great decrease in wildlife, birds in particular. I think that’s due to rapid climate change as we no longer get our summer rain. Without it you don’t get the amount of insects and fruit and that has impacted on bird species.”
Gary lives on the Far North Coast and he loves it, “The Northern Rivers is one of the biodiversity hot spots in Australia. It’s a fascinating area and also we have mountains close to the sea so within a few kilometres you can be on the beach and then drive up to the high mountain ranges covered in sub tropical rainforest and even temperate rainforest at the highest altitudes.”
Gary also dabbles in Cryptozoology, the study of animals whose existence is disputed. We’re talking yowies, bunyips and really big cats.
“Yowies are still being observed in Springbrook, Border Ranges and behind Mullumbimby. In fact I heard recently of one chap who was buying and feeding them roast meat,” tells Gary.
Gary continues, “Most people don’t believe they exist for one second but I’m fortunate that I’ve actually seen one and heard their calls. They have incredibly powerful roaring calls, barks and gurgles. They will call around 3am on full moon nights and we don’t really know what they are but they seem to be carnivorous nocturnal primates.”
You might not have a photograph of a yowie to send Gary but if you have a photograph of a mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, insect or spider and need help identifying what it is… you can send it here.