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(AU) Wading for wildlife August 09, 2005 11:25 PM,5478,16211139%5E2862,00.html

Laurie Levy Passionate: Laurie Levy is not shy about wading into troubled waters.
Picture: John Hart
Wading for wildlife
Kelly Ryan

HE has ruffled a few feathers in his time. And he's not shy about wading into troubled waters. Despite fighting for more than two decades to help save Australia's wildlife, Laurie Levy's commitment to the environment is rarely acknowledged.

Pride of Australia

His name has never appeared in the Australia Day or Queen's Birthday honours lists.

"I've been locked up in West Australia, Tasmania and Victoria but that is the closest I have ever come to Her Majesty's pleasure," Mr Levy said.

As founding member of Project Jonah, Mr Levy is credited with being the first to prove it possible to save stranded whales.

It was in the early 1980s that his passionate pleas to stop the whale slaughter inspired thousands to help guide stranded whales back to sea.

Today, Mr Levy's determination to protect wetland birds has ensured his is the very public face of the Coalition Against Duck Shooting.

Mr Levy's urge to help wounded or endangered animals almost happened by chance.

Close friends tell of the day when Levy, a TV cameraman at the time, stood between a stranded whale and a government official who was determined to shoot the mammal to put it out of its misery.

"It's not about whales or ducks," Mr Levy said this week. "It is about a level of violence inflicted on species that are not able to fight back.

"It is about a love of ducks but an ongoing fight for native wildlife which is precious and priceless and something we should be protecting.

"These are very gentle animal species." Mate Neal Bethune said Mr Levy's effectiveness was his refusal to give up.

"He is someone who works on adrenalin. What do they say about heroes? They feel fear, but they don't let it stop them," he said. "I've seen him drop to the water to avoid a bullet. He'll put himself in harm's way to be true to his beliefs."

An intensely private person, Mr Levy has never revealed the costs of his animal welfare campaigns. He refused to accept his Herald Sun Pride of Australia nomination if it meant details of his personal life being divulged.

"Laurie has pursued a vision of a better environment at the expense of any other possible passion in his life," friend Bunty Jackson said.

At 63, Levy is single and living in rented accommodation. "When you are full-on fighting issues, it does not leave a lot of time or money for other considerations," he said. He has recently established Laurie Levy Media to try to recoup costs created by constantly flying interstate.

In the meantime, he has unfinished business. Duck hunting remains legal in Victoria despite bans in other states. And whales in Australian waters are again at risk from Japanese fishing boats.

Pride of Australia nominations close August 19.

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