A war­rior for wildlife

Joondalup Weekender - - Front Page - Justin Bian­chini

TRIB­UTES are flow­ing in for the north­ern sub­urbs wildlife ex­pert recog­nised in­ter­na­tion­ally for his pi­o­neer­ing work into dis­en­tan­gling whales from fish­ing rope and nets.

Doug Coughran, who re­tired about a year ago af­ter decades of ser­vice with the for­mer Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife and re­ceiv­ing an Or­der of Aus­tralia Medal, died ear­lier this month from prostate cancer aged 66.

His wife Dawn said he had en­joyed film­ing on Rot­tnest over the past cou­ple of years with friend and wildlife doc­u­men­tary maker Leighton De Bar­ros, of Sea Dog TV In­ter­na­tional.

Re­tire­ment had also brought time for more bird pho­tog­ra­phy, “one of his loves”.

“He was a mem­ber of Birdlife Aus­tralia – they’re go­ing to miss him,” she said.

“They are send­ing him a medal, which he knew about, but he never got to see it un­for­tu­nately.

“He will be sadly missed by his fam­ily (in­clud­ing sons Ja­son and Bren­don) and peo­ple all over the world – he was a mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Whal­ing Com­mis­sion.”

Mr De Bar­ros said the film about Rot­tnest they had been work­ing on – Rot­tnest Is­land, King­dom of the Quokka for Nat Geo Wild Aus­tralia – was in post­pro­duc­tion.

An ac­com­pa­ny­ing book which Doug co-au­thored will be ded­i­cated to him. He made a dis­cov­ery about the be­hav­iour of one of the is­land’s bird species.

“Doug ob­served and recorded for the first time the pied oys­ter catcher eat­ing blue bot­tles,” Mr De Bar­ros said.

From page 1 Film­maker Mr De Bar­ros said he first met Doug for the mak­ing of a doc­u­men­tary on the wildlife of­fi­cer’s whale dis­en­tan­gle­ment team.

“We be­came close friends af­ter that film which brought him and his team’s work to the world,” Mr De Bar­ros said.

“His work on the most hu­mane way to eu­thanise a whale was recog­nised by the In­ter­na­tional Whal­ing Com­mis­sion.”

Mr De Bar­ros, in a trib­ute to his men­tor and friend, said that Doug had a huge heart, had saved about 70 whales and coau­thored 18 sci­en­tific pa­pers.

“He was an in­cred­i­ble wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher and nat­u­ral­ist,” he said.

“He taught me things I never knew right up un­til the day he passed away.

“We had an amaz­ing time (at Rot­tnest). He was in­de­fati­ga­ble. He loved the is­land and as a child swam and roamed there.

“Doug was re­served, but un­der­neath he was ec­static as it proved to him that whales can sur­vive be­ing res­cued from en­tan­gle­ments and ver­i­fied his life’s work.

“His con­tri­bu­tion to the con­ser­va­tion of the marine en­vi­ron­ment in West­ern Aus­tralia is sig­nif­i­cant and he will be sorely missed.”

Pic­tures: Sea Dog TV In­ter­na­tional

Doug Coughran (wear­ing a snorkel mask) and his whale res­cue team move in to cut a whale free. In­set: An un­der­wa­ter view of a whale en­tan­gled in marine de­bris.

Whale res­cue team leader Doug Coughran.

Pic­ture: Sea Dog TV In­ter­na­tional

Doug Coughran be­hind the cam­era at Rot­tnest.

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