Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Taronga Zoo Director and CEO, Guy Cooper with Matt Basile, inaugural winner of the Steve Irwin Fellowship and Waagul the Centralian Carpet Python.
Photo: Mark Williams.

From coming home with a pet alligator found at a garage sale, to cloning coral for pet shops, Matt Basile has certainly proven his love for and commitment to wildlife and their conservation during his young life. The Chicago teenager has just completed a week-long work experience appointment at Taronga Zoo before heading to Australia Zoo.

He has been fulfilling a dream to learn about and care for Australian wildlife as part of the Steve Irwin Fellowship, of which he is the inaugural winner. Matt has greatly enjoyed being able to get to know the people and animals of his childhood hero Steve Irwin's country. He says of them, "It's just amazing to see these mystical Australian animals after years of watching them on TV. The people here are so friendly and I can't wait to see Australia Zoo next."

The Steve Irwin Fellowship was developed by the Australian Consulate-General in Chicago, in conjunction with the John G. Shedd Aquarium, with funding from the Macquarie Bank Foundation. Both Taronga Zoo's Director and CEO, Guy Cooper, and Macquarie Bank's Foundation Head, Julie White, recognise the value of supporting a young person like Matt, whose enthusiasm and enterprise in the field of conservation have made him an obvious choice for such a prestigious award.

At high school, Matt developed a hydroponic system using Tilapia (a variety of fish), fully funded from an external grant, and cultivated coral to fill two large tanks he constructed. Other achievements include his becoming a certified judge of meat and livestock and a member of the Future Farmers of America. Guy Cooper said: "As conservation education is one of our highest priorities, we are delighted to share our experience and the wonder of Australian wildlife with such a committed young man as Matt, whom we are confident will become a valued wildlife ambassador in the future."

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