Vale Margaret Thorsborne

October 22, 2018

The pied imperial pigeons were arriving when Margaret Thorsborne left – a fitting farewell for a woman who worked tirelessly to protect these migratory birds.

Margaret passed away last week at 91 years of age. Her legacy – as an environmental champion in the Wet Tropics region – will live on for much longer.  A passionate Cassowary Coast resident, she has been a giant in the field of conservation, championing environmental causes ranging from protecting the Daintree and Hinchinbrook Island to conserving cassowaries and mahogany gliders.

Margaret saw herself as a “protector not a protestor”.  Her approach was so effective that we won’t even try to list all her achievements for this region!

But we do need to mention the pigeons… She and husband Arthur started one of the world’s longest-running wildlife population surveys in 1965 on their second visit to North Queensland when they became concerned about the number of migratory pied imperial pigeons (or Torres Strait pigeons) shot during breeding season on the Brook Islands. Their efforts led to shooting bans that still stand today.

After moving to Cardwell Margaret was active in the campaigns to protect both the Daintree and Great Barrier Reef and she worked tirelessly in the Hinchinbrook and Cassowary Coast regions. One of her lesser-known projects was campaigning against development and helping to protect Kennedy Bay, south of Mission Beach, where she also helped to build a now popular coastal walking track.

Margaret’s passion for wildlife kept her in the thick of revegetation and preservation projects for mahogany gliders and other species. She and her husband collected botanical specimens and five species bear the Thorsborne name – a spider, a crab, two mosses and a vine. The wilderness trail on Hinchinbrook Island is also named Thorsborne and a Thorsborne Trust, set up after Arthur died, supports scientific research and conservation efforts.

Margaret co-authored Hinchinbrook Island: The Land Time Forgot, where she presented the unique values of the island, channel and wildlife, and she also campaigned to protect the area.

She and Arthur donated their land at Meunga Creek to the government so that it could become an extension of the Edmund Kennedy National Park, which itself had come about largely due to their advocacy.

Involved in many different groups (such as Wildlife Queensland, Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook, the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society, Wilderness Society, Australian Marine Conservation Society, C4-Community for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation and regional conservation councils), her advocacy was described as “honest, courteous and meticulously researched”. Margaret also began a ‘Farmers are our Friends’ campaign in the 1980s, bridging the gap between conservation and agriculture.

Margaret’s approach was to say: “Let’s look at what we have in common”.

She was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for her service to conservation and the environment through advocacy roles and support of scientific research.

Vale Margaret Thorsborne – the Wet Tropics is a better place because of you.