Alumni profile

Jim Thomas

Bachelor of Science, 1995

Founder of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance

Jim Thomas’ remarkable career has seen him progress from zookeeper to internationally-recognised practitioner in resource and wildlife conservation.

Drawing upon his passion and determination, Jim has saved the Tenkile, a species of tree kanagaroo in the Torrecelli Mountain Range in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Along with this, he has created a new model of village life, encompassing environmental respect, resource conservation, education, health, childcare, and nutrition. 

The achievements of this inspiring environment activist have been hard won and at times perilous. His hair-raising experiences include a brush with malaria and being threatened by an angry man with an axe. All part of the job for a man whose courage and commitment to his cause is legendary. His work is now internationally renowned having recently been nominated for the prestigious Indianapolis Prize and Rolex Award.

How would you describe the path you have taken to get you to where you are today?

I guess determination to make a difference with conservation has always been my drive.

Do you have a personal philosophy that you bring to your work?

Never give up.

What has been your greatest career highlight/s?

Realising that we had saved the Tenkile (or Scott’s Tree Kangaroo) from extinction in about 2007.

What has been your greatest career challenge? How did you navigate this challenge?

No doubt it was when someone was going to kill me when there was a dispute on the Sepik Highway (Papua New Guinea) in late 2009. A fellow from a village outside our program insisted I owed him money and was threatening (me). I re-assessed everything in my life at this point and it took a good five months to get over this incident.

Do you have any sage advice for those starting out in their careers?

I think once you have a purpose - try to stick to it and don’t deviate.

What is your lasting impression of La Trobe?

I have many great memories from La Trobe. Hanging around the Ag, playing tennis, walking around the biological reserve and bar nights – oh the bar nights!

Learn more about Jim's triumphant efforts conserving the Tenkile population here.

Distinguished Science

Last updated: 7th May 2019