Seabird rescue legend's new path
FOR the past 19 years, helping injured pelicans, seabirds and marine turtles has been a huge part of Marny Bonner's life.
Ms Bonner and her former partner, the late Lance "The Pelican Man" Ferris, established Australian Seabird Rescue in Ballina in 1993, driven by a mutual passion to make a difference.
Ever since then the organisation has been Ms Bonner's "baby".
"We have literally saved thousands of pelicans and seabirds," she said.
"We've done a lot to raise awareness and I am really content with our achievements."
In fact Ms Bonner is so pleased with what ASR has become that she has made the "incredibly tough" decision to step down.
For the past three years she has been its president and senior trainer, but she yesterday announced she was ready to start a new chapter of her life.
"When we started Australian Seabird Rescue, pelicans had been relegated to the 'too hard basket'," she said.
"Lance and I forged the organisation together.
"It was a pretty crazy dream, and when you have a big dream, it's something that you have to take one step at a time."
For Ms Bonner, the "moment of realisation" that she was making a difference came during one particularly memorable pelican rescue.
"A pelican had become totally entangled in fishing line on the sand spit opposite the Ballina RSL," she said.
"It could hardly walk and was in so much agony.
"We managed to untangle it and then the pelican just took off; it flew away like a jumbo jet.
"As I watched it I knew that if we hadn't been there, that peli- can would have died a slow and horrible death.
"It was a powerful moment for me.
"I've also seen that light bulb go on in people's eyes when I've been doing training sessions, which has been such a rewarding thing for me."
There have been moments of heartbreak, including the death of Mr Ferris on October 2007.
It was a devastating blow to Ms Bonner, and to ASR.
But she continued with his work and now his daughter, Rochelle Ferris, and son-in-law, Keith Williams, run the organisation.
There are now branches in Ballina, the Central Coast and the South Coast, as well as groups in four states.
Ms Bonner is immensely proud of the way the organisation has grown and expanded.
But she said the time was right to move on.
"I got married (to environmentalist Gordon Fraser-Quick) last year and we are focusing on our lives together," she said.
"I also run the Lismore Car Boot Market which is coming up to its 25th year.
"People say that if I had put as much energy into my business as I did into ASR I would be a millionaire by now.
"It might be a bit late for that, but I do want some time for me."