A REGIONAL museum dedicated to the fossil finds of large animals from the Mackay region and to the rich natural history has been called a "simple" idea by an expert in the field.
The paleontologist of the Queensland Museum, dr. Scott Hocknull said that the Mackay region, along with most of central Queensland, was a real "landmark" for paleontological discoveries.
"It would be a breeze for an area like Mackay to be able to facilitate a regional museum. We see regional museums in central Queensland with dinosaurs and western Queensland with dinosaurs," said Hocknull.
"Paleo-based tourism has been a major boost for regional cities, attracting visitors who otherwise would never have considered a visit. It is a conversation the community should have."
In the last ten years Dr. Scott Hocknull has unearthed many incredible fossils at a site in Nebo's South Walker Creek mine.
"This site is very important for large-scale paleontology because we know very little about ancient life in the tropics of Australia. Painting an image of this area is extremely important for our natural history," he said. affirmed the dott. Hocknull.
"Every year we go out and discover more fossils at South Walker Creek, it's an evolving story and we continue to find new material and new species, including the largest kangaroo in the world that stands four meters high."
The fossils were first discovered in 2009 by traditional owners, the Barada Barna people, who advised BHP coal Billiton Mitsui.
The dott. Jim Thompson, head of the Queensland Museum, said the fossils are among the largest ever discovered in all of Australia.
"Fossils of a giant marsupial, called Diprotodon, and lizard, called Megalania, were found and showed that megafauna once walked in the Mackay region," said Dr. Thompson.
"You have a fascinating and surprising natural history right here in the Mackay region and it is important that the local community understand what great treasures have been found," he said.
The general manager of Mackay Tourism Tas Webber was not aware of the significance of the South Walker Creek site, but was enthusiastic about the prospect of creating paleo-based tourism in the Mackay region.
"Mackay tourism has never considered paleo-based tourism as an option, but we would like to learn more about it. This would surely create a point of difference in our tourism market," Webber said.
"Although it is not simply in the form of a museum, there is an opportunity for autonomous itineraries or guided tours of the site.
"The question is: who takes the lead in something like that? And I imagine they should be experts. It is definitely something we would like to support."
The dott. Hocknull said that the extraordinary fossil discovery of the Mackay region and the community's enthusiasm for paleontology is why the Queensland Museum held its Unearthed event at Mackay.
Unearthed is a family day that aims to make science accessible to everyone. The event is the result of the ten-year collaboration between BHP and the Queensland Museum, which began when the megafauna fossils were discovered.
"There will be fossil sorting and everyone will be able to take a good look at the replicated bones of the megafauna discovered at South Walker Creek, but there will also be robotics on display and a live-action volcano and many other interesting things," said the dr. Hocknull.
The Queensland Museum and BHP's Unearthed event will be held this Saturday, August 17 from 10 am at the Mackay Entertainment Center. All ages are welcome.
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