Over many years Louise Saunders has donated artwork to conservation organisations as well as her time as a volunteer for both conservation and art organisations.
"I have donated artwork to the Wildlife Preservation Society of Qld, Humane Society International, Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Bat Society and other organisations. My latest donation of artwork is based on the critically endangered Eastern Curlew which could lose a critical foraging and roosting site in Moreton Bay in Queensland to a billionaire developer. This important shoreline and wetland is listed under the International Ramsar treaty and if approved by the Australian Federal Government it could set a disastrous precedent for other migratory bird sites, not only in Australia but also overseas. The painting sold and the money raised has been donated to Birdlife Australia."
Looking back at her conservation work we see a remarkable dedication to one particular species - Flying-foxes - the canary in the coal mine, with their life and death struggle for survival in a hostile human environment and a warming climate in Australia. After completing the scientific illustrations for a book on flying-foxes and reading the conservation message in that book, Louise felt she needed to do more. Since 1994 she was still practicing art while caring for orphaned flying-fox pups. These animals were enduring persistent ignorance and cruelty so in 2005, through necessity Louise headed up a large organisation for the rescue, care and protection of flying-foxes and microbats in Queensland.
Perhaps at the height of her artistic career and after four and half years as artist in residence at Couran Cove Island Resort on the Gold Coast, Louise left her art career to manage the busy bat specific rescue group. South-East Queensland is a hotspot for plant biodiversity and home to 3 of the 4 species of flying-fox and over 26 species of microbats. By 2014, with a lot of public education and effort, the free volunteer bat rescue service was performing over 2,000 rescues, caring and rehabilitating around 800 adult bats and raising over 250 baby flying-foxes per annum.
As founder and past President of Bat Conservation & Rescue Qld., Louise felt it was imperative to try to educate people that bats were ecologically important as a keystone species for forest health as pollinators and seed dispersers in Australia and that they should not be left to die cruel and inhumane deaths. Bat Conservation & Rescue Queensland still helps to change the lives of flying-foxes and microbats not only with rescue and care but also through education and awareness of the causes of harm such as inappropriate back yard fruit tree netting, barbed-wire, electrocution, and the appalling ignorance around viruses and diseases.
It takes a superhuman effort to procure change to long held beliefs and stigmas surrounding all bat species. As President, Louise had to leave her art behind as the job was so demanding of her time and she worked tirelessly to make a difference to their lives. Thankfully, another person now carries on that legacy and Louise returned to her art in 2014 with a commitment to help Australia’s diminishing precious flora and fauna through her paintings wherever possible. Louise says, "I still have a special place in my heart for bats."
Louise was awarded a medal of the Order of Australia in June 2019 for her service to wildlife conservation and to the visual arts. This is an honour that recognises Australian citizens for achievement or meritorious service.