Australian Seabird Rescue co-founder Marny Bonner has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to wildlife rescue by being awarded a prestigious International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Action Award.

The award is also dedicated to her late partner and ASR co-founder Lance Ferris, who passed away in October 2007.

IFAW Asia Pacific Director Erica Martin presented the award today at the Ballina headquarters of ASR as part of Animal Action Week.

Marny said she was ‘very honoured and humbled’ to receive such an award.

Reflecting on when she and Lance Ferris set up ASR, Marny said: “We had many detractors who thought we were stark raving mad, but IFAW supported us.”

Fighting back tears, she told how in 1992 as a 39-year-old, she first met Lance.

“He started talking to me about pelicans,” she said.

“Lance had rescued 19 pelicans, but he said ‘it’s a really big problem — there’s another 20 pelicans to be rescued’.

“Our first date was in a boat going to the sand cay in the Richmond River, where Lance’s ashes are now scattered.

“There was an injured pelican there that had hooks in its leg and chest. It was tangled in fishing line, and every time it tried to move, the line dug the hooks further in.

“We removed the hooks and line, and the bird soared.

“I knew then that I had made a difference.”

As well as rescuing injured wildlife, Marny and Lance battled hard to establish ASR and to educate people on the threats to wildlife.

“It’s been a long, hard road, sometimes at great personal cost,” Marny said.

“A year ago I lost my soul-mate. The past year has been one of deepest reflection for me.”

Marny thanked all who had supported ASR, and praised the efforts of Lance’s daughter Rochelle, who continues her father’s work.

IFAW’s Erica Martin said: “IFAW is delighted to present Marny Bonner with an Action Award for her tremendous work in rescuing and rehabilitating hundreds of seabirds and marine wildlife.

“Alongside the late Lance Ferris, Marny Bonner has achieved great success in saving the lives of animals that would have surely died had they not been rescued.”

ASR was established in Ballina in 1992. Since then its members have rescued more than 1500 pelicans and has achieved a 92.7 per cent rehabilitation success rate with pelicans.

Marny is one of six ‘animal heroes’ across Australia to receive an IFAW accolade this year.

PICTURE: Marny Bonner (left) with Erica Martin, Asia Pacific Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.