WILDLIFE WARRIOR: Ipswich man and co-founder of the Save the Bilby Fund Frank Manthey passed away this week.
WILDLIFE WARRIOR: Ipswich man and co-founder of the Save the Bilby Fund Frank Manthey passed away this week. Rob Williams

'Bilby man' Frank Manthey leaves behind rich legacy

FRANK Manthey said he wouldn't stop talking about bilbies until his last breath and that's exactly what he did.

The Ipswich 'bilby man' leaves behind a rich legacy following many years devoted to protecting the native animals after he passed away this week at the age of 78.

A man of strong principles, his infectious passion converted countless others in his mission to ensure the marsupial wouldn't go extinct.

Just last week he met with legendary wildlife warrior Dr Jane Goodall to discuss the plight of the critters, with an estimated wild population of between 400-600 in Queensland.

In 1999, he co-founded the Save the Bilby Fund alongside fellow 'bilby brother' Peter McRae, who died in September last year.

He was instrumental in the establishment of a world-class bilby facility at the Ipswich Nature Centre and the creation of National Bilby Day, which is held on the second Sunday in September.

No other Australian species has its own national day and the day launched in 2005 after Frank lobbied the Federal Government.

He rallied Australians to donate money to build a bilby fence at Currawinya National Park at a cost of $500,000 so they could live and breed in safety without the threat of predators, particularly feral cats.

He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2012.

For current Save the Bilby Fund chair and Dreamworld Corroboree general manager Al Mucci, it is a hard blow to lose a man who served as a mentor.

"The world will be a lesser place without Frank Manthey," he said.

"I'm one of his disciples, I got involved with bilbies because of Frank and still am. His legacy will live on.

"He wanted all Australians to love this critter and make sure that it does not go extinct on their watch.

"For Ipswich residents, the bilby burrow is there because of Frank's passion. It's probably the biggest bilby exhibit in Australia. Ipswich has the biggest and one of the most contemporary of exhibits of bilbies in Australia.

"That's his legacy for Ipswich. Bilbies and threatened species and the conservation of those animals will always be at the heart of Ipswich."

Mr Mucci said Frank's "last piece of vision" is at Dreamworld, where he visited during Easter.

"When he spoke to me less than a month ago, he spoke like he wouldn't be coming back," he said.

"I remember saying Frank 'you're the bionic man mate, you've had knee reconstructions, you've had three bypasses, you're working on one kidney. It's going to take a lot to knock you down.'

"He goes 'well I'll keep talking bilbies until I have my last breath' and that's what he did."

He credited Frank's vision to the set-up of the exhibit at the Gold Coast amusement park.

"He made sure Dreamworld had bilbies on display and we were one of the first institutions to have Queensland bilbies on display," Mr Mucci said.

"He fought the State Government back then to make sure bilbies came on display and we could share that message across the visitors that we get here.

"If it wasn't for Frank... I wouldn't be speaking up like I do for the animals. He really instilled that in me. He was a friend to everyone. He might have strong principles but he never held a grudge. It was always left at the door."