Author Archives: Maria Taylor

Goodbye Big Fella

Joey-at-foot-Maria-Taylor_awpc-feature

Yes, I’m angry. And sad. Sad and disgusted that the politicians and bureaucrats of our national capital Canberra, treat our national emblem, the Kangaroo, (Skippy to fans around the world), like rubbish — to be killed and buried.

big-fella-burial-june2020

Goodbye big fella. (Supplied)

THE LACK of respect in Australia for our unique wildlife, shown by official ‘management’ and too many citizens can only be called dishonourable.

And stupid, because a change of frame would show that sharing the land with the full range of native animals instead of trying to remove some considered inconvenient to sheep graziers or urban development, is morally right, ecologically wise and offers an economic tourism bonanza. The tourists will be back.

Canberra Kangaroo management: cost in blood and treasure

As it is, Canberrans have been asked for the past 10 years (with another five years on the agenda), to dedicate close to a million dollars annually in taxpayer’s money to employing park staff, consultants, and contract shooters to “manage” and remove Australia’s emblem, Skippy, from the city’s reserves. The healthy budget suggests why they don’t want to stop.

—————————————————————

Figures obtained through FOI. The budget figures provided in the table are the actual costs for the financial years 2015–2019 (this includes a breakdown of the total cost figures to incorporate the operational and labour cost associated with the Kangaroo Management for the financial years referred).
  2015–2016  2016–2017  2017–2018  2018–2019
Employee    548,048.29    626,671.43    686,455.27    592,768.85
Non-Employee    308,623.29      88,674.05    168,567.12    300,891.66
 
Total    856,671.58    715,345.48    855,022.39    893,660.51

—————————————————————

Every year the killings traumatise nearby compassionate residents, for instance this 2016 story from Isaacs Ridge. They will be shooting there again this year.

The propaganda doesn’t hold up

This year as before, the ACT/Canberra park service has put out propaganda designed to tell the public this is good for biodiversity, ‘nothing to see here’.  We filed an FOI request in 2017 on that question. What we received debunked the dog-whistling “pest”, “bad” “too many” assumptions guiding Canberra’s ‘cull’ and others around Australia.

In the October 2017 issue of The District Bulletin (also published in this website at the time) we reported on a CSIRO review which found that the (ACT’s) research and monitoring, such as it has been, does not support the up-front assumptions of “too many” that guide this desk-top program and public narrative. That story says Eastern Grey Kangaroos need to be “actively managed” down to fewer than half their natural density for this region. Canberra parks and advisers treat our wildlife as bloodless numbers — aiming for less than one animal per hectare (that’s about the size of 1.5 rugby league fields). Think of that for a herd species that sometimes congregates. “Actively managed” has been official jargon for killing.

A national ethic

Canberra is of course in tune with the national picture. Australia, to please those same influential economic lobbies, hosts the world’s largest on-land wildlife slaughter. Has for decades. Maybe you didn’t know. The remaining large kangaroos mainly but also some wallabies and in Tasmania Brush-tail Possums are killed as ‘pests’ or commercially to export their fur, skins and meat, most of which is sold as pet food or cheap sausages. Wombats and native birds are destroyed as ‘pests’ or for recreational fun.

The other half of our national coat of arms, the Emu, was shot, poisoned and hounded for a century and the remaining animals are still at the mercy of farmers and their fences (which are being weaponised to bigger and more deadly) denying life-sustaining habitat and wildlife corridors.

Aerial 1080 poisoning of Dingos, Australia’s only apex predator animal, with a guaranteed bycatch of other native fauna, is going on right now in burned-out forests of the region. Poisoning with 1080, banned in most of the world for its risk and cruelty, has been endemic for decades in all pastoral zones. Parks and wildlife employees get to do that too.

koala-DBullJune2016archiveCottage industry from colonial roots

From its colonial roots featuring wholesale wildlife killing, bounties and recreational or commercial hunting, not least of the now-endangered Koala, killing the wildlife has solidified into a cottage industry for neglected rural communities (much like the Australian woodchip industry of native forests) while enriching a few city processors and exporters.

When will it stop? When will the ruling values shift to positive, compassionate and also smarter in a world rapidly losing its wildlife?

What about choosing life, tourist income and regenerated countryside

From the Australian Wildlife Protection Council (AWPC) archives, here are the words of a potential tourist who wrote to the Kangaroo Industries Association in 2005. Her reactions stay relevant today:

“There is a beautiful advertisement for Australian tourism featuring the silhouette of a kangaroo against a blue, blue sky. It captures the imagination and the heart. It makes you want to visit Australia and it is only when you know that this beautiful creature is being slaughtered mercilessly and its babies left to die, that you say to yourself, no, I can’t, not this year, not until this stops . . . They are your national emblem are they not? Please change this awful situation. Please go in for another way of life.” 

Everyone has an overseas friend whose first desire is to see a kangaroo. And despite what it does to the wildlife, Canberra still calls itself the Bush Capital. It could easily encourage eco-tourism, assist the city’s accommodation and restaurant businesses, instead of killing off the main attraction. With the fire holocaust that hit the hinterland and tragically destroyed the Namadgi National Park animals and plants, the Bush Capital and Territory administration have an opportunity to look ahead as the countryside regenerates — not backwards to colonial values.

In 2018–19, Australia earned $60.8 billion in direct tourism gross domestic product (GDP). Tourism also employed 666,000 workers, up 5 percent of Australia’s workforce, not counting support industries. Other statistics show eco-tourism and domestic interest are also on the upswing. SOURCE.

Before this year’s cull announcement as I drove through Canberra, I looked at the still extant grasslands and wondered: where are the kangaroos? How did they pull up after last year’s massacre followed by drought? Mostly I saw none. I walked up Mt Painter in Cook where in 2010 I passed casually lounging kangaroos near the summit unconcerned about the humans milling around.

I remember admiring the healthy grassland on the northern slopes of the mountain where the kangaroos were most numerous. The ‘live and let live’ attitude of the neighbours, most of them, was heart-warming. I wondered what the government’s problem was. Today, Canberrans might like to do the test themselves.

Sharing support not terror

roo-mum-joey-feeding-MariaTaylor-june2020At my place, the kangaroos are welcome and we share food and water with them, as we do with the birds and possums. Yes, the kangaroos lightly graze returning grass. There are alternatives called interim feed and fencing. Things are not ‘natural’. In a dramatically altered landscape that we engineered since settlement and with our ever-expanding housing and commercial developments, kangaroos don’t have the home ranges they once inhabited. They are often pushed into tighter populations than ideal for their foraging. They have to live with us. And they can. But some of us seemingly cannot live with them.

I look at the trusting girls on my place and notice that some have a baby growing in the pouch. That happens when a bad season turns to a good one. Will Canberra’s hired killers and park’s employees be pulling the growing joeys out of the pouches and “humanely” decapitating them or bashing their skulls in as the unenforceable code demands?

Will they watch as the toddler at-foot joeys flee and then spend the night calling for their shot mother, only to become tomorrow’s road kill or fox food?

We are Australians

roo-family-MariaTaylor-june2020I look at those families, unafraid, and, like others have in the past, silently apologise for what we in our culture are doing to them individually and as a nation.

IMAGERY: All rights reserved Maria Taylor.

Share This:

Australian govt earns tick for stance on wildlife consumption

civit-cat-photo-Weerapat-Kiatdumrong-on-Dreamstime

But there is a question back home.

YOU MAY OR may not have kept up with the recent Foreign Affairs uproar that merged into current Chinese tariff barriers on Australian agricultural imports? Well at the baseline of what became an Australian, US and Chinese bunfight, was a simple request for an independent enquiry into the biological source of the current coronavirus pandemic.

That was articulated by the NSW Agriculture Minister David Littleproud in the first instance back in March/April. He went on radio programs and sent press releases with statements like this:

“There are risks with wildlife wet markets and they could be as big a risk to our agricultural industries as they can be to public health so we have to understand them better.

“The G20 of Agriculture Ministers have a responsibility to lead the way and draw on global experts and engage international organisations to rationally and methodically look at the many significant risks of wildlife wet markets.

“Our people should have confidence that the food they eat is safe. We owe it to our domestic population and our international markets.”

meat-market-Langfang-GiuoliaMarchi-for-NYTimes-cropped

The wet (meat) market at Langfang near Beijing. Photo: Giuolia Marchi, for The New York Times.

Indeed, more on that in a moment.

While Australia got mired in trying to define what a ‘wet market’ is; and whether coronaviruses are weaponised in shady biological laboratories; and whether the World Health Organisation was an accessory to this devious plot, the Australian Agriculture Minister was in no doubt of what to look at.

It was the wildlife trade adjunct to fish and meat markets at the epicentre of the problem. Here was a conduit for zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 jumping from animals, say bats, sometimes via an intermediary host, possibly civet cats [our feature image above, photo by Weerapat Kiatdumrong, on Dreamstime] or pangolin sold at the markets, to humans who consumed or even just handled them. It has happened before in recent times from HIV to Ebola, to other forms of coronaviruses in countries that consume bushmeat. And domesticated animals could be infected. Think bird flu and swine flu epidemics in recent times.

Simple question: the source of the current pandemic

Littlepround called for the World Health Organisation (as is now happening) to investigate wildlife trade and consumption as the source of the most recent pandemic. A pandemic that has brought the global economy to its knees along with causing three million human infections and counting. And focused laser-like media attention on the human death toll, leaving little room for other investigations.

While this outbreak started in China, other South-east Asian countries have similar trades. The point is to look at the underlying risks and stop them.

From the perspective of humane and compassionate people everywhere, the massive and lucrative trade in the world’s diminishing and endangered wildlife (for food, traditional medicines, clothing, or amusement) is evil, in and of itself, even before a pandemic risk is attached.

Littleproud told Samantha Armytage of Channel 7’s breakfast show Sunrise:

“We’re looking at the cause of this and I’m asking the World Organisation of Animal Health to be the lead agency on that. We’ve got to understand not all wet markets are bad, it’s when wildlife, exotic wildlife is added to them, which is what’s happened in this case, as the Chinese officials have identified and reported to the World Organisation of Animal Health.

“So there are many of these around the world. It only makes sense. The world’s got smaller; we’re part of a global community, that we come together and we do the right thing to protect one another but also protect our agricultural production systems that underpin our food security.”

It was recently reported that China had taken legislative steps to shut down the growing and selling of wildlife for these wet markets.

Farmers would be helped into vegetable production enterprises. While this is good, the same reports said China had taken no action on the rest of the domestic and international wildlife trade for traditional medicines, (bears and tigers come to mind) fur, other products, and amusement.

Meanwhile back at the ranch…

And while Minister Littleproud and his government did well here, compassionate Australians might logically ask them (in the name of safe food for humans and pets), when Australia will finally end its own little-reported bushmeat trade — killing kangaroos — the nation’s emblem and a top global tourist draw.

The world’s biggest terrestrial wildlife slaughter is conducted nightly, unmonitored and accompanied by institutionalised cruelty to joeys, in unsanitary conditions in the bush. What is mainly an export trade and now a rekindled petfood trade in Victoria and South Australia, has shamed this country since the 1960s. Most Australians either don’t know or would rather not consider it. But it may be past time to do so.

 

Share This:

Mother Nature fights back

covid-19-positive-bloodtest-shutterstock

GOVERNMENTS AROUND THE world must urgently recognise the role of human behaviour, human populations and their development practices as the world faces pandemic disease like COVID-19. That’s the conclusion of an overdue research focus on the ground-level drivers of novel diseases besetting the globe.

The latest coronavirus disease started as a result of humans eating wildlife or otherwise being infected by wildlife caged for human consumption (a cultural practice that the Chinese government has now banned). Within months of the initial event in China, the whole world has gone into lockdown and economies into meltdown thanks to pandemic spread of the virus.

Other recent zoonotic viral diseases, like SARS, that spread through some Asian countries emerged due to similar behaviours. Ebola in Africa is another example of the dangers of eating bushmeat — monkeys, apes in that case. AIDs had similar genesis. (Zoonotic refers to the ability of pathogens to jump between species. Domesticated animals can be intermediary hosts from wildlife. The novel diseases that emerge are the result of human hosts with no immunity to the viruses carried by other animals.)

Australia’s CSIRO recently published an article in its science magazine ECOS on research outlining the case against human mal-interaction with the natural environment and the disastrous health impacts.

“Scientists from the different disciplines within CSIRO, the American-based EcoHealth Alliance, and the Sapienza University of Rome in Italy are embarking on new territory where they are encouraging governments and communities world-wide to recognise and address the interactions between environmental change and infectious disease emergence.

“This research is outlined in a paper titled Sustainable development must account for pandemic riskwhich has been published in the PNAS scientific journal, “ wrote ECOS journalist Amy Edwards.

What is driving this pandemic and other wildlife-borne diseases?

Increasing habitat invasion and biodiversity destruction as well as the lucrative and criminal world wildlife trade are the major drivers of a threat to human civilisation as we know it that rivals that other nature fightback, climate disruption.

Australians are no longer strangers to either the impacts of climate change or to massive habitat and biodiversity destruction for economic gain. It has been harder to ignore the ecosystem loss of the Murray Darling in the past 12 months, or the mounting cost of 200 years of native vegetation and wildlife removal, on behalf of farming and development.

And while censuring the Chinese for eating and trading in bats and pangolins Australians might also want to face the world’s most extensive and still unpublicised land-based wildlife slaughter. It occurs right here at home with the kangaroo trade for meat, (yes, bushmeat with a documented history of hygiene issues), and for wildlife skins to make football boots and other consumer products.

70% of new infectious disease related to pressure on wildlife

The paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of America that informed the CSIRO story (linked above) notes what is very evident: reaction to a string of novel diseases has been almost totally reactive and human-society focused without looking at the larger picture. Yet 70% of new infectious diseases in recent decades and most pandemics are related to human interaction with wildlife and natural habitat.

The research points to deforestation, expansion of agricultural land, intensive animal raising, and increased hunting and trading of wildlife as driving this ongoing global train wreck.

Put simply, the world’s terrestrial ecosystems are at increasing risk and their remaining inhabitants are in ever-closer contact with humans. War and people displacement; ever-larger human populations and resultant people migrations play their role in this disease/pandemic picture. One might add, as do global market economics and vastly increased leisure travel in the past 20 years.

Intensive livestock production another disease driver

The explosion of livestock production and intensive animal raising worldwide increases the risk of zoonotic diseases being transmitted by and through domesticated animals — poultry and swine flus being examples.

The authors of the PNAS paper look to action through global organisations including those of the UN — World Health, Food and Agriculture — to throw a spotlight on the interactions between humans, the natural world and the spread of disease. The current corona virus impacts that are destroying both human health and economies are centre stage.

Will governments do better than on combating climate change?

Gazing at that stage, will the response of those in power be better than we have experienced with the wobbly response to global climate disruption and its impacts? Remember the Australian bush fires? In both cases human behaviour, development goals and economic activities have been the driving forces.

The PNAS research concludes that ecological and farming knowledge needs swift expansion and integration, global planning and cooperation need to be the overarching umbrella — including more to stop the wildlife trade — and traditional thinking about expansion and development, needs to change. Are world governments, businesses and peoples prepared to listen, learn and act? The next two years will tell.

——————————————-

RELATED ARTICLES:
Coronavirus: ‘Nature is sending us a message’, says UN environment chief
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian

Did the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 really come from wild
animals?

www.ifaw.org

China bans trade consumption of wild animals to counter virus
bloomberg.com

——————————————-

FOOTNOTE:  SCOMO GETS IT!

Humane Society International picked up the following radio interview between the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and, wait for it, Alan Jones.

Humane Society International said it welcomes the Prime Minister’s statement to Alan Jones on 2GB on 3 April signalling Australia will be strident in calling for a crack down on wildlife trade.

Wildlife markets have spawned or exacerbated global health crises with the current COVID-19 and earlier Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the deadly bird flu.

The Prime Minister made the point that these markets are not unique to China and present a risk wherever they operate in the world.

IMAGE: Healthcare person holds up a positive Covid-19 blood test result. Shutterstock.

Share This:

Our stories of living with wildlife, tell us yours

living-with-wildlife-possum-maria-taylor

WITH THE UNPRECEDENTED times we are living through — drought, fire, flood, hail, linked to climate change, now plague linked to humans eating wildlife, all the while governments continuing to encourage exploitation and ‘harvesting’ of wildlife — we wonder how we can help our animal brethren, just in our own lives. Especially if we are locked down and restricted to digital communications.

Around our block in NSW and at my neighbours’, all semi-rural land, we have maintained some heart-warming, voluntary friendships with our local wildlife. The birds, the possums (main image), the kangaroos and wallabies, Shingleback lizards, we talk to them and, yes feed some through the tough times (and just because we are softies), and they respond without fear and flight. Nothing is caged or restricted. Anyone rural or suburban can be that kind of sharing friend.

nursing-mum-Maria-TaylorLast night, our matriarch Eastern Grey Kangaroo, whom we just call Old Mum as distinct from Young Mum and her joey (seen on right) who all hang out together, followed me around the block like a faithful doggie. We went and inspected some new green grass coming up in a valley below the house. She watched me for a while and then went up the hill and gathered the rest of her mob and brought them all down for a look and, I suppose, the possibility of a feed.

Interestingly, they soon showed less interested in the new grass than in the re-growth Red Anther Wallaby Grass on the hillside. A Red Neck Wallaby was nibbling around the grass edges. We have gotten to know the wallabies better during the drought. Notably a fearless Swamp Wallaby who was coming close and looking expectant, with sweet potato, carrots, brown rice and fruit his reward. He has since gone back to post-rain native vegetation it seems.

Same diet minus the rice for the omnivore possums. Shinglebacks like tropical fruit skins. Getting humans to share a handout is a good survival strategy.

The rice was originally cooked for a posse of bush floor Choughs (look like 12 Apostle Birds) whom the drought had driven, for the first time in our memory, close to the house. Other bush birds — Rosellas, Magpies, Bronzewing Pigeons, are frequent visitors as are the occasional Sulphur-crested Cockatoo at ours and a whole flock at my neighbours. Bird seed of course is the attraction plus occasional broken nut meat for the larger birds.

A lovely flock of Gang Gangs comes in for water but never looks for a food handout. They feed on the gum nuts high in the trees. Black cockatoos have been attracted to nearby pine trees, but we saw less of them this disastrous summer. We worry about the small insect-eating birds (and the tree frogs) with the dearth of insects in our bushland and around our homes now. Plantings for nectar feeders help those.

Young Mum Eastern Grey has been taking good care of her joey for six months now and the joey (we think a girl) is still feeding from her, sometimes on the lawn. It’s interesting to see that at times joey hangs out with ‘Nanna’ ie Old Mum and follows her around. No doubt she has instructed both her daughter and her grandchild that humans can be friends and sources of help and food.

As soon as the weather improved and the rains came in, the kangaroo males, who had been fed during the bush-fire and drought, dispersed. They have returned to their usual circuits and smaller mobs here and there, still enjoying the occasional handout. We want to keep them close and away from roads and other dangers. The girls stay much more fixed to home range.

If you have some ‘good news’ personal stories to tell, and ways of helping wildlife (that does not involve gatherings of more than 50 people!) — we would love to hear from you and publish your anecdotal reports and observations.

Write to webeditor.awpc@gmail.com

— Maria Taylor

Share This:

From Australia Day: make every day Wildlife Day

AWPC-editorial-Jan2020-v3

WE WELCOME YOU to the refreshed Australian Wildlife Protection Council (AWPC) website.  This comes along with new energy for our national wildlife in the form of a new managing committee and additional members. In the ‘Member News’ section incoming AWPC president Peter Hylands introduces our new committee and offers some thoughts about where we might go together and contribute with a revitalised national organisations.

As a committee member, (coming from a journalism and publishing background) I will be acting as the webpage editor at this time. Our website visual editor, who is responsible for the new look and the new sections is my long-time colleague Sue Van Homrigh from Graphic Gesture (who says “please excuse me while I juggle things around a bit”).

In Australian we have all been overwhelmed in the past months by what some might call ‘Mother Nature fight-back’ against mounting insults from two major directions.

We’re talking about the burning and mining of fossil fuels whose emissions pollute the atmosphere and disrupt weather patterns encouraging extreme on-ground impacts (drought, fire, flood) while we are also massively destroying biodiversity — the country’s native animals, plants and ecosystems — in pursuit of economic gain.

While at AWPC we focus on the needs and treatment of our wildlife, there is no doubt that so much of the environmental news is interconnected. Climate change concerns all of us and we can call long-standing mismanagement and worse against the politicians we have let into power at state and federal level.

The logging and destruction of native forests, death of coral reefs and the fragile inland river system are all connected to the values in our country that also allows, even encourages, pastoralists and private commercial operations to shoot millions of kangaroos — the world’s most recognised national symbol — with dependent joeys perishing miserably — all for accepted ‘business’ reasons.

We’ve been here for a long time

In the course of the AWPC committee transition, I have had the opportunity or need to go through the AWPC archives. That has been an eye-opening experience. Even though I have spent a good deal of time researching an upcoming book on Australia’s fraught relationship with its wildlife since settlement, going through those archives brought some new material to light and reinforced just how long and how many good people have fought the good fight for our wildlife.

And yet here we still are as a nation, adhering to colonial and old economic values (as promoted by our politicians in charge) that risk utterly destroying the land and the environment we depend on and that many of us cherish.

I thought I would share one letter from the archives dated 1998, from a French woman who came here to make a film about our treatment of the kangaroo. How someone from outside our group-think society, and who might well represent a tourist’s perspective, saw Australia then. All this is still true today.

With all respect to the peoples who inhabited this land in 1788, when the First Fleet arrived, and who see January 26 as Invasion Day.

— Maria Taylor


FEATURE IMAGE SOURCES (Top, L-R): Emu, Gayleen Froese | Grey-headed Flying Fox, Nathan Hogarth | Mallard duck, Peter Hylands | koala, Pen Ash | kangaroo, AWPC archive | possum, Maria Taylor | Boyds Forest Dragon, David Clode | wombat, Liv Faley | Murray River Cod, Melbourne Aquarium Wikipedia | Golden Sun Moth, District Bulletin archive.

Below: An extract from letter written by a French film-maker in Australia, 1998.
Click on boxed text below to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share This: