Author Archives: Peter Hylands

Incoming President’s message: from Peter Hylands

Peter-Hylands-president

I AM GOING to begin by expressing my sadness regarding the unprecedented scale and ferocity of the bushfires. I have visited the firegrounds on the South Coast of New South Wales and all of us at AWPC extend our thoughts to all of you in the firegrounds across this continent.

We commend the bravery of all those involved in fighting these fires and to the dedicated vets and wildlife carers engaged in animal rescue and rehabilitation activities.

I will also say this simple thing: wildlife in Australia is in crisis because of the severe impacts of climate change being experienced across the Australian continent, the situation will continue to deteriorate for a long time to come. That is why Australia’s wonderful wildlife now needs your help more than ever before.

New committee and thanks

I want to welcome and thank the new committee of the AWPC: Maria Taylor, Jan Heald, Chris Lehmann and Carmen Ryan. You may meet Carmen as administrative secretary this year.

A particular thank you goes to retiring AWPC secretary Eve Kelly. I would like to thank Eve for her dedication to both wildlife and to the AWPC.

I would ask that each of you encourage many others to join the AWPC to help in the very large task of ensuring a secure future for Australia’s species.

Issues for 2020 and let us hear from you

The AWPC, as a national wildlife organisation with a new managing committee, is still formulating specific priority campaigns and directions for 2020 keeping in mind the current extreme circumstances.

At one level we are considering how best to support positive, forward-looking, public and private initiatives (both economic and conservation-focused) that help and respect our unique wildlife and biodiversity.

We will continue to work with state-based and single-issue wildlife groups to strengthen our combined voice.

I also encourage AWPC members to tell us what you consider the most effective strategies and directions going forward to help and protect Australian wildlife. Write to us at awpc.office@gmail.com

Personally, I have three things at the very top of my list. The first is to put pressure on the various state and federal government authorities — that have continued to promote and issue permits for the killing of very large numbers of Australian animals during these extreme fires — to change their behaviours.

While Macropod species head the list of these tormented and vilified animals, another hundred or so Australian species are also subject to unjustified and barbaric practices. In the days following Christmas I, and others, have called on governments to stop the killing.

To date the Victorian Government has responded by putting a temporary halt to its commercial Kangaroo pet food trade. There are serious issues here regarding government standards including the use of misinformation, poor standards of governance and secretive and undemocratic behaviours.

While I am critical of all Australian governments, I am particularly critical of New South Wales, Queensland, ACT, Victoria and now South Australia. Each of these governments needs to lift their game and they need to understand the world is now watching them.

Australians who care need support, particularly now

The second thing on my list concerns people and their treatment by government departments. In some states, the treatment of wildlife carers, who are mostly self-funded volunteers, is abysmal.

Also, the level or the lack of support (including financial support) from governments who see some of our carer community as a nuisance and an obstacle to the agenda of mass scale killing of wildlife, needs to change.

Greater respect for carers is essential and this is also a matter of governance. Financial support from government must be a long term and stable measure, rather than window dressing at times when the world media is watching.

Also of concern are those Australians living in regional Australia who witness and are often harassed by the killing activities conducted by governments and industry.

Because of state-based legislation there are almost no avenues to complain about these horrendous acts occurring on their doorstep.

We have heard many such stories from individuals whose houses and children have been hit by shot from hunting activities and from those witnessing the butchering of kangaroos from their properties.

These are the animals that they have come to love. There is a great deal of anxiety and fear among many, for their families and the animals they have come to love; this horrible situation has now been extended to new regions including in Victoria and Kangaroo Island (both significantly impacted by fire). I will be looking at human rights implications here.

Thirdly, education. We must all do more to ensure that Australia’s wildlife is better known and understood and we need to engage more children and their parents in the fight to save wildlife. We need schools and teachers to engage with this critical issue.

If we don’t do these things our landscapes will be forever silent.

So far:

In the last few weeks and months I have made submission to various inquiries being held in Australia, these inquiries are; Australia’s Faunal Extinction Crisis (Commonwealth of Australia); Meeting obligations to protect Ramsar Wetlands (Victorian Government Auditor) and, because it required a response from the AWPC, the oddly named Review of the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes (AgriFutures).

The world is watching us

I will end by saying that we were able to visit the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales shortly after the fires and to say to all of you that, as a result of what has occurred, there has been an outpouring of care and concern for Australian wildlife from around the world.

The help and care given to Sara and Gary at the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary, is among many such things. I think the world sees its own reflection in us.

 

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Like other Australian wildlife: birdlife is in deep trouble

birdlife-in-deep-trouble-PeterHylands-jan2020
VICTORIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, Tasmania and the Northern Territory each have a recreational shooting season. The result is the cruel death of hundreds of thousands of Australian waterbirds each year. Much of this killing occurs on Ramsar sites. The killing does not stop there.

“In New South Wales, which does not have a recreational shooting season for waterbirds, an estimated 49,750 ducks were shot during the 2016–17 rice growing period”

The killing of native waterbirds in New South Wales occurs on private land and shooters from other states also travel to New South Wales to participate in this activity. This blog describes the species and the numbers of birds shot as authorized by the New South Wales Government issued Native Game Bird Management licences in 2016–17.

There are around 1,500 farm businesses growing rice in the Murrumbidgee Valley and Murray Valley. The industry has relied heavily on chemical pesticides when ducks could have been part of the pest control solution. There are also rice farms on the Victorian side of the border.

“Numbers are building up”
NSW DPI to Peter Hylands August 2018

The shooting of Australia’s birdlife on rice fields in the Murray Darling system and associated rivers takes place during the breeding season.  The welfare of young birds is not a consideration. Birds are not silly animals, the majority of birds shot during the start of the recreational duck shooting season are juvenile birds and in their first year of life, if they survive the first year then they are the wiser.  It is here that waterbirds in one of the most extensive river systems in the world, the Murray Darling, have now declined by more than 75 percent in the last three decades.

“What it means for duck hunters who venture to the state of NSW is for an opportunity to participate in the most fast and frantic waterfowling available in this country”
  • Australian (Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides) 146
  • Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata) 9,412
  • Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa) 11,700
  • Australasian (Shoveler Anas rhynchotis) 65
  • Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea) 54
  • Grey Teal (Anas gracilis) 25,028
  • Hardhead (Aythya Australis) 1,121
  • Pink Eared Duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus) 882
  • Plumed Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna eytoni) 1,342

There have been no prosecutions in New South Wales regarding illegal conduct and cruelty and the New South Wales Government is not investigating non-lethal methods of control.

“Shooting on the NSW rice fields has always been seen by Victorian duck shooters as being just another recreational shoot, disguised as crop mitigation.  They see it as their second opening for the year. I despair at the large number of wounded birds that would suffer a lonely and long death out of view of anyone.”
— Laurie Levy

The New South Wales Government claim that less than five percent of the total numbers of owner/occupier licenses are to control native ‘game’ ducks not killed on rice fields.

“One duck and a thousand treasures” 

The quote above is from Japanese duck rice farmer Takao Furuno talking about the Aigamo duck-rice culture.

Yet another slaughter of native waterbirds begins in the Australian state of New South Wales in October. The droughts are very severe and this means that where there is water, concentrations of birdlife are likely to be high. The New South Wales Government is running the following ad on its DPI website. Events are being held around Melbourne and in Sydney.

“NSW landholders who grow rice need the help of hunters again this year to protect crops vulnerable to damage from native game ducks. If you are interested in being a part of the NSW Native Game Bird Management Program, the NSW DPI Game Licensing Unit’s Wildlife Management Team are hosting informal information nights, where you’ll find out…”

In 1986, when the campaign to stop the mass slaughter of waterbirds began in Victoria, shooting in the New South Wales rice fields was considered by most Victorian duck shooters as a recreational shoot and their second opening in October. The idea remains.

“Rice farm owners and/or managers would apply for destruction permits to shoot waterbirds so that their mates could come up for a recreational shoot”  

However, there are many rice farmers in New South Wales who do not shoot native waterbirds. Research by the CSIRO going back to the 1930s concludes that native duck species are not a problem as they take only a small amount of rice but that they help to keep the real pests down, such as blood worms, invertebrates and snails etc. In fact Asian rice farmers take domestic ducks onto their rice fields to keep the real pests down.

It is some sort of improvement that the New South Wales Government department responsible for the shooting (DPI) is now trying to manage shooting on the rice fields, once again this is a killing culture with the department promoting these shooting activities, and most of the shooting is still done for recreational purposes.

Swan_creatorPeter-Hylands-dEC2019There are many terrible and cruel stories from these killing fields involving individual birds. Here is just one of tens of thousands of these things. This case of cruelty, which is ‘illegal’, from the state of Victoria and from 2011. There is no law, anything goes.

A Black Swan sits on her nest, shooting all around her. Hunters spot the gracious and beautiful swan and decide to use its nesting site as a platform to shoot from. They kick the swans eggs into the water, now shattered and broken, young bodies mixed with yoke. As the mother tries to defend her nest she is filled with shot at point blank range.

swan-xray-PeterHylands-jan2020Like the thousands of birds around her our brave mother dies in agony. Here is the X-ray of her broken body. Her broken family lays around her.

 

 

WORDS AND IMAGERY: Peter Hylands at creativecowboyfilms

 

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Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary (NSW, Vic)

cobargo-wildlife-sanc-jan2020

We join Sara Tilling and Gary Henderson once more, this time Sara talks about grief and loss and rebuilding the future from the caravan that is to be their temporary home. There is an impassioned thank you for the many of you from around the world that have given the support and kindness that will make a new future possible.

“Like us, all living creatures don’t want to die and will fight to survive. Sometimes despite all odds we hang in there, not yet ready to leave for many reasons. Maybe just because you find someone that is prepared to sit with you, love you and give it their all to help you. To give you the strength to fight.”
— Sara Tilling

The money donated to the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary will be spent on rebuilding the wildlife care and rehabilitation infrastructure and equipment, compounds, sheds and the like. Money will also be spent on revegetating the property with the native plant species that will help to give the animals who come to live at the sanctuary in the future, the very best chance of a happy and successful life. There is a vast amount of work to be done.

You can assist in this work by donating HERE.

NOTE: Why it is critically important to donate to people and organisations working on the front line of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in Australia.

Sara mentions the attitudes of governments in Australia to wildlife and conservation. What has occurred over the last few days is telling. Some good, some very bad.

The Commonwealth Government of Australia (Canberra) has pledged $50 million to assist wildlife in the firegrounds across this vast continent. The states most impacted at this time are New South Wales (Cobargo), Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. The $50 million in funding will be split between an expert advisory panel and community groups and Koalas will be a focus for restoration efforts, with as much as 30 per cent of Koala habitat destroyed. We shall see what happens.

In New South Wales, where some 8.5 million hectares have been destroyed and whose current government’s attitudes to wildlife conservation are nothing less than egregious appear to be planning on businesses as usual with no changes to lax wildlife laws or the level of commercial or other permits being issued. “DPIE will be monitoring fire and harvesting activity within the commercial management zones and will be engaging with commercial harvesters and animal dealers that may operate within the affected zones,” the spokesperson said. “Our goal is to ensure that Kangaroo populations remain ecologically sustainable.”

In Victoria, the Victorian Government, although details and how these are to be enforced are vague, has suspended its relatively new and doomed Kangaroo Pet Food Industry. The commercial wildlife industry in Victoria is doomed because much of the populations of species being exploited are now gone because of the large numbers of animals killed in the last few years. As far as I can tell the Victorian Government has no plans to put a stop to the vast scale culling of wildlife it claims to be a nuisance or overabundant. In Victoria in the ten-year period 2009-2018 inclusive a total of 32,147 of these ATCW permits (not commercial) were issued for Australian species covering 1,513,605 animals across 82 native species including for 26,507 Wombats, in addition Wombats are unprotected in much of the state and killing them does not require a permit. This Government describes Koalas as overabundant (nonsense).

While not formally announced, the Victorian Government (its Ministers) have also flagged their intention to proceed with this year’s Duck shooting season despite the devastating impact on waterbird populations in Australia from heat events, long term and severe drought and now the horrific fires. South Australia has already announced that despite the devastating fires it will proceed with its Duck shooting season.

Too little too late

An area not that much smaller than Greece, has been destroyed in Australia over the last few weeks and because the firegrounds are so vast, the wildlife that does survive is in immediate danger of starvation and dehydration, all food has gone, and water sources, if they remain, are contaminated. The Australian Veterinary Association is desperately calling on the Victorian Government to airdrop food into inaccessible, bushfire-affected land in Victoria to save starving wildlife.

“Victorian Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the Government was taking expert advice to get the best outcome for native wildlife and biodiversity. “We’re considering supplementary feeding for threatened species in targeted areas if and when it’s appropriate and safe to do so,” she said.

As President of the Australian Wildlife Protection Council I have called on the government to stop all wildlife killing activities and to begin food drops with immediate effect. Towards the end of 2019 it looked to me, with all the disasters and potential disasters that we describe here, that the Victorian Government were ‘culling’ wildlife in state and national parks in Victoria. The response I received beyond the usual spin was as follows:

“If you require any more detailed information at this stage, we encourage you to submit your query through our Freedom of Information Process”.

Something to hide perhaps?

Australia’s ABC report that “Animals Australia director Lyn White said some species in fire-affected areas were critically endangered such as the mountain pygmy-possum and brush-tailed rock-wallaby found in Gippsland. The charity offered $100,000 to the Victorian Government last week to help purchase food, but said they have not received a response to the offer”.

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