Author Archives: Peter Hylands

Harm done: the tragedy of duck shooting in Australia

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From the AWPC President, May 2020

“It’s high time safety risk assessments and proper social / economic impact studies were done as to the impacts of shooting on the community. As it stands, regulators can’t even map all the areas where it can occur, which would seem to most to be an appalling safety risk if not negligence.”

Kerrie Allen, Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting Inc.

THERE ARE SEVERAL shocking features of duck shooting in the Australian states where it still occurs. The recreational shooting behaviour puts police and other public servants who administer the activity at unnecessary risk; it endangers rescuers; it engages children in violence towards animals; and the shooting is conducted with precisely no regard of the safety, nor views of residents in places where the shooting occurs.

It was always a terrible decision to proceed with the duck and quail shooting seasons in Victoria in 2020 given the extreme circumstances facing the nature of Australia and waterbirds in particular. In addition, to continue with these activities given the danger of Covid-19 was grossly irresponsible for human health in regional communities.

Killing for kicks despite massive 90 percent decline in waterbirds past 40 years, climate change, drought and fire 2019–2020

In May and June 2020 (the Victorian season is supposed to end June 8), shooting was allowed despite 90 percent decline in waterbirds over the last 40 years, despite climate change impacts, the vast scale fires, the droughts and the reduction of places for these wondrous Australian birds to breed.

Waterbirds in Victoria are shot at supposedly protected wetlands of international significance

The global community might be shocked to learn that shooting of large numbers of water birds occurs on Ramsar sites, globally significant places where birdlife congregates, particularly during times of drought.

Furthermore, given the thousands of places where shooting can occur in Victoria which has the most wetland areas in the southern states, policing these activities is near impossible. Every year many species of birdlife are caught up in the killing, including endangered and critically endangered species.

INSET IMAGE ABOVE: This Pink Eared Duck is unique to Australia but was shot and abandoned by a hunter during the 2019 duck shooting season.

Polls have shown general public opposed, but Vic, SA, Tasmania and NT governments have resisted compassionate and economic arguments. Why?

Large amounts of taxpayers money is spent each year in facilitating and supervising an activity that most people do not want on their public wetlands. There is plenty of evidence that these violent activities create exclusion zones in places that also would attract large numbers of visitors engaging in peaceful pursuits, including bird watching.

Duck shooting blocks the opportunities for sensible and progressive economic development, which includes ecotourism and educational activities on Ramsar sites.

“The fact that unmonitored recreational shooting of animals is occurring in close proximity to homes and populous places, often before daylight, for weeks on end is unacceptable. More people live in regional areas now than they did in the 1950s and more people are interested in nature-based activities such as bushwalking, kayaking and bird watching, all unfairly hampered by the minority of the population who like to shoot birds for fun,” says Kerrie Allen, of Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting Inc.

Meanwhile the extreme suffering of our birdlife continues amidst the constant spin.

“The Ramsar convention includes provisions for ‘wise use’ of wetlands, which are not incompatible with sustainable use of wildlife. Duck species permitted for hunting during open season are not listed on JAMBA, CAMBA or ROKAMBA agreements.”
South Australian Government Department of Environment and Water

(If you hear a person with power over the country’s wildlife using the terms ‘wise use’ and ‘sustainable use of wildlife’ you can be sure that it’s a euphemism for killing either commercially or for someone’s idea of fun.)

Drinking all night and then picking up a gun

Another curious feature of duck shooting is that we know that drug taking occurs as does drinking as the shooters socialise with each other. Guns and drugs don’t mix.

“I can’t understand how they can sit around drinking all night and then be allowed to go out with a firearm,” says a local resident from Kerang.

There is a reason duck shooting is not allowed at Albert Park Lake. Regional Victorians deserve the same respect,” says Kerrie Allen.

Point a camera, not a gun. Add your voice

So, we ask ourselves once more, why do these governments continue to facilitate this cruel and out-dated set of behaviours and exactly what is the point of it all? Pointing a camera and not a gun is a much better path to the future, for birds and people alike.

Laurie Levy who has led campaigns against duck shooting since the 1980s, and has been gaining more ground year by year on this issue, suggests it is helpful — particularly since state governments are coming under greater pressure than ever to end this shameful practice — that you add your voice, particularly in your own state, and write to the Premiers of Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria, the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and their agriculture and environment ministers.

FEATURE IMAGES: Creative Cowboy Films

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FROM THE AWPC PRESIDENT: In time of Covid-19, the wildlife issues that continue. Sadly, not much good news.

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The animals need our help more than ever.

Peter Hylands, April 2020.

SINCE WRITING TO you towards the end of last year, a very great deal has happened as an evolving tragedy for Australia’s wildlife has escalated. There is so much to say but I want to bring this communication down to some key points for you to think about.

ABOVE: All 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.
Source: Unnatural disaster, Creative Cowboy Films.

I have spent many weeks, starting from early December on the road, from the deserts of Central Australia to the fire grounds of New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria and then back to Central Australia. We (our family) should now be with our friends in Maningrida and Ankabadbirri, but because of the virus this is clearly not possible. Instead we have spent the last weeks in lockdown in inner Melbourne, away from the nature of Australia that we love.

Here are the things I suggest we all need to think about.

Wildlife carers

During our travels through the fire grounds it became obvious just how important the rescuers and carers of wildlife are. These are the volunteers who dedicate their lives to the care and rehabilitation of wildlife. The enormous efforts by carers, often hampered by governments, to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife has been recognised around the world.

Now an urgent task is to ensure that wildlife shelters get the financial help they need, and there will be significant issues relating to access to volunteer communities, particularly from overseas, for many months to come. This places additional pressure on the physical resources needed to care for wildlife.

View story and video: Chris Lehmann at Kangaloola,
by Creative Cowboy Films

It is important that financial pressures on wildlife shelters are reduced. There are plenty of  funds available from the monies collected from around the world and those pledged by governments, to ensure equitable distribution of funds to where they are needed, in the front line of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. We all need to be vigilant to ensure this occurs.

Australian governments: wildfires, COVID-19 and the natural world

There has been some extraordinary behaviour from various governments over the last few weeks and months, including from the state I am in currently, Victoria, and despite the enormous loss of biodiversity, nothing changes.

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The Victorian Government has quietly advised shooters that there will be a full season (4 April to 30 June 2020) for shooting native Stubble Quail [Coturnix pectoralis] in the state. IMAGE: Creative Cowboy Films.

In Victoria, the quail and duck shooting seasons were declared, in the case of waterbirds, the season and bag limits albeit reduced. The mass slaughter of Macropod species continued in most parts of the state with government staff doing all they can not to answer my questions regarding these matters, instead offering up misleading spin and entirely wrong information.

The blocking of wildlife rescue has also been a feature of the wildfires, as have the plans for the intensified and indiscriminate use of airdrops of 1080 poison (particularly in New South Wales) into areas impacted by wildfire and beyond.

As part of the wildlife rescue package from governments large budgets, in Victoria for example it is the largest share at $7 million, have been allocated to “predator control”. Just $1 million of the $17.5 million dollar budget has been allocated to the welfare of wildlife where it is most needed.

I am assured by Victorian Labor politician, Nina Taylor, that 1080 drops will not increase in Victoria. [See related story this issue about the NSW situation.]

“I followed up on your query regarding predator control. The predators in question are deer and pigs. They will not be baited by 1080. Rather I have been informed that they will be killed either on the ground/via the air — this is being scoped out currently. We should have further details soon”.

I thank Nina for her assistance.

When I checked with the Victorian Government’s DELWP this morning I was told there was no information nor advice regarding the Kangaroo commercial trade in wildlife in Victoria in relation to COVID-19.

Thank the virus. Vic government guidelines appear to prevent duck shooters from visiting public wetlands, including Ramsar sites, this year.

There is also confused messaging regarding quail and waterbird shooting, the Game Management Authority (GMA) advising AWPC committee member Chris Lehmann that duck shooting would be possible on “one’s” private property but overall Victorian Government guidelines will prevent duck shooters from visiting public wetlands, including Ramsar sites. The GMA stated they have been heavily restricted in what they can announce.

Meanwhile in South Australia

The duck shooting season commenced 28 March (closes sunset 31 May) and current messaging from that government as of today (6 April) states that “the 2020 South Australian Duck Open Season remains open to South Australian permit holders. All hunters are reminded to follow government guidelines on social distancing”.

Clearly there are significant dangers here for regional populations, with elderly and often unwell and disadvantaged people, from visitors to the regions using local shops and other facilities. We may come to learn that double standards, and exceptions for some, are dangerous indeed.

What is particularly troubling is that it appears that even as the fires were burning, wildlife was still being shot in state and national parks in Victoria. Parks Victoria refused to answer my questions on the matter telling me to go to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests for answers, these are underway. The government, under FOI, initially pretending they did not know where their parks were in relation to the permits being issued.

Clearing habitat

During a time where the population’s attention was turned to the COVID-19 pandemic, new forestry agreements were signed in Victoria, further endangering Victoria’s wildlife and biodiversity.

Similar behaviours are occurring around the continent, the list is long. I am particularly worried about the Great Barrier Reef, mangroves and their ecosystems in the Gulf of Carpentaria and beyond, salt water encroachment in northern wetlands including Arnhem Land, the health of the Great Artesian Basin and arid Australia ecosystems, the flooding of Torres Strait Islands and the use of fire as a political tool (ignoring science), even in tropical wet forests (including places on the world heritage register such as Hinchinbrook Island), exacerbating climate change and biodiversity loss, rather than moderating its impact.

Land clearing and deforestation continue and has escalated in New South Wales and beyond.

Given all this, alarm bells are ringing loudly regarding the behaviour we can expect during the economic recovery phase of COVID-19. What has already become the wild west for wildlife and the environment is likely to become much worse, as exploitation of the environment, including wildlife increases, and peoples’ capacity to stop what is occurring, is diminished by regulation or confinement.

What is required now is a modern approach to the issues I describe here, I would like to think of this time as a new opportunity to restructure the Australian economy in ways that strengthen the economy against future environmental and heath shocks. That means protecting the environment and the biodiversity that surrounds us.

The locals who care

The level of distress communicated to us from residents in various states impacted by the mass commercial killing of kangaroos, from the shooting of birdlife for sport, from the unsupervised issuing of permits “to control wildlife” has been both alarming and deeply distressing.

I have communicated these concerns to politicians and have been completely ignored. These are very serious matters and what this situation demonstrates very clearly is the discrimination towards a significant number of people choosing to live and invest in Australia’s regions. We will continue to act on this matter, as we understand its grim impact on lives and livelihoods.

Macropods and related species

These animals require a special mention. The treatment of kangaroos and wallabies across the Australian continent remains a disgrace. There have been recent attempts at “prey switching” as target species become scarce.

A number of shooting zones have been closed to particular species or entirely because of extreme environmental conditions and because the populations of target species have been shot out. The government numbers remain dodgy and the behaviour of governments around these issues is extremely poor. There is a great deal of misleading spin in the media regarding these issues.

In December 2019 the AWPC made a submission to the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes. The submission describes the issues in detail and is available here.

[Ed note: Many local and community groups in Australia are fighting for the kangaroo and AWPC urges you to follow and support them in your state and locality. Kanga Watch based in Queensland is a good example, as is Animal Liberation in NSW and Animal Protectors Alliance in the ACT. The Animal Justice Party in both NSW and Victoria and the Greens do what they can to influence their respective state governments through their members of parliament. Talk to them.]

COVID-19 and animals

There is no doubt that we are in the midst of our current pandemic because of the way in which we treat animals and the environment more broadly. We all know the story with some 75 percent of new viruses created by the unhealthy and squalid interactions of people and animals, including the trade in wildlife, and the devastation of ecosystems, and directly as a result of our own behaviours.

The current situation is of our making. Australia must now examine its own trade in wildlife, among the largest in the world, and a rethink of the way in which kangaroos and wallabies are treated is now required as a matter of urgency. [See more of this backstory by web editor Maria Taylor, Mother Nature fights back].

My own concern is that, as a result of what is occurring, animals everywhere do not suffer further discrimination and cruelty.

Solving Victoria’s extinction crisis

A Victorian Greens motion calling for an extinction inquiry in Victoria passed parliament on 30 October 2019. The inquiry will investigate and report on the decline of Victoria’s ecosystems, as well as the measures in place to protect threatened and endangered species, including:

  • The extent of the decline of Victoria’s biodiversity and its impact.
  • The adequacy of current legislation in protecting Victoria’s environment.
  • The effectiveness of government programs in restoring Victoria’s ecosystems.
  • Opportunities to restore the environment while upholding First Peoples’ connection to country.

In January I met with Ellen Sandell, the Greens MP heading the inquiry, to provide a detailed account of what is happening to biodiversity in Victoria.

Please keep an eye on the progress of this inquiry and make a submission when called for. As of today the information from Ellen is as follows:

“Parliament has signalled that the extinction crisis inquiry will happen, but we’re not sure exactly when. It could be in a few weeks, in a few months, or it might be longer. The first stage of the inquiry will be a call for submissions from experts and the community. This is something that can still happen while we’re all keeping our physical distance from each other, so we’re working to prepare material and resources to make sure the inquiry hears from you when it does kick off.”

Tasks ahead

This is not a time for further exploitation of the environment and secret and undemocratic deals and behaviours advantaging the few. This kind of behaviour will not provide the solution to how we recover from the economic shock of the wildfires and COVID-19.

It is also a time to reflect on our treatment of wildlife in Australia and to take this opportunity for developing new ways and structures to assist our beleaguered ecosystem and the animals that live in them.

The first thing to do will be to look at the government departments responsible for protecting ecosystems and wildlife, the failure of these departments is profound and expressed in the loss of biodiversity around the continent.

One task ahead for us all is to work towards the restructuring of these departments so that their purpose is not to defend and facilitate the destruction of the natural world, but rather be properly resourced to defend and care for what is uniquely Australian, and to do so for future generations of living things. That includes a proper set of policies relating to climate change.

At AWPC our task is to define some of the issues I raise here in terms of what actions can be taken to make the changes required to protect our biodiversity. We will work on this over the coming months and set out a series of actions we can all participate in.

 

 

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Unnatural disaster

unnatural-disaster-all-rights-Peter-Hylands

I WILL SAY this simple thing, all 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.

This article is an extract from a blog post by
Peter Hylands, Creative Cowboy.

Follow THIS LINK to view the complete story along with video and imagery.
All rights reserved Peter Hylands.

That is why Australia’s wonderful wildlife now needs your help more than ever before. It is estimated that the Australian bushfires so far this year have added an additional 2 percent to global greenhouse emissions and will add as much as one billion tons by the end of the fire season, the end result will be significantly more than the United Kingdom will emit for 2020.

“Everything is a bit out of control again here, wind like I have never experienced before. Gary was on the roof of the shed trying to strap it down as it was going to lift off, the wind was so strong it was lifting him with the roof. It was absolutely terrifying. Bushfires all around again, we are ok but the roads are closed and we think a water bomber has gone down.” — Sara Tilling

We turn our attention once again to events at the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales. I am writing this on 25 January 2020, the message from Sara above is from two days ago. A C-130 water bomber did indeed go down killing three very brave American fire fighters. A tragedy built upon tragedy.

We joined Sara Tilling, Gary Henderson and Scott Medwell at the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary as the clear up began.

Scott travelled all the way from regional Victoria and stayed for a week to help Sara and Gary begin the daunting clear up.

I wanted to give everyone an update snapshot regarding what is happening to wildlife in the eastern states fire zones. We have to remember we are talking about a country size region that has been impacted by fire, some very severely.

Regional rescues are occurring, as are food drops to wildlife in some areas. Local groups of rescuers are joined by major animal organisations such as Animals Australia and Wires volunteers in New South Wales.

In Victoria, Wildlife Victoria is also engaged in animal rescue but Victoria and New South Wales have closed many areas where wildlife will require assistance. So in many places wildlife rescuers are waiting to enter the firegrounds and it may be just too late for many animals. I understand the problems but this issue needs a rethink. Not good enough by far.

Wires say this on their website in relation to New South Wales.

“WIRES volunteers are on standby to enter fire grounds once the RFS and National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) declare an area safe to access, however this can take up to three weeks after a fire has passed through.”

In addition to these problems numerous wildlife shelters and places where wildlife is cared for and rehabilitated, like Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary, have been destroyed, and need to be rebuilt.

In Victoria the Victorian Government has just announced a $17.5 million package, aimed at giving endangered plants and animals the best chance of survival through “habitat restoration, predator and pest control and immediate salvage operations”.

The Australian Commonwealth Government had previously announced its $50 million emergency wildlife and habitat recovery fund saying that half of the fund would go to frontline responder groups including wildlife carers, hospitals and zoos including Zoos Victoria, Adelaide Zoo and Taronga Zoo (NSW). The balance would help fund a government advisory panel led by Dr Sally Box, the newly appointed Threatened Species Commissioner.

We were in Canberra when the $50 million fund was announced and politicians were talking about predator control. My comment on both these funds is this, while the funds should be applauded, this is new territory for these wildlife unfriendly governments and given the scale of the disaster and the size of the funds announced to date, which are small in relation to what has occurred, there needs to be a strict set of governance standards applied to the funds distribution and use. We particularly need to be clear on what predator control means, what species are they targeting, where and by which methods. The New South Wales Government, also talking about predator control, appears immune to the catastrophic plight of its wildlife (climate change and super fires), saying there will be no changes to killing of wildlife under a range of mechanisms, including the commercial trade in wildlife.

“Every single animal left must be given every single chance.” — Sara Tilling

All wildlife in these fires zones need help, not just threatened species. Populations of all species will be seriously impacted. As of 7 January 2020 the Victorian fires had already entirely severely burnt 34 of the state’s 104 major parks, 31 percent of the state’s rainforests, 24 percent of wet or damp forests and 34 percent of lowland forests had been burnt. In all this carnage, at least 185 Victorian species, many rare and threatened, have been affected by the fires, including 19 mammal species, 13 frog species, 10 reptile species, 9 bird species, 29 aquatic species and 38 plant species. With all this going on my view is that Parks Victoria were still culling native wildlife in the state and national parks where fires had not made their devastating impact. I have asked the Victorian Government a series of questions which they have refused to answer, for what I expect are obvious reasons. Freedom of information requests are being filed in relation to these matters.

 

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Like other Australian wildlife: birdlife is in deep trouble

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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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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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