with kangaroos, wildlife
Filmed by Creative Cowboy.
Filmed by Creative Cowboy.
WITH THE WORLD now topsy-turvey and distressed in the grip of COVID-19 (not unrelated to human abuse of wildlife), we firstly wish all AWPC members to stay safe and hold our governments responsible for support through this pandemic. And here is a summary report on activities this quarter.
We’ve sent out the annual membership renewal notice (this section). We need your help, and commitment to rebuild the AWPC and conduct positive national campaigns in the next year. Post fire and with the ongoing government destruction policies (some of which cited on this website, sadly), the surviving wildlife needs us more than ever.
In the next year a goal is to build on this year’s awareness raising and lobbying against wildlife destruction with some positive campaigns. Some ideas include: a model for ecotourism with Indigenous communities; liaising with regenerative agriculture to show how respecting native biodiversity is a winning formula; reviving our education and publishing arm. We continue to campaign and also support international campaigns for Australia’s most persecuted native animal — Skippy the bush kangaroo and international tourist icon.
AWPC can take a strong part in rebuilding to a smarter, less colonial, more life-affirming political economy as we continue to face the twin existential threats of climate change and biodiversity loss. Let’s aim for that.
Since the beginning of the year, the AWPC committee (Peter Hylands, Chris Lehmann, Carmen Ryan, Maria Taylor), has been re-establishing an operating base, including the website here and a social media presence. As well, committee members have:
• Lobbied governments in Victoria, ACT and South Australia, particularly on the disgraceful government continuance post bushfires of commercial and non-commercial kangaroo killing that continues unabated. Persecution of other common species including wombats, dingos, flying foxes, and native bird hunting has also been a focus of AWPC lobbying, letters and awareness raising.
AWPC works in tandem with progressive politicians particularly AJP and some Greens for greater impact. AWPC also prioritises working with other wildlife groups on any localised or national issue. There is strength in unity.
• Supported — ie with listening and resources, contacts, media — people who have contacted us usually from rural communities. Often it has been distress at government programs including aerial baiting with 1080 poison throughout NSW public lands, and localised kangaroo killing in Victoria or concerns this is planned.
• Made AWPC submissions to reviews of the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act; to the Parliament Enquiry into the Extinction Crisis in Victoria; to the National Code of Practice for the Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for commercial purposes. Submission are available at the submission archive on the website top bar.
• Developed a pilot social media campaign on AWPC facebook and Instagram aimed at speaking directly to the public. The campaign trialed the use of memes (main imagery above). The targets were the Canberra ACT kangaroo killing campaign in late June and July.
A short trial also focused on discouraging consumption for people or pets of Australia’s own variety of bushmeat, kangaroo meat — brought to us by a commercial industry. The memes received a lot of public take-up and are proving their use for awareness-raising and political pushback.
• Worked with the US Centre for a Humane Economy to publicise their campaign exposing how the California ban on the import and sale of kangaroo body parts is being flouted. In this case the law has been broken by international sports shoe brands’ use of kangaroo leather for athletic shoes. Story is/will be appearing on this website for your information.
• Travelled through and filed the AWPC archives. This has underscored 50 years of dedicated wildlife work by previous AWPC committees, campaigners and supportive Australians. The archive has yielded documentary evidence for my (Maria Taylor) soon-to-be published book on Australia’s colonial and embedded culture towards the country’s wildlife, and its deadly legacy — told through words and stories of heroes for the voiceless.
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.
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.
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.
Every year the killings traumatise nearby compassionate residents, for instance this 2016 story from Isaacs Ridge. They will be shooting there again this year.
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.
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.
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?
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.
At 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?
IMAGERY: All rights reserved Maria Taylor.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 risk, which has been published in the PNAS scientific journal, “ wrote ECOS journalist Amy Edwards.
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.
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.
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.
• Coronavirus: ‘Nature is sending us a message’, says UN environment chief
• By Damian Carrington, The Guardian
• China bans trade consumption of wild animals to counter virus
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.
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.
Last 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
— Maria Taylor