Author Archives: Peter Hylands

AWPC President’s Report for 2020: Wildlife must come first

Kangaroo-slaughter-cr-Craig-Thomson_AWPC-archives

AS I WRITE this, I have just finished a radio interview with John Nicolson, a Scottish journalist, broadcaster and Scottish National Party politician on London Radio. The discussion this time was about what is being done to Australian wildlife in Victoria by the very government that should be protecting it. There is great concern around the world about what is happening to Australia’s wildlife in Victoria, where things under the current Labor Government are terrible, the same concern exists for all other states and territories around the country.

The aggressive actions by all Australian Governments in enabling the large scale killing of wildlife is occurring despite the catastrophic fires of last summer, despite other climate change impacts and despite all we hear about global extinctions. Surrounding these government activities are significant expenditures to market the acceptability of the killing, which also attempts to demean the Australian species being targeted. Kangaroos are of course in the frontline of the mindless propaganda.

ABOVE: Kangaroo slaughter. Credit Craig Thomson. Source AWPC archives.

I am firstly concerned by the extreme acts of cruelty being perpetrated on Australian wildlife; secondly, I am concerned about what is occurring to Australian species and the continual endangerment of these animals, as more and more Australian species edge towards the brink. There is a growing and third concern, which is the matter of human rights. In this regard I am currently producing a series of films ‘Kangaroo testimonies’ which describe the suffering of land owners as their wildlife populations are butchered around them. These stories are heartbreaking, and how governments can inflict this cruelty on their citizens is beyond any understanding, certainly mine.

At the political level, Australian wildlife has few friends. The Liberal and National Parties remain notorious for their conduct in this area. Labor too, in Victoria, when it comes to wildlife, the current Labor Government outguns the Liberal Nationals by a very long way. In the ACT, the Kangaroo-killer-in-chief has long been a Green, that portfolio is now under a Labor. Let us hope the Greens in the ACT begin to change their spots. We will be working on it. What has occurred in South Australia in the last few years is a disgrace and all the others are just as bad.

In Queensland, a Labor government has handed out macropod extermination licenses to graziers and is enabling the cluster fencing disaster that kills all wildlife, erected with taxpayer money over the past five years. In NSW, a Liberal National government since 2019, has had a de-facto open season on Kangaroos to “help the graziers combat drought” the killing has not abated following the fires. In NSW and Victoria, governments are using 1080 poison in state reserves and parks.

Regarding the use of 1080 in Victoria, note the following:

My question on notice via Green’s Ellen Sandell — Victorian Parliament.

In Victoria has any of the funding allocated from the Government’s January 2020 $17.5 million wildlife and biodiversity rescue package been used for lethal control of pest species, including use of aerial drops of 1080?

(Note Kangaroo meat is used extensively in Australia as a substrate for aerial and other baiting — the use of 1080 poison in aerial drops is banned in most countries around the world because of cruelty reasons and its indiscriminate impact on numerous species.)

The substrate for aerially deployed 1080 baits in Victoria does not contain kangaroo. All aerial bait lines and bait drops are mapped with tree canopy cover considered in developing bait lines. Bait drops are deployed accurately using aircraft navigation, specialised equipment and GPS technology based on heights and airspeed according to environmental conditions. Bait lodgement in the canopy of trees is not a concern.

The impact of pest animals in fire-impacted areas can greatly affect the survival of native plants and animals and the recovery of threatened species and their habitat. Intensified and sustained control of pest animals has been funded as a priority immediate action under the Biodiversity Bushfire Relief and Early Recovery (BBRER) program.

A range of integrated control techniques will be used, including aerial and ground shooting, trapping and ground baiting. Baits used as part of the ground baiting will be buried at an appropriate depth to reduce the risk of non-target impact. No aerial baiting will be funded under the BBRER program. The use of alternatives to 1080 baits, such as PAPP (para-aminopropiophenne) based products, will be trialled in BBRER funded projects. PAPP is a humane, fast-acting toxin.

Note: 1080 baits are and have been used extensively in Victoria and other programs continue.

To be frank, what I have been fed by governments, as they try to make excuses about their behaviour, is a feeble set of excuses and more generally a pack of nonsense. Given the vast loss of wildlife during 2020 from climate change events, the government-enabled killing continues unabated. I have very large problems with what I am seeing regarding standards of governance from some of these governments, the extreme and prejudicial conduct and standards of honesty, and even so under FOI (Freedom of Information). The question is why is this occurring and why do politicians see a benefit to themselves in promoting the mass killing of Australian wildlife? So we are left with the AJP (Animal Justice Party), who now have leverage in the NSW and Victorian Parliaments. We need to give them every assistance. The Greens need to look carefully at what they are doing when it comes to the protection of Australian species.

I am very pleased that my colleague Chris Lehmann is now responsible, on behalf of the AWPC, for managing our Kangaroo response in Australia and internationally.

As in many exploitative industries, unsustainable ‘harvesting’ has led to ‘prey switching’ to new species which is now occurring along with the expansion of ‘operational areas’, where the industry is now shooting kangaroos, South Australia and Victoria are among recent examples. This is occurring as a number of kangaroo shooting zones are closed in other states because of the dramatic decline in kangaroo populations. While we were all in lockdown, the South Australian Government informed me that kangaroo killing would be allowed to continue because it was an essential service. This is the level of stupidity we now live under.

A matter of contempt

I will use Victoria as an example here because something very bad happened on Christmas Eve, which showed contempt for wildlife carers and other regional Victorians living peacefully with their wildlife, in often, once government encouraged, conservation and Land for Wildlife Properties.

On Christmas Eve 2020 I started to receive messages that the Victorian Government had emailed kangaroo shooters and those engaged in the commercial trade in wildlife informing them of the following changes in their ability to trade commercially in Australian wildlife (prior to any public announcement of the changes and prior to the release of kangaroo survey data, nor did they inform any wildlife protection organisations or carers):

  • The commercial quota of Kangaroos in Victoria would be lifted from 57,000 animals to 90,000 animals in 2021 (it looks like they managed to find 40,000 Kangaroos for commercial trade in 2019);
  • That Kangaroo meat in Victoria would now be approved for human consumption and including international export (this in the middle of a zoonotic caused global pandemic); and
  • Interstate sales from Victoria of commercially killed Kangaroos would be approved from 2021.

Needless to say this sent a wave of fear and anxiety — emotions already high — across many residents in regional Victoria who care for their wildlife, run wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centres and have wildlife properties etc. And that translated into a nightmare for us because of the level of concern being direct at us, so our Christmas period was turned on its head in the awful and terrible nature of what was going on. The timing of this, even if it was predictable given the prejudicial standards I describe, was immensely cruel.

Since that time the Victorian Government has not responded to any questions on the matter, this suggests there was some ‘freelancing of information to mates’ prior to any formal government announcements. The standards of governance and duty-of-care relating to this matter are among the most egregious I have seen and full of contempt for those who care about wildlife, particularly so, those individuals living in regional areas who will find themselves in the frontline of the slaughter.

Australian mammal and bird species are in the frontline of commercial hunting activities, recreational hunting and damage mitigation permits. Like all other classes of life, and perhaps particularly so in Australia, they are also in the frontline of climate change. So duck shooting seasons are now being announced, South Australia is (as usual) in the frontline of these announcements, this year removing two duck species from the slaughter of birdlife, these are the Australasian Blue-winged Shoveler and Pink-eared Duck. Neither should we forget the fate of Quail and all the other birdlife caught up in the slaughter.

Submissions to inquiries

We have made a series of submissions to governments and their inquiries and their funded agencies, these include the new code for kangaroo killing — which was not acknowledged, our recommendations completely ignored, nor were we informed of its publication. So days of work wasted. So rude and prejudicial behaviour once again by people whose salaries we are paying for. I will follow this up directly with the individuals involved.

We have made a joint submission with the Animal Protectors Alliance to the Commonwealth Government’s EPBC Review. I quote,

“the complete failure of the EPBC Act, as the only Commonwealth environmental legislation to protect Australia’s environment and to conserve its biodiversity, has resulted in the deaths of billions of individual animals (including invertebrates) and the destruction of thousands of ecosystems. If Australia’s ongoing war against its natural environment is not checked by some form of strong national regulation, the devastation will ultimately extend from natural systems and species to both humans and all the other animals that are (theoretically) in human care.”

While the EPBC report itself was sensible, the subsequent conduct from the Commonwealth Government and its Environment Minister is likely to have the opposite outcome.

Victoria has had two inquiries of direct interest to the AWPC during the year, these were the Loss of biodiversity inquiry and the Review of the animal cruelty POCTA Act. Submission were made to both inquiries and I am awaiting a response. Previous to the submissions I prepared a briefing document covering the issues relating to biodiversity loss for the Greens in Melbourne.

A top-line recommendation in relation to the POCTA Act review was:

“There can only be one recommendation in relation to the matters expressed in this document, that is to halt the persecution of and the extreme cruelty exacted on Kangaroo species (and Wallaby species) in Victoria with a proper and independent investigation of what has occurred and why it has occurred.”

Red Kangaroo

Working with the AJP, in late 2019, we managed to save the remaining Red Kangaroo population in Victoria from the petfood trade. We were persistent in this matter and eventually succeeded. Contempt is such, however, that the Victorian Government will continue to issue ATCW (Authority to Control Wildlife) permits until the species is all but gone. Nothing however can be taken as fixed in this current environment, so we must stay vigilant.

Climate change

The situation regarding action to slow climate change in Australia continues to be a poor one. The situation looks something like this: Australia’s target of a 26 percent reduction of 2005 GHG (Green House Gas) emission levels by 2030 is currently on track for only a genuine 7 percent reduction (that is, without previous target carry-over “credits” being considered) in 2030. Poor policies mean that there continues to be limited action in transport, existing buildings, industrial processes, wastes and agriculture National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI) sectors. The Climate Change Performance Index, used by Climate Change Tracker, found that the best performing countries are Sweden, Denmark and Morocco, and the worst performing are Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and the United States. New Zealand was ranked 34 and Australia 53 of the 58 countries assessed. If Australian fossil fuel exports are embedded into emissions it is likely that Australia’s global share of emissions is somewhere in the region of 3.3 percent.

Among the serious problems impacting biodiversity:

“Changes to the Eastern Australian Current appear to have contributed to a stronger than usual upwelling and more dramatic changes in temperature. The East Australia Current now runs further south than it used to, and is more intense. The current has been affected by climate change, and projections show that the oceans in south-eastern Australia will have the greatest increases in sea temperature in our region. This may cause further changes to the current, resulting in more frequent and intense upwellings in the future”.  — CES

The biggest of bungles

Among the most egregious outcomes for wildlife, the most bungled wildlife rescue of all, was the Victorian Government’s response to wildlife rescue in the state. The numbers I would like you to think about are these:

Total estimated funding for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in Australia following catastrophic fires, local international and all government sources $500,000,000.

3,000,000,000 animals lost and 270 rescued in Victoria from public lands, that is a shocker in anyone’s language.

General matters

I would like to thank the AWPC committee for all its hard work in 2020 and to our young volunteers. A special thank you to all volunteers including Carmen for her work on administrative matters; Sue and Maria, respectively for their design and editorial management of the AWPC website and social media platforms. Also to acknowledge all the work of the committee team, the front office and the communications work that was pivotal in 2020 — all were focused on wildlife work in practice and execution, and that as a team effort they complimented the on-ground and personal outreach work that Chris and I had completed.

All of it very time consuming work, particularly given the circumstances I describe here. This has meant that Chris and I could concentrate on matters directly relating to wildlife and its protection.

The tasks that lie ahead of us for 2021 include:

  • A new ‘business’ plan — I would probably describe this as a strategic plan as we properly document the most effective things that the AWPC can do to assist wildlife in the next five-year period (this work is being supervised by Ian Higgins from the University of Technology Sydney as part of their mentor program);
  • A new website for better communications, continued social media development, including increasing international engagement;
  • An online archive of AWPC resources — which document a valuable history of wildlife and the efforts to protect it; and
  • To develop and publish information about wildlife and what is happening to it, including a new book authored by Maria Taylor, Injustice: hidden in plain sight, the war on Australian nature, and film from Peter Hylands, capturing some of the events I discuss here.

Peter Hylands, AWPC President
18 January 2021

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Victorian government claims impossible kangaroo numbers, encourages people to eat national emblem

Kangaroo-signage-Vict-road-cr-Jodie-Johnson

Today, 28 January 2021, the Victorian Government publicly announced the details of its amplification of its commercial trade in wildlife activities which impacts the remaining Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroo populations in Victoria — information it had previously leaked to shooters on Christmas Eve 2020.

The Kangaroo’s problem is that they are something for nothing

So today we had the usual spin — ‘Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas today announced the 2021 quota allocation for the Kangaroo Harvesting Program — which has risen due to a notable increase in the estimated statewide Kangaroo population in the last three years’.

As claimed by this Minister, it is entirely impossible that ‘there has been a notable increase in the estimated statewide kangaroo population’. The claim from the government is that ‘The 2020 survey estimates the current kangaroo population at almost 2 million across Victoria — up almost 40 percent compared to 2018. To reduce waste and boost economic opportunities, the Labor Government will allow the extra meat to be made available for human consumption — not just for pet food as is currently the case — and look for opportunities to export the skins’.

I won’t quote anymore of this nonsense, which is impart also contradictory, as you will have heard it all before. Many of the claims are completely false.

Why has there been such a significant rise in Kangaroo populations in Victoria since 2018?

The answer is there has not been an increase, the opposite has occurred. There has been a significant decline in the populations of the two species being targeted in Victoria. This is because of:

• Intensive shooting of these animals in Victoria since 2014 when the commercial trade commenced in trial form, this also takes out the next generation of Kangaroos as the joeys are also killed;

• Catastrophic climate conditions including fires which are likely to have accounted for 200,000 (Wallabies not included in this number) Kangaroos in Victoria during last summer’s fires;

• Vastly overstated Kangaroo populations from previous surveys. The way the maths is likely to work here is that the smaller the Kangaroo populations when the mass killing commences, the faster the animal vanishes, populations of these animals have been relatively small in Victoria when compared to other places; and

• Impossible reproductive rates are being claimed.

So what is actually happening is that, as populations decline, this is happening quickly, the population estimates and associated quotas go up, so the population declines even faster.

So what the Victorian Government has done is trapped itself in its own spin and falsehoods.

The way this works is that they have now encouraged shooters (currently 80 or so in Victoria) to shoot a very small number of animals, given what is actually required to make this viable for so many people. So they have no choice but to shift up the value chain (if you can call it that) by introducing human consumption, then boosting population numbers to keep the quotas up.

The Minister responsible for this shambles, they should have stopped it in its tracks, needs to explain how and why the population grew by a staggering amount given what I have said previously. So it looks very much as if they changed their methodology yet again to boost the numbers. So once again the only population explosion is on a spreadsheet on someone’s laptop in a government office.

We did not think they would have had the nerve to push the number up so high — we clearly underestimated their capacity for wrong doing. We have asked for the survey and quota report(s) for 2021 but not had a response so far.

As we have said a thousand times, there is a great deal of propaganda here, and a lot of myths, the one that needs busting today, is the claim that the increase quotas also reduces the number of Kangaroos competing with livestock. A few points here:

• The grass this year in many places is plentiful — often waist high, so there is more than enough for everyone and what remains looks very much like a fire hazard;

• Some of the introduced plants and grasses are toxic for Kangaroos and will make them extremely ill or even kill them; and

• The Victorian Kangaroo surveys will show that there are very few Kangaroos associated with farmland. Many of the remaining Kangaroo populations will be on public land, National and State Parks, reserves and so on, or on private properties where the owners have protected the wildlife they have chosen to live with, as we did for so many years before our conservation property in Victoria was destroyed.

There is also a major problem looming for wildlife shelters and those rehabilitating wildlife, these properties typically have a great deal of wildlife, including Kangaroos, associated with them.

Although I have raised, and now in some detail, the human rights abuses that have and are now more likely to occur in Victoria given what is being done here, which engulf those individuals who choose to live peacefully in regional Victoria along with their wildlife, the senior politicians within the Victorian Government have chosen to entirely ignore the high risk of abuse and endangerment. And we are talking about high-powered rifles being used close to houses, not the shotguns used so commonly to kill birdlife on Victoria’s Ramsar sites.

State of play: Wildlife in Victoria

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Amid claims from the Victorian Government that various native species are overabundant, and extraordinarily these claims still continue in various plans being issued by the Victorian Government, despite the vast scale loss of wildlife in the devastating fires.

Here is an updated analysis of some of the Victorian Government’s numbers (publicly available or obtained under FOI) from our President, Peter Hylands, as he describes the real situation for Australian wildlife in the State of Victoria. The question we need to ask is why is so much wildlife dying in Victoria because of the enabling and often promotion of these killing activities by the very government responsible for the welfare of these precious and unique animals?

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2020 WAS A very grim year for Victoria’s Australian species. What we can tell you is that Australian wildlife in Victoria is anything but protected. Wildlife in Victoria is also subject to extreme acts of cruelty. Much of this activity is encouraged and enabled by its current government.

“As we managed to get caught in Melbourne’s extensive lockdown and ring of steel which locked up the city for many weeks, I have taken some of that time to investigate the current circumstances for Victoria’s native species. As always, marsupials and birdlife are in the forefront of the abuse. I have created this as a reference document for the reader to use”.

Here are some simple facts for Victoria that tell a very grim story, yet the killing continues and is encouraged by the Victorian Government, and oddly by organisations such as the Country Women’s Association (CWA) as has recently been the case in Central Victoria.

At a time of dire environmental conditions, including vast scale bushfires, the killing of Australia’s wildlife in Victoria has continued at scale. Permits to kill Kangaroos on a very large scale have been issued across Victoria’s regions (including Central Victoria) and populations are declining rapidly region by region, as remaining populations are targeted by commercial and non-commercial shooting activities.

As is the case for the rest of Australia, the Victorian Government Kangaroo population estimates are exaggerated and this means that commercial quotas are most often not met (because the Kangaroos are not there in the numbers stated) and in at least one case in Victoria, and for one species of Kangaroo (it is now coming close to being more than one species), the number of permits being issued and the number of animals covered by these permits is likely to exceed their entire state population for that species. Victoria has been converting its Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW) Kangaroo permits to commercial permits, a process that commenced in 2014. We can however expect to see a drop off of animals killed in Victoria against commercial quotas as populations dwindle. Australia, including Victoria, is the leading exterminator of mammal species in the world.

“In early March 2020 I was working in the desert country to the west of Alice Springs, a remote place where I often stay. Coming in to see our friends in Hermannsburg I rang the Victorian ecodev number 136 186 to enquire how the latest Kangaroo harvest quotas had been calculated for each Victorian region. I was put through to a staff member in Ballarat and initially told there had been surveys in both 2019 and 2020. I knew this to be incorrect so when I queried the response, I was given a lecture about how terrible these animals are and told that people (like me) living in cities do not understand the issues. Given that I have owned two significant rural properties, one in Central Victoria over many decades and another near the Endeavour River in Far North Queensland and I spend time working in the remotest places in Australia and I know a lot about numbers, these claims seemed pretty outrageous”. — Peter Hylands

Impact of the commercial trade in Kangaroos on killing rates in Victoria

The repugnantly named Kangaroo Harvesting Program (KHP) began in Victoria on 1 October 2019 following the Kangaroo Pet Food Trial (KPFT) which commenced in 2014. If the periods 2009–13 and 2014–18 are compared, the rate of killing roughly tripled from 259,288 to 747,659 animals when those periods are compared. Sadly, having saved the Red Kangaroo from the pet food can in Victoria over concerns with vastly exaggerated population numbers, the high level of animals subject to the non-commercial ATCW permit in 2019 (10,073 animals) can only be described as malicious conduct.

These next numbers required a bit of guess work so may be out by a small margin, but it looks like since 2009, much of it occurring from 2014 on, permits were issued to kill 1,385,339 Kangaroos, of which 555,026 were victims to the commercial trade in wildlife, across three species, that is the Eastern Grey, the Western Grey and the Red Kangaroo (other species were also killed in substantial numbers). If we add another 20 percent to that number for the number of Joeys killed by these activities that adds yet another 277,000 animals to the slaughter since 2009.

“The claims from both politicians and public servants in Victoria that the Kangaroo Pet Food Trial would not increase the rate of Kangaroo killing, and then, once the trial had commenced, claims that significant increases in the killing rate (for example an increase of the killing rate for the Red Kangaroo of 759 times over the 2011 control total) was due to favourable climatic conditions, and hence conditions for breeding resulting in population increases, are simply untrue. This becomes entirely obvious once the increases in kill rates are analysed by region. The very significant increases in kill rates occurred in the Kangaroo Pet Food Trial zones. This is simply disgraceful, particularly given the rates of killing from the period the trial commenced, that it is most probable that populations had started to decline rapidly during 2016.”

— Peter Hylands, 2018

The most Eastern Grey Kangaroos for which permits were issued in the period 01/01/2017 to 31/10/2019 in any shire, were in the Mitchell Shire in Melbourne’s North at 37,920. While this number is a complete disgrace in itself, it is troubling in another sense, in that the greatest level of killing is now associated with regions closer to Melbourne and not traditionally the core Kangaroo killing grounds in those places where the greatest Kangaroo populations once existed.

On inspection of Victorian Government data under FOI we discovered this note attached to the tables as a footnote

NOTE: that the Western Grey Kangaroo figures is considered highly inflated, as the reporting tool only allows harvesters to identify Western Greys which is creating user error – enhancements to the reporting tool will be implemented in 2020.

This NOTE is startling for two reasons – the Kangaroo Pet Food Trial and full commercial market, have combined, now been operating for six years, and DELWP are still not able to know what species are being killed. Secondly this makes a complete mockery of the Kangaroo surveys in Victoria and the population numbers these expensive (to the public purse) activities generate.

Surveys

“In its extensive and recent Kangaroo surveys the Victorian Government were able to count just 23 Red Kangaroos and 2,607 Grey Kangaroos (both Eastern and Western Greys) in 2017 and in a much more extensive survey in 2018 they counted just 91 Red Kangaroos and 4,707 Grey Kangaroos (again this figure includes both Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroos). We should also not forget that the Victorian Government is spending a great deal of taxpayers money establishing and ‘managing’ (it is a disgrace) this commercial trade in Australia’s wildlife as well as its disastrous persecution of birdlife on Victoria’s dwindling wetlands. There needs to be proper accountability within government for the various scandals that have emerged in the last few years”. — Peter Hylands, 2019

Victorian Government comparisons — Coalition/Labor (2009–18)

  •  In Victoria in the ten-year period 2009–18 inclusive a total of 32,147 ATCWs were issued for Australian species covering 1,513,605 animals.
  •  In Victoria, the total number of animals subject to ATCWs in the period 2016–18 was 2.3 times higher than the number of animals subject to ATCWs 2009–11.
  •  The number of ATCWs (permits) issued in 2016–18 was 1.66 times higher than the number of ATCWs issued in the period 2009–11.
  •  Victoria is also not the place to be if you happen to be a bird, 73 percent of species subject to control in Victoria were bird species with a total of 397,549 birds, of which 182,721 or 45 percent were from a range of parrot species. We also need to remember that ATCWs are not the only way animals in Victoria die, so we can add another 4.5 million dead water birds and Quail (I am being modest in my calculations) in the last ten years to the tally in Victoria because of duck shooting in the state. So all up, that is around 4.9 million birds in the state in the ten year period.
  •  Politics and nature: The Victorian Labor Government was elected in November 2014 and has increased the number of animals killed across a range of mechanisms. The Labor tally in relation to ATCWs in the years 2015–18 totals 16,010 ATCW permits covering 844,625 animals. In the previous four-year period the Liberal–National Coalition Government in Victoria issued 11,146 ATCW permits covering 461,593 animals, 54 percent of the Labor total.

ATCWs issued in 2019 – summary

In 2019 the Victorian Labor Government added a further 3,429 ATCW permits (covering 57 native species) to the list of Australian wildlife to be ‘controlled’ covering 183,586 native animals (remember this excludes wildlife killed by commercial wildlife activities [which are growing], other types of hunting, unprotected species and young etc). The real shockers in 2019, despite a range of circumstances and reasons not to be doing it, are the continued and extensive persecution of flying foxes (in this case the dying and disruption to breeding occurs during scaring events) and the significant number of animals covered by ATCWs for Emus, Wombats, Cockatoos and other Parrot species, Red Kangaroos and Western Grey Kangaroos (despite their likely status).

The poor Eastern Grey Kangaroo heads the list, despite its populations being decimated by commercial activities, at 112,477 animals. Shockingly, 20,837 ATCWs to kill 1,001,965 Eastern Grey Kangaroos have been issued since 2009.

Although still relatively few in terms of the number of permits issued Australian Fur Seals seem to have attracted some attention in the year, with the number of permits being issued almost matching those for the previous decade total for the species. The Australian Raven also took a hammering in the year, as did Black Swans.

ATCWs Victoria 2009-19

“The reasons given for issuing ATCW permits and killing these animals are trite at best and include they eat grass, damage fences, are fouling water and migrating weeds (cattle and other farmed animals do these things far more effectively than native animals can ever do).”  — Peter Hylands, 2020

Below are part of my Questions with Answers from the Victorian Government.

In the listing of ATCWs 2009–2017 what is the split between lethal and non-lethal methods over this period? My research indicates that the department is against moving wildlife, preferring it to be destroyed.  DELWP is unable to provide the split between authorisations for lethal and non-lethal control as our current permit database does not have the function to be able to produce a report on this. A new database is being developed which will address this limitation.

How many ATCW applications have been rejected?  Our current permit database does not have the function to able to produce a report on this. A new database is currently being developed which will address this limitation.

What species are off the list in terms of not requiring an ATCW to destroy them?  Under section 7A of the Wildlife Act, the Minister can recommend to the Governor in Council to declare a species of wildlife unprotected in a specified area. Whilst this means that the unprotected species of wildlife may be controlled without an ATCW, it does not mean that control is not regulated. The unprotection order will specify the period and area to which the Order applies, in what circumstances the species is unprotected, and the conditions that must be met, such as who may control the species and the methods they may use. There are currently unprotection orders in place for Brushtail Possums living in buildings and municipal parks, Dingos on or within a certain distance from private land for the protection of livestock, and Long-billed Corellas, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Galahs causing damage to property.

Why has the annual rate of animals subject to ATCWs risen so sharply?  Wildlife population numbers fluctuate as availability of food and water changes in response to variations in temperature and rainfall. This means that the number of ATCWs sought by landholders also fluctuates year by year. For example, if there are dry conditions then landholders are more likely to seek an ATCW to reduce the competition between wildlife and their stock for feed.

In Victoria has any of the funding allocated from the Government’s January 2020 $17.5 million wildlife and biodiversity rescue package been used for lethal control of pest species, including use of aerial drops of 1080? (note Kangaroo meat is used extensively in Australia as a substrate for aerial and other baiting – the use of 1080 poison in aerial drops is banned in most countries around the world because of cruelty reasons and its indiscriminate impact on numerous species).  The substrate for aerially deployed 1080 baits in Victoria does not contain kangaroo. All aerial bait lines and bait drops are mapped with tree canopy cover considered in developing bait lines. Bait drops are deployed accurately using aircraft navigation, specialised equipment and GPS technology based on heights and airspeed according to environmental conditions. Bait lodgement in the canopy of trees is not a concern. The impact of pest animals in fire-impacted areas can greatly affect the survival of native plants and animals and the recovery of threatened species and their habitat. Intensified and sustained control of pest animals has been funded as a priority immediate action under the Biodiversity Bushfire Relief and Early Recovery (BBRER) program.  A range of integrated control techniques will be used, including aerial and ground shooting, trapping and ground baiting. Baits used as part of the ground baiting will be buried at an appropriate depth to reduce the risk of non-target impact. No aerial baiting will be funded under the BBRER program. The use of alternatives to 1080 baits, such as PAPP (para-aminopropiophenne) based products, will be trialled in BBRER funded projects. PAPP is a humane, fast-acting toxin.

NOTE: 1080 baits are and have been used extensively in Victoria and other programs continue.

Far from the transparency the Victorian Government pretends, I have had great difficulty on extracting information about the government’s own killing activities relating to Australian wildlife on public lands including state and national parks (particularly at the time of the fires). After initially refusing to provide the information the request has been subject to a series of FOI requests and more recently Questions on Notice in the Victorian Parliament.

What lethal control activities involving native wildlife were undertaken by the Government during the period of October 2019 to February 2020, and is data available on the species and quantities controlled?  Records held by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) show that during the period in question, eight Authorities to Control Wildlife (ATCWs) were issued to government agencies for the lethal control of a range of native wildlife species on public land. ATCWs include strict conditions to ensure wildlife are controlled humanely. ATCWs issued during this period may not have been acted on immediately, as they are typically issued for one year. Records of the species and numbers actually controlled during that period will generally be held by the agency that is responsible for undertaking the wildlife control.  

NOTE: After nearly a year of trying to get the species and numbers data we are still trying.

So which Australian species are on the Victoria Government kill list?

As of 25/02/2020: 88 Australian species in Victoria were subject to control by shooting, a subset of those species (22) were further subject to control by trapping or gassing, again a subset of those on the shoot list were also subject to control by trapping and shooting, a further subset of species (12) were subject to control by destruction of eggs and nests.

“So an ATCW permit holder in Victoria can shoot Australian Fur Seals or Pacific Herons, trap and gas Brown Antechinus or destroy the nest (and presumably the young) of a Black Swan.

All this represents suffering and cruelty at enormous scale. Not one is likely to be supervised”

— Peter Hylands, 2020

The list and number of wildlife to be ‘controlled’ in Victoria are greater than those shown above (which are all on the kill list). It should be noted that within the government tables that provide this information there is an UNSPECIFIED category, which according to the environment department, means ‘scare’. While the UNSPECIFIED category has been applied as an alternative in the government table and to many of the species above, there is little evidence, and the department has not been able to provide any, that ‘scaring’ is an option that is much used for those species listed above (flying foxes and a couple of bird species aside). The bullet is by far the most favoured method of ‘control’.

2019–20 Summer fires

Australia’s greatest fires in living memory, along with the death of billions of animals, had little or no impact on Victorian Governments’ attitudes to wildlife. In most cases the killing continued, commercial native wildlife activity was halted for a few days upon request but secretly reinstated, literally within days of the ban.

The duck shooting season, albeit modified, was held in 2020. Bird killing activities, including use of ATCWs and hunting accounted for around five million birds in the last decade or so. The Victorian Government continues its grievous assault on Australia’s birdlife despite a near 90 percent fall in waterbird populations over the last four decades. The commercial trade in Kangaroos in Victoria has commenced in most regions so badly impacted by fire just a few months ago. The justification for this most recent crime — a desktop study by a Victorian Government agency.

“The 2011 and 2012 Duck and Quail seasons in Victoria accounting for an eye watering 1,917,137 bird deaths, many of these deaths occurring on Ramsar sites (signposted game reserves in Victoria NOT Ramsar sites). 2011–12 season estimates from GMA converted calendar year higher estimates from the two-monthly surveys.” — Peter Hylands, 2020

All signs are that the 2021 waterbird shooting season will commence in March, amid of course claims of exploding bird populations. There is only one way to put this — it is, and will be, a lie.

After a vast amount was donated for the rescue and rehabilitation of native wildlife in Victoria and elsewhere and significant government funds were allocated to help in the task the Victorian Government and its environment department rescues just 270 animals from public lands in Victoria (including state and national parks) blocking the rescue efforts of specialists and volunteers. 75 percent of those animals rescued from public lands were Koalas, an act of window dressing at best.

Despite the fires, the pandemic, the suffering and other climate change impacts, the Victorian Government continues to promote and enable its wildlife killing schemes. The double standards applied are evident given the difficulty in finding out critical information if you are trying to help animals, when compared to the ease for, and service provided to those doing or requesting the killing, here is just one example from the Victorian Government’s website:

Find harvesters to manage kangaroo populations on your property. This takes about 3 minutes. After you’ve given us this info, we will email you a list of authorised harvesters with quotas available for your zone. It’s then up to you to make direct contact with one or more to organise a time and date for harvest. There’s no charge for this service.

Perversely, we are charged for the information we request in trying to help animals, just as we did successfully for the Red Kangaroo in Victoria when it was saved from the petfood can and commercial exploitation. This was achieved by analysing and describing the considerable shortcomings in the government data on which the decisions are made.

Historical note

“So when Australian species have made that journey to the brink, many have gone over the edge, they become endangered, and then perhaps, if they are lucky, some attention and belated compassion is directed towards them. By then it is really too late.” Peter Hylands 2020

The Commercial trade in Kangaroos was banned by the Victorian Government after a trial in the early 1980s. These were the species on the commercial list at that time:

  1. Red-necked Wallaby, Macropus rufogriseus
  2. Black Wallaby or Swamp Wallaby Wallabia bicolor
  3. Western Grey Kangaroo, Macropus fuliginosus
  4. Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Macropus giganteus 
  5. Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus.

For all species combined, the quota in 1982 was 33,000 animals.

A note on climate change in Australia

Australia’s target of a 26 percent reduction of 2005 Green House Gas (GHG) emission levels by 2030 is currently on track for only a genuine 7 percent reduction (that is, without previous target carry-over “credits” being considered) in 2030. Poor policies mean that there continues to be limited action in transport, existing buildings, industrial processes, wastes and agriculture National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI) sectors. The Climate Change Performance Index, used by Climate Change Tracker, found that the best performing countries are Sweden, Denmark and Morocco, and the worst performing are Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and the US. New Zealand was ranked 34 and Australia 53 of the 58 countries assessed. If Australian fossil fuel exports are embedded into emissions it is likely that Australia’s global share of emissions is somewhere in the region of 3.3 percent. Note: Latest GHG reduction figure for Australia provided by Graham Armstrong, Saturn Corporate Resources.

The Anthropogenic

So how did Victoria get to this place? We all know that COVID has exposed structural weaknesses in society, in the case of Victoria the spread of the virus in a potentially devastating second wave for all of Australia, described that process very clearly. The lack of accountability in relation to wildlife matters is also very evident, with ‘responsibility’ shared between various Victorian Government  departments and agencies and Ministers (clearly not an accident), which in the end means that no one is responsible for the cruelty and killing. As these departments grow, so does the destructive activity, as does the elaborate disinformation and justifications, including the rise of a kind of pseudo-science (at tax payers expense) designed specifically to justify every aspect of the behaviour.

I have asked Victoria’s Environment Minister what drives the killing of wildlife and the growing number of animals being targeted? Among the many questions not answered, this is just one. I will end by saying I have tried to set up a meeting with a Labor Party Environment Minister for six years without success (and I am currently the President of a long established and distinguished Australian wildlife organisation). The purpose of the meeting is to go through the issues and discuss the numbers of native animals being killed by the enabling practices of the Victorian Government. Clearly the public service in Victoria are very keen to keep Ministers away from people who deliver a different message to the one being peddled and conducted by the internal mechanisms of government. This is a dangerous road, in the case of COVID it has also proved dangerous for the Minister and public servants associated with the matter.

Peter Hylands, President AWPC
16 November 2020

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BEYOND COMPREHENSION (from the AWPC President)

Agile-wallaby-project-Cairns

An update on Australia’s treatment of Kangaroos and Wallabies state-by-state

Dateline: August 2020.

I THOUGHT THAT in this message to you I would attempt to pick out a few of the numerous situations for wildlife across the continent that I am extremely concerned about, this time focusing on Kangaroos and Wallabies. Sadly these provide a pattern for the behaviour and conduct of governments in Australia that extend to other species as well.

ABOVE: There is some good news — Shai Ager and her colleagues (The Agile Project) are relocating Agile Wallabies in North Queensland. See more at end of article. (Image used with permission.)

The very difficult situation faced by Australia’s wildlife makes life very difficult for people as well. I want to thank everyone involved, the AWPC committee, its members and all the other groups, in Australia and overseas, that are working so hard to try to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to so much cruelty towards, and endangerment of these very precious Australian species.

Frustratingly at this time I am in lockdown in inner Melbourne and that makes dealing with these issues many times more difficult than it would normally be. We prefer to be out there with the animals rather than shut away in the city.

I made the following point to Lily D’Ambrosio, Victoria’s Minster for the Environment, just this morning:

“We should all be very clear that COVID is not a cover for either ignoring the current circumstances (which are dire), or increasing attacks on, biodiversity and biomes in this state”.

Further to lockdown, face masks and wildlife

I want to make the following points about this, during the various lockdowns (Melbourne begins a night time curfew as of this evening) we have done what was asked of us, which goes without saying, and continued to work on our projects at home and online. The food has been delivered and we exist in relative safety.

We are where we are now because many in the community chose to ignore their responsibilities and duty-of-care to others. The breaches of restrictions in the place we live were evident as parties continued and social distancing protocols were ignored. What this has done is to place many of us in very great danger; the front line workers, particularly those in the health care sector, various government employees having to deal with this situation, essential retail staff and the list goes on. We thank them all. We are still much better off than many of our friends across the world, where food is scarce and the opportunity to isolate does not exist.

It is extremely important that everyone wears a face mask to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus, the international data on the subject tells a very compelling story. Around the world masks are now everywhere. Many of these masks are single-use and we now see them washing up on the beach and discarded in the streets.

Japan, where mask use is commonplace, particularly when people are using public transport or shopping, produces 4 billion disposable face masks each year, most are used in Japan. So multiply that around the world and we are talking vast numbers of face masks being discarded each and every day. Every single mask, unless disposed of with care, is a deadly hazard for wildlife, both on land or in the sea.


kangaroo-shoes-aug2020Kangaroos are not shoes

In California, where the virus also rages, our friends from the Centre for a Humane Economy release a new study as part of its Kangaroosarenotshoes campaign, which is now gaining attention around the world.

“We now learn the true death and displacement toll as a result of Australia’s catastrophic wildfires may be three billion animals, including uncounted kangaroos,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Center for a Humane Economy. “It’s now being called ‘one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history’. Despite this crisis, commercial shooters are still massacring kangaroos, and their skins are still being sold in California despite a law that makes it a crime to trade in their parts.”  

“Australia’s commercial kangaroo shootings, the world’s largest wildlife slaughter, is being further fuelled by vast violations of a ban on kangaroo body parts in the State of California, according to a new study by the Center for a Humane Economy, a US-based non-profit organization that promotes animal welfare in the business sector”. 


Matters of concern post fire

Nearly three billion animals — mammals, reptiles, birds, and frogs — were killed or displaced by Australia’s devastating 2019–20 bushfires”.  WWF

You may recall that we spent almost two months travelling the fire grounds in NSW / the ACT and Victoria and did so around that devastating Christmas period of 2019–2020. That was trauma enough, but what shocked me to the core was that, despite the vast numbers of native animals killed during that time, and the large amounts of money flooding in to rescue and care for wildlife because of the fires, the killing of Kangaroos and other native Australian animals continued without mercy. Here are a few examples.


The killing of Kangaroos in the ACT

As you can imagine I receive a large number of communications from people around the world, including Australia, who are very concerned about what is happening to Australia’s wildlife — the killings in Canberra are not a good international image for this country and I can say that this negative perception has grown markedly and will continue to do so unless things change.

What follows is a quote regarding Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve in the ACT where shooting had just occurred:

“Never let it be said that driving heavy vehicles on soggy ground, then stepping all over the grass, plants and flora, gets in the way of killing Kangaroos”.  Robyn Soxsmith (Animal Protectors Alliance) 23 June 2020

The threatened species, which the ACT Government says it is protecting through its mass Kangaroo killing programs, continue to disappear, even after all the Kangaroos have gone. After the removal of Kangaroos from grasslands, cattle appear (ecological grazing) on grassland reserves, hazard reduction burns are also conducted and the plans for Canberra’s expansion suggest another 100,000 homes are required. The science that drives the killing is dubious at best.

RELATED STORY:
They’re advised not to shoot Mums in Canberra, ACT — but they do, here’s how

To try to help the local effort to stop the killing, I had a long discussion with Greens MP, Shane Rattenbury, (among other portfolios he is the Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability). Shane has been a keen and long-term supporter of the killing. Shane believes the ACT’s science and quotes it over and over again despite what I described to him. So we went around in a big circle and the killing continues.

According to FOI information obtained, it looks like the ACT Government has spent something in the order of $3.321 million in the four years to 2019 on matters associated with killing Kangaroos.

It is very evident to me, and I am talking continent-wide here, that those protecting wildlife get nothing (particularly if they are protecting Kangaroos), while those killing and demeaning Australia’s wildlife are paid handsomely for their work. It is clear from the rapid endangerment of more and more species across the continent that all governments could have done a great deal better. The current results are a marker of performance.


South Australia and the killing of Kangaroos, adding Wallabies

I have challenged the South Australian Government on their plans to ‘prey switch’ by adding other species of Wallaby and Kangaroo to their ‘harvest list that legalises this abhorrent and cruel trade in wildlife. Additional species include the Kangaroo Island Tammar Wallaby (mainland species thought to have been extinct) and the Eastern Grey Kangaroo (until recently described by the South Australian Government as rare in the state). The later magically increasing in population while other species, because of severe drought and significant levels of killing, have experienced significant declines in already exaggerated population estimates.

“The SA Government estimates there are about 1.5 million red kangaroos in the state, followed by 1.3 million western grey kangaroos and 570,000 wallaroos, or euros. For red kangaroos, that is a fall of 39 per cent from the previous year and 4 per cent down on the average”.  ABC July 2020

The response from the government in relation to my questions regarding the Eastern Grey Kangaroo was as follows:

“Kangaroo populations in the north of the state have declined since 2018 due to drought conditions that continue to effect these regions. The Eastern Grey Kangaroo has increased in distribution and abundance in the south east of SA over the last 10–15 years and no longer meets the requirements of a rare species under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.” 

Shockingly one response from the government, when I asked about the dangers inherent in this industry in relation to disease, including COVID and its evident presence in factories processing animals, simply stated that:

“Agricultural industries, which includes the commercial kangaroo industry, and related businesses across the food chain are considered an essential service and may operate as normal with consideration of social distancing and other restrictions”.  SA Department of Environment and Water

Kangaroo Island that tourists love: also a target for kangaroo killing?

Given the scale of the fire tragedy on Kangaroo Island, which also received significant funding for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation from around the world (and the species on it were also a pre-wildfire target for expansion of the commercial trade in Kangaroos and Wallabies) required a question from me in relation to the population survey being conducted on the island and what the government calls a ‘harvest’. Here is the answer:

“The purpose of a kangaroo and wallaby survey on Kangaroo Island is to gather an island wide population estimate post-fire. This information will be used to inform decisions regarding a sustainable harvest on the island”.  SA Department of Environment and Water

In Victoria (as of 3 August 2020) the case of the Lilydale Kangaroos, is yet another stranding, despite the government’s promises that this would not be allowed to happen again. The lives of these animals, they were due to be killed in the next few days as I write, hung in the balance. Along with strong submissions from neighbouring residents and other wildlife defender groups I wrote to the Victoria’s Environment Minister:

“I understand that DELWP are using the excuse that Kangaroos cannot be rescued successfully as 40 percent will die when relocated. As I have said over and over and over again in my many communications to the Victorian Government and in my many writings and articles on the subject, this assertion is a falsehood. And by ignoring the evidence and circumstances we face today, the Victorian Government ignores the endless and immense suffering these animals experience (not to mention the sentient humans that live in this state) caused by the actions of the Victorian Government and its archaic attitudes. And in continuing with the same old nonsense, ignoring the extraordinary loss of wildlife, not only from the persecution of numerous native species by the government (Labor is at least twice as bad as what proceeded it — which was terrible) but also from the wildfires. The latter, can be described as the greatest single catastrophe for Australian wildlife in thousands of years.”

We can only hope, particularly given the disastrous COVID situation in Victoria, that theses animals, a small number, get a reprieve and the government shows some common sense and compassion, rather than allowing the killing of wildlife to continue while the rest of us are told to stay at home.

Now we move to Melbourne’s North and the peri-urban local government area of Nillumbik. I had a strong sense that the Victorian Government’s environment department (DELWP) was trying to open up Melbourne’s peri-urban local government areas (where Kangaroos still exist) to commercial shooters. This is because Kangaroo populations in the rural parts of the state have been decimated as is evident by the figures now showing up on government reports. I hope that the significant concern from a lot of people that this might be the plan, has kept this terrible plan at bay for now. We do however all need to keep an eye on the situation.

The killing of Kangaroos in some regions of Victoria has been significant, and that includes the area around the settlement of Dunkeld in that state’s west where shocking scenes of butchering are described by the town’s residents and business people.

“We could hear shooting very close by and could see the vehicles moving around 178 Victoria Valley Road. We were terrified for, not only our lives, but our neighbours as well.  The Police did not attend; we went outside to see what was happening.  We called the Hamilton Police directly, but they again refused to come out, claiming that the shooter had a permit”.  Jane Gibb, Dunkeld


Queensland

Here, there is a well-deserved victory for wildlife. Our congratulations to Shai Ager and her colleagues for the hard won success. The battle has been with the Queensland Government, its Environment Department attempting to block rescue efforts of these beautiful and diminutive animals, and in doing so enabling the cruel death of many animals as they have been vandalised and poisoned.

 

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Harm done: the tragedy of duck shooting in Australia

dead-duck-creative-cowboy-films-v2

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.

unnatural-disaster-creative-cowboy

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.

stubble-quail-cr-peter-hylands

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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