Australian Wildlife Protection Council

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2021 AWPC President’s Report to membership

I WOULD LIKE to start by thanking the dedicated AWPC committee and members for their contribution in what has been a very difficult two years since my presidency commenced and for all Australian species, in seas and oceans, in the sky and on the land.

In the two years I have been privileged to be President of the AWPC in Australia, three billion native animals are estimated to have died in catastrophic fires, ten million Kangaroos and their young have been killed in the most cruel and disgraceful circumstances and authorities to kill wildlife have been issued by state and territory governments in vast numbers and for a staggering array of species. Hardly a success story, but I take comfort from a knowledgeable colleague in Canberra who says “the very worst thing would be to stop trying”. And tried we have, each and every one.

The AWPC committee and AWPC members have engaged in the following activities in support of Australian wildlife:

We also thank our numerous partner organisations and are particularly proud of our part in the development of the International Kangaroo Protection Alliance, a grouping of international experts connecting Europe, the Middle East, the United States and the Asia Pacific to inform governments about the consequences of the exploitation, cruelty and loss of Australian wildlife, in this case the growing number of species of Kangaroo and Wallaby now exploited for commercial gain.

Over the last two years I have done numerous media interviews, a majority on radio and many overseas.

Solutions to the serious nature of extreme biodiversity loss in Australia

There is no sugar-coating of what is occurring in Australia and things have become continually worst, regardless of our efforts to slow the destruction of biodiversity. Conduct in relation to climate change is an exact parallel.

The best things we can do are:

If we don’t do these things, and fast, there will be nothing. In the end it can only be up to us, and that is everyone, and everywhere.

The AWPC and government submissions

The AWPC has had an intensive period of advocating for wildlife including submission, meetings and sometimes appearances at government inquiries, work taking hundreds of hours of research and authorship as well as sharing of knowledge to politicians and their staff and moral support of witnesses. This work remains an important part of AWPC’s contribution to wildlife conservation and survival in Australia.

We have contributed to the following inquiries during my time as President:

The role of Governments in Australia in enabling and promoting the mass killing of Australian native species for commercial gain, sport and recreation and ‘mitigation’.

Australian mammal and bird species are in the front line of government-enabled killing activities. Australian fauna has few friends in government, all major parties are engaged in enabling its destruction. Typically governments apply the same tactics as each other to enable the mass killing of wildlife involving misleading and inaccurate information. This is a general rule, with a few exceptions, the individuals defending and caring for Australia’s wildlife are not paid for their immensely hard work and contingent suffering, while those exploiting wildlife commercially or promoting and enabling the numerous wildlife killing activities around the Australian Continent are paid handsomely for their grim conduct. This conduct is increasingly secretive (because it is so bad and they know it) while the pretence is for increasing transparency.

As I reported last year the aggressive actions by all Australian Governments in enabling the large scale killing of wildlife is and has occurred despite the catastrophic fires of the 2019–20 summer and these activities are further contributing to regional extinctions and species endangerment. As before, government actions against native species are creating significant expenditures for taxpayers who are funding the enabling of and marketing of the acceptability of the killing, a process which further demeans the Australian species being targeted.

A classic example of government conduct promoting and enabling the killing of wildlife was my visit to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to meet politicians in Canberra regarding the killing of Kangaroos in the territory’s parks and reserves. I visited the ACT Legislative Assembly with leading wildlife experts and concerned individuals to meet with Greens MP Jo Clay and her staff.

Among other things Jo is the spokesperson for ‘Active Travel and Road Safety, Planning, Parks and Conservation, Animal Welfare’. The Greens are now a powerful force in the ACT yet they remain determined killers of Kangaroos in the territory while the ACT’s Environment Minister, Rebecca Vassarotti, also a Green and defender of the killing and cruelty (based on nonsense) refused to see our group. So the killing of Kangaroos in the ACT went ahead again this year despite the vast array of evidence that shows it should not have occurred and despite the great loss of biodiversity in the ACT from climate-related fire storms. The Greens in the ACT have yet again been no friend to Australian wildlife, happily this has not been the case in NSW and Victoria where the Greens have been very supportive of efforts to safeguard the future of Australian species.

While the general assumption is that Liberal and National Coalition Governments are the worst when it comes to protection of wildlife, Labor can surprisingly be worse, as has been the case in Victoria since 2014. The Queensland Government is also particularly terrible. My advice to the national leadership of the Labor Party, and particularly Anthony Albanese, is to take a very close look at what is being done to the natural world in states where Labor is in power and to look carefully at those parts of the public service that are promoting and enabling the mass killing activities within those states.

Cruelty to wildlife

There is no doubt in my mind that the conduct of governments in Australia contributes to the ‘entitlement’ of those harming wildlife, either believing theirs is a valid cause or giving them the confidence that the most extreme acts of cruelty will never be investigated or prosecuted.

Again a top-line example here is what is being done to Kangaroo and Wallaby species in Australia. An update to the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes (the Code) was released on Wednesday 18 November 2020. The protections for Kangaroos were further weakened by this update.

The purpose of these codes of practice in relation to Kangaroos in Australia are twofold:

Governance standards relating to wildlife

We note a general lack of compliance inspection activities in relation to killing of wildlife while governments, both politicians and public servants, claim the opposite in their correspondence with those raising concerns about what is being done to wildlife generally or individuals reporting actual crimes against wildlife and related activity.

While incorrect claims continue to be made by governments regarding compliance matters, sustainability and animal welfare standards and cruelty, and Victoria is an example, complex inter departmental and agency structures are deliberately created to diffuse accountability and responsibility for what are extreme acts of cruelty, lack of compliance and highly dubious and likely inaccurate constructs on which decisions are based, making it impossible for complainants and wildlife experts to improve the situation for wildlife.

Commercial trade in wildlife in Australia

The issues created by the commercial trade in wildlife and the horrors associated with it are starkly revealed by the New South Wales Government Inquiry into the health and wellbeing of kangaroos and other macropods in New South Wales. I suggest you read the report (the draft of which was heavily amended by the Coalition Government and Labor) as well as reading the transcripts and submissions.

In Victoria the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos includes the following facts:

Each state has precisely the same issues. My view is that South Australia is the worst of an extremely bad bunch when it comes to the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos, the state also has a catastrophic record of native species loss and endangerment.

My view is that there are at least three species in the Macropod family that are being exploited commercially that should be on the threatened species list, these are from South Australia, the Sooty Kangaroo and Tammar Wallaby from Kangaroo Island and the Forester Kangaroo in Tasmania. To go after these species commercially demonstrates just how shockingly poor the standards are in terms of safeguarding the future of Australian wildlife.

Australian Birdlife

Regardless of climate conditions and significant declines in waterbird populations, the mass killing of birdlife continues. In Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria this year the killing of waterbirds continued despite COVID and the objections of the vast majority of residents who want the killing to stop.

In the Northern Territory (NT) the Magpie geese and waterfowl season commenced on private land on 16 August and on public land on 22 September. The killing will finally stop for the season on 10 January 2022. Waterbird species being killed this year in the NT are the Magpie goose, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Hardhead duck, Wood Duck, Wandering Whistling Duck and Pink-eared Duck. The collateral damage to other species of these activities is also substantial. On a personal note to say I spend a lot of time in the NT in places and with cultures I love, so in relation to wildlife I have a very good understanding of how things have changed over a long period of time, my assessment of what has occurred in not positive.

The other states, (while pretending they have no mass killing events relating to waterbirds) and here NSW is a classic example, where the following duck species are shot for sport (and ‘mitigation’) and often in large numbers and on private land, Australian Shelduck, Australian Wood Duck, Black Duck, Blue-winged Shoveler, Chestnut Teal, Grass Whistling Duck, Grey Teal, Hardhead Duck, Pink-eared Duck and Water Whistling Duck.

We should not forget the mass killing of native quail species for recreation, typically in those states with a duck shooting season encompassing public lands.

Ramsar sites

The state of Ramsar sites in Australia can be appalling, littered with rubbish, parts of dead birds, shot and associated gun waste, plastic and alcohol containers. Meanwhile in the ‘official’ bird-shooting states and territories the prime economic benefit of Ramsar sites is not being achieved, these things are tourism, nature-based tourism including the international circuit of twitchers and those interested in wildlife and other non-violent recreational activities. These alternate uses have a much greater regional benefit than 12-week seasons of bird shooting. I dislike visiting these places at any time of year because of what we know goes on there.

Killing of Australian wildlife in National and State Parks

I have become increasingly concerned about the number of native animals being killed by environment departments on public lands and wildlife rescues being blocked by public servants in times of natural crisis, particularly fires, all of it amid claims of overabundance. Nonsense of course and what we are doing here is softening the ground for commercial exploitation of wildlife in State and National Parks. Victoria and the ACT are leaders in this game. In Victoria the numbers of native animals being killed by government departments, and for dubious reasons, are staggering.

Australia wildlife now in the food supply chain of zoos, both in Australia and internationally

When zoos are asking the public to donate to them because they care about Australian wildlife, little does the public suspect that zoos too are now complicit in the commercial exploitation of a growing number of Australian species. Kangaroos and Wallabies are in the frontline here.

If zoo food and petfood were not a poorly enough thought through end for Australian wildlife, the Victorian Government knows no bounds to its creativity in destroying and exploiting wildlife, introducing Kangaroo meat for preschool children on its recommended lunch menu, and doing so in a time of a zoonotic pandemic. Given China’s and Russia’s well researched concerns about the health consequences of consuming Australia’s native wildlife, one would expect Victoria’s young people deserve something better.

Exclusion fencing and Australian wildlife

Australian wildlife has fewer and fewer places to exist. Publicly funded and often vast areas of wildlife-proof fencing, some designed explicitly for entrapment, are now commonplace. These horrific fences, many at tax payers expense, are now everywhere in places you might expect to be free of them, parts of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula are one such example. These fences disrupt wildlife movements, deny access to water and food and allow the unscrupulous to shoot or run-down wildlife on mass as animals are trapped along fence lines. It is extraordinary that departments of environment encourage their construction as a way to exclude wildlife.

Rapid growth of commercial wildlife trade between Australian states and territories as wildlife exterminated in some mainland regions

Are we emptying Tasmania of its Wallabies? The answer is probably yes unless we stop a growing trend of mainland-driven commercial exploitation of Tasmanian species.

An example of what goes on is the impact just this one commercial wildlife processing plant development would have.

Some very troubling news from Central Victoria in September 2021 suggested that a local meat works wanted to open up a Kangaroo processing facility, that would, when fully operational, process 2,000 Kangaroos each week. That is 104,000 Kangaroos in one year.

In 2021, the entire commercial trade in wildlife quota for Kangaroos in Victoria this year is 95,680. So just one of a number of Kangaroo meat processing plants in Victoria, plans to process more than the quota for the whole state.

Even using the government’s inflated population numbers for the shire where the plant will be located, the entire commercial quota for that shire would be consumed in just over a week. The expectation would be that Kangaroo carcasses would be imported from elsewhere in Victoria and neighbouring states.

NSW, as its Kangaroo populations plummet, appears to be, and quietly so, importing large numbers of Wallabies from Tasmania.

Use of authorities to control wildlife

Permission to kill Australian wildlife are issued on request and are issued at scale and with increasingly lax consideration of reasons. Our view is that no, or very few, applications are refused and almost no follow-ups occur while the pretence is that Australian wildlife is protected. Here is an example of what is on the Australian kill list:

Method of killing in Victoria as recommended and authorised by the Victorian Government listed in italic after the name (supplied DELWP 25/2/2020)

  1. Australian Fur Seal — shoot
  2. Australian King-parrot — shoot
  3. Australian Magpie — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
  4. Australian Magpie Lark — shoot, trap gas
  5. Australian Pelican — shoot
  6. Australian Raven — shoot
  7. Australian Shelduck — shoot
  8. Australian White Ibis — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
  9. Bell Miner — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
  10. Black Kite — shoot
  11. Black Swan — shoot, destroy eggs and nest
  12. Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike — shoot
  13. Black-tailed Native-hen — shoot
  14. Brown Antechinus — trap gas
  15. Brown Goshawk — shoot, trap shoot
  16. Bush Rat — trap gas
  17. Cape Barren Goose — shoot
  18. Chestnut Teal — shoot
  19. Brushtail Possum — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
  20. Ringtail Possum — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
  21. Bare-nosed Wombat — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
  22. Copperhead — shoot
  23. Crimson Rosella — shoot
  24. Dingo — shoot, trap shoot, poison
  25. Dusky Moorhen — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
  26. Eastern Brown Snake — shoot
  27. Eastern Grey Kangaroo — shoot
  28. Eastern Rosella — shoot
  29. Emu — shoot (this is a particularly gruesome and cruel activity)
  30. Eurasian Coot — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
  31. Fairy Martin — destroy eggs and nest
  32. Galah — shoot, trap gas
  33. Great Cormorant — shoot
  34. Grey Butcherbird — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
  35. Grey Teal — shoot
  36. Grey-headed Flying-fox — shoot
  37. Hardhead — shoot
  38. Highland Copperhead — shoot
  39. Koala — secretly euthanised with Ministerial permission
  40. Laughing Kookaburra — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
  41. Little Black Cormorant — shoot
  42. Little Corella — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
  43. Little Crow — shoot
  44. Little Lorikeet — shoot
  45. Little Pied Cormorant — shoot
  46. Little Raven — shoot
  47. Little Red Flying-fox — shoot
  48. Little Wattlebird — shoot
  49. Long-billed Corella — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
  50. Magpie Goose — shoot
  51. Mallee Ringneck — shoot
  52. Maned Duck — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
  53. Masked Lapwing — shoot, destroy eggs and nest
  54. Musk Lorikeet — shoot
  55. Noisy Friarbird — shoot
  56. Noisy Miner — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot, destroy eggs and nest
  57. Pacific Black Duck — shoot
  58. Pacific Heron — shoot
  59. Pied Currawong — shoot
  60. Pink-eared Duck — shoot
  61. Plumed Whistling-duck — shoot
  62. Purple Swamphen — shoot, destroy eggs and nest
  63. Purple-crowned Lorikeet — shoot
  64. Rainbow Lorikeet — shoot
  65. Red Kangaroo — shoot
  66. Red Wattlebird — shoot
  67. Red-bellied Black Snake — shoot
  68. Red-necked Wallaby — shoot
  69. Red-rumped Parrot — shoot
  70. Richard’s Pipit — shoot
  71. Rufous Night Heron — shoot
  72. Satin Bowerbird — shoot
  73. Scaly-breasted Lorikeet — shoot
  74. Silver Gull — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
  75. Silvereye — shoot
  76. Straw-necked Ibis — shoot
  77. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo — shoot, trap gas
  78. Swamp Rat — trap gas
  79. Swamp Wallaby — shoot
  80. Tammar Wallaby — shoot (curious indeed, SA mainland species thought extinct until recently)
  81. Tiger Snake — shoot
  82. Water Rat — shoot, trap gas
  83. Welcome Swallow — shoot, trap shoot, destroy eggs and nest
  84. Western Brown Snake — shoot
  85. Western Grey Kangaroo — shoot
  86. White-faced Heron — shoot
  87. White-winged Chough — shoot, trap gas
  88. Yellow Rosella — shoot
  89. Yellow-faced Honeyeater — shoot
  90. Yellow-footed Antechinus — trap and gas
  91. Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo — shoot
  92. Yellow-throated Miner — shoot.

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’.

Climate change and Australia

We all already know too much about COP26 and what happened there. So what do Australian GHG emissions really look like? Having a good sense of what is actually happening is so important to the future of Australia’s biodiversity. I would like you all to think about the Great Barrier Reef as an indicator of how poorly Australia’s biodiversity is factored into the Australian Government’s attitudes to climate change and its impacts, which for Australian species is profound.

For an understanding of what the situation looked like pre-COVID, the Australian Greenhouse Gas Inventory suggests that in 2019 total (all sectors) GHG emissions fell by 0.9 percent compared with 2018, these emissions should fall by 7.6 percent on average each year over 2020 to 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over the period. Here are our main comments:

   We all live in this world and we should have the basic sense to look after it.

— Peter Hylands
President, Australian Wildlife Protection Council
November 2021