Critical state of biodiversity health
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:
- education and advocacy including submissions to politicians, particularly in Victoria and in the ACT and federally in regard to the escalating killing of kangaroos, biodiversity loss and policy, the plight of Australian birdlife, particularly duck shooting;
- highlighting the plight of wildlife carers;
- campaigns from NSW focusing on the use of native wildlife as petfood and co-existing with wildlife;
- supporting state-based wildlife groups whether on behalf of kangaroo species including support with content for Kangaroos Alive on World Kangaroo Day;
- providing information to community wildlife groups; and
- liaison and support for international wildlife campaigns and organisations such as the Centre for Humane Economy in the United States.
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:
- to inform the public of what is occurring and what the consequences of the loss of biodiversity are, including directly to the people who live in this country;
- to properly inform Indigenous people in Australia — who are subject to black-washing in Australia by governments and industry who are exploiting biodiversity in Australia — about the scope and scale of the destruction to their lands and species;
- to motivate young people to take biodiversity loss as seriously as they now take climate change, the two are one in terms of their impacts on human futures;
- to encourage those individuals with large land holdings in Australia, particularly farmers, to use modern methods of farming which include biodiversity in the landscape;
- to finally put an end to the disgraceful and commercial exploitation of land-based Australian wildlife;
- to think carefully about land clearing practices in Australia, which remain at scale and are intensely damaging to biodiversity and do little for economic development;
- to look closely at increasingly silly fire mitigation practices in Australia which include burning-off at vast scale, leaving fires to burn which eventually become fire storms, to stop burning tropical wet forests (driven by financial gain and silly carbon mitigation practices) that destroy the wet tropics and create environments that are now at extreme risk of catastrophic fires;
- to engage and inform the general public to respect those things that are Australian and have evolved here, it is beginning to happen for the plant kingdom so it can happen for fauna as well;
- to protect the integrity of research at Australian Universities to ensure it is independent and free from influence (sadly the most important courses in major Australian Universities are being closed, this is no accident);
- to make governments accountable for their actions; and
- to internationalise the fight to protect Australia’s precious species.
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:
- Inquiry into the health and wellbeing of kangaroos and other macropods in New South Wales.
- Victoria’s Wildlife Act Review.
- Victoria’s biodiversity loss inquiry.
- Victorian Auditor’s Ramsar inquiry.
- Inquiry into the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (joint submission).
- AgriFutures: National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes (the way the AWPC and its committee and members were treated by this organisation can only be described as disgraceful).
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:
- To legitimise extreme acts of cruelty which would otherwise be illegal by negating animal cruelty legislation; and
- To create the impression for consumers, particularly overseas consumers, that Australia’s trade in wildlife, in this case members of the Kangaroo family, is humane and is closely managed for compliance, nothing could be further from the truth.
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:
- Much of the commercial killing is occurring on land that is not farmed — Dunkeld is a classic example of this;
- The killing rate of Kangaroo species subject to commercial exploitation has near tripled since the introduction of the Kangaroo Pet Food Trial in 2014 — this is completely unsustainable;
- Claims that for 2021 that the population of Grey Kangaroos in the State had increased by 41 percent are not credible, nor possible;
- Commercial permits in Victoria for killing Kangaroos — the Victorian Government’s own authorisation to shooters based on which commercial wildlife licenses are issued Conditions of Authorisation under section 28A of the Wildlife Act 1975, to hunt, take, destroy, possess, dispose of and sell Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Western Grey Kangaroos in accordance with the approved Victorian Kangaroo Harvest Management Plan 2021–2023 clearly states that “Kangaroos with obvious dependent young must not be shot”. The last figures I have from DELWP, which are recent show that 30 percent of the Kangaroos killed for commercial purposes are now female and in a recent period 14,000 females have been killed resulting in the death of 13,800 joeys (so this destroys three generations of Kangaroos in one go, how is this sustainable?). This also says a great deal about the standards of governance in Victoria, total lack of any compliance and action resulting in clear breaches of the regulations; and
- For the government to suggest what is done to Kangaroos is humane is nonsense, the global Internet is full of the most heinous images of commercial and non-commercial shooters abusing Kangaroos and these images are available to governments around the world, some of which are now taking action to ban Kangaroo products, in the case of the United States, this is occurring purely on grounds of EXTREME cruelty.
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.
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.
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)
- Australian Fur Seal — shoot
- Australian King-parrot — shoot
- Australian Magpie — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
- Australian Magpie Lark — shoot, trap gas
- Australian Pelican — shoot
- Australian Raven — shoot
- Australian Shelduck — shoot
- Australian White Ibis — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
- Bell Miner — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
- Black Kite — shoot
- Black Swan — shoot, destroy eggs and nest
- Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike — shoot
- Black-tailed Native-hen — shoot
- Brown Antechinus — trap gas
- Brown Goshawk — shoot, trap shoot
- Bush Rat — trap gas
- Cape Barren Goose — shoot
- Chestnut Teal — shoot
- Brushtail Possum — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
- Ringtail Possum — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
- Bare-nosed Wombat — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
- Copperhead — shoot
- Crimson Rosella — shoot
- Dingo — shoot, trap shoot, poison
- Dusky Moorhen — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
- Eastern Brown Snake — shoot
- Eastern Grey Kangaroo — shoot
- Eastern Rosella — shoot
- Emu — shoot (this is a particularly gruesome and cruel activity)
- Eurasian Coot — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
- Fairy Martin — destroy eggs and nest
- Galah — shoot, trap gas
- Great Cormorant — shoot
- Grey Butcherbird — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
- Grey Teal — shoot
- Grey-headed Flying-fox — shoot
- Hardhead — shoot
- Highland Copperhead — shoot
- Koala — secretly euthanised with Ministerial permission
- Laughing Kookaburra — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
- Little Black Cormorant — shoot
- Little Corella — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
- Little Crow — shoot
- Little Lorikeet — shoot
- Little Pied Cormorant — shoot
- Little Raven — shoot
- Little Red Flying-fox — shoot
- Little Wattlebird — shoot
- Long-billed Corella — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
- Magpie Goose — shoot
- Mallee Ringneck — shoot
- Maned Duck — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot
- Masked Lapwing — shoot, destroy eggs and nest
- Musk Lorikeet — shoot
- Noisy Friarbird — shoot
- Noisy Miner — shoot, trap gas, trap shoot, destroy eggs and nest
- Pacific Black Duck — shoot
- Pacific Heron — shoot
- Pied Currawong — shoot
- Pink-eared Duck — shoot
- Plumed Whistling-duck — shoot
- Purple Swamphen — shoot, destroy eggs and nest
- Purple-crowned Lorikeet — shoot
- Rainbow Lorikeet — shoot
- Red Kangaroo — shoot
- Red Wattlebird — shoot
- Red-bellied Black Snake — shoot
- Red-necked Wallaby — shoot
- Red-rumped Parrot — shoot
- Richard’s Pipit — shoot
- Rufous Night Heron — shoot
- Satin Bowerbird — shoot
- Scaly-breasted Lorikeet — shoot
- Silver Gull — shoot, trap gas, destroy eggs and nest
- Silvereye — shoot
- Straw-necked Ibis — shoot
- Sulphur-crested Cockatoo — shoot, trap gas
- Swamp Rat — trap gas
- Swamp Wallaby — shoot
- Tammar Wallaby — shoot (curious indeed, SA mainland species thought extinct until recently)
- Tiger Snake — shoot
- Water Rat — shoot, trap gas
- Welcome Swallow — shoot, trap shoot, destroy eggs and nest
- Western Brown Snake — shoot
- Western Grey Kangaroo — shoot
- White-faced Heron — shoot
- White-winged Chough — shoot, trap gas
- Yellow Rosella — shoot
- Yellow-faced Honeyeater — shoot
- Yellow-footed Antechinus — trap and gas
- Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo — shoot
- 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:
- Renewable energy’s share of electricity emissions was the main reason for lower emissions, with black coal generation falling in the fourth quarter of 2019. To the lowest level in three years. New South Wales sourced 19 percent of electricity generation from renewables, Victoria 23 percent. Share has continued to increase to 2021.
- The 2019 drop, however, was much less than required to meet Paris Accord targets.
- In 2020 the trend is to lower electricity consumption as Covid-19 impacts became evident and also for lower liquid fuels for transport.
- Demand has grown at an annual average of 3.7 percent per annum, so would be 50 percent higher in 2030 than today. To reach climate change targets all the new capacity would have to be fossil free. Trends have been moderated by COVID lockdowns including a reduction in demand of around 10 percent in the City of Melbourne, while demand in the outer suburbs of Melbourne has increased. High levels of solar uptake will continue to reduce demand for fossil fuel generated electricity as will the collapse in migration during the COVID period.
- AEMO, in an April 2020 study, reported that the main electricity grid could accommodate up to 75 percent renewables by 2025 if the system were effectively transformed and managed. Without actions to ensure grid stability, wind and solar generation would have to be curtailed (not accepted into the grid) by 50 to 60 percent of their potential contribution. This would threaten the viability of wind and solar projects.
- Fuel efficiency standards are urgently needed in Australia but are being resisted by the Federal Government. Australian transport sector emissions now account for about 18 percent of total national emissions, but the transport sector lacks any real climate change policy action. In its 2020 annual report, the National Transport Commission found the average new car emissions were just 0.2 percent lower than 2018. This level trails that of most developed countries. Recent media suggests that Australia is now becoming the dumping ground for higher emitting vehicles which would be illegal in other countries.
- Apart from electricity sub-sector emissions, which are reducing due to renewables (wind and solar) penetrations, emissions are rising in non-electricity stationary, transport, fugitives, industrial processes, agriculture and waste sub-sectors where there are virtually no policies or programs addressing emission reductions apart from the A$3.5 billion Climate Solutions Fund mainly directed at agriculture, land-use/land-use change and forestry.
- The bushfires across Australia in 4Q 2019 and 1Q 2020 likely caused emissions to reach almost double 2019 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory measured emissions but are not included in the inventory as it is assumed that regrowth sequesters these emissions. Given the catastrophic nature of what occurred this is extremely unlikely.
- If Australian fossil fuel exports were factored into Australia’s emissions, its contribution to global emissions would be in the region of 3.5–4 percent rather than 1.3 percent. This would make Australia the world’s sixth-largest contributor to climate change, by far the highest per capita emissions on Earth. Hard to measure, our view remains that fugitive emissions (particularly Methane) from fossil fuel production, including coal, remain significantly understated in Australia’s reporting systems and may have a significant impact on total emissions from this continent.
We all live in this world and we should have the basic sense to look after it.
— Peter Hylands
President, Australian Wildlife Protection Council
IMAGERY: Habitat loss and climate extremes contributing to loss of diversity of native Australian wildlife.