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Cornerstone of environmental protection in Oz has failed. Why?


THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION Biodiversity Conservation Act has been the only thing standing between Australia’s beleagured native animals and plants and even more development destruction and pending extinctions. But its 20-year review shows it has been failing our wildlife and habitats. This ABC podcast explains why and where to from here.

with Annabelle Quince, Keri Phillips, on Rear Vision (ABC RN)

Photo: Swift Parrot, Gunjan Pandey. Wikimedia CC-4.0

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Volunteers keep wildlife alive for months post fire


Image source: M Fillinger.

COVID-19 HAS CLOGGED the news and taken up just about all our interest and thoughts over the last several months. However, for many volunteers their work and minds are still heavily focused on help and care for wildlife since the ‘Black Summer’ fires (seen above).

The effort by volunteer groups goes on months after the event. After the Carwoola fires in February 2017, regional volunteers at Wildcare were support-feeding for eight months post fires.

Volunteer wildlife care organisations and helping groups pulled resources and funds from a wide range of donors to provide adequate care for the countless injured, defenceless, displaced and hungry animals post last season’s fires. The efforts of these organisations are still continuing in and around the capital region, the mountains, Braidwood, Monaro and the coastal hinterland, months after the last fires were extinguished.

Still counting the dead and missing

We are only just starting to gauge the amount of death and loss the Black Summer bushfires have had on Australia’s wildlife. A recent study, funded by WWF Australia, found that almost 3 billion animals have been killed or displaced by the fires. While these are staggering numbers, University of Sydney professor Chris Dickman, who coordinated the study, said the figure is still a conservative estimate.

President of Wildcare Queanbeyan, Belinda Hogarth, said they have seen a devastating number of killed or injured wildlife since the fires. “In one of the cases a property owner found 14 charred Greater Gliders, which are a threatened species.”

Wildcare has been at the forefront of animal care post fires. Hogarth said the causes of animal death and injury goes far beyond the initial fire and even if the animal survives the fire they still face many dangers and threats.

“Everyone thinks it’s about burned animals and largely it’s not. A lot of it isn’t the initial fire that kills or injures the animal, it’s usually secondary from walking around after the fires when they are looking for food, or they just starve to death.”

“On top of this many animals suffer from smoke inhalation or, since so much trees and bushland are gone, the animals are much more susceptible to predator attacks by cats and foxes.”

(Editor’s note:  Or are tempted to eat poison baits spread by government authorities.)

Feeding wildlife post fire

Wildcare’s major focus since the fires has been on feeding displaced animals threatened by starvation. Hogarth said for a long time after the fires there is little to no food for the majority of the animals. The bigger macropods like kangaroos can escape whereas wallabies or other mammals such as wombats or quolls or potoroos are smaller so they don’t travel as far and they like forested areas. This means a lot of them don’t leave and instead find shelter, but once they surface they no longer have any feed.

Even once the trees start to grow the first wave of leaves is often toxic to animals as the tree is trying to protect itself. As well as this the first grass after a fire has a high water content so it has very poor nutrition for the animals.

Food distributed on Tallaganda 40 properties; community groups heeded the call

To combat this severe lack of food, Wildcare has been putting out food lots on volunteered properties in heavily affected areas. “In Tallaganda alone we had food lots on 40 properties with up to ten stations on particular properties but now we are down to just eight properties,” said Hogarth.

Generous donations by NGOs and private sources gave Wildcare the funding that they needed to supply food, blankets and medical care to the animals. The World Wildlife Fund donated $100,000 to Wildcare and Hogarth said they saw a massive increase in donations by community groups and private donors.

“There was a singing group in Canberra that held a concert and they gave us the money from that, then other groups such Queanbeyan council gave us $5,000 and the International Federation for Animal Welfare gave us a further $6,000,” said Hogarth.

Wildcare also saw donations of resources such as blankets, rags and linen. Hogarth said that nurses, vets and paramedics donating medical equipment that proved vital during the fires. The Southern Cross 4WD Club, again proved very useful with vehicles that could get Wildcare into difficult off-road locations. Wildcare also asked landowners to put out water and feed for birds.

Wildcare estimated volunteers saved over 700 mammals from starvation as well as additional reptiles and birds.

Koala rescue at Two Thumbs

Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust koala sanctuary east of Captains Flat lost up to 200 koalas, said sanctuary owner James Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald also estimates over 1,000 more koalas were killed in the greater capital region.

koala-burned-feet-bushfires-2019-2020Many of the koalas that were rescued and brought into care at Two Thumbs had to be treated for major burns they had received after walking around once the fires had passed. Fitzgerald and his team have found close to 50 koalas since the fires. However, ten of those had to be euthanised due to serious burns.

“When we first started finding the koalas during the fires most of the time you’d find them with serious burns on the hands and feet because they have been walking around on the burning ground. We also saw a lot of koalas with unkempt fur because they stop grooming themselves when they are injured or sick,” said Fitzgerald.

He said that koalas have no chance of escaping the fires and the ones that survive just happen to be holding onto a tree that doesn’t get burned down. The care that Two Thumbs has been providing is predominantly around treating burn wounds and inspecting koala eating habits. “When koalas are badly injured or stressed they won’t eat, so we study their droppings and see if they producing enough pellets.”

Fitzgerald’s colleague Dr Karen Ford had been caring for severely burned koalas at ANU (Australian National University) where she in some cases had to treat their wounds multiple times a day. They were gradually moved back to Two Thumbs.

Years to rebuild populations, but joeys seen

Two Thumbs has been one of the only sanctuaries with an increasing koala population. With the small number of animals, the best a koala population can increase is double in three years, or in ten years if there is a high presence of chlamydia in the population Fitzgerald said.

The good news is that while they have lost many koalas at the sanctuary, Fitzgerald said they are still seeing joeys which means the koalas are mating.

RELATED STORY:  Koalas get new home and firefighters honoured

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Lethal management (NSW): 1080 poison — why do they use it and blur its horrendous impacts?


THIS YEAR 2020, the NSW government is undertaking a wide-ranging killing program that it is proud to call the “largest feral animal control program in the state’s history” following the 2019–2020 bushfires. This involves dropping poison baits disguised as food for hungry mammalian animals into 60,000 kilometres of the state’s burned-out forests over a 12-month period. The official target is for feral animals including ‘wild dogs’

Wild dogs include escaped pets and domestic hunting dogs — ie a human-caused problem. But Australia’s native dog and apex predator the Dingo has been reclassified a ‘wild dog’ for this exercise, losing any claim to present-day protected native species consideration.

There is also a related ground-based shooting program going on, all taxpayer-funded. While the official target is feral animals particularly the fox, possibly cats and pigs too, members of the AWPC and other native animal defenders suspect the program has a strong background “stakeholder” — the state’s sheep farmers.

The lethal approach to effecting conservation biology goals has been accepted as a primary environmental management tool in Australia and New Zealand. These two former colonies are world champions and still holdouts in poisoning animals with 1080 baits, often dispersed from the air. In both countries, killing millions of introduced animals once they are labelled as ‘pests’ (eg Australian brush-tail possums in New Zealand) raises even less debate than killing indigenous wildlife.

The practitioners of pest animal eradication and wildlife management of anything not labelled ‘endangered’ frequently blur. The notion of abundance and tag of ‘pest’ is all that is needed. The Self-Poisoning of New Zealand by Name and by Nature, Tony Orman. 14 June 2015, Tasmanian Times.

Has been used in sheep country for decades. National Parks helping the graziers, no-one knows the wider impact

In Australian sheep country 1080-laced baits are often dropped from aircraft. One example is onto a four kilometre-wide transect of country bordering the ‘dog fence’ that now stretches for 5,600 km (3,500 miles) between north and south of the continent.

While the target is Dingos and wild dogs no-one knows the total impact including persistence in the environment, secondary poisoning of scavenger birds or, elsewhere, mammalian native predators. The poison is dropped by government departments on behalf of sheep graziers. Regular government poisoning is conducted on the outskirts of national parks for the same reason.

In the state of Tasmania industry and government are united, although not necessarily with the public, on the need to poison bait brush-tail possums, and poison or shotgun Pademelons and Bennett’s Wallabies that nibble on emerging trees shoots.

Hideous method of dealing death

Developed as a rat poison, therefore a mammalian poison, from a naturally-occurring plant metabolite, 1080 is now tightly controlled or banned in most countries because of its hideous method of dealing death, along with its variable persistence and danger to non-target species, including carrion feeders. The use of this poison as a wide-ranging control method, targeting for a long time now the Australian native dog the Dingo, (as well as escaped domestic dogs, foxes, cats, pigs, rabbits or possums) is simply put, an animal welfare issue.

Most animals that ingest it will die; and worse, they will suffer horribly for up to 48 hours or longer before they die. In dogs, the signs of poisoning are usually noticed within half an hour of ingestion, but can take more than six hours to show up. First symptoms include vomiting, anxiety, disorientation and shaking. These quickly develop into frenzied behaviour with running and screaming fits, drooling at the mouth, uncontrolled paddling and seizures, followed by total collapse and death.  H Hahner, 1080, the nasty poison. The District Bulletin, Nov 2012, p18.

The NSW Animal Justice Party (AJP) recently published further facts about 1080. Any animals, states the AJP, including humans that ingest 1080 will die a slow, painful death. There is no known antidote. The toxin also causes birth defects and reduced fertility, as well as damage to the reproductive system, brain, heart and other organs.

It works by preventing the body’s muscles and organs from absorbing energy, resulting in failure of the lungs and heart, with a death typically lasting between 8–24 hours for birds and 2–4 days for large mammals.

The possibility of poisoning native non-target species like the endangered Tiger or Eastern Quoll or ground-digging marsupials like Potoroos, or omnivorous birds is strenuously denied by government authorities. There is a long-standing article of belief that most marsupials are immune to the poison, (excepting it seems, the possums that are regularly poisoned in New Zealand and Tasmania).

Potoroos more susceptible than rabbits?

The Animal Justice Party quotes research indicating that Potoroos are more susceptible to 1080 than introduced rabbits. Localised extinctions of Tiger Quolls were linked to 1080 baiting 20 years ago when politicians were informed by a government Threatened Species Scientific Committee. And yet, nothing changes.  The AJP is under no illusion that lobbying by sheep farmers isn’t related to this toxic warfare, noting there are alternative ways to ward off foxes and dogs.

The above discussion includes an edited extract from the forthcoming book by author and journalist Maria Taylor about 250 years of commercial wildlife exploitation, removal and ‘management’ and its lethal legacy in Australia. ‘Injustice’ will be published later this year.


How many centuries do they need to develop alternative methods?

The Invasive Species Council, a loud and insistent advocate for the removal of brumbies from Australia’s high country, mostly with lethal outcomes — although perhaps shying away from the appalling outcomes of aerial shooting — has come out in public defence of 1080. Until alternatives are found, says a media release, it must be used to save endangered species. It does not add: species pushed to the brink since 1788.

This begs the question of how many more decades or indeed centuries of target animal suffering have to pass before citizen foes of introduced animals join forces with landholders and government agencies to put in place already available solutions.

To its credit, The Invasive Species Council via a commissioned report, then lists some solutions:    

  •  Develop and deploy more-humane and effective ways of controlling harmful introduced animals.
  •  Design long-term control programs that minimise the overall number of introduced animals killed — for example, by eradicating or substantially suppressing their populations or by intervening ecologically to help native animals withstand invasive pressures (for example, by protecting dingoes where they suppress cats and foxes). 
  •  Improve monitoring to ascertain whether 1080 baiting (and other methods) achieve conservation goals and are cost effective.
  •  Strive to better understand (where feasible) the welfare consequences of 1080 baiting, particularly for herbivores.
  •  Strengthen biosecurity prevention, eradication and containment to stop the establishment and spread of new introduced species, and therefore greater use of 1080.

The council also states that the report focuses only on the use of 1080 for protecting rare native wildlife, and not for farming or forestry. AND The Invasive Species Council does not support the use of 1080 to target native animals.

Perhaps readers might query The Invasive Species Council on their view therefore of baiting Dingos being rebadged as ‘wild dogs’. And how anyone can distinguish what hungry animal is taking the baits dropped from the air into burned-out habitats. As long as this poison stays legal and easily available, what do they think of landholders that privately spread 1080 baits around rural and rural residential areas, endangered neighbouring pet dogs at a minimum?


IMAGE SOURCES: Brushtail Possum, Ozflash/Dreamstime. Dingo, Susan Cruttenden. Dusky Pademelon, Craig Russell/Dreamstime. Quoll, Craigrjd/Dreamstime.


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UPDATE: AWPC supports Kinley Estate (VIC) residents in fight for kangaroo lives

Lilydale-update-thumbnailThe Herald Sun update, week ending 7 August 2020


Are we Kind? …
Or are we Monsters?

Today [Tuesday 4 August 2020] could be D-DAY for the Kinley Estate (at Lilydale, Vic) kangaroos.

WE ARE CALLING on DELWP [Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning], and the Minister Lily D’Ambrosio, to take a humane and reasonable approach by supporting relocation of the Kinley Estate kangaroos.

The small mob (~40) of kangaroos that have lived peacefully together, and much loved by the locals, are slated to be killed to make way for development of the Kinley Estate(Lilydale) by INTRAPAC Property.

Any reasonable, humane person looks at the situation and asks — “what about relocating them?”

Wildlife experts are adamant that relocation of the mob can be done successfully with minimal stress.

That knowing comes from deep experience of rescue, rehabilitation and dealing with a wide variety of situations where kangaroos find themselves needing help. In addition, there are successful mob relocations (*).

DELWP fails our kangaroos, and the public in 2 major ways.

First, they claim that 40% will die when relocated. That has been proven wildly wrong, more than once, by people in the field (**).

Second, their own guidelines stress the need to attempt all non-lethal means of solving problems ahead of reverting to the bullet. Did they do that? No they did not even try. They did not enter discussions with those who are willing and able to manage a relocation.

The developer wanted to use relocation, but DELWP does not support any such humane outcome.

The Black Summer loss of wildlife should, at a minimum, cause a rethink of the old ways.

Australians, and the local community, want more for our iconic kangaroos. Andy Meddick (AJP) has a capable team ready to act.

If DELWP supports the kill option over relocation, then we (humans) really are monsters. (***)


(*)  About 4 years ago, approximately 100 kangaroos were relocated successfully from a Wildlife Fauna Park in Victoria.

In 2017, more than 200 kangaroos were successfully relocated at Bathurst.

(**)  If relocation fails it is due to mishandling and lack of suitable skills.

(***)  DELWP claims that culling (killing) is the most humane option; BUT it is not possible to cull kangaroos in a humane manner. Shooting and killing a mob of kangaroos is extremely distressing to the tight family bonds among the animals. That is why they live in mobs, they know each other and have familial and friendship bonds. Joeys will suffer extremely in any cull because the at foot joeys are separated from their mothers and the pouch joeys are torn from the pouch and bludgeoned to death.



Chris Lehmann, Save the Kinley Estate Kangaroos

Australian Wildlife Protection Council Inc.
PO Box 302, Bungendore NSW 2621
M: 0434 479 459
ABN 85 240 279 616
Patron: Hon Peter Singer

RELATED STORY:  The Agile Project wins approval for nation’s largest relocation of wallabies after three-year battle


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Koalas get new home and firefighters honoured (NSW)


ON 23 JANUARY 2020 southern Australia’s Black Summer bush fires swept through the Peak View district between Captains Flat and Cooma. They caused a widely-reported twofold disaster.

On this day Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust Koala Sanctuary was totally enveloped in the blaze, many native animals perished and tragically an air tanker and three American crew trying to protect the sanctuary also died when their tanker crashed next to the property.

Five months later wildlife rescuer and sanctuary owner James Fitzgerald felt he could relive that terrible day with us and talk about his recovery for the sanctuary and the koalas.

CAPTION (main image): James Fitzgerald and newly-housed koala make acquaintance. (Image: Jacob Howard)

Throughout the district and as you enter Two Thumbs, you see evidence of the fires on the small clusters of trees that cover the land. After travelling along a dirt road for a few kilometres and past the third gate we approach a destroyed house, which was previously James’ home. (Image: Jacob Howard)

destroyed-homstead-Two-Thumbs-cr-Jacob-HowardA fireplace stands tall in the middle of the corpse of the house. The remaining metal has been completely warped and bent with everything being covered in flowing patterns of blue and brown/orange rust. Incredibly, the clothesline in the backyard appeared to be almost untouched by the fire. James tells us later that when the fire swept through, he had two koalas in care at the house and two goannas. He could not reach them.

Shortly after we arrive James and colleague Dr Karen Ford (from ANU) drive past us on their way to collect fresh tree branches for their koalas in enclosures. Soon, we follow them further into the burned property. About halfway up a hill we reach an opening of flat unburned land. This open area is the site of new koala housing.

Several shipping containers are scattered around the site but the main focus is the koala enclosures. Two large and airy structures are already built and a further two are in process of being built.

“I’m using some insurance money to build these two new enclosures, and some generous donations are helping us build more,” James said. He is living in a caravan himself and is happy that after six months he is getting some electricity back. He has six enclosures in mind. James explains that they chose this space because it was one of the few areas that the fires didn’t destroy.

James and Karen are introducing a new koala to the sanctuary. He leans in obligingly for ‘meeting’ photos. They tell us this koala was being cared for at ANU after he suffered heavy burns to his feet in the fires but is now healthy enough to live in the enclosures at Two Thumbs.

The koalas stay here for about eight weeks as they continue recovery from their wounds, before being released.

“We named three of the koalas after the American firefighters who died in the plane crash — Ian, Rick and Paul. The families of the Americans have actually met the koalas and they were very appreciative that we named the koalas after them. We greatly acknowledge their sacrifice.”


Karen tracking koala movements. Image: Jacob Howard.

James said they had found about 50 koalas since the fires. More than they had hoped for appear to be maintaining themselves in the burned environment. James and Karen are tracking the location and recovery of some.

Dr Karen studies the nutrition of eucalyptus leaves and she is tracking koala movements at Two Thumbs to understand how they behave post fires. She brings out her computer with the tracking details of three radio-collared koalas and shows us where they have been and how far they have travelled over the past day.

“They often have their favourite areas that they like to go to and favourite paths they like to take,” she explains. But they can travel amazing distances in 24 hours, she is finding. At the back of the property which is burned as far as the eye can see with a few unburned patches, we try and locate some of the koalas through a radio transmitter. Each koala has its own frequency so they know which animal they are listening in on.

The radio works as a sort of sonar radar with the frequency of beeps telling you how close you are to the koala.

“The koalas that survived were just lucky enough to be holding onto a tree that wasn’t burned down,” said James. Those areas that are still green is where the fire changed direction and that’s where the koalas will go to feed and sleep.”

Before we leave, Karen is able to pick up the signal up of two of the koalas but they are very faint.


Image: Maria Taylor

Where the airtanker crashed

On the way out of sanctuary James takes us to the site where the tanker crashed. The plane crashed just outside of Two Thumbs’ property but you can see the crash site from the sanctuary. You can see the clearing where the plane went down very clearly.

“The plane went down on the 23rd which was the biggest day for the fires and when the plane went down, we didn’t even hear it because the fires are incredibly loud,” said James. Smoke was thick and wind was high.

Bulletin reporter Jacob Howard meets koala_cr Maria Taylor

Bulletin feature reporter Jacob Howard meets koala. Image: Maria Taylor

James, who has experienced wholesale destruction of his home and his rescue work, is strong and resolved on a comeback, for koalas and also for the other native animals (kangaroos, wallabies, birds and reptiles) on his property. He is sadly realistic too. He tells us he is now back to an earlier point of rebuilding the local koala population. It took 40 plus years to get to the pre-fire level, one of the few areas in this part of south eastern NSW with an increasing population.

But with this continuing help and care there is hope for these koalas.

[NOTE: On smaller screens click on images to view larger.]


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‘Fundamental failure’: Environment Department not protecting koala habitat


By Mike Foley, The Sydney Morning Herald.

Only 10 percent of the koala habitat cleared in NSW and Queensland between 2012 and 2017 was assessed by the federal government, despite national environment law requiring protection for threatened species.

KOALAS WERE LISTED as a vulnerable species in 2012 and of the 160,000 hectares of known and likely habitat cleared up to 2017, 90 percent was not reviewed by the federal government for its impact to the species. The new figures are revealed in an analysis of government development approval registers by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

SEEN ABOVE:  Koala displaced by habitat loss, Leard State Forest, NSW. Image Maria Taylor, District Bulletin March 2016.

Significant challenges confront koalas after last summer’s bushfires. Environment Minister Sussan Ley warned earlier this year that their status in some areas of their range may be upgraded to endangered. But since the species was listed as threatened, there has not been one enforcement action taken by the federal government against unapproved clearing of habitat.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act requires the federal government to assess developments which could impact the health of threatened species, as well as World Heritage areas.


In a submission to the Victorian government the AWPC have formulated a number of recommendations:

The Building Blocks of Extinction and Biodiversity Loss in Victoria

Australian Wildlife Protection Council submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the extinction crisis in Victoria.



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