Category Archives: Features

Visitors, new residents love Skippy and all our unique wildlife. Do we?


A RECENTLY-ARRIVED Australian resident and writer, Elle Hunt, wrote a compelling article in January expressing how people from around the world love and value Australian wildlife.

The horror of our wildlife’s suffering in the recent bushfires, was the immediate impetus for her story. But it raises good questions for Australians.

In the Bush Capital, Canberra, the authorities have waged a decade-long killing program against ‘Skippy’ under various excuses. In Victoria and South Australia, kangaroo pest and killing narratives are pushing the benefits of the commercial skin and meat trade. Exploiting native wildlife for export trades has long been a policy of the federal government.

Is it not in our interests, (economic and moral) to start respecting and valuing our unique wildlife as our international visitors do?

Here is an excerpt from Elle’s story posted in The Guardian.

Their bodies lie piled up by the side of the road, barely visible through the ochre haze: dozens, maybe hundreds of kangaroos that tried to outrun the flames and perished, in their droves, in the attempt. The scene, filmed from a car on the way to Batlow, New South Wales, resembles a battlefield after a bungled campaign: wildlife versus wildfire, and the victor is abundantly clear.

Australia is burning. At least 23 people have died since October and with much of the continent still ablaze, despite the fact bushfire season is not expected to peak until February, that number is likely to climb. The scale of the devastation — entire towns wiped out, thousands sheltering on the beach to await military evacuation by sea — is hard to overestimate.

But to the rest of the world looking on in horror, among the most ghastly images are those showing the toll on Australia’s native wildlife. A kangaroo, backlit by flames. A dead joey, charred and still clinging to the fence that it ran up against. Battered koalas, battling serious burns — these are the faces put forward in appeals, poster critters of a nation gripped by emergency.

The power of these images speaks to the hold of Australian wildlife on our collective imagination. If you know nothing else about Australia — if you wouldn’t know Ramsay Street without the street sign — you know Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. Same with a koala, platypus, dingo, echidna, kookaburra, wombat, possum, emu, saltwater croc — take your pick.

Even if a visit to Australia is just an “if we win the Lotto” entry on your bucket list, its fauna is instantly recognisable, symbolic of a wild and ancient continent truly unlike any other on Earth. But one of the many ways in which Australia is special is that if you do go there, you’ll actually see these species.

Excerpt from:
Elle Hunt The world loves kangaroos and koalas.  Now we are watching them die in droves. The Guardian, 7 January 2020.

As of March 2020 this article had over 2,000 shares and 259 comments.

IMAGE: Tourists flock to wildlife parks to feed our native animals. (Valeriia Miller, Pexels)

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Well before the bushfires, country’s fauna decimated by policy


IN A PREVIOUS LIFE, I obtained an environmental science degree and worked as a fauna ecologist for an environmental consultancy.

On an environmental impact study (EIS) in the rocky jump-up country out of Winton [Queensland] a few years ago, my colleagues and I recorded a healthy population of rock wallabies living in the caves and cliffs where a proposed coal mine was to be built.

IMAGE: Rock Wallabies are small kangaroos that live within rocky outcrops — they are more common in the arid and tropical parts of Australia.
Credit: Whitepointer, Dreamstime.

Despite being listed as vulnerable under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, the presence of the animals wasn’t a barrier to the project going ahead.

The developers planned to catch and remove the wallabies they could, and those they couldn’t catch were going to be fenced inside the tailings dam where they would most likely die.

This wasn’t an unusual scenario.

Every EIS I worked on — for coal, coal-seam gas, gas refinery, bauxite, housing estates, and airport expansion projects — during a three-and-a-bit year period found species listed as vulnerable or endangered.


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Unnatural disaster


I WILL SAY this simple thing, 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.

This article is an extract from a blog post by
Peter Hylands, Creative Cowboy.

Follow THIS LINK to view the complete story along with video and imagery.
All rights reserved Peter Hylands.

That is why Australia’s wonderful wildlife now needs your help more than ever before. It is estimated that the Australian bushfires so far this year have added an additional 2 percent to global greenhouse emissions and will add as much as one billion tons by the end of the fire season, the end result will be significantly more than the United Kingdom will emit for 2020.

“Everything is a bit out of control again here, wind like I have never experienced before. Gary was on the roof of the shed trying to strap it down as it was going to lift off, the wind was so strong it was lifting him with the roof. It was absolutely terrifying. Bushfires all around again, we are ok but the roads are closed and we think a water bomber has gone down.” — Sara Tilling

We turn our attention once again to events at the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales. I am writing this on 25 January 2020, the message from Sara above is from two days ago. A C-130 water bomber did indeed go down killing three very brave American fire fighters. A tragedy built upon tragedy.

We joined Sara Tilling, Gary Henderson and Scott Medwell at the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary as the clear up began.

Scott travelled all the way from regional Victoria and stayed for a week to help Sara and Gary begin the daunting clear up.

I wanted to give everyone an update snapshot regarding what is happening to wildlife in the eastern states fire zones. We have to remember we are talking about a country size region that has been impacted by fire, some very severely.

Regional rescues are occurring, as are food drops to wildlife in some areas. Local groups of rescuers are joined by major animal organisations such as Animals Australia and Wires volunteers in New South Wales.

In Victoria, Wildlife Victoria is also engaged in animal rescue but Victoria and New South Wales have closed many areas where wildlife will require assistance. So in many places wildlife rescuers are waiting to enter the firegrounds and it may be just too late for many animals. I understand the problems but this issue needs a rethink. Not good enough by far.

Wires say this on their website in relation to New South Wales.

“WIRES volunteers are on standby to enter fire grounds once the RFS and National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) declare an area safe to access, however this can take up to three weeks after a fire has passed through.”

In addition to these problems numerous wildlife shelters and places where wildlife is cared for and rehabilitated, like Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary, have been destroyed, and need to be rebuilt.

In Victoria the Victorian Government has just announced a $17.5 million package, aimed at giving endangered plants and animals the best chance of survival through “habitat restoration, predator and pest control and immediate salvage operations”.

The Australian Commonwealth Government had previously announced its $50 million emergency wildlife and habitat recovery fund saying that half of the fund would go to frontline responder groups including wildlife carers, hospitals and zoos including Zoos Victoria, Adelaide Zoo and Taronga Zoo (NSW). The balance would help fund a government advisory panel led by Dr Sally Box, the newly appointed Threatened Species Commissioner.

We were in Canberra when the $50 million fund was announced and politicians were talking about predator control. My comment on both these funds is this, while the funds should be applauded, this is new territory for these wildlife unfriendly governments and given the scale of the disaster and the size of the funds announced to date, which are small in relation to what has occurred, there needs to be a strict set of governance standards applied to the funds distribution and use. We particularly need to be clear on what predator control means, what species are they targeting, where and by which methods. The New South Wales Government, also talking about predator control, appears immune to the catastrophic plight of its wildlife (climate change and super fires), saying there will be no changes to killing of wildlife under a range of mechanisms, including the commercial trade in wildlife.

“Every single animal left must be given every single chance.” — Sara Tilling

All wildlife in these fires zones need help, not just threatened species. Populations of all species will be seriously impacted. As of 7 January 2020 the Victorian fires had already entirely severely burnt 34 of the state’s 104 major parks, 31 percent of the state’s rainforests, 24 percent of wet or damp forests and 34 percent of lowland forests had been burnt. In all this carnage, at least 185 Victorian species, many rare and threatened, have been affected by the fires, including 19 mammal species, 13 frog species, 10 reptile species, 9 bird species, 29 aquatic species and 38 plant species. With all this going on my view is that Parks Victoria were still culling native wildlife in the state and national parks where fires had not made their devastating impact. I have asked the Victorian Government a series of questions which they have refused to answer, for what I expect are obvious reasons. Freedom of information requests are being filed in relation to these matters.


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Killing for kicks in Victoria off again. Call the premier.


THE VIC LABOR government sounded another death knell for our beautiful native waterbirds. A five-week duck shooting season commencing May 2 and ending June 8 with a three-bird daily bag limit was announced today.

You’d think enough of our wildlife would have perished recently but apparently the bloodthirsty fetishes of just 0.02% of Victorians who ‘kill for kicks’ are more important to Labor than the preservation of our seriously diminished numbers of native waterbirds.

Thank you to everyone who tried to stop this tragedy. It is devastating that they didn’t listen to your many letters, phone calls and newspaper items. Attached are some of the most recent letters.

But we aren’t going away. This is a disappointment but we must stay strong for the birds because this abomination and blight on our society must, and will be stopped.

After 34 years of campaigning, we will keep fighting as hard as ever until duck shooting is banned. [Link to our media release.]

States’ bloody war on wildlife: this month it’s ducks
By District Bulletin, 14 March 2019

Please keep the opening weekend of 2nd and 3rd May, 2020 free.

Online registration to attend duck rescue will be available in late March.

Meanwhile though, please phone Premier Andrews on 03 9651 5000 and tell him how disgusted you are. Then email Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio and thank her for trying to stop the duck season. Tell her how devastated you are and so disappointed in Labor.

Both Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes and Lily D’Ambrosio were required to endorse a duck season but because D’Ambrosio refused, it appears Premier Andrews has had to make the final decision. Please cc copies to Premier Andrews and Jaclyn Symes and to all your Lower and Upper House Labor MPs  which can be found here.

— Laurie, Lynn and Dave, Coalition Against Duck Shooting

IMAGE SOURCE: JPS, Shutterstock


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Like other Australian wildlife: birdlife is in deep trouble

VICTORIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, Tasmania and the Northern Territory each have a recreational shooting season. The result is the cruel death of hundreds of thousands of Australian waterbirds each year. Much of this killing occurs on Ramsar sites. The killing does not stop there.

“In New South Wales, which does not have a recreational shooting season for waterbirds, an estimated 49,750 ducks were shot during the 2016–17 rice growing period”

The killing of native waterbirds in New South Wales occurs on private land and shooters from other states also travel to New South Wales to participate in this activity. This blog describes the species and the numbers of birds shot as authorized by the New South Wales Government issued Native Game Bird Management licences in 2016–17.

There are around 1,500 farm businesses growing rice in the Murrumbidgee Valley and Murray Valley. The industry has relied heavily on chemical pesticides when ducks could have been part of the pest control solution. There are also rice farms on the Victorian side of the border.

“Numbers are building up”
NSW DPI to Peter Hylands August 2018

The shooting of Australia’s birdlife on rice fields in the Murray Darling system and associated rivers takes place during the breeding season.  The welfare of young birds is not a consideration. Birds are not silly animals, the majority of birds shot during the start of the recreational duck shooting season are juvenile birds and in their first year of life, if they survive the first year then they are the wiser.  It is here that waterbirds in one of the most extensive river systems in the world, the Murray Darling, have now declined by more than 75 percent in the last three decades.

“What it means for duck hunters who venture to the state of NSW is for an opportunity to participate in the most fast and frantic waterfowling available in this country”
  • Australian (Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides) 146
  • Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata) 9,412
  • Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa) 11,700
  • Australasian (Shoveler Anas rhynchotis) 65
  • Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea) 54
  • Grey Teal (Anas gracilis) 25,028
  • Hardhead (Aythya Australis) 1,121
  • Pink Eared Duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus) 882
  • Plumed Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna eytoni) 1,342

There have been no prosecutions in New South Wales regarding illegal conduct and cruelty and the New South Wales Government is not investigating non-lethal methods of control.

“Shooting on the NSW rice fields has always been seen by Victorian duck shooters as being just another recreational shoot, disguised as crop mitigation.  They see it as their second opening for the year. I despair at the large number of wounded birds that would suffer a lonely and long death out of view of anyone.”
— Laurie Levy

The New South Wales Government claim that less than five percent of the total numbers of owner/occupier licenses are to control native ‘game’ ducks not killed on rice fields.

“One duck and a thousand treasures” 

The quote above is from Japanese duck rice farmer Takao Furuno talking about the Aigamo duck-rice culture.

Yet another slaughter of native waterbirds begins in the Australian state of New South Wales in October. The droughts are very severe and this means that where there is water, concentrations of birdlife are likely to be high. The New South Wales Government is running the following ad on its DPI website. Events are being held around Melbourne and in Sydney.

“NSW landholders who grow rice need the help of hunters again this year to protect crops vulnerable to damage from native game ducks. If you are interested in being a part of the NSW Native Game Bird Management Program, the NSW DPI Game Licensing Unit’s Wildlife Management Team are hosting informal information nights, where you’ll find out…”

In 1986, when the campaign to stop the mass slaughter of waterbirds began in Victoria, shooting in the New South Wales rice fields was considered by most Victorian duck shooters as a recreational shoot and their second opening in October. The idea remains.

“Rice farm owners and/or managers would apply for destruction permits to shoot waterbirds so that their mates could come up for a recreational shoot”  

However, there are many rice farmers in New South Wales who do not shoot native waterbirds. Research by the CSIRO going back to the 1930s concludes that native duck species are not a problem as they take only a small amount of rice but that they help to keep the real pests down, such as blood worms, invertebrates and snails etc. In fact Asian rice farmers take domestic ducks onto their rice fields to keep the real pests down.

It is some sort of improvement that the New South Wales Government department responsible for the shooting (DPI) is now trying to manage shooting on the rice fields, once again this is a killing culture with the department promoting these shooting activities, and most of the shooting is still done for recreational purposes.

Swan_creatorPeter-Hylands-dEC2019There are many terrible and cruel stories from these killing fields involving individual birds. Here is just one of tens of thousands of these things. This case of cruelty, which is ‘illegal’, from the state of Victoria and from 2011. There is no law, anything goes.

A Black Swan sits on her nest, shooting all around her. Hunters spot the gracious and beautiful swan and decide to use its nesting site as a platform to shoot from. They kick the swans eggs into the water, now shattered and broken, young bodies mixed with yoke. As the mother tries to defend her nest she is filled with shot at point blank range.

swan-xray-PeterHylands-jan2020Like the thousands of birds around her our brave mother dies in agony. Here is the X-ray of her broken body. Her broken family lays around her.



WORDS AND IMAGERY: Peter Hylands at creativecowboyfilms


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How the world is viewing Australia

Dear friends [of avaaz] across the world,

Hell on earth looks a lot like Australia right now. The fires are so big they are generating their own lightning — and they’ve killed more than a **BILLION** animals! 

A billion! It’s a wildlife holocaust!! Thousands of koalas have been roasted alive in the trees, while rare flying foxes are falling dead from the sky. Even worse, this nightmare could be a glimpse of our whole planet’s future if we don’t urgently tackle the climate crisis that caused it.

Even as their country burns, Australia’s leaders are denying climate change and trying to derail global action to reduce carbon pollution. We can’t let them win. So we’ll also bring all of our movement’s campaigning magic to face down blockers in Australia and all over the world ahead of crucial global climate talks later this year.

This is urgent — give what you can to help beat back Australia’s biodiversity apocalypse and spark the climate revolution our planet needs!

Can you imagine how brave you must be to run into the flames to save terrified animals? Across Australia, heroic wildlife rescuers are working against the clock to save animals from this catastrophe.

But to really make their heroism count, we must spark change in Australia — and that means taking on the powerful climate deniers who have the government in their grip. Right now, they’re flooding Australia with fake news to play down the link to climate change, but as deadly fires blaze through homes, businesses and schools, killing dozens and wrecking people’s lives, Australia’s leaders are under pressure like never before.

This is personal for me. My brother lives in Australia, and I want my precocious, curious young nephews to grow up looking for koalas up in the treetops, and not just hearing about them in the history books. I hope they’ll be able to look out over the ocean, without choking on ash. And I’d love them to hear stories about a time when the world came together to defend their country’s splendid natural beauty — a moment that was both a global wake-up call and a tipping point toward building the healthier, more sustainable world we all want.

With hope, love and lots of grit,

Joseph, Bert, Marigona, Martyna, Francesco, Patricia, Aloys,
and the whole Avaaz team


Number Of Animals Feared Dead In Australia’s Wildfires Soars To Over 1 Billion
(Huffington Post)

The world loves kangaroos and koalas. Now we are watching them die in droves (The Guardian)

Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide
(The New York Times)

Something else is out of control in Australia: climate disaster denialism
(The Guardian)

How Rupert Murdoch Is Influencing Australia’s Bushfire Debate
(The New York Times)

The viral false claim that nearly 200 arsonists are behind the Australia fires, explained

Avaaz is seeking donations for post wildfire support with this edited post. There are many good organisations seeking donations and pledging support, so we are not going to boost one over the others, but consider your state and local wildlife rescue groups and also Humane Society International which pledges to help carers rebuild. And AWPC for campaigns in 2020 for respect and sharing with our wildlife.

IMAGE: Benny Marty, Dreamstime.


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