Category Archives: State-by-State

State of play: Wildlife in Victoria

Victoria-state-border-signage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Peter Hylands, 2018

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

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

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

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

Surveys

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

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

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

ATCWs issued in 2019 – summary

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

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

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

ATCWs Victoria 2009-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Peter Hylands, 2020

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

2019–20 Summer fires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historical note

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

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

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

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

A note on climate change in Australia

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

The Anthropogenic

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

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

Peter Hylands, President AWPC
16 November 2020

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Rescued koalas, Jessie and Amelia, return to the wild (NSW)

koalas-Jessie-Amelia-source_ifaw

Early in 2020, amidst the devastating bushfires that ravaged Australia, Bear, the USC x IFAW koala detection dog was deployed to Peak View in NSW, at the site of Two Thumbs Wildlife Sanctuary.

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The Sanctuary, run by James Fitzgerald, had been destroyed by the Good Good Fire on 23rd January and was dealt a second blow when a firefighting air tanker crashed while trying to protect the sanctuary, killing the three US firefighter crew onboard.The Hercules water bomber (an aircraft filled with water to dump thousands of litres of water and fire retardant on out-of-control blazes) had been deployed in an effort to regain control of the fires at Two Thumbs as the flames were too large to be dealt with by fire trucks.

Rescuing Jessie and Amelia

“When we heard the devastating news of Two Thumbs Wildlife Sanctuary being destroyed this past January, we deployed USC X IFAW’s detection dog, Bear, to help search for survivors” says IFAW’s Josey Sharrad.

Bear and the team visited the area to look for surviving koalas in need of rescue. Using the scent of their fur, Bear located a mother koala and her joey. The koalas, named Jessie and Amelia (pictured above), were brought to the Australian National University, where they received emergency care and embarked on a specialized rehabilitation plan led by Dr. Karen Ford. During a checkup, the team performed an ultrasound and discovered exciting news — Jessie was pregnant!

… CONTINUE READING  (ifaw website)

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Kangaloola Wildlife Shelter (Vic) rehabilitate sick & injured native animals

Kangaloola-joey-feeding

It’s Been A Tough Gig In 2020

The last 12 months seem to have been one disaster after another. Australia’s wildlife, and the people that care for them, are feeling the hurt.

For over 25 years now not-for-profit organisation Kangaloola Wildlife Shelter — located in the midst of the beautiful Stanley Forest just outside Yackandandah, 300 kilometres north-east of Melbourne — has provided care and comfort, and saved the lives of, literally thousands of native animals.

ABOVE: Photo by Paul McCormack. All images via Kangaloola Facebook.

Founded by Glenda Elliott (fondly known to many as “the Angel of the Bush”), Kangaloola has grown from humble, ad hoc beginnings into a vibrant hub where a largely volunteer team cares for injured, sick and orphaned Australian wildlife with the aim of rehabilitating them for eventual release back into the wild.

And while 2020 has been tough on so many fronts for so many, Kangaloola had a shocker beginning to the year with the horrific summer bushfires which ravaged their region and — apart from leaving a devastating loss of flora and fauna in their wake — could very easily have enveloped the shelter itself.

“It’s all variations of ‘the year from hell’ that’s affected so many people in so many ways,” explains Kangaloola secretary and long-term volunteer, Chris Lehmann. “It started for Kangaloola with our location in the Stanley Forest and the Abbeyard fire south-east of us and then there was the horrid Corryong fire which was north-west of us, and either one of those could have got to Kangaloola in a week or so had the wind changed direction. Nobody was putting them out, it was all about which way the wind blew.

“We had the two owners — the husband and wife team [Glenda and Ron Elliott] — and we had a Swedish girl who’d been working as a volunteer for about a year, and I think at the time we had three backpackers who were volunteers from different parts of the world, and basically I was just sitting here watching the damned emergency app — and so were Glenda and Ron — all day every day to see what was happening with the fires and to see if we had to evacuate everybody.

“It would have meant that we had to evacuate all the people and all the little joeys, and god knows what we’d do with everything else.”

In an odd twist of fate, the stress of the fires being so close was exacerbated by the last thing you’d imagine to be a negative factor – the huge outpouring of altruistic support which ensued.

“So the encroaching fires were the initial stress, and it was compounded in a weird way by the fact that I’d open my computer every morning and there would be 300 unread emails, I’m not kidding you,” Lehmann recalls with a shake of the head. “And the phone was just ringing and ringing and ringing, it would be someone like Air Canada flight crew saying ‘We want to come over and rescue animals! What can we do? Where can we go? Who can we speak to?’ From that right up to locals wanting to donate things and everything in-between, including people bringing trailer-loads of stuff we might need — it was just relentless.

“How do you feed over 100 animals and deal with all the actual rescue calls when the phone doesn’t stop ringing with offers of help? It’s the strangest conundrum. It was all people wanting to give something or volunteer or find out how we were — the despicable irony of all these wonderful offers of help was that we had to push them away. In the end we had to find ways to stop it — or divert it to some other poor bugger — and we had to send out messages saying ‘please stop’.

“And then bizarrely the real work that needed to be doing we weren’t allowed to do — we weren’t allowed to go anywhere near the fire grounds, even when the fires were out. We weren’t allowed to take food and water to the animals — that was expressly prohibited by locked gates and threats that we would be ‘breaking the law’.

“So it was a really despicable time, honestly, and all the while people were absolutely beside themselves about the animal loss and the suffering. It was a genuinely terrible time.”

Having survived the fires and provided what assistance they could, life at Kangaloola briefly returned to a semblance of normality — and then COVID struck, cancelling the shelter’s much-needed lifeline of travelling volunteers.

“We have five beds here for live-in volunteers, and then once COVID hit the cancellations started,“ Lehmann continues. Early on we had an American girl saying, ‘Sorry, my doctor has advised me that I shouldn’t go’, and I actually doffed my hat to that guy two months later: it was almost like, ‘What did that guy know that none of us knew?’

“Then the flood of cancellations started and our booking agent was saying to us, ‘What are you going to do? What’s your plan?’ And we were, like, ‘I don’t know what our plan is! I don’t know what you do in a global pandemic!’

“Early on we’d started to tell people that we wouldn’t accept people from China or who’d been anywhere near China — we started doing our own kind of triaging of volunteers — but then the government fixed the problem when they announced no more inbound flights, so that was that.

“Then we started depending on a few long-time local diehard volunteers, the girl from Sweden extended her visa, and we’ve been getting by. There’s been good days and there’s been bad days, and now we’re slowly starting to self-manage. We’ve found a British guy who’d been working on an outback station in Queensland who’s come to us and really fitted in well and it looks like he’s going to stay until the end of the year, so that’s great, and we have a couple of other leads.

“It causes stress and it makes the workload unmanageable, but I’m not going to complain too much because we’re not financially threatened like so many people are, as well as businesses and homeowners. I don’t want to complain when there’s like 10 percent of mortgages on a watch list and 15 percent of businesses threatened to go out of business — that’s a far sadder thing.”

While Lehmann is being humble in light of the COVID devastation that’s befalling people everywhere throughout regional Victoria, Kangaloola is dependent on donations (which are 100% tax-deductible and can be made at kangaloolawildlifeshelter.org.au) and they’re far from out of the woods yet: the drought conditions that have plagued regional Victoria for years may have abated somewhat but the ramifications are far from over.

“I really fear in the future that we’re going to look up on a hill during one of these serious summers and everything is going to have died the day before.”

“The biggest influx this year was we had about 13 koalas at one point — including three abandoned joeys — but really what that was was the end state or the tail-end of three years of drought conditions,” Lehmann offers. “And during that intense summer the koalas couldn’t cope with it, they just sat on the ground and said, ‘I give up’.

“The other thing that a lot of people don’t realise is that you look at the trees and you think ‘Yeah, they’re green, they’re alright’, but they are suffering — they’re as dry as biscuits. There’s nothing in the leaves and the koalas weren’t getting any nutrition — even the trees are at a tipping point.

“I really fear in the future that we’re going to look up on a hill during one of these serious summers and everything is going to have died the day before. The trees can’t cope with this forever either, they’re not magical beings.

“So we had the most koalas we’ve ever had, including three joeys that just walked up to a farmer and climbed up his leg saying, ‘Our mum’s abandoned us, can you help us?’ But they’re all ok now, same as the kangaroo joeys. They all stay with us for at least a year on an intense feeding regimen and then another year of preparing and adjusting for release — about two years all up we have them — but it’s worth it for that moment when they’re back out into their world again. Now we’ve just got to protect that world.”

 

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Some good news this Threatened Species Day (7 September)

Regent-honeyeater-via-BirdlifeAustralia

From:  Mick Roderick
— NSW Woodland Bird Program Manager here at BirdLife Australia.

TODAY, on National Threatened Species Day, we wanted to share with you some of our work bringing threatened species back from the brink with this special footage of our first large-scale Regent Honeyeater Release in NSW. In June, BirdLife Australia and our partners released 20 of these Critically Endangered birds into NSW’s Hunter Valley, into one of the largest remaining Regent Honeyeater strongholds.

Over the last few months, it’s been wonderful to observe captive birds interacting with wild birds. One of our transmitter birds led us to at least six wild Regents, and already four of these birds appeared to have paired up — a promising sign for spring!

Join us in celebrating with this special video we’ve put together.

For those that don’t know me, my name is Mick Roderick – and I’m the NSW Woodland Bird Program Manager here at BirdLife Australia.

Today, on National Threatened Species Day, we wanted to share with you some of our work bringing threatened species back from the brink with this special footage of our first large-scale Regent Honeyeater Release in NSW. In June, BirdLife Australia and our partners released 20 of these Critically Endangered birds into NSW’s Hunter Valley, into one of the largest remaining Regent Honeyeater strongholds.

Over the last few months, it’s been wonderful to observe captive birds interacting with wild birds. One of our transmitter birds led us to at least six wild Regents, and already four of these birds appeared to have paired up – a promising sign for spring!

Join us in celebrating with this special video we’ve put together.

Regent Honeyeaters are a ‘flagship species’ — so supporting them helps improve the status of other birds that share their habitat. When you help save one bird from extinction, other birds will follow. We hope this will be the first of many NSW releases, and with only a few hundred Regents left, these releases could mean the difference between extinction and survival.

Your voice can help us bring our precious birds back from the brink.

Right now we need your voice more than ever to ensure our national environment laws actually protect nature. Our Federal politicians are considering these laws right now, and they need to know that Australians from all walks of life care.

Can you help grow our campaign by sharing this video with your friends and family on social media?

IMAGERY: Author supplied.

 

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New research shows lyrebirds move more litter and soil than any other digging animal

SUPERB-LYREBIRD-crAlexMaisey

WHEN YOU THINK of lyrebirds, what comes to mind may be the sound of camera clicks, chainsaws and the songs of other birds. While the mimicry of lyrebirds is remarkable, it is not the only striking feature of this species.

ABOVE: Male Superb Lyrebird in display.  Alex Maisey, Author provided.

In research just published, we document the extraordinary changes that lyrebirds make to the ground layer in forests in their role as an ecosystem engineer.

Ecosystem engineers change the environment in ways that impact on other species. Without lyrebirds, eastern Australia’s forests would be vastly different places.

Male lyrebird in full tail display.  Alex Maisey

What is an ecosystem engineer?

Ecosystem engineers exist in many environments. By disturbing the soil, they create new habitats or alter existing habitats, in ways that affect other organisms, such as plants and fungi.

A well-known example is the beaver, in North America, which uses logs and mud to dam a stream and create a deep pond. In doing so, it changes the aquatic habitat for many species, including frogs, herons, fish and aquatic plants. Other examples include bandicoots and bettongs.

The Superb Lyrebird acts as an ecosystem engineer by its displacement of leaf litter and soil when foraging for food. Lyrebirds use their powerful claws to rake the forest floor, exposing bare earth and mixing and burying litter, while seeking invertebrate prey such as worms, centipedes and spiders.


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To study the role of the lyrebird as an engineer, we carried out a two-year experiment in Victoria’s Central Highlands, with three experimental treatments.

First, a fenced treatment, where lyrebirds were excluded from fenced square plots measuring 3m wide.

Second, an identical fenced plot but in which we simulated lyrebird foraging with a three-pronged hand rake (about the width of a lyrebird’s foot). This mimicked soil disturbance by lyrebirds but without the birds eating the invertebrates that lived there.

The third treatment was an unfenced, open plot (of the same size) in which wild lyrebirds were free to forage as they pleased.

Over a two-year period, we tracked changes in the litter and soil, and measured the amount of soil displaced inside and outside of these plots.

A colour-banded female lyrebird in Sherbrooke Forest, Victoria. Her powerful claws are used for foraging in litter and soil.  Meghan Lindsay

Lyrebirds dig up a lot of dirt

On average, foraging by wild lyrebirds resulted in a staggering 155 tonnes per hectare of litter and soil displaced each year throughout these forests.

To the best of our knowledge, this is more than any other digging vertebrate, worldwide.

To put this in context, most digging vertebrates around the world, such as pocket gophers, moles, bandicoots and bettongs, displace between 10–20 tonnes of material per hectare, per year.

To picture what 155 tonnes of soil looks like, imagine the load carried by five medium-sized 30 tonne dump trucks — and this is just for one hectare!

But how much does an individual lyrebird displace? At one study location we estimated the density of the lyrebird population to be approximately one lyrebird for every 2.3 hectares of forest, thanks to the work of citizen scientists led by the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Study Group.

Based on this estimate, and to use our dump truck analogy, a single lyrebird will displace approximately 11 dump trucks of litter and soil in a single year.

Lyrebirds dig up a lot of dirt in forests.

Changes to the ground layer

After two years of lyrebird exclusion, leaf litter in the fenced plots was approximately three times deeper than in the unfenced plots. Soil compaction was also greater in the fenced plots.

Where lyrebirds foraged, the soil easily crumbled and the litter layer never fully recovered to a lyrebird-free state before foraging re-occurred.

This dynamic process of disturbance by lyrebirds has been going on for millennia, profoundly shaping these forests. For organisms such as centipedes, spiders and worms living in the litter and soil, the forest floor under the influence of lyrebirds may provide new opportunities that would not exist in their absence.

Terraced soil where litter has been removed and roots exposed by foraging lyrebirds.  Alex Maisey

An ecosystem ravaged by fire

The Australian megafires of 201920 resulted in approximately 40% of the Superb Lyrebird’s entire distribution being incinerated, according to a preliminary analysis by BirdLife Australia.

So great was the extent of these fires that the conservation status of the lyrebird has been thrown into question. That the conservation status has fallen — from “common” to potentially being “threatened” — from a single event is deeply concerning.


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Loss of lyrebird populations on this scale will have potentially far-reaching effects on forest ecology.

In the face of climate change and a heightened risk of severe wildfire, understanding the role that species such as the Superb Lyrebird play in ecosystems is more important than ever.

Without lyrebirds, eastern Australia’s forests would be vastly different places, with impacts extending well beyond the absence of their glorious song to other animals who rely on these “ecosystem engineers”.The Conversation

Alex Maisey, PhD Candidate, La Trobe University and Andrew Bennett, Professor of Ecology, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

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National Party at it again: SCRAP KOALA PROTECTION

NSW-koala-habitat-logging_AWPCsept2020

Chris Gulaptis MP and the Nationals declare war on koalas

CLARENCE NATIONAL PARTY MP Chris Gulaptis has opened a new front in the National Party’s war on koalas and conservation by demanding the new laws designed to prevent the species’ extinction be scrapped. [1]

“On current trends, koalas are on track to become extinct in NSW by 2050,” Nature Conservation Council CEO Chris Gambian said.

“The laws that Mr Gulaptis wants to tear up were drafted well before the summer bushfires, which killed thousands, wiped out local populations and pushed many others closer to extinction.

“If anything, the government should be considering strengthening laws to protect this iconic species.”

Mr Gambian said Mr Gulaptis’s threat to sit on the cross benches if the government didn’t scrap koala protections was the latest in a series of attacks by National MPs on koalas.

“Nationals Leader John Barilaro has aggressively pushed to continue logging koala forests after the bushfires destroyed millions of hectares of prime habitat,” Mr Gambian said.

“Several forests on the north coast that were among the last unburned koalas forests in the state have been targeted by Forestry Corporation for intensive logging with the state government’s blessing.

“The Nationals are also behind moves to slash and burn national parks and allow cows to trample conservation reserves.

“If we want our children and grandchildren to see koalas in the wild, we have to stop destroying their forests.

“If Mr Gulaptis and John Barilaro get their way, the demise of the koala is guaranteed to happen even faster than projected.”

[1] We can’t bear this nationals’ revolt, Daily Telegraph, 2-9-2020

— MEDIA RELEASE.  GRAPHIC: Sue Van Homrigh, AWPC.

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