An Australian state government wants to ban wildlife shelters from treating injured kangaroos, wombats, possums and cockatoos, claiming they’re “over-abundant” species.
The Victorian government has published a discussion paper outlining proposed changes to wildlife management regulations, and is seeking public comment on the review.
It also flags a crackdown on wildlife carers releasing rehabilitated kangaroos and wombats on to their properties in rural areas, claiming this can result in ” unnaturally high concentrations of released wildlife” with “significant impacts” for neighbours.
The discussion paper, prepared by the Victorian government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, is canvassing public opinion on changes that could make it easier to issue Authority to Control Wildlife permits. These are basically permits to kill or “remove” wildlife such as kangaroos and wombats or to use nets and acoustic devices to scare birds.
According to the paper, the Victorian government issued more than 4,000 permits for lethal and non-lethal control of wildlife in 2017. It says 2,732 of these permits for were eastern grey kangaroos, 252 were for wombats and 109 for Australian wood ducks.
“The aim of the review is to develop stakeholder informed recommendations on how to improve the ATCW (Authority to Control Wildlife) system so that it sensibly balances the needs of Victoria’s human and wildlife populations,” it says. Yep, the bureaucrat lingo is dense and aims to obfuscate……
But why appear to target wildlife shelters? The department goes to some lengths to reassure anonymous “stakeholders” (who are they? Local councils, developers, farmers, the hunting lobby?) that it is “not considering removing the ability for people to undertake lethal control of wildlife when it is necessary.”
The same level of reassurance doesn’t appear to be extended to wildlife carers. They’re warned about the potential consequences of breaching their licence conditions by releasing or feeding rehabilitated wildlife on their properties.
And then there’s this…….
“Wildlife shelters and foster carers invest significant time and resources rehabilitating sick, injured and orphaned Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Given that the species is overabundant in many areas and is the species that the majority of ATCWs are issued for, some members of the community have suggested that the species should not be able to be rehabilitated under the wildlife shelter system.”
Some members of the community? That’s a bit vague….are they farmers, hunters, property developers, insurance companies who pay out millions each year for car damage claims caused by wildlife collisions…….the government needs to deal in specifics.
The discussion paper says the ban is “outside the scope” of the current permit review, but “may be considered in future reviews of the wildlife shelter system, as it may save significant shelter resources and reduce the impact of the species on landholders.”
“It may also be appropriate to consider whether the rehabilitation of unprotected wildlife, such as wombats, cockatoos or possums, should be disallowed or restricted,” it says.
There are several chat forums on Facebook for wildlife carers, and they leave no doubt that it’s a tough life for these volunteers. Apart from the exhausting, relentlessly routine physical work involved in wildlife rehabilitation (cleaning pens & feed bins, round the clock feeding schedules) there’s the financial outlay on items like feeding equipment, cloth pouches, towels, fencing materials, veterinary medications, petrol and electricity bills.
Wildlife carers – who are mostly women – also get viciously trolled on social media & receive fake call outs. But, they need to be visible to be effective.
Depression and burn out are frequent topics on those social media forums, And yet, they receive little support from most of Australia’s major conservation groups who use wildlife as an emotive marketing tool while doing little – if anything – to help volunteers and community groups working at a local level.
The Victorian government’s discussion paper creates yet more pressure for volunteers who are already doing the – largely unacknowledged – heavy lifting for community conservation and biodiversity education. They deserve more respect, or at least the same level of respect being offered by the department to those anonymous “stakeholders”.
In many areas, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has been progressive and compassionate – but the environment isn’t one of them. Strong conservation initiatives were conspicuously absent from the government’s recent 2018-19 budget and Andrews has alienated sections of his own party by his support for a duck hunting season.
Just six months ago, Andrews was promising to “deliver more support for animal welfare in Victoria”. He promised to review the state’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act “in close consultation with key stakeholders and the Victorian community replacing it with a modern animal welfare act in 2019.”
According to a government statement, the new act will “recognise the sentience of animals, reflecting the strong evidence that exists showing animals fear and feel pain.”
“This will ensure animal welfare management and legislation in Victoria develops to meet community expectations,” it said.
“The Government will also commit to publishing an annual Animal Welfare report by Animal Welfare Victoria that outlines achievements, challenges and actions regarding better animal welfare outcomes in Victoria.”
This rhetoric doesn’t match the language used by the DELWP discussion paper. There’s more than a dark hint of intimidation in the latter for the state’s wildlife carers.
The link to the discussion paper is here – public comment closes on 29 June.