In the aftermath of the devastating bushfires, wildlife has been left with a severe shortage of food but our governments don't seem to care, writes Sue Arnold.
ONE WILDLIFE CARER has described Australia as a “concentration camp for animals”. Her description has merit, given the current starvation crises which are driving surviving wildlife to extinction, aided and abetted by governments.
After bushfires destroyed approximately 7.7 million hectares, scientists estimated more than one billion animals had perished.
The same scientists also warned that the burned areas would result in a massive starvation event. One that was likely to drive species clinging to life into extinction history.
Given this information and the extraordinary response by not only the Australian public but the world, one could reasonably expect that State and Federal governments would ensure that plans were in place to provide supplementary feed and water. With no sign of the worst drought in history ending, providing wildlife with help to stay alive is critical.
IA has spent several days attempting to identify any plans by State and Federal governments to address the starvation crises. IA has uncovered what can only be described as a nightmare situation.
Let’s take NSW. Let’s say you live in an area where mobs of kangaroos or wallabies are obviously starving. There’s a desperate need for feed to sustain the mob. But there’s no phone number available at the National Parks and Wildlife Service to deal with starving wildlife. No one is available. Local offices can’t help.
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment have published a guide entitled ‘Helping Wildlife in Emergencies’. No information is provided other than what feed is suitable for a number of species. No emergency phone numbers, no references to wildlife groups or shelters where information could be sought.
In the meantime, reports are coming in via social media of starving animals in NSW, Queensland and Victoria. Folivores have little hope of survival as there’s no alternative food source. But a reasonable number of wallabies, kangaroos, wallaroos, have survived.
They are starving to death.
The situation is so dire that individuals have taken matters into their own hands. Marcus St Vincent, a Sydney managing director was deeply frustrated to see kangaroos so weakened by starvation when he recently drove by the Wombeyan Caves National Park. He had to act.
He told IA that a mob of around 60 starving kangaroos lay nearby on bare grass, too weak to hop. Staff at the park told him that requests to National Parks for food for the ‘roos had been ignored.
According to the Channel 9 report covering the event, NPWS claimed they are “feeding key populations” and that feeding “needs to be carefully considered, coordinated and implemented to minimise risks such as nutritional issues or attracting predators”.
There’s no information on what wildlife species constitute “key populations” or how, when and what the “key populations” are being fed and/or protected from predators.
Marcus bought six massive bales of hay to feed the roos and has continued to provide food in various areas. He’s spent more than $12,000 of his own money so far and has no intention of quitting.
Unbelievably, he’s also been told by nearby residents at Wombeyan Caves Park that NPWS rangers had come to the feeding site and removed all the hay.
Marcus believes one of the worst impacts on kangaroos is the complete failure of the Berejiklian Government to stop shooters getting a license to “harm” kangaroos.
“There needs to be an immediate halt of this slaughter,” he says.
A wildlife carer in the New England area echoes St Vincent’s concerns.
As a macropod carer, I would just like to say one thing that is really getting me riled up.
Our NSW Premier in all her stupidity is still allowing culling of our 'roos. Now I spend a lot of time, love, emotion, effort and money to raise these joeys and help the sick and hurt ones of all ages just so these a***oles can come and shoot them.
The law states that here in NSW they must be released, as they should be, but there is no protection for them when they go about their happy lives. All carers have the same lament and to know no matter what you do they will never see their old age.
I have many adults who refuse to leave for which I'm very grateful, they are not stopped, no fences hold them in, it's their choice. The stress on carers who live with this constantly is substantial, more than any other part of caring. So, what I ask you is please write your local MP, Mayor and the Prime Minister, voice you objection and make your vote count at the election.
The carer told IA that shooting of ‘roos continues and that the once magnificent mobs are slowly disappearing.
The Victorian Government, in stark contrast, has stopped the killing of macropods, giving the species time to recover from the massive bushfires. Friends of the Earth Melbourne has published a comprehensive guide giving explicit information on food for wildlife hubs as well as a food guide.
A thorough search of NSW organisations failed to reveal anything similar.
In NSW, it’s not only the NPWS that has no dedicated line for emergency food drops.
One would imagine given the extraordinary level of concern for Australia’s unique wildlife that there would be a major focus on the mass starvation in the mainstream media.
When the NSW Government organised a helicopter food drop for endangered rock wallabies, the MSM provided extensive coverage. However, NPWS has confirmed that there will be no more aerial drops, nor is there any information on how these wallabies will be provided with food in the weeks and months ahead.
In fact, the drop looks like a publicity stunt given the complete failure of the Government to come up with any kind of plan, feeding stations or water for surviving wildlife.
Questions in relation to any on-ground food drops, how often, which species and what areas put to NPWS media by IA remain unanswered.
An argument favoured by bureaucrats is that if feed is provided to wildlife, it will attract predators who will kill the weakened animals. This argument is unacceptable to most carers.
“If the animals are not fed, they’ll die and predators will go for the corpses. So why not feed them so they have enough strength to flee. At least give them a chance,” was the common response.
The NSW Government cut back on rangers in a cost-saving exercise.
Meantime, efforts to stop logging in unburned NSW forests have received the usual non-response in spite of pleas by major conservation organisations to the NSW Premier.
Hammering the nail in wildlife coffins, the timber industry proposal to allow some logging in national parks and on other public land to reduce bushfire risk has provoked a huge reaction.
Scientists say it is an “incredibly misleading” idea that could actually make forests more flammable.
But AFPA chief executive Ross Hampton said new initiatives to make forests “more fire resilient” could include selective logging to protect homes, water catchments and key infrastructure and mechanical reduction of undergrowth to reduce the fuel load in forests.
An unimaginable scenario for forest-dependent surviving wildlife.
A final word from the wildlife carer who coined the “concentration camp” description sums up the future for our irreplaceable environment.
No trees, no carbon absorption, no making of oxygen, no rain, no shelter or food for wildlife, no protection for soils and trees roots, increase in carbon emissions, loss/extinction of animals… a desert.
No growing of food possible, no water, no sustainable life, no planet. Mars won’t work but it’s a good example of what Earth will look like after we finish destroying our world. Dry, barren, and inhospitable.
The evidence of political neglect constitutes a crime against nature. Unfortunately, Australia’s wildlife has no rights to legal action.
Sue Arnold is an investigative journalist. She heads up Australians for Animals NSW Inc and the U.S. California Gray Whale Coalition. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis and Koala Crisis on Facebook here.
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