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Christmas message 2023

Life on land

“In a world of climate change and very evident biodiversity loss, one might imagine that attitudes towards wildlife would change. 2023 was a year spent in Australia, and as we look around the continent, not much has changed, other than a further deterioration for life on land”.

December 16, 2023
“Unlike us, animals have no control over their future. They cannot ask for home rule, they cannot worry their MPs with their grievances, they cannot get their unions to strike for better conditions. Their future and very existence depends on us”. Gerald Durrell, 1966

If things were not bad enough, along comes Cyclone Jasper (December 2023).

“The floods in north of Queensland have been severely understated while the cyclone was downgraded and did little damage itself, the aftermath and rain that delivered up to 1.7 metres in only a few hours have absolutely devastated the land and everything that once thrived on it. Mobs of Kangaroos and Wallabies literally washing up on beaches and streets, birds, possums and gliders with no homes to return to and joeys of all species, wet cold and orphaned.” Shai Ager, Agile Project, North Queensland, December 2023

A terrible way to end 2023 and what has already been a very bad year for Australian wildlife.

Australian State Governments continue the very bad habit of ignoring detailed advice about what is happening to places and species. In 2023 we, as did we all, received the usual, and all too often, silly letters of rebuttal, which attempt to deny the obvious and make misleading claims, some refusing to enter into further correspondence on the matter, claiming the questions have now been answered. These letters are written by senior and highly paid individuals in government whose job is meant to be the protection of biodiversity.

In Victoria, the state in which we have spent most time in 2023, the recommendations of the government’s own duck inquiry, that include the very sensible idea that mass shooting of waterbirds for recreation should be banned, and despite the efforts of a vast array of individuals who want it stopped, including numerous politicians, this recommendation appears to have produced no result whatsoever, apart from, that is, a deafening silence.

So in Victoria in 2024 it looks like duck shooting will continue as before, despite the catastrophic decline in waterbirds and likely coming drought conditions. Tasmania will also continue shooting ducks on mass, as so for the Northern Territory. We wait for a change in South Australia, but that looks increasingly unlikely.

So in Victoria we will have 14,000 active duck shooters locking out any intelligent progress in the use of Ramsar sites for education and proper conservation and tourism activities. The chilling effect on the Ramsar economy and that of other wetlands is astounding.

Worse still, in Victoria, its government now intends to open public lands, which will include National, State Parks and Ramsar sites, to the commercial exploitation of Australian wildlife, in this case Kangaroos. So this means that 150 or so active shooters with commercial licenses will dominate the culture, and increasingly purpose of these places. It also means that wildlife will have no place of safety at all in Victoria as Australia’s landscapes of fear extend into places where wildlife should be safe.

While of course South Australia began the incursion of the commercial exploitation of Australian wildlife into its parks and public lands, but at what appears to be smaller scale, Victoria, in the worst sense of the word is an innovator, breaking all past norms and practices in relation to these matters. In Victoria, the scale of commercial activity on public lands is likely to be very large and ongoing until little remains. This will have implications more broadly across Australia as the commercial exploiters of Australian wildlife build on their successes in Victoria.

This plan to open up public lands in Victoria to the commercial exploitation of Australian wildlife, to commence in January 2025, is the lowest point of all, in a very long list of low points for the Australian environment, conservation and tourism in 2023.

That such small minorities can dominate environmental outcomes to such an extend is extremely troubling. What is occurring is also extremely dangerous. While the major national parks can lock the gates as the shooters do their work for commercial gain, there will be many places in Victoria, including Ramsar sites and wetlands, where this cannot occur. Shooters with high powered rifles with silencers on public lands are dangerous indeed, and the possibility and opportunity for the shooters is that they can shoot unannounced in numerous public places across the state, and do so at any time during the year.


All across Australia we are heading for Kangaroo silly season, hyper-inflated population estimates, leading to silly claims about booming populations, where in more and more places there are none. Then even sillier claims, about just how bad Kangaroos are, all to justify the slaughter for commercial gain of what remains. We will see what they come up with this time.

Here, South Australia leads the pack of silliness and concocted nonsense, and as per usual, the others will follow.

We can expect a flurry of Kangaroo population estimates and quotas from the states, only Queensland has reported so far and you guessed it, quotas are up by a very big number. They have no chance of meeting their quotas (meant to be a sustainable cap) which are likely to exceed total populations in some regions.

Because this is all so shonky, the population estimates and quotas will be sneakily announced on Christmas Eve or during the Boxing Test Match in the hope that nobody notices.

Peter and Andrea Hylands, December 2023

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