Out of time
Life on land
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Life on land
In this story we cover two themes, the shooting of waterbirds and Quail, much on precious Ramsar Sites in Victoria and the mass killing of Australian mammal species in State and National parks in Victoria. Nothing is safe and there are no places of safety. We have chosen to add this story to the Earth section as at the story's core is the abuse of wildlife on Ramsar sites and National and State Parks in Victoria and to maintain the story's historical integrity for future reference.
Everywhere on the Australian Continent may be bad, but Victoria’s conduct in relation to the natural world has deteriorated to such an extent that it deserves very special attention.
Many of you will know that I have described the period following Australia’s catastrophic fires of the early weeks of 2020 as the very worst time of all for Australia’s wildlife. The killing spree of wildlife, despite the immense suffering and loss of the fires, a killing promoted and enabled by state governments in Australia, can only be described as acts of cruelty and violation of the natural world that are so appalling, they are demeaning to all humanity.
“I hope that in a small way, I am interesting people in animal life and in conservation. If I accomplish that I have achieved something worthwhile. And if I can, later on, help even slightly towards preventing an animal from becoming extinct, I will be more than content”. Gerald Durrell, 1960
When Gerald wrote those words, and I share his ambitions, I was a school boy and already engulfed in a growing enthusiasm for the natural world. My mind then was engaged on the animals of Africa and Europe and to some extent South America, Malaya, Indonesia and the wilds of New Guinea. Our real engagement with Australia began around fifteen years after Gerald Durrell wrote those words in the opening quote above.
This section, based on writings by Peter Preuss from direct experience at the time, describes the mass killing of Australian mammal species in Victoria’s state and national parks and other public lands. This account is from the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in 1991.
“Warning do not drive on this surface".
The pits caused a safety hazard as the soft oozing body fluids of a vast number of Kangaroos caused the surface of this site to be very boggy over the pits.
This is one of the death pits containing the carcasses of thousands of Kangaroos killed in the 1990-1991 mass killing of Kangaroos. The park’s management have dug a death pit at one of the most obvious areas of natural regeneration and natural dune stabilisation in the park. Red Gum, Black Box and Callitris Hop Bush were all actively regenerating at and near this site prior to the killings. This destroyed the natural regeneration that was occurring over the site. The pit caused soil damage from which this area will take many years to recover (the 1982 Kangaroo disposal pits are still compacted from the earthmoving equipment as no effort has been made to restore this area).
Digging these terrible disposal pits resulted in significant invasive threats including weeds, introduced by the earthmoving equipment that dug the pits and compacted the land and from the shooters vehicles.
These gruesome Kangaroo pits caused a health hazard, warning signs are here telling visitors not to drink or swim in the water as the oozing body fluids of thousands of dead Kangaroos have permeated through the sand into the Lake.
"The slimy fluid oozing to the surface above the pit is being washed into Lake Lockie. In times of flood these Kangaroo death pits will be under Lake Lockie which connects into Lake Mournpall and Lake Hattah, where people swim and sometimes drink the water. The water from Lake Hattah is pumped to the Hattah township as its major water supply”. Peter Preuss
I will write a history of what is a remarkable place to visit at a later date. What I describe above is taken from the first-hand accounts of the Australian Wildlife Protection Council team who were trying to stop the mass killing of Australian mammal species by government staff, the logic of the killing was senseless in precisely the way it remains today.
There are far fewer animals today than there were 40 years ago when the mass killing of native mammals commenced on public lands in Victoria. Much is now an emptiness, a void, where once the energy of nature, in all its beauty, was there to see and to hear.
The Victorian Government is systematically destroying (andin the cruellest of ways) Australian mammal species that live in National and State Parks, their very last places of refuge. This type of government activism eradicated the Red Kangaroo from another park in the same region, the Wyperfeld National Park, in the 1980s. No one is held accountable and the killing continues in increasing secrecy. This behaviour is not dissimilar to what is occurring in Australia’s Capital Territory (ACT) and in reserves and nature parks and beyond. What we have discovered in the ACT defies any kind of logic, is intensely cruel and completely without justification.
“Australia is an island (not forgetting Tasmania and a vast array of smaller islands), one country and one continent, distant from larger human populations. That is a great privilege indeed”. Peter Hylands
I just want to remember US actor Jimmy Stewart here for his care about the natural world. So thank you Jimmy and from Jersey many years ago:
“There is no way that you can save the animals unless people understand them and get to know a little bit more about the wild animals of the Earth. I have gotten to feel that the human creature is not the only creature on Earth with any rights, perhaps the other living creatures of the Earth have a right to exist too”.
There are three things I dislike intensely, bullies, cruelty to animals and secrecy. What goes on, in at least some of Australia’s public parks and reserves, has very large portions of each.
These are the things that are not to be tolerated in a civil society or a democracy. And the biggest lie of all is that wildlife in Victoria is protected.
As I write this, we are heading into the long Easter weekend and I am in Southern New South Wales. To the south of us another mass slaughter of birdlife is going to begin this weekend in Victoria, this time it is the poor little Stubble Quail that is in the firing line. The 2021 Stubble Quail season opens on Saturday 3 April and closes on Wednesday 30 June 2021.
This pointless killing spree occurs on private and public lands including state forests and many areas of crown land and private properties around Victoria and is also a proxy to get shooters out into Victoria’s wetlands.
The wetlands this year are Blond Bay / Bow Lake / Clydebank Morass / Darlot Swamp / Dowd Morass / Gaynor Swamp / Hateleys Lake / HeartMorass / Jack Smith Lake / Jones Bay / Lake Coleman / Lake Connewarre / Mansfield Swamp / Macleod Morass / Rowan Swamp / Wallenjoe Swamp.
“Yet another opportunity for the mass wounding of wildlife”Peter Hylands
Shot and lead shot are used and that creates great suffering and high levels of wounding and toxic and long lasting pollution. This activity will go unsupervised and the Victorian Government boasts that an average of 175,000 Stubble Quail are shot in Victoria each year. I suspect numbers are now so low that if they do shoot another 175,000 this year that will be the end of the species in Victoria.
“A rare bird not seen around Melbourne since 1988 has turned up in the jaws of a hunting dog near Werribee. The hunter handed the bird, a male Plains Wanderer, to the Melbourne Museum, which is preparing it for its ornithology collection”.
Yet another mass killing of Victoria’s birdlife is about to occur despite the lack of a Quail population survey in the state, their close resemblance to another Australian bird species, the critically endangered Plains Wanderer, no accuracy tests required for shooters engaging in this ‘recreational activity’ and that toxic lead ammunition is still legally used to shoot Quail. South Australia has banned Quail shooting again this year. In 2021, Victoria is the only state besides Tasmania to allow shooting of Quail species (that is Stubble Quail in Victoria, Brown Quail in Tasmania).
On top of all this another duck shooting season will commence in Victoria on 26 May. So the mass killing of Australia’s dwindling and precious birdlife continues in Victoria, despite the fires and other dire climate conditions of the last decade. The shooting of waterbirds in Victoria is particularly focussed on the state’s precious Ramsar sites and this makes it a disgrace of international significance.
More taxpayer funded activities in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable. The careful use of language in the Victorian Government's documents justifying this cruel and outdated conduct tells you that there is something very wrong with what is going on, and the public servants and politicians know it. Avoiding using the words child or children because of concerns around child abuse (for example, under 12 year olds are described as people) is just one such example.
In November 2020, Victoria’s ‘Game Management Authority’ conducted a pilot aerial survey to estimate the total number of game ducks in Victoria. The aerial survey was conducted by counting the number of game ducks from a helicopter on over 650 randomly selected waterbodies throughout the state, including wetlands, sewerage ponds and farm dams.
This was the largest and presumably the most expensive aerial survey of ducks undertaken in Victoria. Claims are that this survey is accurate, while other surveys have provided an index of abundance showing trends over time rather than a total estimate.
In Victoria duck hunting is permitted in State forests, unoccupied Crown land and State Game Reserves. Hunting is also permitted on leased and licensed Crown land and private land with permission of the landowner / manager. On waterways such as rivers, creeks and streams, hunters can hunt ducks from a boat under power, up to a speed of five knots. On open waters such as lakes or swamps, hunters are not permitted to hunt ducks from a motorboat if the motor is running, whether in gear or not.
"Children younger than 12 years old are not permitted to use a firearm and are not permitted to hunt or take game ducks".
Previously announced 2021 duck season arrangements have been revised, increasing the daily bag limit from two ducks per day to five ducks per day. The 2021 duck season length and bag limit are both reduced from the regulated season. As I write this the situation for waterbirds is as follows; The duck season will open at 8am on Wednesday 26 May 2021 and close 30 minutes after sunset on Monday 14 June 2021. The bag limit is five game ducks per day for the entire season (increase from the previously announced bag limit of two game ducks per day).
Seven of the eight species of game duck are permitted to be hunted during the 2021 season. Species permitted include Pacific Black Duck, Mountain Duck, Chestnut Teal, Grey Teal, Pink-eared Duck, Wood Duck and Hardhead.
The community organisation, Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting, have this to say about the latest announcements and changes to Victoria’s 2021 duck shooting season.
In their "Seasons Considerations" earlier this year, the Game management Authority (GMA) stated long term data was the most reliable in making assumptions about waterbirds. In February 2021 the GMA advised: it is not possible to draw any conclusions from the number of birds counted in the Priority Waterbird Count and the total estimated harvest because not all waterways are surveyed, and birds are moving in and out of the state regularly.
Yet in a shocking contradiction, two months later they doubled the kill quota based on a first ever count in Victoria which itself states:
"There was considerable uncertainty around these estimates which was a consequence of the limited amount of historical data on seasonal arrangements and harvest off take that has accumulated to date.”
Apparently with little understanding of the population of the Chestnut Teal, this poor little bird has suddenly been added to the 2021 slaughter list.