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Ways of knowing

Life on land

"Approximately three-quarters of all crop types grown by humans require pollination by insects, a service estimated to be worth between $235 billion and $577 billion per year worldwide [Lautenbach et al. 2012]". Wildlife Trusts Somerset

Peter Hylands, Andrea Hylands

September 16, 2022

We go back half a century and the rapidly growing world of books and education. That fed our passion for research, the world, knowledge and making content. 

In the Rift Valley with our Maasai friends

Longman Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia

Of the vast number of books I worked on over the years, starting in England, I am going to select one, which I did not personally work on because I was overseas at that time (1984), that book is the Longman Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia.

In the foreword to this work Gerald Durrell says:

"The value of a natural history such as this, so concise and beautifully illustrated, can hardly be overestimated, both as a reference work for identification and as a teaching tool. I sometimes think that we in theWest are somewhat complacent about magnificent books like this – we tend to take them for granted. We should not. Not long ago I was in Madagascar, probably one of the most interesting areas, biologically speaking, in the world. I was horrified to find that the only means of identification of some of their unique fauna available to the ordinary Malagasy was a series of blurred and not very well-drawn pictures of lemurs on the backs of matchboxes.
It is a sobering thought that within the next 80 to 100 years, many of the fascinating creatures so beautifully described here will vanish unless world governments start thinking in terms of conservation and not desecration. It is the appearance of books like this that, hopefully, will help stem the tide of extermination now sweeping the world….."

Look away

“Globally, 400,000 insect species face extinction amid heavy use of pesticides”

Look away
I didn’t know
She didn’t know
He didn’t know
We didn’t know
They didn’t know

Wasn’t us

Are some animals more sentient than others?

"These new laws will make the ACT a national leader in animal welfare, and reflects a zero tolerance approach to animal cruelty. These animal welfare laws reflect the values of the Canberra community on how we should manage and care for our domestic animals, livestock and wildlife. This legislation will enable better enforcement of laws to protect animals". Minister for City Services, Chris Steel

The ACT has become the first jurisdiction to recognise pets as "sentient beings", after tough new animal welfare laws were passed in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.

"During debate on Thursday, Ms Lawder (opposition urban services spokeswoman) said The opposition backed measures to stamp out animal cruelty, and therefore supported the bill".
"But Ms Lawder remained concerned that the legislation was an "overreach". She put forward an amendment designed to ensure the laws did not ban "responsible and humane, farming, scientific research or cultural and recreational activities". Canberra Times 26 September 2019

ACT Parks acting director Justin Foley said that:

"The Kangaroo culls were a matter of balancing the ecosystem for all native species, including native grasses and reptiles threatened by over grazing". Canberra Times 26 July 2019

The cull, by the numbers: 

  • Callum Brae Nature Reserve / West Jerrabomberra Grasslands - 584
  • Crace Nature Reserve - 170
  • East Jerrabomberra Grasslands -344
  • Goorooyaroo Nature Reserve - 680
  • Gungaderra Nature Reserve - 283
  • Mulanggari Grasslands - 90
  • Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve -377
  • Mugga Mugga / Isaacs Ridge Nature Reserve- 350
  • Mount Ainslie / Majura NatureReserve - 1157

The cull started on May 7 with a target of 4,076 Kangaroos, which Mr Foley said was based on science.

A ludicrous hypothesis

Evidence-free claims that kangaroo numbers in Canberra threaten other grassland species, particularly endangered species, has morphed into a ludicrous hypothesis promoted by some ACT applied ecologists that Kangaroos should be considered ‘outside’ of biodiversity, and a threat to biodiversity.

However, a Freedom of Information request by The District Bulletin and myself (Maria Taylor) in 2017 unearthed a CSIRO consultancy report to the ACT Government by two scientists who were specialists in the field of native vegetation and grassland plant species (unlike the ACT staff ecologists). They found no negative impacts on ground cover / habitat for other from up to three kangaroos per hectare on ACT-studied reserve sites.

"Three ‘roos' was about the highest density found on ACT reserves and is considered fairly natural for this landscape". 

Ute massacre

"A teen driver has been charged after up to 20 Kangaroos died after being allegedly hit by a ute in New South Wales. The Kangaroo carcasses were found on Dress Circle and Headland Drive in Tura Beach at Merimbula on Sunday morning. On Tuesday, police arrested a 19-year-old man who was charged with torture and beating causing the death of an animal". 1 October 2019

State of play, the mass killing of wildlife in Victoria

'Yesterday’s announcement' regarding the ‘Kangaroo Harvesting Program’ now makes this cruel industry a permanent feature in large parts of Victoria to the north and west of the state including in the region where we owned our long held conservation property in Victoria. Decades of work is well on the way to being destroyed.

Added to this set of killing residents in regional Victoria have to endure:

  • three months of duck shooting each year;
  • the rapid increase in the use of Authorities to Control Wildlife in the State (ATCWs), a scheme in which Macropod species are also subject, despite the Kangaroo Harvesting Program;
  • the killing of declared species of wildlife so they are unprotected (includes Victoria’s Wombat); and
  • various Ministerial actions which include secret (or attempts to keep them secret) mass killing of Koalas and on the list goes.

Given the endless government propaganda regarding wildlife there is also a great deal of vandalism and cruelty, shooting wildlife with bows and arrows and a range of other heinous acts, by those in the community who now believe they are entitled to act in the way they do.

Animals have rights

“We need a Mabo style decision for Australia’s wild animals, a legal recognition of their special status as original residents of Australia, alongside its original inhabitants. The only ethical approach is one that gives their interests equal consideration alongside similar human interests”. Professor Peter Singer – Princeton University

Healthy living?

The Australian Federal Government is promoting the health benefits of killing animals (hunting). These are not health benefits for the animals that are treated to grotesque acts of cruelty and suffering.

“The drought has decimated the population of waterbirds across eastern Australia, with researchers saying numbers have fallen by as much as 90 per cent in the last four decades”. ABC 19 November 2019

Nor are there health benefits for the many people who live in regional Australia who fear the shooters and love their animals. In Victoria regional Victorians now endure (the full list is worth repeating):

  • Three months of duck shooting each year;
  • the mass slaughter of Kangaroos for the pet food trade and trade in wildlife;
  • the weekend shooting parties;
  • aerial baiting with 1080 poison;
  • the rapid increase in the use of Authorities to Control Wildlife in the State (ATCWs), a scheme in which Macropod species are also subject, despite the Kangaroo ‘Harvesting’ Program;
  • the killing of declared species of wildlife so they are unprotected (includes Victoria’s Wombat); and
  • various Ministerial actions which include secret (or attempts to keep them secret) mass killing of Koalas and on the list goes.

In the period 2009 to the end of 2021, The Victorian Government issued permits to kill 39,215 Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, including 2,200 in 2020, following Victoria's catastrophic fires and as the world was donating tens of millions for wildlife rescue. Birds, along with large native mammals are in the frontline of the killing.

These are the landscapes of fear, they are not the landscapes of well being and contentment.


Think of this, will the global loss of insects get us before climate change does? These two things together, are a very bad idea. No insects, no birds, no you.

"Populations of aerial insectivorous birds have fallen by more than any other bird group in North America, by about 40 per cent between 1966 and 2013 [Michel et al. 2015; Stanton et al. 2018]. In the UK, populations of the Spotted Flycatcher fell by 93 per cent between 1967 and 2016 [Woodward et al. 2018]. Other once-common insectivores have suffered similarly, including the Grey Partridge (– 92 per cent), Nightingale, (– 93 per cent) and Cuckoo (– 77 per cent) [Woodward et al. 2018]. The Red-backed Shrike, a specialist predator of large insects, went extinct in the UK in the 1990s". Wildlife Trusts Somerset

One of the first bad ideas and bad things to happen when we purchased our regional property in Central Victoria in the 1970s was that workers from Victorian Crown Lands (Victorian Government staff) would turn up without warning and spray Agent Orange or one of its derivatives from the back of their utes.

This is the highly toxic defoliant and herbicide used as chemical warfare in Malaysia and Vietnam. We did not want these guys spraying this stuff on the surrounds of our conservation property, we told them why. The men, without any protection themselves, took no notice of course. So it was the beginning of a long journey to try and get across the idea that nature is worth saving and highly toxic chemicals do not belong in the landscape.

Nearly half a century later we have gone full circle and the conservation property we worked so hard to establish and have lost is now in the middle of one of the Victorian Government's Kangaroo ‘harvest’ zones.

So with this level of disconnection to place and nature, who cares about insects? In Australia, the answer is very few. So we poison the land, we clear the land, we destroy the topsoil across vast regions of the continent, we spray in our back gardens and in our parks, and all as if tomorrow does not matter.

So take care out there.