SA government defends Yellowtail Cockatoo culls

In National Headlines, South Australia

A spokesperson from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) has defended the number of destruction permits it has issued in the last two years after a backlash from conservationists.

Yesterday, Fairfax Regional Media reported the The Greens were outraged by the news that more than 100,000 native animals had been killed in destruction permits in South Australia in 2011 and 2012, including some rare and vulnerable species.

The DEWNR spokesperson said the department ensures it has considered potential ecological consequences from granting a permit and that the conservation of the species remains secure at a regional scale.

“The number of permits issued depends on the amount of negative impact being caused and this in turn is often linked to the number of animals around at any given time,” they said.

“South Australia has just had three good seasons after a long period of drought; so many animals are experiencing a breeding boom.

“For example, kangaroos are opportunistic breeders and their numbers can multiply rapidly once conditions are optimal.

The DEWNR spokesperson also revealed that the Non-Commercial Destruction Policy has recently been reviewed.

“This has included consultation with wildlife experts, wildlife carers and conservation and agriculture bodies.  Stakeholder comments are currently being incorporated into the final policy advice.”

However, they said the policies needed to be flexible enough to deal with potential destructive impacts caused by native fauna including vulnerable and rare species.

“Vulnerable species are only destroyed as a last resort when public safety is at risk.

“For example, the yellow-tailed cockatoo on last year’s list was living at an airport, where a bird strike could bring down a plane.

“This destruction permit was part of a sophisticated, well-resourced integrated bird management program at the airport that included a suite of non-lethal measures to deal with a significant number of birds.”

Examples of destruction permits which were issued in the last two years include permits for birds causing hazards in airfields, wombats burrowing under fields and creating a hazard for machinery, cape barren geese damaging irrigated crops and large numbers of kangaroos over-grazing native vegetation.

DEWNR said there were four reasons for issuing destruction permits for native species and that non-lethal methods are always considered first.

“Permits are only issued to protect human safety, to protect property or infrastructure, to protect agriculture or to protect the environment.

“Destroying any animal is regrettable however; in most cases relocation is problematic, especially for territorial birds or animals that can travel long distances back to their home range.

“Technical difficulty, high cost and low success rate of relocating animals in high numbers, or animals of larger size, means relocation is not normally considered a viable option.”

DEWNR said it considers the nature and extent of impacts of destruction permit application before deciding whether to issue one.

These impacts include:

• Environmental factors – the extent of damage or impact on the natural environment

• Ecological factors – species and population ecology; species conservation status; potential effects of management actions on a species; and potential effects of climate change on a species

• Economic factors – the extent of damage/impacts on crops, stock, property and other economic assets

• Social factors – animal welfare; community sensitivities, values and expectations; the needs of landholders, land managers, communities and industry; and human health and safety

“DEWNR also need to be satisfied that the application for a destruction permit is focused on minimising adverse impacts rather than reducing populations,” their spokesperson said.

“Applicants also need to demonstrate a range of non-lethal, and humane, management techniques have been put into action and their effectiveness evaluated and that the proposed culling techniques comply with the appropriate codes of practice.”

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