Wombats

Posted on 10/26/11 in , No Comments

When we return wild animals to nature we merely return them to what is already theirs, for men cannot give wild animals freedom, they can only take it away.

Jacques Cousteau

The AJP recognises that wombats and their rights to protection, quality of life and habitat preservation are the responsibility of all Australians and that Australia has a unique role in caring for this iconic marsupial and a duty to the rest of the world to do this.

The AJP supports the full protection of wombats and their habitats throughout all the areas in Australia where they remain. The AJP believes that all wombats, as species and as individuals, deserve protection from all forms of harm, including culling, loss of habitat and disease.

Penalties for harming wombats or their habitat need to be strengthened and enforced where they exist and developed and enacted where they do not.

Ad hoc laws throughout Australia see the States and Territories determine their own laws regarding wombats. Such laws are inconsistent, lack a basis of substantive scientific research and allow inhumane methods of destruction. The AJP supports non-lethal methods of wombat management on properties where wombats are considered problematic and will work to ensure that government instrumentalities which have enacted existing laws will be held accountable for cruelty during the legalised destruction of wombats. It will also work to hold them accountable for failures to protect wombat habitat and failures to prosecute illegal harm. In States such as Victoria where protection is not enshrined in law, the AJP will work to implement better protection.

The AJP believes it is not sufficient to mandate protection only when a species is threatened. Wombats as sentient beings deserve a quality of life which includes being able to establish and safely travel through a range, access food and water safely throughout that range, and being free from human-mediated harm through shooting, poisoning, dog attack and road kill in that range. The extensive range of (particularly male) wombats means that localised culling is redundant, as recruitment counters its impact. The killing of female wombats, who may be carrying or caring for joeys, is particularly abhorrent and the currently-approved methods of killing joeys are totally unacceptable in a modern, humane society.

The AJP will work to require that all and any development proposals, whether by private or public landholders, take into account the presence of wombats, their burrows or their social landmarks, and that environmental assessment is undertaken by experts familiar with wombats and their territory.

It will work to require that authorities approving developments mandate appropriate wombat-friendly fencing and barriers to protect infrastructure as part of the development consent. If this has not been implemented only non-lethal and wombat-friendly methods will be permitted to be used to address perceived ‘problems’.

Poisoning wombats by any means must be banned. As hind gut fermenters, wombats are slow digesters and poisoning is a particularly cruel and inappropriate death for them. Shooting by amateurs causes slow and painful deaths and trapping of wombats by private landholders causes stress, especially if they are then released in unsuitable locations.

The AJP will support efforts aimed at reducing/preventing road kill. Hotspots (usually where roads cross wildlife/wombat corridors) need to be monitored and research undertaken to mitigate harm. Severe penalties should be imposed on drivers who intentionally hit wombats, and legislation should require that drivers who accidentally hit wombats/wildlife must stop and help and/or obtain assistance for injured or orphaned animals.

The AJP will also encourage driver education and training programs (slow down from dusk to dawn, animal habitat awareness etc.) as part of the driver licensing/renewal process. It will also work to require road and traffic authorities in all states and territories to implement these policies.

The AJP recognises that farmers and others who claim financial loss due to wombat damage to fences and/or infrastructure need guidance and support. It would strengthen the existing processes of wombat harm mitigation by supporting catchment management authorities and other landcare groups to fence off the riparian zone and supply farm stock with water troughs rather than giving them access to the riparian zone.

Farmers need to be prevented from using the riparian zones as areas of economic activity. These zones need to be fenced and left for native animal habitat and to maintain water quality. The  AJP would support catchment management authorities’ current work to fence stock out of riparian zones and increase land acquisitions for creating and extending wildlife corridors.

Forestry practices (for both native and plantation trees), that destroy or harm wombats or their burrows must change. The cost of fencing out wildlife needs to be factored into the cost of timber production and current licensing practices that allow the wholesale destruction of wildlife must cease.

Where burrows exist and particularly while they are in use, they should be protected.

No permit to harm or destroy a wombat or its habitat should be issued without a proper alternative plan being tried first. These plans need to be made by people who know and understand wombats and their behaviour, not by untrained workers/volunteers or environmental assessors.

All properties claiming problems with wombats must be inspected by qualified experts. Any wombats harmed or reported to be in danger must be examined by these experts, who can provide advice and education on wombat behaviour and needs.

Wombats have a right to be free from disease .The nationwide failure over many decades to address mange, an infestation caused by mites introduced to Australia by human activity, and lethal to wombats, must be remedied. The AJP supports the training of community and landholder/landcare groups to observe, monitor and treat wombats suffering from mange and believes such programs should receive adequate funding and support.

The AJP believes that education, and particularly education aimed towards young people, is essential to undo the negative ideas and ignorance fostered by decades of inappropriate, short-sighted and unethical government policies.

The AJP supports land management and acquisition to protect and conserve habitat for wombats, as well as research that enhances their health and wellbeing.