“When Wildlife Relocation does not add up!” by Cr. Rob Pyne.
Ever since the cane toad was introduced, just down the road from where I pen this article, our attempts to ‘manage’ the natural environment have met with mixed success. Recent proposals in relation to crocodiles and flying fox show we still have much to learn.
This year’s state election was seen by many as providing a mandate to the state government on the issue of wildlife management, most notably and controversially, in relation to crocodiles and flying fox. Proposals in relation to these animals have something in common with many other attempts to manage wildlife populations over the last 100 years – they just don’t add up!
Lets start with crocodiles. The problem here is one of basic mathematics. We have many crocodiles living in or around settled areas. In response the State Government gave two commitments:
- To remove crocodiles; and
- Not to ‘cull’ crocodiles.
The problem with this equation is that relocated crocodiles will usually return to their original location (sometimes over vast distances) and crocodile farms have indicated they can only use a fraction of the number of crocodiles that are sought to be relocated. Once you rule out relocation, culling and croc farms, exactly where are these surplus crocodiles to go?
The flying-fox dilemma is strikingly similar. There is no doubt flying foxes in the Cairns CBD can be ‘moved on’, though I must admit that the extent to which this has emerged as an issue of ‘vital civic importance’ still escapes me. However, the issue that cannot be answered to my satisfaction is ‘where will they be moved to?’
Those arguing for the ‘moving on’ of flying fox often use the hendra virus as a ‘bogey man’, to support their argument, but usually without an understanding of how the virus is transmitted. It does not transfer from flying-fox to human, but does pose a risk to horses.
As one rarely sees the horse and buggy in the CBD these days, from a hendra perspective, it is better to let ‘sleeping dogs (or flying fox) lie’ where they are. This is especially the case when one considers they may choose lovely big trees around Cannon Park race track as their new home, though I notice in breaking news a vaccine has been found for horses, which may negate the Hendra issue altogether. Yes, we can move them on again and again, but at over 20K a time, that may end up a very expensive solution!
As a fifth generation Cairns resident I welcome people to move here or holiday to enjoy our tropical lifestyle, but please accept the place for what it is, don’t embark on a relentless campaign to develop, manage and control our natural environment to make it conform to your expectations.
We all know the political appeal of management or eradication proposals to some among us, but it is time debate on this issue was lifted above the rhetoric of talk back radio and based on more scientific rationale!