WARNING - GRAPHIC IMAGES: A mum of two was rushing to get her children ready for school on Wednesday when the morning took a horrifying turn.
Calls were flooding into Krysti Severi’s home north of Melbourne asking her for help. “A member of public called me and said: His tongue’s hanging out. Straight away I said to her: He’s been shot,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
Ms Severi is a volunteer wildlife rescuer based in the small town of Mernda where the suburbs meet the bush. The calls she was receiving were in relation to an injured large male kangaroo at nearby Arthurs Creek.
Still hoping to get her kids to school on time, she sent another rescuer out to assess the situation. “She rang me back and said: He’s been shot, can you come?,” Ms Severi said. “That’s when I said: Sorry kids, you’re going to be late for school.”
Kangaroo suffers horrific injuries after shooting
The kangaroo was in an open area and away from the public, so Ms Severi was able to end the poor creature’s pain and shoot it. “His face was necrotic, he had various sizes of maggots where parts of his face were missing,” Ms Severi said. “He was very emaciated because obviously, he couldn’t eat.” She believes he had been injured for over a week.
Victoria permits two types of kangaroo control. Successive governments have maintained a long-running scheme called the Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW) permit system. In 2019, the Andrews Labor government rolled out a new measure, allowing commercial shooters to “harvest” a number of macropod species for profit.
Kangaroo harvesters are asked to comply with a number of regulations. This includes being accredited in firearm proficiency and game collection skill sets. They are also required to conform to national standards. Welfare rules include imploring shooters to kill kangaroos with a single headshot to avoid suffering and bludgeoning joeys to death when their mothers are harvested.
Supervision by the authorities is not required as a standard, and when mistakes are made, “cleaning up” when things go wrong is often left to volunteers. Ms Severi said it’s giving rescuers “mental scars”. “It’s utterly f***ed up,” she said. “It’s so cruel and so barbaric. It just shows how these animals are seen. You wouldn’t leave a dog injured like that.”
It remains unclear why the kangaroo at Mernda was shot and left for dead. Victoria’s Conservation Regulator said it is making inquiries "to ascertain the details of this incident".
Government urged to stop controversial kangaroo program
What is clear is that wildlife rescuers are frustrated by ongoing violence towards kangaroos, and having to euthanise animals with shooting-related injuries. Many argue kangaroos are increasingly becoming devalued by society as a species.
The state’s peak wildlife rescue group Wildlife Victoria told Yahoo News Australia it has received multiple calls to assist kangaroos suffering shooting injuries since the harvest began.
With the state election just weeks away, its CEO Lisa Palma has taken a stand on the issue. “We implore the Andrews government to stop the killing of kangaroos in this state, particularly the kangaroo harvesting program,” she said on Friday.
The issue of kangaroo harvesting has unnerved many wildlife rescuers who fear the animals they spend months rehabilitating will be subsequently shot and sold at a supermarket as pet food, or as steaks for human consumption.
After the Black Summer bushfires, during which millions of kangaroos died, wildlife carers were brought to tears by a government decision to increase the cull quota to 37,780. By comparison, the NSW government reduced theirs by around a quarter.
Despite concern about the program from carers, the government noted the increased quota would help create jobs in regional Victoria. It added that kangaroo is an "environmentally friendly protein" and that harvesting the animals would help reduce "over-abundant populations (that) compete with livestock for stock and feed."
Victorian government responds
Victoria's harvesting program is under the jurisdiction of Agriculture Minister Gayle Tierney. She did not immediately respond to a question from Yahoo News Australia about whether the Andrews government intends to continue the scheme. Her office issued a statement from a spokesperson.
“Landholders across Victoria have two options for managing kangaroos, applying for a permit to control on-farm or accessing a professional shooter through the Kangaroo Harvesting Program,” the spokesperson said. “Strict requirements for both programs ensure animal welfare and maintain sustainable kangaroo populations.”
The government has investigated seven reports of harvester conduct this year, and this resulted in one having their accreditation withdrawn. It had been unaware of the Merinda incident and was unable to immediately determine whether it related to an authorised program or illegal activity.
Allegations of wildlife cruelty can be reported to Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000 or DELWP on 136 186.
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