Backflip on decision to slaughter 200 wombats after international outcry

A landowner planning to cull 200 wombats has reversed its decision after community backlash, and a social media campaign aimed at stopping the slaughter.

Under the permit, Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT) were given permission to destroy one third of the Yorke Peninsula’s southern hairy-nosed wombats so the area could be farmed.

The Department of Environment (DEW) now say they will now work with the ALT and the Point Pearce Aboriginal Corporation to find an alternative solution to control the wombats.

“The State Government supports the ALT and Point Pearce Aboriginal Corporation to take action on their own land to protect income and jobs generated from the land, as well as safeguard the health of the local community,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“DEW will work with the landowners to achieve a sustainable solution.”

The background image is of a southern hairy-nosed wombat. Images from Facebook campaigns to stop the slaughter are posted on top.
A social media campaign to save the 200 wombats attracted international attention. Source: Getty / Facebook

‘Gives us a hope’: Traditional owner praises decision

Yorke Peninsula traditional owner Quentin Agius first raised the issue about the permit, last Thursday, criticising the decision, and alleging the environment department had not investigated the previously unauthorised killing of wombats on the farm.

Mr Agius said that traditional owners such as himself were not consulted prior to the announcement and that wombats held a significant place in local traditions.

A teary Mr Agius told Yahoo News Australia that the ALT’s decision not to go ahead with the cull left him feeling hopeful for the future.

“I was sitting with the grandkids this morning and we got the news and it was emotional and it still is emotional to me,” he said.

“My daughter, my grandkids, we did this together and involved them every step of the way.

“Talking with them this morning about what did they think of the outcome, they said they were so proud to see someone standing up within the community.

“We don’t have to be quiet, we have a right to have a voice.”

“It makes us feel strong, makes my grandkids feel strong, gives us a hope and belief in society.”

‘International outrage’: Slaughter raised in parliament

South Australian Greens MLC Tammy Franks told Yahoo News Australia that the details of cull permits are not usually widely known, so it was “extraordinary” to find out 200 had been slated to be “shot or decapitated”.

Ms Franks said she was alerted to the plan by Wombat Awareness Organisation, so she took the decision to the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, and spoke up in parliament, calling for a “please explain”.

Greens MLC Tammy Franks spoke against the plan to slaughter 200 wombats in parliament. Source: AAP
Greens MLC Tammy Franks spoke against the plan to slaughter 200 wombats in parliament. Source: AAP

“I thought perhaps a zero had been added, but no, it was 200,” she said.

“My concern is that the department signed off on a warrant to kill these wombats without going through all the necessary steps that they should have, the number one being that you have to look at non-lethal measures first.

“We had to see, literally international outrage as well as local traditional owners speak up to make sure that we got that sensible outcome in the end.”

Ms Franks said she is now hopeful that the international support for Australian wildlife can be directed towards opportunities for the local indigenous community and that a sanctuary can be built for the wombats.

Minister’s Facebook page ‘unavailable’

While the decision to cull the wombats has now been reversed, on Tuesday as community anger brewed, South Australian environment minister David Speirs took to Facebook to write a post celebrating World Wildlife Day.

“It is such an important time to protect and care for our beautiful natural environment,” the now missing post read.

“Show your support by donating to the Wildlife Recovery Fund.”

Environment Minister David Speirs (left) was criticised for approving the slaughter of 200 wombats and posting about World Wildlife Day. Source: AAP / Supplied
Environment Minister David Speirs (left) was criticised for approving the slaughter of 200 wombats and posting about World Wildlife Day. Source: AAP / Supplied

Images supplied by a source show the post received hundreds of comments, many of them angry that Minister Speirs was advocating for the protection of wildlife, while at the same time his department was allowing wombats to be slaughtered.

“I am extremely disappointed that you are permitting the needless slaughter of 200 wombats while posting about protecting wildlife on Facebook,” wrote one person.

“There was a lack of consultation and this decision simply cannot be justified,” said another.

“You are a hypocrite,” wrote someone else.

On Wednesday morning, the minister’s Facebook page became ‘unavailable’.

“Sorry, this content isn't available at the moment,” reads the Facebook alert.

“The link you followed may have expired, or the Page may only be visible to an audience that you aren't in.”

South Australian environment minister David Speirs is currently overseas and has been contacted for comment.

The Aboriginal Lands Trust did not respond to a request for comment to the cull reversal, but spoke to Yahoo News Australia on Monday to defend the cull.

The author, Michael Dahlstrom, is a registered wildlife carer in NSW.

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