Beachfront hotel backflips on bird cull decision after community backlash

The hotel was within its rights to kill the birds after obtaining what protesting wildlife advocates say are 'convenience killing' permits from the government.

A beachfront hotel has abandoned plans to cull a flock of protected native birds that took up residence in its underground car park, after furious locals fought back and rallied around the colony, pleading to management to relocate them safely.

The Cumberland Resort in Lorne, on Victoria's surf coast, had earlier announced it would cull 50 welcome swallows that inhabited its car park using a licensed contractor at 8pm on Monday. The hotel stated that "over the past few years, several alternative methods have been attempted to remove the population of swallows", but had failed.

It said a cull was "a last resort" and management had long worked with wildlife agencies to have the birds removed without harming them. Speaking to Yahoo News, a spokesperson for the Cumberland Resort said in the wake of the announcement to kill the flock, staff had been inundated with abuse.

The Cumberland Resort in Lorne in Victoria.
The Cumberland Resort in Lorne has abandoned plans to cull a flock of birds which occupy its car park and will instead work with wildlife agencies to safely relocate them. Source:
The welcome swallow is seen here, as the Cumberland Resort abandons plans to kill a colony which occupies its car park.
The hotel had an authorised permit to cull a total of 50 welcome swallows from its underground car park. Source: Australia Museum

Wildlife advocates want change to 'convenience killing permits'

But environment agencies say the saga highlights the broader issue, which is the handing down of what they describe as "convenience killing permits", that allow people to cull wildlife that have been deemed a "nuisance".

A spokeswoman for Animals Australia said the cull rightly outraged the Lorne community and there "are a lot of non-lethal ways" that the hotel could "encourage them not to enter or nest on the walls of underground car parks".

"The problem is that commercial and private land managers use the Victorian Government's Authority to Control Wildlife system as a way to say 'what we're doing is legal, so it's OK' — and while yes, it's true that it's legal, that system is very dated," the spokeswoman told Yahoo News Australia.

"It's archaic thinking — they're what we call 'convenience killing' permits.

"If you've got native, protected or threatened animals — and yes, the department will still issue them for threatened species — hanging around, that are trying to coexist in your space, and you don't want them there, the Victorian Government has carved out a process whereby you can just apply to have them killed.

"And this is a fundamental flaw with the policy, it's shocking."

Victoria's Conservation Regulator told Yahoo that it "issued an Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW) to lethally control welcome swallows at a site in Lorne.”

“The Conservation Regulator undertakes a rigorous assessment of all ATCW applications to ensure they meet the requirements of the Wildlife Act 1975. An applicant for an ATCW must demonstrate all practical non-lethal wildlife control methods have been explored and must carefully consider animal welfare and human safety.”

It is understood while all wildlife in Victoria is protected under the Wildlife Act 1975, land managers in the state can apply for an ATCW if wildlife is negatively impacting crops, pasture or infrastructure.

Hotel says plan to cull birds was a last resort

In the instance of the Cumberland Resort, management say they'd received "emails and phone calls of abuse" in the wake of plans to kill the birds although such a move was never their preferred course of action.

"We issued a statement saying that we've cancelled the plans, we're happy to look at alternative solutions, we're happy to work with wildlife people, we've been down this track before," a spokesperson told Yahoo News.

"This was always considered a last resort, we understand the concerns of the people, I issued a notice on Facebook and I'm still getting abused. We went through processes and we tried multiple different things, but nevertheless I've now reached back out to the contractor and said 'we need to come up with more alternatives' so that we don't harm the birds.

The welcome swallow is seen here, as the Cumberland Resort abandons plans to kill a colony which occupies its car park.
After community backlash, the birds will be spared, with plans to remove them the "ultimate goal" of the hotel. Source: Australia Museum

"But ultimately our goal — and what our goal will always be — is to remove the birds from the car park. We understand the sentiment of the residents and the community and we will work toward finding an amicable, alternative solution."

The resort earlier said in an email to residents that they had obtained approval for the permit from DEECA last year. "It is important to remember that this is a health and safety issue and that all authorised approvals have been received from the relevant government bodies and the Owners Corporation Committee have been notified and approved the plans," the hotel said.

The Animals Australia spokesperson said she was working with the resort to ensure an amicable solution.

"We work with a lot of local wildlife rehabbers in the area, there's a lot of licensed wildlife carers around who would be very happy to help find alternative solutions and chat with them," she said. "So that's something that we're really happy to do."

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