WARNING - CONFRONTING IMAGES: A normally quiet Victorian forest was shaken on Saturday night by the thundering engines of cars competing in a rally.
Between 4.30 pm and 4 am, drivers associated with the Historic Rally Association (HRA) raced around Mount Disappointment trying to achieve the fastest possible lap. What the event organiser didn’t know was he’d programmed his race directly behind a wildlife shelter, run by volunteer Kat Agar-Teehan.
While the HRA president David McKenzie conceded one wombat was hit and killed during the race, Ms Agar-Teehan is adamant the carnage was more widespread. But because Mr McKenzie only received one collision report, he argues dead and injured animals found nearby were likely harmed by other traffic.
Ms Agar-Teehan suspects they were fatally wounded attempting to flee the race.
Photos taken the morning after the event and supplied to Yahoo News Australia show two newly dead kangaroos found nearby. A deceased wallaby was also found on the side of the road.
Ms Agar-Teehan reported the kangaroos at the Little Urchins Wildlife Sanctuary, which she operates, were left “distressed” by the noise and refused to eat that night.
“I felt physically sick,” Ms Agar-Teehan said. “I was up all night trying to keep them calm. It’s normally a time when kangaroos are most peaceful, but they were freaking out because of the noise of the vehicles. They were absolutely petrified. You could hear the cars tearing around the corners.”
The following morning, her problems only compounded. A young kangaroo was found with a leg injury and a large male who was released four years ago returned to the shelter limping. An older female named Emma returned the following morning with a swollen face and is receiving treatment. “She’s probably ran into something out of fear,” Ms Agar-Teehan said.
Should rally cars be able to race in forests?
The issue has opened a debate about who should be permitted to use public forests, and what sort of events are appropriate. Mr McKenzie said he understands that Ms Agar-Teehan is “very passionate” about wildlife, but he points out that others have the same obsession with rallying.
Yahoo News Australia understands the two have since spoken, and Mr McKenzie has been invited to the Little Urchins Wildlife Sanctuary. He said the position of the sanctuary is something his team will have to consider when planning future races.
Rather than focusing her anger on the rally organisers, it’s Victoria’s department of environment (DELWP) that Ms Agar-Teehan is most frustrated with. DELWP is responsible for issuing both Ms Agar-Teehan her license to operate her sanctuary and the Historic Rally Association its race permit.
“What annoys me the most is the department is so strict about what we can and can’t do, worrying we’ll stress out the wildlife,” she said. “But then they permit a rally through the kangaroo’s home for 11 and a half hours through the night, potentially killing wildlife. It just doesn’t make any sense to me."
DELWP did not respond directly to questions about what consideration was given to animals in the forest and the sanctuary, or whether it expected animals could be killed during the event. It issued a statement from an internal agency, Fire Forest Management Victoria (FFMV), saying the rally has taken place on Mount Disappointment for several years.
“DELWP works closely with the organisers to limit any potential impacts on the community and environment,” FFMV’s Lucas Russell said. “An amended permit with modified routes was provided for this year’s event.”
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