Tough new coronavirus restrictions could force a Victorian community to stay in their houses and listen while their beloved mob of kangaroos are shot by developers over the fence.
Lilydale residents fear the roos could be culled early this week, to make way for the Kinley housing development, at an old quarry, 34km east of Melbourne.
While the 8pm curfew introduced as part of the Stage 4 restrictions will require residents to be at home, it is unclear what the new regulations will mean for the proposed shooting.
Lilydale grandfather Ian Fairweather told Yahoo News Australia that he has seen vehicles with spotlights patrolling at night near his home and the prospect of the shooting makes him nervous.
Mr Fairweather will likely not know when the firing begins as the shooters will use silencers to to avoid stressing the animals with the sound of gun shots.
“I really don't know how they're supposed to be allowed to be out there and discharge your firearm in a built-up area,” he said.
“The bushland from our place would be no further away than 40 metres, and the grassland where they feed.
“If it was me going out there and shooting rabbits the police would be there in five minutes and I’d be charged.”
Both residents and the developer are now pinning their hope on a plan which will be sent to the environment minister Lily D'Ambrosio today, asking for the kangaroos to be relocated instead of culled.
If approved, this would be the first time a macropod relocation has been given the green light in Victoria.
Kangaroos a ‘little bit of pleasure’ during coronavirus lockdown
As the coronavirus pandemic swept across Victoria, many residents living near the Kinley development found a glimmer of distraction watching the kangaroos graze each night.
Surveyors estimate there are between 28 and 30 roos at the site, with at least three of them carrying joeys.
Sandy (surname withheld), has lived in a house which backs onto the development site for 19 years, buying there because it overlooked bushland with kangaroos at the time.
“Quite often you’re sitting their watching the telly, and the next thing you know you’re saying ‘look at them all’ and you’re not really watching the telly, you’re looking outside,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
“Sometimes I just get blown away by how beautiful it is, the nature going on out there.
“They want to get rid of the kangaroos and just shoot them because they're a nuisance, and make everything simple, but there must be a better way.”
Her neighbour, Mr Fairweather says his grandchildren love to come and watch the kangaroos when they visit, and that the animals have brought him happiness during lockdown.
“It's not real good times at the moment and it's nice to have a little bit of pleasure in your life,” Mr Fairweather said.
“As soon as our grandkids come here the first thing they do is go to the window at the back of the house to see if there’s any kangaroos out there.
“So, how do you get to the stage where they cull them all, and the grandkids say ‘why are there no kangaroos any more?’
“What do you tell them?”
‘Innocent lives taken away’: Local kids join call to stop cull
With the kangaroos loved by many children in the area, some parents have had to make what they describe as a “heartbreaking decision” to share the news of the planned cull.
As a result, some of the youngsters have written letters, calling for intervention to save the animals.
“Having or showing compassion” is the definition of humane writes Mooroolbark resident Maddie Bond in a colourfully decorated handwritten letter.
The 11-year-old, who spends all of her spare time and pocket money caring for orphaned kittens, says she rehomes cats all the time and wants to see the government do the same for the kangaroos.
“Innocent lives taken away? Why?,” Ms Bond writes.
“Because all we can hear are excuses rather than action to relocate them.
“Wasn’t it once planned at the beginning of Kinley to have them relocated?”
Mr Fairweather’s grandchildren have also been told about the kangaroo cull by their mother.
The children will be prevented by lockdown regulations from physically travelling to the area to voice their opposition to the planned shooting, and so have created a digital protest instead.
Jack Larsen (11), Heidi Larsen (4) and Sammy (7) gathered up all of their soft toys to make an animal friendly set as part of their COVID-19 safe protest video.
“Our nan and pop have a house that backs onto the Kinley area, and we have been watching these kangaroos grow up for about five years,” Jack says in the video.
“We think instead of culling them, maybe they should be relocated to a new area, with a better home.”
Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Heidi said she loves to watch them eating grass and “bouncing around”.
“I think that it’s not nice that the guys should go out tomorrow and kill them, they just have to move the kangaroos to another place,” she said.
“We usually see them when we go to nan and pop’s at night.
“Sometimes we go there for dinner and have noodles and the kangaroos are hopping around eating grass.”
Government says cull most humane option
Victoria’s Conservation Regulator say they approved an ACTW permit to shoot an estimated 40 kangaroos at the site, as the development would leave the animals landlocked.
The government says it is aware of community concerns around the permit, however is satisfied that the authorisation is necessary for the site.
Their advice is in line with independent wildlife consultant Ian Temby who says that those wishing to relocate rather than cull are thinking emotionally, and not necessarily about the kangaroos’ long-term outlook.
The Conservation Regulator argues that relocating the kangaroos could cause “significant stress” and mortality rates greater than 40 per cent.
“Release of an animal at a new site, is likely to cause further stress as a result of being in unfamiliar surroundings, potential territory disputes with existing kangaroo populations as well risks associated with disease transfer,” a Conservation Regulator spokesperson said in a statement.
“Kangaroos have also been known to attempt to find their way back to their original location, which may pose additional risks to both animals and the community.”
Wildlife consultant has relocated kangaroos before
This Conservation Regulator’s assessment has been challenged by NSW wildlife consultant Ray Mjadwesch who says he has successfully relocated a much larger group of kangaroos.
He has been consulting with a team of vets and animal advocates, who say they have secured a number of viable release sites for the kangaroos.
“If done carefully and with consideration for the species’ behavioural and physiological sensitivities, outstanding outcomes can be achieved, which is actually what the community expects,” Mr Mjadwesch told Yahoo News Australia.
“Rescuers do it all the time; unfortunately the departments… don’t seem to know what is possible, preferring to point to the recent example in Western Australia, which was an entirely foreseeable disaster.
“Paying careful and considerate attention to the needs of each individual animal, instead of herding them into enclosures and mass-darting them, provides dramatically different outcomes.
“Providing a staged release, where the animals are re-united with their mob and allowed to acclimatise to their new surrounding prior to release, is another key strategy for successful translocation, which also limits post-release dispersal.
“The team offering to help with the animals at the Kinley development site have all of the skills and experience to make translocation a success, instead of the usual bloodbath that the department seem to be so keen on.”
Minister to receive relocation plan today
The developer Max Shifman describes the situation as “horrible”, maintaining he does not want to go ahead with the cull, but says the department of environment (DELWP) has left him no other option.
Yahoo News Australia understands Mr Shifman is awaiting the government’s decision on the relocation plan before proceeding with the cull.
If the proposal is approved, it could pave the way for future non-lethal action to deal with displaced macropods.
Animal Justice Party politician Andy Meddick has worked on the relocation plan alongside vets and wildlife experts, and says it requires “urgent consideration” by the government.
“It has been written by professionals in crisis management who also have a background in wildlife rescue,” Mr Meddick said.
“I remain hopeful that together we can forge a kind way forward to help this small family mob of kangaroos.
“It is simply not right that the nearby children and families who love watching the kangaroos out their window may wake up to their strewn bodies and bludgeoned babies if the Victorian Government doesn’t accept the relocation offer.”
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