Described by a rescuer as “red tape gone mad”, South Australian authorities appear to be stalling efforts to relocate a mob of kangaroos four metres across a river.
Flood waters are rising two inches every 24 hours, gobbling up a small patch of land on a vineyard in Morgan, 160km northeast of Adelaide, where a mob of western greys are running out of food. Rescuers have secured funding to have them tranquillised and relocated, but they allege the government has so far offered just one alternative. Shoot them.
Wildlife volunteer Anne Pugsley has been monitoring the animals since they became trapped between the Murray River and an estuary two weeks ago. She's seen firsthand the devastating impact flooding can have on wildlife after she was involved in a 2011 incident during which flood-affected kangaroos were forced to stand on the dead to stay above water.
Starvation is the biggest threat to the Morgan mob, and with time running out, Ms Pugsley is wishing she hadn’t bothered asking for approval to move them. “If I could have foreseen what was happening now, I would have just gone and done it ourselves,” she said. “It’s an absolute debacle”.
Myth persists that kangaroos can't be relocated
A myth has persisted amongst state governments that relocating kangaroos results in high numbers of deaths from a macropod illness that results from stress called myopathy.
Rescuers have been relocating kangaroos and wallabies on the quiet for decades, and a recent government-sanctioned operation in Victoria saw a small mob successfully relocated. There are plans to move up to 300 western greys in Western Australia.
Animal Rescue Cooperative (ARC) has offered to fully fund a qualified darter to tranquillise the mob at Morgan, which includes one male, a female with a pouch joey, and three medium-sized kangaroos. They are keen to send in rescuers immediately.
“It is now clear they have been stranded on this island for more than 10 days and they have not been rescued,” ARC said on social media. It also appears the only "official" offer so far is to shoot them dead if they get in a bad way… Not a good look for anyone involved.”
Department responds to concern about Morgan kangaroos
On Saturday, Yahoo News Australia asked the South Australia environment department (DEW) to confirm whether it had offered to shoot the kangaroos and whether it was open to allowing the mob to be relocated. It did not respond directly to these questions.
“Staff are closely monitoring flooding and water flows across the state,” a spokesperson said.
“In circumstances where there are fears animals could be stranded the department will assess each situation to determine the best course of action based on the welfare of the animals.”
Following publication of this article, DEW issued a further statement on Friday, clarifying its position on the Morgan kangaroos.
"(National Parks and Wildlife Service) staff have been working with the property owner of a site that has been raised in the media," a spokesperson said. "An inspection occurred on Thursday in which it was determined that kangaroos could still get away from the floodwaters on the property."
"This was determined after a physical inspection of the site, discussion with the property owner and analysis of landscape and flooding maps which have identified a levy and other elevated areas from which the kangaroos could use to get out from the floodwaters. NPWS staff will continue to monitor the situation."
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