Kangaroo culling suspended after bushfires decimate wildlife

Michael Dahlstrom
·News and Video Producer

WARNING - GRAPHIC CONTENT: Amid reports that more than one billion animals have been killed by bushfires, governments are taking action to suspend their policies that allowed kangaroos to be shot for pet food.

A number of social media posts seen by Yahoo News Australia indicate that many kangaroo and wallaby shooters were already struggling to find animals to hunt.

Many of them wrote that they were considering getting out of the business as established areas have become denuded of animals.

Bushfires are thought to have further decimated their numbers.

On Tuesday, the South Australian government confirmed with Yahoo News Australia that it would halt plans to slaughter wallabies on Kangaroo Island after one third of the island went up in flames.

“For Kangaroo Island, no commercial tags will be issued until we have a better handle on impacts to kangaroo and wallaby numbers,” a spokesperson said.

“In the harvest subregions affected by fire we will review the current allocated quotas once we have a better understanding of impacts.”

The Victorian government followed suit, confirming with Yahoo News Australia today that their entire kangaroo culling program has been suspended.

“Our focus right now is supporting farmers and their livestock, and on caring for and rehabilitating wildlife, affected by the ongoing bushfires,” a government spokesperson said.

“As a result of the bushfires, harvest quotas for 2020 have not yet been determined and the Kangaroo Harvesting Program has been temporarily suspended.

“We’re communicating with harvesting program participants regularly and will continue to provide regular updates over the coming weeks, once the impact on Kangaroo populations across Victoria is better understood.”

The NSW government is yet to make an announcement regarding culling in light of the bushfires.

Dead wildlife at the Cobargo property of Sara Tilling and her partner Gary Henderson. Source: Supplied
Sara Tilling and her partner Gary Henderson arrived at their property to find the wildlife they had raised were dead. Source: Supplied

Animal rescuers need more help

Across the country, animal rescuers on the frontlines of Australia’s bushfire crisis are calling on authorities to provide help as they work around the clock to save surviving wildlife.

Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary owner Sara Tilling has been tending to dead and dying animals on her Yowrie property, 300km south of Sydney.

Photos she has taken of the kangaroos she raised provide a sad glimpse of the dire situation facing our wildlife across the country.

She refers to the wildlife as her family.

Left: A kangaroo lies dead on the ground, while (right) another is seen with bloodied legs after the bushfires on the Cobargo property. Source: Supplied
Most of the kangaroos on Ms Tilling's property were dead or burnt to the bone. Source: Supplied

Ms Tilling spoke with Yahoo News Australia on Monday at a petrol station where she had been lining up for an hour to buy diesel.

The petrol station in nearby Cobargo had run out of fuel, so she’d had to borrow five litres from a stranger and drive 45 minutes south to where they still had supplies.

“My entire property and the surrounding district has just been annihilated – absolutely annihilated,” she said, her voice quivering with heartbreak.

“And we look around us and the community as a whole has come together, more than you could possibly ever expect.

“But I’m not quite sure where our politicians are. Like I’m not sure what’s happening, where the support is. I can’t even get fuel.”

Support has come through locally as well as from overseas, with her friend and fellow sanctuary owner Rae Harvey’s GoFundMe even being shared by US celebrity Pamela Anderson.

Ms Tilling said her under-resourced community is desperate for help.

“Old ‘ScoMo’ came down and got heckled out of town - he couldn’t cope,” Ms Tilling said.

“He had to get in his car and escape.

“The people care, but governments don’t care.”

The fires hit her property only days after she put down her first mortgage payment on her property.

Now the proudly self-sufficient woman and her partner Gary Henderson have had to resort to pleading for donations on GoFundMe.

Wildlife charity Animal Rescue collective has been supplying the couple and other carers with much needed supplies.

Treating the burnt and broken

Ms Tilling was in Tasmania when the fires destroyed her home on New Year’s Eve.

She returned with Mr Henderson on January 1 to find just one small shed standing.

The structure is threatened by a smouldering tree, but water isn’t available to put it out.

Burnt out bushland on Ms Tilling's Cobargo property, and right an injured kangaroo is rescued. Source: Supplied
When Ms Tilling arrived at her property on New Years Day the carnage changed her forever. Source: Supplied

Of the 150 wild roos living on her 850 acres she’s only found 18 alive.

Every day, she’s putting out food and water and treating or euthanising the burnt and broken.

People wishing to donate to help wildlife affected by bushfire in the Cobargo area can do so here.

The author, Michael Dahlstrom, is a registered native bird carer with Wildlife ARC.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.