Kangaroos scheduled to be shot on Thursday night have been given a temporary reprieve after a public outcry.
The cull had been approved by the Victorian government because the kangaroos would be displaced by a housing estate being constructed in Lilydale, 34km east of Melbourne.
As the situation escalated, animal advocates began heading to the area, saying they were willing to put their own bodies between the kangaroos and the shooters.
After reports that some of the kangaroos are carrying joeys were shared on social media, the developer Intrapac later agreed to postpone the cull of 40 kangaroos.
Expert willing to relocate kangaroos
Veteran wildlife carer Manfred Zabinskas told Yahoo News Australia that if the government gives its approval, he is ready to travel to the site and help with the relocation.
He has tranquilised and relocated 2000 kangaroos over his 30 years of rescuing and believes this is a sensible option for the Lilydale mob.
We've got absolutely no evidence that this [relocation] can't be done humanely and successfully,” Mr Zabinskas said.
“[The government] needs to step in and allow us to relocate a small population of kangaroos that deserve a chance at life.
“We've lost three billion animals from the bushfires, they can't tell us that there's nowhere to take them.
“It’s crazy to have arguments that there’s nowhere for these kangaroos to go.”
‘They’re being run by their emotions’
Despite the developer working over a five year period to get government approval to relocate the animals, the department of environment (DELWP) insist a cull is the only way the project can go ahead.
With kangaroos susceptible to a stress induced fatal disease called myopathy, they say that kangaroos cannot be successfully relocated.
Independent wildlife consultant Ian Temby says that those wishing to relocate rather than cull are thinking emotionally, and not necessarily thinking of the kangaroos’ longterm outlook.
“There needs to be a decision made, and the one that in my view is the most humane is culling,” he told Yahoo News Australia.
“People don’t like it but they’re being run by their emotions because these are kangaroos.
“They don’t carry on like that about the lizards and frogs and snakes that are being killed by the development, it only applies to kangaroos and to my mind that’s not rational.”
Mr Temby, who worked with DELWP for 33 years before becoming an independent consultant, believes that interstate experience has shown that relocation is not humane, and should not be undertaken in Victoria.
‘Relocation is not humane’
While he is not aware of the Victorian government trailing this non-lethal option, he says a 2019 kangaroo relocation attempt in Western Australia resulted in a 40 per cent mortality.
“I think the principle is absolutely clear (relocation) is not humane,” he said.
“But there are other reasons for not doing it.
“It's not just the stress on the animals, there’s a potential for transferring disease, and animals get hit on the roads trying to return home.”
With DELWP issuing over 110,000 permits to cull eastern grey kangaroos, Mr Temby believes the animals are over-abundant.
He argues that with traditional Indigenous hunters no longer working to control kangaroo numbers and predators including dingoes removed from the landscape kangaroos are having a negative effect on the environment.
Their over-grazing, he believes removes shrubbery which is critical habitat for smaller birds species which are in decline across many areas of the state.
‘Blood on their hands’: Call for government to halt kangaroo cull
With the clock now ticking on the the kangaroos’ fate, Animal Justice Party politician Andy Meddick has written to environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio, calling on her to approve one of the non-lethal solutions offered by the developer.
If the cull goes ahead, he says the government will have “blood on their hands”.
“I’m relieved to report my discussions with the developers at the site of an impending kangaroo kill have resulted in a halt to their plans to commence shooting tonight, allowing us more time to convince the Minister for Environment to accept a non-lethal method,” Mr Meddick said.
“It is now vital everyone who cares about kangaroos urgently acts and urges the Minister for Environment to accept the offer by vets and darters to humanely relocate this small family mob.
“Lily D’Ambrosio has nothing to fear by agreeing to a non-lethal method.
“Make no mistake, this is a well-coordinated, professional response team.”
Developer says they’re not ‘murderers and kangaroo killers’
Intrapac’s COO Max Shifman says he has tried every option to avoid the cull and is now complying with the only legal option available for the development to go ahead.
He has now approved the delay in the cull, hoping that a non-lethal solution can be found.
“We put up options around relocation, we spoke to a number of wildlife trusts and groups who were happy to do a relocation, but that was not approved by DELWP,” Mr Shifman said.
“We also put forward sterilisation, so the roos could live out their life on the site, but that too was seen as stressful, so that was not approved.
“In the end, the only options were: don’t do the development, which is nonsense; or cull them,so that’s where we’ve ended up.”
‘I cannot believe the attacks I’ve received’
After fielding countless emails and phone calls asking him not to shoot the kangaroos, Mr Shifman sounded exhausted on Thursday night.
“I cannot believe the personal attacks and the vitriol that I have received as well as the company for complying with the damn law,” he said.
“I mean, it's just extraordinary, we don't get to call what happens, every thing we do is highly regulated and requires government approval.
“We’ve followed government rules and policies to the letter, yet we’re the ones being called murderers and killers. That’s completely unfair.
“Anyone who understands the process knows that we’re only allowed to follow the rules, and yet we’re being held to account because that’s what the rules are.
“If people want to make a change, they better advocate for a change in government policy and not take it out on us.”
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