Shooters brag about killing rare Australian animal: 'Shot it for the skin'
WARNING—GRAPHIC CONTENT: Some of Australia’s rarest animals attract little protection from shooters, resulting in them being shot for meat or as trophies.
While kangaroos and other wildlife with a white colouring from albinism or leucism can be highly-prized tourism drawcards, they receive no extra safeguards from government.
Decisions on whether to spare an individual animal are instead made by hunters on a whim.
Evidence of the love many in the community hold for albino animals was witnessed last year when the death of a leucistic kangaroo at a Victorian sanctuary made worldwide news.
Other well-known white creatures have included an albino kookaburra at Healesville Sanctuary and a white koala at Australia Zoo.
Kangaroos targeted by shooters for their skins
White kangaroos are rare, occurring just once in every 50,000 to 100,000 individuals.
Despite their scarcity, the animals are sometimes specifically targeted by commercial shooters during culls of large, regular mobs.
Posts shared on social media in February show not all hunters choose to shoot them though, with one man sparking fierce debate after declaring he decided to spare the “whitest roo” he'd ever seen.
Another man responded, sharing a story of when he couldn't pull the trigger despite having a kangaroo that was "as white as snow" in his crosshairs.
Another shooter shared an image showing a man holding a white kangaroo by the tail, which was reportedly later set free.
Other shooters said they wouldn’t think twice about killing an albino animal, with some confessing to mounting them as trophies.
“Won’t be long before someone finds that doe,” someone wrote.
“I’m looking for her ASAP,” another person added.
“I would have shot it for the skin,” someone else wrote, while another added: "Should've blasted him."
"My cousin shot two years ago, got big money for one," another bragged.
'Public interest' could see albino kangaroo being spared
Environment departments in Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and South Australia along with the Commonwealth confirmed wildlife with a white genetic mutation receive no special protection.
Queensland said while there is “no special consideration’ given to such animals, they would weigh up public interest before granting permission to specifically kill one.
“As albino animals can have a high public profile due to it being unique or easily identifiable, if an application was received that specifically related to an albino animal, the department would consider public interest when deciding the fate of the animal,” a Queensland Department of Environment (DES) spokesperson said.
DES noted humpback whales which are more than 90 per cent white have special protection measures listed under a “special management declaration”.
“This means boats and other prohibited vessels cannot approach within 500 metres of a predominantly white whale and aircraft cannot approach within 610 metres,” they added.
Albinos remind hunters 'animals are individuals'
NSW Animal Justice Party MLC Mark Pearson said he was not surprised some hunters think twice before shooting a white kangaroo.
He equates their situation with a historical conundrum once faced by Australia's commercial whalers when they saw a white humpback.
Exhibiting an “almost ghost like” appearance, he believes albino animals remind hunters they are targeting individuals, rather than “harvesting” a mob of faceless creatures.
“They are all animals with individuality and there is no reason why they each should not be spared a bullet, just like the albino one,” he said.
Ecologist says mutant albinos don't need special protection
Professor Ary Hoffman from the University of Melbourne, an expert in ecological genetics, told Yahoo News Australia colour variations can be “incredibly important” to wild animals.
Extensive research suggests camouflage gives both predators and prey a natural selection advantage, and there is growing interest in how lighter colouring can help individuals survive the impact of global heating caused by climate change.
When it comes to albino animals, the affect is believed to be largely “detrimental” to their health, with their vision often impaired as a result of the mutation.
Their presence often reflects a situation where inbreeding could be occurring in a population,
“These are mutations that are normally selected out, so when they appear, and they hang around, that suggests that there's probably some inbreeding depression going on,” Professor Hoffman said.
“Inbreeding depression means you're getting meetings between relatives, usually because the population size becomes so small, that the only thing that's available for you to mate with is a relative.
“Then you end up expressing all these nasty genes.”
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While beautiful in appearance, Professor Hoffman does not believe white coloured wildlife requires any special protection.
“It's one of those situations where you just have to let natural selection take its course,” he said.
"Unless the animal is economically important of course."
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