A major investigation is underway into shocking claims of animal cruelty on a property in South Australia’s Murraylands.
Animal welfare advocates fear dozens of wombats have been buried alive in one of the biggest culls they’ve ever seen.
With shovels in hand and their faces covered, Parks and Wildlife officers began their grim search, moving burrow to borrow, digging up dead wombat and after dead wombat.
The remains have been seized for investigation.
Brigitte Stevens from the Wombat Awareness Association raised the alarm.
“This is definitely the largest cull I’ve seen of wombats,” she said.
Ms Stevens raised the alarm almost two weeks ago after a member of the public noticed an elaborate network of warrens on the Sandleton property had been destroyed.
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“And the department just hasn’t got back to me and there’s obviously been inactivity until we’ve gone public,” Ms Stevens said.
On Monday she found an injured major limping along the road.
On Wednesday X-rays revealed he has two bullets lodged in his body.
The department is now investigating how the rest were killed and if any have been buried alive when their warrens were filled in.
It won’t confirm if the property owner had a destruction permit.
As its officers were digging up dead wombats, the department released a statement saying it doesn’t believe any have been buried alive.
But welfare experts say the only way of knowing for sure is to dig holes in every warren to see if any wombats emerge.
“I would say at least a hundred, at least a hundred, there’s a lot of burrows that have been filled in,” Ms Stevens said.
If the owner of the property is found to have culled without a permit or exceed his quota he could face a fine, even jail time.