WARNING - DISTRESSING CONTENT: Torture is suspected to have played a role in the deaths of seven possums found in an estuary in Sydney’s south.
Horrific photographs posted to a social media page alerted wildlife rescue group WIRES to the incident in Kurnell.
Found floating in a stormwater canal, near Cooke Street on May 1, the brushtail possums, a protected species in NSW, had begun to decompose.
WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor said they appeared to have been “trapped or caught” and “deliberately killed”.
She has now issued a plea for anyone with information in relation to the “distressing” incident to contact authorities.
Horrifying details of wildlife discovery
Images of the dead possums reveal a disturbing scene, but were taken in the hope of raising awareness and "holding those responsible to account".
One possum appeared to have a cord wrapped around its head and neck in a “noose-like fashion”, according to WIRES rescuer, Evelyn Anderson-Ho who fished the possums out of the canal.
Another, she said, was found in a sealed metal crate, and “clearly gripping at the bars when it perished”.
“That crate was tied shut with the same type of metal cord that was around the throat of the other animal,” she recalled.
“The metal crate was also attached to the pool fencing that surrounded the canal.
“I’m uncertain as to whether or not (the cord) would have supported the animal being dropped in and out of the water like a tea bag, or if that was an easy way to retrieve the cage of the next animal."
A volunteer with the group since 2013, Ms Anderson-Ho, has attended to many animals who have been subject to road trauma, however after a thorough inspection of their bodies, she saw no indication that this was a factor.
She concluded at least two of the possums were "without doubt tortured animals".
NSW Police confirmed they attended the scene after receiving a report of “possible animal cruelty” and the incident is currently under investigation.
National Parks and Wildlife who are also looking into the incident are urging anyone with information to contact them or Crimestoppers.
"The NPWS is calling for information from the community following the horrific discovery of a number of possums that appear to have been deliberately tied up and drowned in a cage at Kurnell," they said.
"Wildlife are protected and it is an offence to harm wildlife without a permit."
Call for tougher animal abuse laws in NSW
In NSW there have been ongoing calls for reform of animal abuse laws.
The state government has drafted legislation to increase penalties for those convicted of animal abuse, but it appears to have stalled in parliament.
Despite having made it through the upper house in mid-March, the government is yet to pass their amended legislation through the Legislative Assembly.
Having called on the government to reform abuse laws last October, NSW Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst said current penalties “fail to recognise the seriousness of animal cruelty offences”.
“It is unclear why the government has failed to take action to pass their own bill into law, and update our state’s pathetic, outdated penalties for animal abuse,” Ms Hurst said on Thursday morning.
Frustrated by the lag in passing the bill, she will be moving her own tougher penalties bill in the next sitting week of parliament.
“Because the Agriculture Minister is failing to manage his own portfolio, animal abusers are still facing pathetically weak penalties for animal cruelty, and no one charged of bestiality can be banned from having further animals in their so-called ‘care’,” she said.
“The NSW community hates animal cruelty, and would be disgusted to know that because of the agriculture minister’s incompetence, animal abusers are still facing slap-on-the-wrist penalties in New South Wales.”
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall has been contacted for comment.
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