Tourists warned about 'feral' act in national parks

The behaviour impacts both the environment and human health.

Two bushwalkers stand at on rocks with toilet roll litter near their feet in Carnarvon Gorge national park in Queensland.
National park rangers at Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland have been on poo patrols as visitors have been defecating near walkways and creeks. Source: ABC

Tourists who travel from far and wide to witness Australia's impressive bushland are being warned to look, and only look, after national park rangers have recently had their days filled with poo collection duties thanks to unwanted deposits by visitors.

Rangers at Carnarvon Gorge, a popular national park in Queensland's central highlands, have reportedly been dodging human waste like "minefields" and finding all kinds of "gross" discoveries, with some visitors choosing to relieve themselves right beside walking tracks and leaving their waste in full view for fellow bushwalkers to see later.

Not only is it unsightly, with human waste taking up to 12 months to decompose — and often longer in cooler temperatures — but it pollutes waterways and walking tracks. Often toilet paper, and even soiled undies, are left on the ground too.

National park rangers are urging visitors to think ahead before embarking on long bush walks and are urged to use the bathroom facilities available, pack a shovel or bring a bag.

"When you've got to go, you've got to go — we do understand that but probably a little bit of thinking before you go and preparation would make it much easier," Lindie Pasma, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ranger-in-charge at Carnarvon Gorge, told ABC News. She said patrolling the luscious landscape for human waste is definitely "not our favourite part of the job."

Visitors are urged to bury their waste 15 centimetres deep and ensure the position is at least 100 metres away from waterways — with rangers suggested a portable spade and towel would help with this process.

A Carnarvon Gorge tour guide explained some visitors comment on how "beautiful and clear" the water is in the national park, asking if it's safe enough to drink, yet the uptick in human waste littered throughout the landscape has definitely squashed that.

"When I start explaining how many feral pigs and evidently how many feral humans there are using the national park as well, they have a second thought," Michelle Whitehouse said.

Bushwalkers stepping over stones in a creek at Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland.
National park rangers have to remind visitors the 'beautiful and clear' creek water is not safe to drink. Source: Getty

Tasmanian rangers are also facing this problem, with Olivia Hickey previously telling Yahoo News it was a "massive concern" for the state's environment, a well as posing a risk to human health.

"From a human perspective, there are now lots of places in Tassie I wouldn't drink the water from because [the poo] brings all kinds of viruses and bacteria into the water. It can cause all sorts of belly upsets," Hickey said.

She suggested a simple peanut butter jar or a compostable bag could be tucked into bushwalker's backpack for ease next time visitors have to go.

"Covid actually made a lot of people want to go out and explore kind of their backyards, and nature is a fantastic spot to be in. But they've just missed the education of how to look after their waste properly," she said.

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