New law creates springboard for feral animal problems
The new NSW Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2009 runs the risk of increasing Australia’s feral animal populations.
The Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IA CRC) is concerned with the new provision for game reserves to be established in NSW, where invasive game animals — many of which have been assessed by the national Vertebrate Pests Committee as ‘extreme’ risks — can be ‘housed’ and birds can be ‘released’ for private hunting.
"Game reserves could act as a potential springboard for invasive species. Some of the animals listed in the Bill are not established in Australia and are even listed as ‘high risk species’ in other jurisdictions. The biosecurity chain is only as strong as its weakest link and game reserves are set to be NSW’s weakest biosecurity link," said Professor Tony Peacock, Chief Executive Officer of the IA CRC.
The Bobwhite quail, for example, is prohibited in Western Australia. It is well suited to mixed habitats and known to compete with species of native quail, yet it is included in the proposed list.
"I’m somewhat flummoxed that we’re still having this debate 150 years after the ‘innocent’ proposal to bring rabbits to Australia. The rabbit has now become one of the most destructive invasive pests in Australia. The English gentleman responsible actually said at the time: ‘The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting’," said Professor Peacock.
The Bill also appears to conflict with the NSW Invasive Species Plan, the first goal of which is to prevent the establishment of new invasive species. The plan states: ‘The most effective way to minimise the impacts of invasive species is to prevent their initial incursion’.
Other species, such as feral spotted turtle doves, are already found in NSW and illustrate the risk of numbers of feral animals exploding. They first became established in Alice Springs in the early 1990s when just 10 birds were liberated from a backyard aviary. Since then, the population has steadily grown and today numbers are thought to exceed 8000 birds.
"Expanding the list could open a floodgate for possible establishment of problem animals. The biosecurity of the environment is a concern not only for the sake of Australia’s environmental assets, but also because of the scope for wild animals and plants to act as a reservoir for pests and diseases that have broader effects," said Professor Peacock.
"There’s a pretty basic cause and effect scenario that’s likely to result. By including these animals in the Act, there is an incentive to introduce populations that will create a new springboard for invasive animal problems," he said.
If you want to read the proposed legislation it is here