Interactions between humans and wildlife are an unavoidable occurrence, with negative outcomes ranging from fright to minor injury to the unfortunate loss of life as has recently occurred in north Queensland. A key endeavour of the increased global push for wildlife conservation, the resolution of human-wildlife conflict and the management of its negative effects is gaining attention and causing controversy.
Prior to the 1990s, human-wildlife conflict management in Australia attracted little public awareness or support, leading to ineffective regimes. Knowledge or research in the field of conflict management was limited, with minimal political backing given to government departments to initiate effective management programs.
With the human population rapidly expanding, the habitat of Queensland’s wildlife is being ever encroached upon. Competition for resources and the degradation and fragmentation of habitat are exacerbating the stress on wildlife populations and resulting in a rise in the number of human-wildlife interactions and conflict situations. It is now imperative for the correct conflict management practices to be adopted across Queensland in order to ensure the safety of humans as well as the protection of our native wildlife.
Wildlife Queensland has recently prepared a policy addressing this issue with a focus on human interactions with crocodiles, cassowaries and magpies.
The policy’s overarching goal is to enhance the coexistence between humans and wildlife in Queensland. To facilitate this, there is a need to ensure appropriate public awareness. Further, all proposed strategies must be founded on adequate research and science, and of course, be humane. It is also highly desirable that strategies and approaches adopted are cost effective and adaptive, and assist in conserving biodiversity.
In order to achieve success, the broader community must be made aware of their shared responsibility and the role they play in managing conflict. There is no doubt that knowledge gaps still exist and further research must be undertaken on the ecology and behaviour of wildlife sharing landscapes with people.
Wildlife Queensland welcomes the stance adopted by the Palaszczuk Government in resisting the call from certain sectors of the community to undertake a cull on crocodiles. The new Queensland Crocodile Management Plan released 14 March is a step in the right direction, but can be enhanced. It is the understanding of Wildlife Queensland that additional population studies are required and that such studies are currently being undertaken. Reliable population data and ongoing monitoring are essential to understanding and assessing the strategies being applied. And this applies not only to crocodiles but to many other flora and fauna species; arresting the rate of decline in our biodiversity and loss of appropriate habitat for our wildlife remains a major challenge.
Wildlife Queensland was pleased to learn that human-wildlife conflict is also of interest to the Liberal National Party (LNP) opposition in Queensland. Under Tim Nicholls – unlike the Newman-lead LNP – this LNP opposition is at least talking with Wildlife Queensland on certain environmental issues. The voice of Wildlife Queensland is being heard and the Nicholls-lead LNP has demonstrated its willingness not only to listen but to act when our views align, as evidenced by the role played in the banning of single-use plastic bags in Queensland.
Wildlife Queensland, however, cannot carry the day alone. With an election due some time before May 2018, there is an urgent need for those who share our views to contact their local politicians on matters of concern for our wildlife, to act as the voice of these otherwise voiceless species. Until there is a loud, united community call on matters of wildlife concern, nothing will happen. Sadly, it takes a groundswell of support for any political party to take action. This is where you come in.