A recent exchange with Hon Dr Steven Miles highlighted WPSQ’s concerns regarding three broad classes of wildlife which periodically result in conflict with humans: macropods, crocodiles and flying-foxes. In his responses regarding the management of the various species, the Minister reassured that science will play a more significant role going forward.
Thanks to dedicated staff over several decades Queensland has excellent population data on commercially harvested species of macropods, namely the eastern grey kangaroo, the red kangaroo and the wallaroo. Wildlife Queensland is not opposed to the commercial harvest of these species as it is underpinned by science, animal welfare and a rigorous compliance program. The commercial harvest is a sustainable wildlife industry. It is not a means of pest control for macropods.
The pest situation is dealt with legally by the issuance of Damage Mitigation Permits (DMPs) under the Nature Conservation Act, which WPSQ is not also opposed to provided it is clearly established that population numbers exceed the natural carrying capacity and the legislative and conditioning requirements are met. Matters such as the applicant’s suitability, animal welfare and the accurate recording and reporting of take are considered, and DMP holders are required to take macropods humanely in accordance with the codes.
Under this system, the current take of the species in the various management zones is one percent of the population. Following extensive discussions with various experts and access to current harvest figures under the quota system, Wildlife Queensland is of the view that lifting the limitation of take under DMPs to two percent of the population poses no risk to the species.
The other aspect of kangaroo management raised with the Minister is the question of recreational hunting of macropods. Currently Queensland legislation provides for the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection to authorise the sustainable recreational hunting of macropods through recreational wildlife harvesting licences. Though advice to hand indicates that the uptake of these licences is minimal with no more than 20 to 30 licences issued annually for the past two years, the Minister is well aware of Wildlife Queensland’s opposition to the recreational hunting of wildlife, including macropods, and assured that WPSQ’s position will be considered in any review.
The Minister indicated the previous government’s approach to crocodile management was lacking due regard for the sustainability of the species and for a scientific approach maximising human safety. He advised that Crocodile Management Plans will be due for review in 2016 and that a staged review of the Townsville and Cairns Crocodile Plans will commence with the assessment and collection of scientific knowledge on crocodile management. Wildlife Queensland clearly prefers this approach over a strategy based on a pre-election commitment as advised by the former LNP Minister.
The impact of the LNP policy on crocodile populations in Queensland is not known and there is no evidence available as to the benefits of the policy for public safety. The Labor government proposes to engage with experts in the field of crocodile surveying and wildlife population modelling in the first instance. It then intends to undertake a broader level of engagement to inform the future management. Crocodile safari hunting is currently outside the scope of changes to the crocodile management framework being considered by government.
Wildlife Queensland also sought guidance on flying-fox management under the new Labor government, with the Minister advising his awareness of public concern regarding the species’ conservation and welfare, and of WPSQ’s strong opposition to lethal DMPs. Wildlife Queensland was informed that the lethal DMPs reintroduced by the previous government in 2012 have been conservative: only 14 DMPs for crop protection have been authorised in the current financial year with some 78 percent of the total lethal take quota remaining unallocated.
Lethal and non-lethal flying-fox management arrangements are under examination to ensure that Queensland has effective, science-based frameworks in place which do not put flying-fox populations at risk. The scope and timing of potential changes to the management framework are under consideration. In light of the recent CSIRO report indicating a decline in the spectacled flying-fox population, the Queensland Government Species Technical Committee recommendation to provide the species with the heightened conservation status of Vulnerable is being progressed.
Wildlife Queensland has long been an advocate for the systematic surveying of Queensland’s fauna, including the flying-fox. The Minister advised that his Department regularly monitors a significant proportion of flying-fox roosts in Queensland with the assistance of volunteers, and that resulting data provides a better picture of their abundance, distribution and population trends. However, the Minister acknowledges limitations in existing data despite these ongoing efforts.
Wildlife Queensland appreciates the Minister’s commitment to best science and expert opinion when it comes to improving conservation and mitigating human-wildlife conflict involving these three classes of wildlife. Of course, there are other groups such as reptiles and marine creatures such as sharks that are often the subject of community demands for action. Without reliable data on their populations, it is difficult to determine what kind of action is appropriate without placing the species at risk. And the devil is always in the details: Wildlife Queensland will continue to closely monitor legislative change to ensure a positive outcome for our environment and its wildlife.