The Native and Introduced Wildlife Working Group agreed that priority should be given to projects that:
- are clearly achievable;
- have already commenced, are worthy of completion, and require additional support or funding;
- address the most severe welfare issues that impact the largest number of animals, and
- relate directly to welfare of wild animals, rather than conservation or social issues.
In light of these priorities, in 2013 the group agreed that the following projects would be pursued.
Codes of Practice and Standard Operating Procedures for Feral Animal Control
Currently, information about humane pest control is dispersed over many different locations and difficult to track down, therefore awareness of best practice is poor.
If approved, this project proposal will provide up-to-date information in one location for humane techniques and methodologies. It is proposed that a working website will be developed that will provide direct access to all current information on humane vertebrate pest control including the Codes of Practice and Standard Operating Procedures for Vertebrate Pest Management and the Ranking Humaneness Model in an interesting, attractive and informative manner.
Such a website would increase access to and awareness of information on the available techniques and requirements for humane vertebrate pest control. This should lead to improved animal welfare and better uptake of good practice techniques. Thus it would provide an effective promotion, linkage and adoption of those techniques. It may also link in to the ANZCCART Euthanasia Techniques Guidelines and other recognised resources on humane killing.
Feral Animal CoPs and SoPs Gap Analysis
This project proposal would encourage and drive the uptake of the Humane Destruction of Vertebrate Pests CoPs and SOPs by the jurisdictions. It will also identify gaps in species for which SOPs should be developed (eg rodents and techniques which are used but are not address by the existing COPs and SOPs (eg Judas collars for feral donkeys and camels). Filling these gaps will be the subject of a subsequent funding proposal.
This project would assist in achieving national consistency in feral animal management and provide government and non-government officers with a guide to the legal constraints and best practice options to manage feral animals. It would contribute to better welfare outcomes by highlighting minimum legal requirements and promoting best practice techniques for feral animal management. In conjunction with the second project proposal (the website development for the COPs and SOPs) it will provide ready access to up to date information on the methods currently approved and how to use them.
Identifying the gaps will lead to better animal welfare outcomes in the future.
- Position statements can be useful to ensure there is a consistent message in response to enquries on an issue
- They need to be produced pre-emptively because it is difficult to develop them quickly once an issue has arisen
- There are numerous organisations which have position statements, such as the AMWS. These might provide good base documents for NIWWG
- Position statements can be used as advice to Ministers and Governments to influence policy positions. They are also useful to NGO’s
- NCCAW was the only advisory committee to the Minister. It is questionable whether the position statements that committee developed are still relevant
- If position statements are developed, they must be for a specific purpose, objective, well considered, regularly reviewed and prioritised to be relevant and useful.
- They could address an issue or technique which is common to numerous species specific CoP’s and SoP’s (for example trapping animals or aerial shooting)
Improving the Humaneness of Kangaroo Management
It was agreed that the humaneness of kangaroo management as a broad issue was a priority. This project will comprise:
- Investigation into the fate of orphaned joeys.
- Finalisation of the communications strategy relating to that project.
- Training of shooters in destruction of joeys. All jurisdictions require licensing for kangaroo shooters which involves competency testing but this relates to adults, not joeys. In addition, the requirements vary between jurisdictions. Some shooters do not know the Code of Practice exists. Improvement will require industry commitment. Progression of this issue would require information on the licensing requirements and whether or not welfare of joeys is part of those requirements.
Kangaroo Management with the reduction in the export market
With the closure of the Russian export market and the high Australian dollar, a major kangaroo exporter has reduced its production. This has resulted in a reduction in the number of commercial shooters but not reduction in the kangaroo population. This is likely to result in more non-commercial shooting which may have animal welfare implications.
This project proposal seeks to achieve an understanding of the potential implications of a decrease in commercial kangaroo shooting and an equivalent increase in non-commercial destruction permits. This may have implications for jurisdictions applying additional conditions to destruction permits and create significant difficulties in ensuring compliance with them. Alternatively, there may be a need to subsidise commercial shooters to undertake non-commercial destruction. The project, in isolation will not deliver improvements in welfare. However, it will produce a better understanding of the issues and result in additional projects to address them.
Strategic feral animal management programs
The NIWWG agreed that an overarching priority would be the strategic feral animal management programs. This project will include:
- Contingency funding to address feral populations at their most vulnerable times
- Training of operational personnel
- Identification of rabbit source points and refuges – but in terms of consideration of species biology as a control method rather than specifically relating to rabbit refuges.
Improving the humaneness of hunting – marine and terrestrial (excluding commercial fishing)
Commercial Fish are excluded because they are in the realm of the Aquatic Animal Working Group. This would include:
- Indigenous hunting practices
- Education on the management of injured animals
- Education and training on hunting skills (eg choice of weapon, accuracy etc)
The Fate of Rescued, Rehabilitated and Released Animals
Many groups and individuals rescue, rehabilitate and release animals with no knowledge of their survival or their manner of death if they do not.
If funded, this project will consider the release of wildlife under three broad scenarios:
1. Release of rescued, rehabilitated and displaced animals from Wildlife Carers and other organisations
2. Relocation of individual animals from households e.g. snake in a garden , fledgling from garden
3. Relocation of animals prior to development of housing or infrastructure
Little or no work is done to determine if these animals will survive or what impacts they will have on resident animals within their release site.
The project aim is to develop a decision making tree from which those who are considering releasing animals can determine whether or not they should do so and, if so, how and where they should be released. If the animal cannot or should not be released, it should be kept as a permanent captive or euthanized. The tree could also be used by fauna permitting authorities to assist in deciding whether or not a permit should be issued. It will alsoreate a template of guidelines for the release of animals. This to be an easy to follow guide for use by all wildlife carers, landowners and individuals. The decision tree should assist carers to act in the interest of the animal rather than “what feels good”.
Emerging issues/gaps in the existing animal welfare system in Australia
The NIWWG agreed that the following are emerging issues or gaps in the Australian animal welfare system:
- Declining resources and changing demographics resulting in the loss of experienced operators and thus an overall diminishment of skill in pest animal (and plant) management.
- Declining budgets resulting in potential pressures to adopt the cheapest option which achieves the result rather than the best or most humane option.
- An increasing gap between public perception and reality making public communication of wild animal issues difficult and emotive.
- Peri-urban animal ownership. This is an issue common to several working groups as it impacts on production animals, companion animals and wild animals. One Queensland Council (Western Plains) has developed a brochure for new residents outlining their obligations in deciding to live in a peri-urban area including responsible and humane animal ownership