‘Heartbreaking’: millions of native animals killed under Tasmania’s property protection permits

Millions of native animals, including wallabies, green rosellas, cockatoos and wombats have been killed in Tasmania under property protection permits, according to data produced by the state government.

The Tasmanian Greens say the “staggering” figures, which were first reported by The Mercury newspaper, should be examined through a broader parliamentary inquiry into the management and protection of wildlife in Tasmania.

In Tasmania, landowners can obtain property protection permits which allow them to kill wildlife to prevent damage to crops, stock or infrastructure.

The Greens have raised concern that the number of animals killed through this system is opaque and that the broader effects on the environment have not been thoroughly assessed.

New data, supplied in answers to questions on notice, shows 859,304 native animals were killed in 2021 alone and an additional 53,352 were culled up to 6 June this year.

The total climbs to about 2.8m when data for 2020 and 2019 is included.

It includes 1,176,002 Bennetts wallabies; 1,088,117 rufous wallabies; 530,487 brushtail possums; and 168 common wombats that were recorded as having been culled in the period from 2019 to 6 June this year.

Other affected species include yellow-tailed black cockatoos, black swans and forester kangaroos (also known as eastern grey kangaroos).

About 3,400 permits for culling of native wildlife were issued from 1 July 2019 to 6 June this year.

The Greens Leader, Cassy O’Connor, said the government should be working with landholders to reduce the impact of native wildlife on property through non-lethal means.

She said the party would be moving for a broad inquiry into wildlife protection and management because “Tasmanians deserve to know what is being done to ensure, in a time of climate and biodiversity crisis, this island’s wildlife is has a future”.

Rosalie Woodruff, the Tasmanian Greens environment and biodiversity spokesperson, said the number of native animals killed was “heartbreaking”.

She said many were much-loved animals that people went out of their way to see and some of the species had recorded local declines in population numbers in recent years.

Woodruff also questioned whether damage to property was being thoroughly verified before permits were issued, as was required under the permit system.

“With hundreds of thousands of native animals every year being legally slaughtered under an opaque process, where is the assessment of biodiversity impacts or justification?” she said.

Tim Beshara, the manager of policy and strategy at the Wilderness Society, expressed concern about the potential ecological impact of large numbers of animal carcasses if they were left in the environment.

“We are talking about what could be as much as 10,000 tonnes of marsupial carcasses here – about two to three times the amount of roadkill,” he said.

“With the recent crash of devil and quoll populations to devour the carrion, leaving so many carcasses in patches across the landscape is likely to boost numbers of species like feral cats and ravens, in turn creating huge flow-through impacts to other species.”

A government spokesperson said the wildlife regulations were in place to ensure sustainable management of wildlife populations across the state.

They said permits were issued after an assessment of damage at a property and where there was a demonstrated need to protect crops or stock, or equipment or infrastructure used for agricultural production.

“To be clear landowners use a range of management measures, such as fencing, netting and noise-scarers, to try to keep wildlife populations at a sustainable level in the agricultural landscape and protect their investment and livelihood,” they said.

“Farming is a business and our farmers must be able to manage their land to support ongoing viability.”

The spokesperson said applications for a permit were also assessed against requirements under the state’s Nature Conservation Act.

“Long-term wildlife population monitoring indicates that the species subject to property protection permits have stable or increasing populations, which indicates that the current process for taking wildlife is sustainable,” the said.

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