Indian, or common mynas, were under the spotlight last week when a community control conference was held at Nowra on the NSW south coast. About a hundred people gathered to discuss how the community can best participate in control of this pest bird. I attended and, if I'm honest, there was no hand-wringing about whether culling these birds was justified. This meeting was about how to cull them, not whether we should. But having said that, the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group's Bill Handke presented pretty good evidence that the community effort works. Up to 500 Canberrans have been trapping Indian mynas over the past three years and removed some 27,500 birds. Myna numbers in the city have dropped in total and they have gone from the third most common bird in 2006 to 9th most common in 2007 and 12th in 2008. However some caution is needed in interpreting the results because bird numbers can fluctuate considerably, but it does look like the program of removal works.
"Hatred" of a feral animal is not a good force for action in my view. It is also not my experience with management of feral animals. Everyone that attended the meeting last week was concerned to ensure that euthanasia of the birds was to a high standard. I've been out "toading" with the Kimberley Toad Busters in the outback and found that all the participants are incredibly respectful of the animals. It's the same with researchers that work on a particular species - they tend to admire the animal they work on. If hatred was enough to make something disappear I reckon they'd be no Volvos on the road and no Collingwood in the AFL.
The motivating factors for feral animal control have to be that of conserving or restoring the environment or protecting food and fibre production. Controlling ferals should also be part of a planned, program approach. Otherwise, it tends to be an exercise in futility.
Indian mynas are an interesting example in regard to a planned approach. They are highly territorial, taking possession of a one or more nesting hollows. As a result they drive other birds away from an area. So local control in a backyard can result in native birds returning to that backyard. Of course, continued trapping of mynas is necessary to maintain the benefits. Does that "ends" of a pair of successfully-breeding native birds justify the "means" of culling Indian mynas? Obviously in the opinion of many people (including me) it does, and my observation is that their motivation is a love for native wildlife, not a hatred of the feral species.
All goes to show that feral animal management is no simple task.