The New South Wales Parliament looks like it might pass an amendment to the Game and Feral Animal Control Act. The proposal by the Shooter's Party is a cause for real concern. The RSPCA have come out today against the Bill and I know of many other groups with concerns. The Invasive Species Council is dead against it.
Why would a feral animal guy be against shooting of feral animals?
The trouble is, this Bill could encourage the keeping of feral animals for the purpose of recreational shooting. When one looks down the list of animals in the Schedule, a heck of a lot of them have wings. How could a Game Keeper ensure these birds will not spread beyond their own place? Take the example of the Canada Goose. They aren't currently in Australia, but they are a major problem in New Zealand and North America. Once endangered, this species was the subject of a recovery program - but not all Canada Geese returned to a migratory lifestyle. "Resident" Canada Geese are a huge amenity problem in many American cities. They make public parks unusable because as a grazing animal, they have a pretty hopeless digestive system, so they basically are pooping every time the left leg is raised. Apart from that, they tend to get sucked into jet engines and bring planes down from time-to-time.
I can't understand why an exotic feral we don't want is on a Schedule for Game Reserves in New South Wales. You may think it doesn't matter, given the birds aren't here. But here's the thing - three of them did show up last year. Presumably flown and blown from New Zealand, three Canada Geese ended up wandering around Bateman's Bay on the NSW south coast. After a bit of delay, authorities arranged for their dispatch. But if they were snaffled into a Game Reserve under this Bill, if it passes, would the new owner be allowed to breed them?
The Vertebrate Pests Committee, which is made up of representatives from each State, Territory and the Commonwealth has a list of species it wants contained. They see it as important that these animals don't spread further. The Shooter's Party proposal for Game Reserves seems to open up the possibility that we will have a system of springboards for launching these species into new places. Has adequate risk assessment taken place?
Let's not make Thomas Austin's mistake when he released rabbits 150 years ago: "The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting." We all know how well that worked out.