Permission to Shoot
RED-TAILED BLACK COCKATOOS
Reprinted courtesy of Cooktown Local News
The following information is available on this topic:
As part of an unusual approach to controlling native birds and the damage they cause, farmers in the Lakeland district have been given permits to shoot a certain number of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos by the Department of Environment and Heritage.
The Red-tailed Blacks are a fairly common sight in Lakeland and farmers report that they, along with the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, cause a great deal of damage to crops of peanuts and corn in particular.
The birds, which are classified as common wildlife, are protected under the Conservation Act, but a select number of farmers have been given a permit to shoot up to 30 scout birds. As might be guessed from the title, the scout birds range ahead of the flock and report back on where the good food and water supplies are. Work in the Northern Territory has shown that if scout birds are eliminated the flock will not move into the area they were eliminated from.
The Department of Environment and Heritage have attempted to develop a creative and flexible pilot programme to address the problem of bird damage in the Lakeland area.
Part one of the programme is limited shooting of scout birds, part two is the use of commercially available bird deterrent system which utilises radar and for which the Department will provide the funding.
Other options which have been discussed are trapping and selling the birds. There is some doubt as to the success of this option given the difficulty which wild bred adult birds may have in adapting to living in captivity. A further option discussed was sacrificial crops, where farmers plant a field to produce, some distance away from the main planting, specifically as a food source for the birds.
An interesting solution to the problem may be to place carcasses of pigs at prime bird resting, roosting and watering sites. It is thought that the carcasses may attract raptors (birds of prey) which would drive the Cockatoo population away and not allow them the time to damage the crops.
DEH has undertaken to provide a dedicated position, full time until the end of the peanut season. This person will monitor the success of the programme, ensure that permit numbers are not overrun and assess the various aspects of the programme with the aim of providing feedback to the DEH.
Parrot Society letter to Qld Council of Bird Societies
The following is a letter sent from Parrot Society of Australia President, Mr Stewart Williamson to the Queensland Council of Bird Societies (Q.C.B.S.) Re: Shooting of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos
I am writing in relation to information that the Parrot Society of Australia has received in respect of Permits to Cull, issued by the Cairns office of the Queensland Department of Environment & Heritage.
We understand that the permits were issued to destroy Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, in order to protect peanut farmers crops.
Unfortunately, the information we have to hand is sketchy, however we understand that permits issued allow for the destruction of 150 of the parrots.
The committee and members of the Parrot Society of Australia Inc view this situation with the utmost concern.
Given the Departments restrictions upon Aviculturists in respect to the keeping and breeding of Black Cockatoos, with those species having been placed on a restricted Specialist Licence, (and an annual fee of $150 having to be paid), and on the other hand issuing permits for the legal killing of these same species, it seems absurd and extremely hypocritical of the Department.
If there is a genuine problem with the birds causing a significant nuisance of economic proportions to farmers in the area concerned, then surely capture of the birds in question, with the view to release to licensed aviculturists and zoos etc, with a bounty to be paid, thereby raising some revenue to the Queensland Government, would surely be a much preferred outcome.
The Parrot Society of Australia Inc respectfully requests that the Queensland Council of Bird Societies (Q.C.B.S.) representatives seek an urgent face to face meeting with the Director of the Department to discuss this matter in full.
I believe that the depth of feeling on this matter amongst our membership is such that should an unsatisfactory or delayed response from the Department be the outcome, then a personal meeting with the Minister, be convened at the earliest opportunity.
In our opinion, should the Minister be unable or unwilling to put a stop to the permit immediately, then a widespread campaign involving as many aviculturists throughout Queensland as possible, be instigated as soon as possible.
Such campaign would naturally involve multiple numbers of letters to every member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly, and involvement with all news media organisations.
Your advice and response in this matter is eagerly awaited. In the interim, if there is anything that the Parrot Society of Australia Inc can do to assist the Q.C.B.S. re this, please feel free to contact us on the usual phone numbers.
Immediately one of our members brought the above matter to the Committee’s attention, all stops were pulled out to check the situation including phone calls to our own Department of Environment and Heritage office here in Brisbane. During lengthy discussions it was explained that whilst Red –tailed Black Cockatoos were classified as "Common" in the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulations 1994, that many of their own officers were unhappy with this situation and were pressing for more "classification levels" (presently there are five – Common, Rare, Vulnerable, Endangered and Presumed Extinct) so that the situation of this type of bird being in the same category as say a Crow, would not occur in the future. They themselves have great difficulty in explaining and justifying the situation, which by the way, not only affects Red-tailed Blacks but Koalas, Platypus and Echidna.
The Committee now has to hand a full copy of the above mentioned Legislation (which is a different set of Regulations to that which governs our keeping of birds) and will look into providing constructive comment relating to proposed changes.
One very important issue that came out of our discussions was that we also need to "steady the threatening process" because with major developments and change of land use in vulnerable areas, what is quite a common bird today, can very quickly become endangered or dare we say it, extinct. "Threatening processes" can happen quickly, Legislation doesn’t happen quite so quickly as a rule. There has to be commonsense provisions included in any future changes which allow for quick action to be taken if needed. It is in everyone’s best interest, aviculturists – conservationists as well as Government Departments to pull together to find a more equitable solution to this problem before it ever rears its head again.
Minister for Environment & Heritage (Queensland) Response:
Dear Mr Beattie,
I refer to your letter in my office on 1 June 1997 with regard to the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and damage occasioned peanut crops in the Lakeland area.
I would point out the Red-tailed Black Cockatoos are listed as Common Wildlife in Schedule 5 of the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994. While the species is not classed as endangered, rare or vulnerable in Queensland, they are nonetheless protected wildlife.
They are delightful birds which the Department of Environment endeavours to protect in the wild. However, they have caused extensive damage to commercial crops (particularly corn and peanuts) at Lakeland Downs in recent years, and it has become clear there is a need to reduce this damage in order to avoid significant economic loss to the local farmers.
In striving to achieve a sensible balance between the protection of native wildlife and successful cropping at Lakeland, the Department has consulted widely with wildlife authorities and specialists throughout Australia in seeking to identify appropriate methods to minimise crop damage by Red-tailed Black Cockatoos without impacting on the viability of the birds in the wild. This year the Department has, using its own funds, trialed a number of different techniques to minimise the damage caused to crops in the Lakeland area by Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. These included a range of harassment techniques. In addition, as part of the trial, the Department issued permits allowing a few farmers to shoot a limited number of the birds (e.g. scout birds) on their properties.
I am advised by Departmental staff who closely monitored the trial that the farmers took a very responsible approach to the issue and shot only scout birds when they felt there was no other alternative to protect their crops.
My advice is that the 1997 peanut growing and harvesting season in the Lakeland area has now finished and that only four Red-tailed Black Cockatoos were shot under the permits issued by the Department. It is considered that the shooting of such a small number of these birds would not have had any impact on the viability of the species in the wild.