October 2 - 15, 2022: Issue 557


Spring Carnage for Our Wildlife: Out Of Date Data Shows at least 4000 local rescues annually - Lack Of 'Responsibility' facilitates Extinctions

A large tree fell at Taylor’s Point tidal pool in Clareville this week with a cockatoo’s nest and two babies in it.  A resident Madeleine B called WIRES and Lyn and David Millett, along with their grandchildren  came to the rescue and installed a new handbuilt nest in a nearby tree for the youngsters.

The incident points to how much wildlife local volunteers attend to each Spring. 

Data kept by the NSW Environment Department, although only listing incidents from June 2013 to June 30 2020, shows that 28,542 wildlife animals have been rescued in our area between June 2013 and June 30 2020. That's well over 4000 each year. Of these 41 were threatened species (504 threatened animals rescued - only 111 threatened animals released). 

The Central Coast had 34, 385 rescues during the same period.

Across NSW in this same 7 years of data collated 608,333 wildlife animals have been rescued - well over 86,000 each year. Of these reported rescues only 152,086 have been released. Of that total 39, 526 were threatened species with 8, 625 of those released.

This data predates species such as Koalas being listed as endangered - a fact that does not stop their habitat being destroyed for profit, as shown in recent reports in Sydney's southern suburbs where the NSW Department of Planning's 'plan' is to effectively create a tree museum. While developments in the same area proceed, there are still no effective fauna crossings or exclusion fencing in place where this carnage is taking place every single night.

The available data shows 10,123 wildlife animals were rescued due to dog and cat attacks. Ringtail possums are most frequently the victims. Reptiles, your garden goanna for instance, came second, while birds are also killed by dog and cat attacks - Mammals; 3,896, Reptiles; 3, 860, Birds; 2, 347.

Most of these die as a result. Puncture wounds, the violent shaking of wildlife by a dog or cat, kills them.

Our area had 1,191 reported victims of dog and cat attacks during the 7 years of data made available, only 307 animals were released. Of these 267 were dog attacks with 59 recorded in 2017/2018 and 48 in 2018/2019. Cat attacks accounted for 584 of victims. 

Collisions with cars also tops the NSW data for wildlife rescued that then dies as a result of this collision - 62, 650 taken into care, only 10, 850 released. 

This data is not only not up to date, it stems from that made available by wildlife rescue organisations and volunteers in places where there are actually people on the ground doing this work. Not every place has the people, knowledge and facilities devoted to the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife. As well, almost 50% of that reported is excluded.

A 2021 study ''Trends in wildlife rehabilitation rescues and animal fate across a six-year period in New South Wales, Australia'' states:

''This study draws on 469,553 rescues reported over six years by wildlife rehabilitators for 688 species of bird, reptile, and mammal from New South Wales, Australia.... Of the 364,461 rescues for which the fate of an animal was known, 92% fell within two categories: ‘dead’, ‘died or euthanised (54.8% of rescues with known fate) and animals that recovered and were subsequently released (37.1% of rescues with known fate). 

''In total, there were 872,087 records reported during the six-year (2013–14 to 2018–19) study period. Just over 97% of these came from three animal groups–birds, mammals, and reptiles. Of the total number of records, 402,534, (46%) were excluded from the descriptive analysis because they: a) did not contain any information about the animal, or the animal’s identification was ambiguous and could not be placed within a group (e.g. an ‘unidentified animal’); b) contained only sightings of animals and were not attended to in some way by a wildlife rehabilitator; c) were records of amphibians (373 records) or non-vertebrate fauna (e.g. spiders, insects, etc.); d) were non-avian marine vertebrates such as whales, seals, sharks, rays, fish etc; e) were reported as floating, drowned, or washed up animals (deemed an ambiguous cause for rescue, n = 48); f) contained both an ‘unknown’ cause for rescue and an ‘unknown’ fate; or f) were an introduced or spurious species (e.g. extinct, or out of known range). These exclusions resulted in a dataset for descriptive analysis of 469,553 records i.e. 54% of the initially reported amount.''

This study indicates the local amount of wildlife rescued locally is twice what is officially on record.

Atop of this, most of the wildlife rescue and rehabilitation services that exist locally have done so for far longer than six years. WIRES was founded in 1985. Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Services Inc (Sydney Wildlife) was formed in May 1997.

These figures also do not take into account what is called 'roadkill' of wildlife; that found dead. 

2011 paper, again 11 years out of date, by Dr Daniel Ramp of the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales, 'Sharing the environment: Counting the cost of wildlife mortality on roads', states;

''For wildlife, roads have three major impacts on populations. Roads can form barriers to movement, fragmenting populations and isolating them from resources and mates. They can alter the structure of populations adjacent to roads where road effects lead to avoidance. They can also cause mortality of animals as a result of collisions with the vehicles that travel on them.

The most widely publicised figure of roadkill within NSW is that produced by NSW WIRES in conjunction with Macquarie University. Their figure of 7,000 animals per day in NSW (or 2.55 million animals per year) was derived from six weeks of data collection over 199 km of road. It is likely that this figure is a good rough estimate as data we have recently collected puts it in the same ball park, although for some „hot spots‟ like the Snowy Mountain Highway between Tumut and Talbingo, our figures for this area are double. Given the large degree of spatial and temporal error that must be associated with estimating state-wide or even nation-wide totals from these small amounts of data it is clear we must obtain more high quality spatial and temporal data of collisions before we can be confident of our predictions. We really must strive to improve our knowledge of roadkill if we are going to take serious steps towards reducing the carnage.''

Our wildlife is not considered unless a DA needs to raze their homes for developments, and then that is simply allowed via offsets. 

A 2018 released report by WWF found that tree-clearing killed more than 87 million animals in New South Wales between 1998 and 2015 – and this figure is likely rising. 

Then there is the estimated 3 billion animals killed during the 2019-2020 bushfires.

All this has prompted the question, locally: What can be done? 

In May 2015 the New Zealand government passed The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill. Although this Bill falls short of stopping people from hunting wild animals, it does recognise that animals are sentient beings and that they can experience both positive and negative emotions, including pain and distress. Anyone who has seen an animal mourning a dead partner bird, baby possum or wallaby has long known this is true.

In August 2022 a resident witnessed all 3 of new masked lapwing plover babies dying as a result of no one being responsible or allowed to help them. The bereft parents were then driven from where they waited, again witnessed, as a man walked his dog back and forth and back and forth through the small patch of green of their former historic range until they took to flight. He was grinning as he did it.

This is just one local family, living in the only place they can live, that as been destroyed this Spring right here - first through the Council 'not being responsible for wildlife in this area' when contacted for help - as it is in other Council areas; all list contacting volunteer wildlife rescue organisations and their people to get help, second through there being no effective amount of rangers across the huge area they must now patrol being able to respond quick enough to stop the killing, and thirdly through the amount of dog owners living locally with a 'the law does not apply to me' practice that goes unchallenged and becomes more brazen. Dog attacks on wildlife and people in our area has become a serious problem.

The Council recently invited feedback its 'Open Space and Outdoor Recreation and Action Plan' the bulk of which was their plan to formalise illegal bike tracks into wildlife habitat areas. The proposal within the plan to authorise mountain bike trails in Ingleside Chase Reserve has already been fiercely opposed.

The 'feedback' invited for a plan to allow dogs offleash on beaches, where shorebirds live and eat, is similarly viewed. The Council has not only set itself up as the Proponent but also the determining authority. 

Surveys for migratory birds (and other wildlife) were carried out at both subject beaches on only four separate occasions last December and January - so don't account for wildlife at any other time of year. In doing so the REF presented as stating this can go ahead does not reliably assess whether wildlife visits these areas outside this midsummer period. Further, the report stated that “the presence of dogs was observed at both Activity Areas” during observations. The consultants would not have seen any wildlife at these beaches during this period because wildlife would be scared away - so any data collected would have been unreliable. Given that it’s illegal for dogs to be present on these beaches at any time, and as the surveys went ahead without first ensuring dogs were not present - and had not been for some time, how reliable is any data in that REF?

As dogs are still sighted on the two proposed areas on a daily basis, as well as offleash everywhere across the LGA, Council's allocation of rangers to this problem have already failed to prevent unauthorised activity and residents state it is absurd for Council to suggest compliance with mitigation safeguards are a reasonable management tool into the future.

Although many are opposed to the trial on environmental and procedural grounds, apparently the trial will proceed regardless of its impacts.

Council's responsibility, as stated under the Local Government Act, to 'to conserve biodiversity and maintain ecosystem function' and 'to maintain the land, or that feature or habitat, in its natural state' and 'provide for the restoration and regeneration of the land' could offset some of this carnage by supporting the many bushcare groups in Pittwater whose volunteers work to restore the reserves where wildlife lives.

However, the Pittwater Natural Heritage Association's Spring 2022 Newsletter released this week provides a summary of PNHA questions and NBC responses from their September 16, 2022 Teams meeting with council staff that does not match local aspirations for these areas.

An extract: 

PNHA: We heard that Council’s bush regeneration budget had recently been increased. Is that a one-off or will it be on-going? Can we have a breakdown of the $250, 000 spent in Pittwater? What is the amount of funding allocated  to the Council nurseries?

NBC: Not known if that funding will be on-going. Figures recently reported in Pittwater Life were inaccurate. The reserves (mostly in Pittwater) to receive the extra funding are: 

Bushland Reserves: Bangalley Headland, Avalon, Hillside Reserve, Newport, Allenby Park, Allambie Heights

Riparian areas: Warriewood wetlands (Irrawong reserve), Narrabeen Creek, South Creek, Dee Why Lagoon.

Dunes: Avalon Dunes, Governor Phillip Park dunes. 

$200,000 was allocated to set up the two NBC nurseries and $10,000 per year is allocated to run both nurseries. None of this money comes out of the bush regeneration budget. All sites in Pittwater have either had their funding increased or remained the same.

PNHA: When NBC was formed, Pittwater ward was enlarged to incorporate Terrey Hills and Duffys Forest. Was the bushcare budget for Pittwater increased to take account of extra sites in Terrey Hills and Duffys Forest? What about funding for Dunes bushcare?

NBC: There are few sites in that extra area. There has been no decrease in Dunecare funding, but when a new site comes on stream, funding comes out of the existing budget, except if extra funding is requested and approved.

PNHA: Community engagement could improve. We need more engaging signs at bushcare sites to encourage volunteers. The Mayor’s message doesn’t mention bushcare. Can we do a weeds display and info stall? What about setting up “Friends of” groups for places like Village Park Mona Vale and Narrabeen Creek?

NBC: We have no budget for interpretive signs, but we can put signs in some sites. We can have the discussion to prepare a list. The web site has improved. It now has a volunteering and weeds page. A committee has been working on digital platforms, eg Instagram etc. Cooee is being updated. We are doing the best we can with existing resources. We are doing some events, but COVID has had an effect.  The recent CEC Open Day was a success. It included a plant give away. Also The Day at the Bay event at Cabbage Tree Bay included a plant give-away. A story on weeds was in the Community Enewsletter. It was the second most read article. 

PNHA states;

'The statement “We are doing the best we can with existing resources” is telling. We don’t believe resources are so scarce – the problem is the culture of the NBC and the preference for spending on projects that are popular, ribbon cutting etc. 

We consider the real needs of Pittwater’s natural environment have been overlooked and under-resourced for a long time. 

PNHA members and friends need to pursue NBC on this issue to ensure that extra funding is NOT a one-off.'

Legislation in place for both local and state government could easily be amended to address the horrifying statistics and lack of localised 'responsibility'. 

Calls for current legislation to be not just a 'book' but an active prosecution of its mandates and offenders have grown. The NSW OEH states on its webpage relating to prosecuting offenders:

''The OEH Prosecution Guidelines set out the factors the Department of Planning and Environment – Environment, Energy and Science (DPE – EES; formerly the Office of Environment and Heritage) takes into account when deciding whether, how and in what court to prosecute offences under the legislation it administers. 

''The public register of convictions in prosecutions initiated under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) or the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) and results of civil proceedings before the Land and Environment Court under the NPW Act or the BC Act'.'

Analysing those prosecutions listed shows most have been for parking fines given in national parks, along with a few of the same person taking a dog hunting in our national parks. The fines given range from $100 to $800 for that man who just kept on taking a dog into national parks to hunt wildlife.

Illegal activities under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act) is not even listed, and does not appear even once. 

The incumbent state government's actions to protect wildlife are secondary when and where developers hold sway. In recent weeks hectares have been excised out of National Parks to facilitate more road building through habitat (National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Reservations) Bill 2022). Virtue statements about a park for koalas, such as the Georges River Koala Park saving koalas, and not making it plain to the public that it will take up to 34 years before the park is fully installed, are also on record. This would be too late when the Planning Department states at the same time, in regards to this plan for development;

The NSW Environment and Heritage Minister approved the CPCP which provides biodiversity certification under Part 8 of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act). This approval removes the need for landholders to seek their own biodiversity approvals under the BC Act for development on certified - urban capable land as long as they comply with planning controls under the CPCP, as set out in the Strategic Conservation Chapter of the SEPP (Biodiversity and Conservation) 2021. 

The department is currently pursuing Commonwealth approval for the CPCP under Part 10 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Landholders can submit development applications, seek subdivision or start master planning.

Under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act):

Part 2.1   Harming animals
(1)  A person who harms or attempts to harm—
(a)  an animal that is of a threatened species, or
(b)  an animal that is part of a threatened ecological community, or
(c)  a protected animal, is guilty of an offence.
Maximum penalty (includes additional penalty for each animal)—
(a)  in the case of an animal that is (or is part of) a threatened species or threatened ecological community (other than a vulnerable species or community)—Tier 1 monetary penalty or imprisonment for 2 years, or both, or
(b)  in the case of an animal that is (or is part of) a vulnerable species or vulnerable ecological community—Tier 3 monetary penalty, or
(c)  in any other case—Tier 4 monetary penalty.
(2)  If the act that harms an animal is the clearing of native vegetation by or on behalf of a landholder on category 1-exempt land under Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act 2013, the person does not commit an offence under this section unless it is established that the person knew that the act would be likely to harm the animal.

 2.4   Damaging habitat of threatened species or ecological community
(1)  A person—
(a)  who damages any habitat of a threatened species or threatened ecological community, and
(b)  who knows that it is the habitat of any such species or community, is guilty of an offence.
Maximum penalty—Tier 1 monetary penalty or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.
(2)  A person who damages habitat of a threatened species or threatened ecological community in the course of carrying out any unlawful activity is taken to know that it was habitat of that kind unless the person establishes that the person did not know that it was habitat of that kind.

  1. NSW Wildlife Rehabilitation dashboard - NSW Department of Planning and Environment, retrieved from: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/animals-and-plants/native-animals/rehabilitating-native-animals/wildlife-rehabilitation-reporting/wildlife-rehabilitation-data
  2. Kwok ABC, Haering R, Travers SK, Stathis P (2021) Trends in wildlife rehabilitation rescues and animal fate across a six-year period in New South Wales, Australia. PLoS ONE 16(9): e0257209. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257209
  3. Dr Daniel Ramp. School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales. Sharing the environment: Counting the cost of wildlife mortality on roads. 2011.  
  4. van Eeden LM, Nimmo D, Mahony M, Herman K, Ehmke G, Driessen J, O’Connor J, Bino G, Taylor M, Dickman CR (2020) Impacts of the unprecedented 2019-2020 bushfires on Australian animals. Report prepared for WWF-Australia, Ultimo NSW