IN LATE 2002 a West Australian wildlife consultant, Dr Jack Kinnear, the first independent reviewer of the Tasmanian government’s fox program, was misled just as the Victorian fox ecologist, Dr Clive Marks had been. Judging by the insubstantial evidence offered to him and the considerable distortions of facts about how vital fox exhibits were obtained, one can only assume poor judgment, exaggeration and an eagerness to impress the public with real evidence was the driving motivation. Of course it could also be just straight forward fabrication of evidence.
In accepting the job in November 2002 Dr Kinnear wrote ‘I was only aware that foxes were at large in Tasmania from media reports’. Seven & half years ago Kinnear told the State Government that relying on the evidence he had been provided with, ‘the prevailing situation indicates that foxes are present at a number of sites in Tasmania’. In his review Dr Kinnear relied on a chronology of fox incidents prepared by a senior taskforce member and senior PWS ranger, Chris Emms. At the time Kinnear wrote his review the emphasis was on a sighting of a fox on Illawarra Road on 15 May 2001.
Mr Emms’ chronology begins by referring to PWS receiving a report from ‘an English couple staying at the Longford Caravan Park reporting hearing the sounds of two foxes calling one another in the early hours of the morning in early May’. Then on 15 May the so-called ‘trigger incident’ occurs.
Over the next three months Mr Emms writes, ‘surveillance of the area was stepped up to include the use of infra-red cameras, sand pads, bait stations, use of lures and sound recordings in an attempt to lure a fox into an area where a photo or a [foot] print could be obtained.’ By the end of July 2001, the taskforce still lacked physical evidence to support the many claims of [fox] sightings in the Longford area, which were now being reported nearly on a daily basis.
By early August things changed. According to the chronology prepared by Chris Emms, ‘two PWS fox taskforce officers came across several footprints when checking sand pads and cameras in the Longford area. Casts were taken of these prints and these were sent around Australia to various experts for advice. Our suspicions were confirmed that we were in
possession of fox prints. This was the first real physical evidence that the taskforce.’
According to another report written on 15 September 2001 (The Longford Response), ‘on 6 August a likely fox footprint - one of high quality amongst about 20 prints of a gait on wet clay pan, the others of which were badly distorted - at East Lagoon (‘Woodstock’). The plaster cast was scanned amongst known prints and electronic copies sent to various fox experts, most [experts] reporting outright the key print to be of fox - several experts had reservations “because the print came from Tasmania”. The extensive clay pan, at least all but eliminating hoaxing’.
And according to two newspaper reports [The Mercury on 23 August and The Examiner on 24 August] quoting information provided by the fox program officers a cast of ‘a single fox paw print was discovered in a patch of swampy ground only 150 m from busy Illawarra Road…about 8 km from Longford’.
Tasmanian government officers offered three different locations for their discovery of the same print. One version indicating the foot print was recovered from a deliberately constructed sand pad to lure a fox into an area where a print could be obtained; the other versions indicating the discovery was the result of a search around a wet clay pan at Woodstock Lagoon or alternatively a patch of swampy ground 150 meters from Illawarra Road.
Which location was the plaster cast of a single print recovered?
On 24 August 2001 The Examiner published a photograph of Mr Emms holding the plaster cast and a report on the foot print’s discovery; the newspaper’s cartoonist also decided to leave his mark (TT has no permission to run the toon, but it was a cute fox in boots under a Longford road sign with a Parks and Wildlife vehicle called Foxy disappearing in the distance The cute fox holds a walking stick with fox foot at one end).
Earlier: The evidence and information we are receiving from the field is evolving ... Minister David O’Byrne: HERE