MAYBE it is a reflection on the low level of State resourcing for Nature Conservation Management within DPIW & Tasmania generally that Commonwealth fox funds are vital to keep alive this Tasmanian responsibility.
Ever since the sensational stories of malicious fox smuggling were perpetuated, the State government has made various attempts to get the Commonwealth to commit substantial funds for its State fox eradication program.
With the announcement of Minister Llewellyn’s $56 million plan to eradicate foxes over the next ten years, he has certainly put out a very big ambit claim to Canberra.
“SHOW ME THE MONEY!”
The only trouble is the huge ambit claim isn’t based on confident proof that foxes are actually established and breeding in Tasmania.
One caller to the ABC Tim Cox program summed it up as: “Why did the fox cross the road? To get the money.”
Since around 2001 DPIW has been successful with the media propaganda about foxes. The one area the State Government does provide ample resources for!
But what they have NOT been able to do successfully and professionally is to confidently demonstrate that ANY of the sensationalised fox incidents actually link the presence of physical fox material to additional evidence that a fox or foxes have been living at those sites — Lillico, Burnie, Symmons Plains, Glen Esk, Old Beach.
Unfortunately the follow up investigations of these high profile fox incidents have not provided the definitive proof that spatially and contemporaneously make that essential link.
I don’t say this cynically or flippantly. This IS the science of Crypto-biology in action and obtaining the proof can be difficult. That said, they do need to make a fulsome case for a long term war against foxes and what will be the ‘exit’ strategy?
The words of outgoing US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld will be long remembered.
On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2002 he said:
“As we know, there are known ‘knowns’. There are things we know we know.
We also know there are known ‘unknowns’. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know!
But there are also unknown ‘unknowns’ — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
Donald was trying to express his philosophical logic-based reasoning for taking action.
Is it too much to ask that logic be applied to here in Tasmania to foxes?
No spin, no flim-flam, no charlatanry … just proper risk assessment and certainty in the evidence.
That is why I believe it’s important that incidents where foxes remains turn up in Tasmania are promptly, rigorously and critically appraised.
The fabrication and falsification of physical evidence is a fact of human history. Human’s manipulating physical evidence happens for benefit all the time.
It is a fact that fox — fox carcasses, fox blood, fox scats and other forms of fox DNA — can readily enter this State.
The inadequate biosecurity measures applied to bulk containers, agricultural produce and machinery coming into Tasmania has, in my view, been the main source of inadvertent introductions of single foxes to Tasmania.
I hope the Commonwealth Government and its advisors has been able to see through the smoke & mirrors and joined up the dots. The fox risk has always been there, but a confident plan that honestly acknowledges ALL the biosecurity risks and not just the simplistic explanations like the intentional smuggling of up to 19 fox cubs.
I said this publicly yesterday: “The continuity of evidence just does not stack up, that’s what it comes down to. It’s one thing to find a carcass, some blood, a scat. It does not necessarily link it to a live animal free-ranging and living in that environment.
It’s all very well to have a precautionary approach. I completely agree with that.
We know their biosecurity has been inadequate and slack, and that single foxes have entered into Tasmania. But they have not proved the case that foxes are breeding and established in Tasmania.”
The threat of foxes to Tasmania is real, however, based on the evidence offered I believe there has been a manipulation of the evidence and an abuse of the truth.
The $1000 Fox Reward is genuine and stands unclaimed and yet Tasmania journalists were told by DPIW officials that there could be up to 300 foxes in Tasmania [The Advocate, 14 November 2006].
Is the underlying agenda just about securing Commonwealth funds to underpin the running of a beleaguered Nature Conservation program?
Why are the Tasmanian farmers and their lobbyists so adamant that foxes are here and yet none amongst their fraternity come forward to confidently produce credible evidence?
My offer of $1000 reward was an investment in trying to find the truth about the establishment of foxes in Tasmania. It is a genuine attempt to obtain genuine evidence as opposed to relying on fabrication and speculation.
But it is only a lowly 0.0018% of $56 million but perhaps my standards of truth are just too high.
The Llewellyn PR
David Llewellyn, MHA
Minister for Primary Industries and Water
Monday, 13 November 2006
Eradicating the Fox from Tasmania
The Tasmanian Government today committed itself to a comprehensive plan to eradicate the fox from the State.
Primary Industries and Water Minister David Llewellyn said the $56 million strategy will take 10-years of concerted effort.
“It will be led by the Tasmanian Government but requires the active engagement of the community to succeed.
“The program builds on the extensive work already done by the Fox Free Taskforce and will involve strategic baiting, monitoring, investigation, tactical response, research-and-development and widespread community engagement,” Mr Llewellyn said.
Mr Llewellyn said that the Premier is writing to the Prime Minister asking the Australian Government to make good on its promise to assist the fox eradication effort by meeting half the cost of the program.
“The massive increase in State Government commitment will come from reprioritising activities across Government to dedicate more resources to the fox menace.
“A well established fox population in Tasmania would do massive on-going damage to our ecology; and to our primary industries, eco-tourism and our market image in general.
“Long-term costs would far exceed the costs of a serious eradication attempt.
“This is an avoidable catastrophe which I am determined will not be visited on our island.
“The facts about the impact of a full fox establishment speak for themselves.
“Ecologically, Tasmania could expect to lose eastern barred bandicoots, Tasmanian bettongs and eastern quolls.
“Our endemic Tasmanian native hen also would be at extreme risk.
“Local populations of little penguins and shearwaters so important to tourism would be under very serious threat, as would the spotted-tailed quoll and smaller species of dasyurids, native rodents and ground birds.
“All up, 78 native vertebrate species will be at risk in some way,” he said.
“The recovery of the Tasmanian devil from facial tumour disease would also be severely hampered if not prevented because the fox has the potential to replace devils in their niche in the wild.”
Mr Llewellyn said this shocking evaluation is only part of the damage.
“In agriculture, foxes are responsible for lambing losses of up to 30% in some regions, averaging 5%-10% Australia-wide.
“They also occasionally prey on new-born calves and have even maimed cows during birth.
“Free-range poultry of all sorts is at particular risk as are fawns and kid goats.”
Activities relying on Tasmania’s biodiversity such as eco-tourism would be hurt as would the State’s trademark reliance on its clean-and-green image of being relatively pest-free.
“Estimates of the fox establishing here are an annual cost to our economy of up to $20 million a year.
“You can add to this the massive indirect damage to our development potential with increasing restraints being applied as part of planning approval as species transit from common to rare, to vulnerable, to endangered and toward extinction in the wild.”
Mr Llewellyn said the large-scale response being announced today is commensurate with the threat.
“It will take some time to put the eradication strategy into full effect.
“The strategic baiting program alone will require about 40 trained people.
“To start, resources will be drawn from DPIW, DTAE and Forestry Tasmania to enable a team of about 20 people to commence the program.”
Mr Llewellyn said that when fully operational, more than 50 people will be involved leading aspects of the eradication campaign such as tactical response, monitoring, community co-ordination, investigation and research.
“But even once the eradication program is fully in place, it will require the active engagement and participation of the wider community to be successful. This includes both vigilance and activities for volunteers.
“Private land-owners will need to provide access.
“There will be well-defined roles for volunteers in specific aspects involving private shooters, volunteers helping search for dens and other signs of fox presence, and assistance with monitoring.”
Mr Llewellyn said such a large-scale program will take time to establish.
The State Government accepted the findings of the review into foxes in Tasmania earlier this year by the Invasive Animals Cooperate Research Centre.
It recommended that the existing staff levels be maintained but that additional resources be applied in the light of new evidence.
“Since the Invasive Animal CRC review we have had a fox carcass discovered as road-kill near Conara.
“This followed the confirmation of fox blood at a multiple chicken kill at Old Beach near Hobart in May this year and the recovery of the carcass of a young fox from the roadside near Lillico Beach in February.”
Since around 2001 DPIW has been successful with the media propaganda about foxes. The one area the State Government does provide ample resources for! But what they have NOT been able to do successfully and professionally is to confidently demonstrate that ANY of the sensationalised fox incidents actually link the presence of physical fox material to additional evidence that a fox or foxes have been living at those sites — Lillico, Burnie, Symmons Plains, Glen Esk, Old Beach. Unfortunately the follow up investigations of these high profile fox incidents have not provided the definitive proof that spatially and contemporaneously make that essential link.