Henry Melville

• A Program that commenced in 2001 with the sensational allegation that several litters of fox cubs were smuggled into Tasmania, reared in secrecy and then released at several Tasmanian sites.  In 2009 the Government stated their belief in the existence of foxes in Tasmania could be based on a history of fox introductions over 100-plus years and the coincided with the current decline in Tasmanian devils,

• A Program that tried to defy the known biology of the fox (Vulpes vulpes),

• A Program that dismissed experienced opinion, even from fox biologists, forensic & biosecurity professionals and local hunters,

• A Program that lacked the legal requirements to control foxes on all land across Tasmania,

• A Program that was confounded by presented evidence – unable to critically assess its authenticity and failing to recover credible follow up proof,

• A Program that was unable to receive the confidence of the general public of Tasmania,

• A Program that did not, and could not, present a convincing and compelling case for an established fox population in Tasmania,

• A Program that was unable to demonstrate that foxes were reproducing in Tasmania,

• A Program that could not show that any existing fox population in Tasmania was threating Tasmanian wildlife,

• A Program that based its ongoing decision making on invalid, untested and unsupported assumptions,

• A Program that became solely reliant on a technique of detecting fox-DNA from collected carnivore scats as the basis for on-going fox presence in Tasmania,

• A Program that used an fox eradication tool,  namely the applying tens of thousands of buried meat baits containing the poison ‘1080’ across declared “core fox habitat”, that did not result in the recovery of any poisoned foxes,

• A Program that, using its own capabilities, was unable to detect or produce credible proof of a Tasmanian fox (live or dead) or proof of the on-going presence in Tasmania in 11 years.

Cassy O’Connor

Long-Awaited Funding for Cat Act Welcome

The Tasmanian Greens today celebrated the announcement of funding to implement the Cat Management Act 2009 and the creation of an Invasive Species Unit from the current Fox Taskforce.

Greens Environment spokesperson Cassy O’Connor MP said that after close to a decade and a half of delays by successive governments in implementing tougher cat control legislation, the measures announced by Environment Minister Wightman would be welcomed by farmers, conservationists and responsible cat owners.

“These long-awaited measures are a breakthrough in the battle against invasive species, in particular feral and stray cats,” Ms O’Connor said.

“This two pronged announcement by Minister Wightman will go a long way towards helping to eradicate feral cats from our environment, while also sharpening the focus on all invasive species that threaten our biodiversity and agricultural productivity.”

“The Greens first advocated in 2007 that the current Fox Taskforce be expanded into a broader Feral Species Unit, and are very happy for the environment and farmers to see this similar initiative undertaken.”

“We have also long stated how important it is for the Cat Management Act of 2009 to be proclaimed and funded in order to prevent the recruitment into the feral cat population from the domestic one.”

“Feral cats are wreaking havoc on native species and costing Tasmanian farmers.  They are responsible for the spread of infectious diseases like toxoplasmosis and sarcosystosis, which are a serious economic, ecological and human health risk.”

“The Greens have criticised delays in implementing these measures, but full credit must go to the Minister for hearing the concerns, applying common sense and taking action to protect Tasmania’s environment,” Ms O’Connor said.

• Brian Wightman, MP

Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage
Saturday, 17 March 2012

Tasmania’s Invasive Species Response Boosted

The Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, today announced the creation of a dedicated agency tackling invasive plants and animals.

Mr Wightman said the Invasive Species Branch will harness the expertise of specialists across the Department of Primary Industries, Parks Water and Environment in a single coordinated program.

“The State Government is determined to strengthen our measures dealing with invasive animals and plants.

“Invasive species have the potential to cause significant environmental and economic harm to Tasmania, impacting on both our natural environment and native flora and fauna.

Mr Wightman said the Fox Eradication Program would become part of the new branch.

“In addition to current pest priorities, the new branch will also have carriage of feral cat control strategies.

“To support the introduction of this work the Government will be enacting the Cat Management Act to ensure population recruitment as well as the impact of feral cats is addressed.

“It’s important to tackle responsible cat ownership as well as undertaking feral cat control measures if we are to have any impact.

Mr Wightman said cooperative partnerships with local government, Natural Resource Management regions, community organisations, farmers and other land managers will be critical to these initiatives.

“In addition to feral cat control programs, the specialist branch will focus on preventing the threat and minimising the impacts of existing and emerging weeds and invasive animals across the State.

“This new branch will further enhance Tasmania’s response to pest species by centralising our expertise in invasive species monitoring, compliance and enforcement, along with risk assessment, research, analysis, community liaison, data management and policy development, Mr Wightman said.

“The new branch will include staff from the Fox Eradication Program, Weed Management as well as Wild Animal Management.

“Bringing the expertise from these areas together is about enhancing our approach to invasive species management and our Government remains committed to continuing to address the fox threat as well as that posed by other pest species.

“By combining the expertise of these areas however will provide a greater resource of staff and skills to draw upon as we respond to these current and future pest threats.

Mr Wightman said the multi-disciplinary branch will adopt a risk-based approach to invasive animals and plants and would achieve better environmental outcomes for Tasmania.

“Incursions by invasive species have the potential to impose enormous costs on agriculture, forestry, tourism and social amenity in Tasmania.

“That is why the State Government is committed to making the best possible use of resources and expertise to minimise the impacts of invasive species, Mr Wightman said.

• Jan Davis, TFGA, Peter Skillern, Environment Tasmania: Farmers and enviro groups sing with one voice on cats

An unusual alliance of farmers and environmental groups today welcomed the state government’s commitment to implement the Cat Management Act 2009 as part of the overall revamp of its invasive species policies.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) and Environment Tasmania (ET) said the decision was long overdue. Implementing the cat management legislation will help deal with the explosion in feral cat populations across the state. It will provide more stringent requirements for desexing cats and controlling feral cats on farms and in rural areas.

The Act was passed in 2009 but has not been implemented.

Feral cats are the major host of toxoplasmosis, a seriously debilitating disease that can be lethal for humans. However, the parasite is not limited to humans: it infects most warm-blooded animals, which can suffer a long and painful death. It is causing tens of thousands of dollars of losses in sheep in Tasmania and it has also become more prevalent among wallabies and other native animals.

The government has also announced that it will consolidate its activities responsible for monitoring and controlling invasive animal and plant species.

“This is something we have both been pressing the government to do for some time, most recently in our latest Budget submissions,” the two organisation leaders, Jan Davis and Peter Skillern, said.

“While it is important to remain vigilant about the threat of foxes, they are only one of many serious threats to Tasmanian agriculture and wildlife.”

With the improved growing conditions after the drought, there has been a rapid expansion of many pest species of animals and plants. Populations of feral cats, rabbits and wild dogs have exploded; while weeds including gorse, ragwort, English broom and serrated tussock have spread even further across the state. The annual cost of weeds alone to Tasmanian farmers is estimated to be $58 million.

Ms Davis and Mr Skillern said that this announcement demonstrated that working together in areas where objectives can be agreed delivers benefits to all Tasmanians.

• TCT welcomes Tasmanian Government invasive species announcements

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust today congratulated the state government on its announcement that it will be enacting the Cat Management Act - two and half years after it was passed by both housed of the state Parliament. The TCT also welcomes the announcement of an Invasive Species Branch within the department which is a recognition of the importance of invasive animals and plants as a threat to the Tasmanian environment.

Cat Management Act

“While the announcement by the Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, is the strongest commitment yet made by the state government, it failed to set a commencement date and we ask that the minister commit to a definite date not to far into the future,” said TCT Director Peter McGlone.

“When enacted, the Cat Management Act will empower those who want to control cats to take action, reduce the number of unwanted and abandoned cats and put in place safe-guards for peoples much loved pet cats.

“Perhaps the most important change will be the introduction, four years after the acts commencement, of compulsory de-sexing and microchipping for all pet cats.

“Desexing pet cats will greatly reduce the numbers of unwanted kittens which are produced and get dumped in the bush, to add to the feral problem, or handed to cat shelters where most are destroyed.

“To protect our native wildlife, the act will empower many thousands of farmers, owners of private reserves and other rural people to take action to destroy feral cats where currently their legal rights are uncertain.

“In urban areas the act provides safeguards for responsible pet cat owners. If a pet cat strays it must be handed to a cat shelters and, like stray dogs, must be kept for five days if identified before being destroyed or adopted.

Invasive Species Branch

“The new invasive species branch has the potential to eradicate or control many other important feral animals which currently are not seen as priorities such as Indian myna, rainbow, long-necked turtle, ferret, goats and pigs on Flinders Island”, Mr McGlone continued.

“The branch will not immediately receive increased funding so we hope that the new structure does not reduce the current effort being put into eradicating foxes and the department’s important role with regulating weeds.

“It is pleasing that the Minister acknowledged the importance of cooperative partnerships with local government, NRM groups, community organisations, farmers etc in implementing invasive species management and the TCT looks forward to working with the new branch”, Mr McGlone concluded.