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Farmers kill endangered species & destroy wetlands of international significance

Two firms producing almonds and two almond plantation workers were charged over the shooting of more than 40 rare Regent parrots in Victoria’s northwest late last year. The birds were shot near Robinvale, on the Murray River 470km northwest of Melbourne. The regent parrot is a nationally-threatened species. The Eastern subspecies killed by these workers is endangered. Only about 2400 are left in the wild. The birds are protected under Victoria’s Wildlife Act.

The maximum penalty for killing a single bird protected under the legislation is a $5350 fine and six months’ jail, with additional fines for each subsequent bird killed. Yesterday the workers were fined a total of $740 each. This works out at $37 per bird killed. The case against the firms involved has been adjourned until next month.

As a fine this is a total joke and shows the courts are not serious about conserving endangered species. Maybe the workers were acting on the instructions of the firms. Even so the fines seem absurdly low. I’ll watch to see what happens when the firms go to Court – if they directed the workers to carry out the killings they should be slugged with heavy fines and penalties and forced to contribute to restoration of the species in the wild.

Meanwhile a NSW farmer has cleared 750 hectares (about 750 football fields) of the Gwydir wetlands in what is regarded as one of the worst examples of illegal land clearing in Australian. It was a wetland of international significance and was Ramsar-listed – it is now a ruin which will take decades to regenerate. The site had thousands of birds nesting there.

The farmer faces a $1 million fine although the NSW’s Government’s record of prosecuting such incidents is woeful. In my view, again, a $1 million fine is woefully inadequate for this scale of destruction! The law should again target massive fines and seek the fullest possible farmer-funded environmental restoration.

Many farmers are ardent conservationists who have an affinity for the environment. Some are socially irresponsible vandals who destroy Australia’s valuable biodiversity heritage.

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