A run of negative media about wombat hunting has brought about a wombat hunting ban.
The main populations of the common wombat are in the states of Victoria and New South Wales. It is widespread and listed by IUCN data on endangered species as of ‘least concern’.
Of Australia’s three wombat species, only the northern hairy-nosed wombat is endangered. The New South Wales government banned wombat shooting in 2016. Under NSW’s Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, it is an offence to harm a wombat wihtou a licence from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment.
Now it is illegal to shoot them in Victoria. A letter to hunting licence holders from Victoria’s Office of the Conservation Regulator says it banned wombat shooting on 4 February 2020.
The banning order follows media pressure. In 2019, The New Daily reported that wealthy tourists were hunting the marsupials for sport at a farm outside Melbourne. The Murrindindi farm is owned by a Chinese businessman at the centre of a Channel Nine investigation into links between casinos and organised crime.
There was a wave of public sympathy for wombats, helped by another story. An off-duty police officer escaped criminal charges after throwing rocks at a wombat on South Australia’s west coast. A video showing Senior Community Constable Waylon Johncock chasing and throwing rocks at a wombat went viral in October after a Facebook page called Wombat Awareness Programme posted it. At the time, local police commissioner Grant Stevens described the officer’s behaviour as “totally abhorrent” and “unacceptable”. Later, however, Commissioner Stevens said the investigators established that as a “traditional Aboriginal man”, Johncock had an “appropriate permit to hunt wombats for food”.
“Whilst distressing to many who viewed the video, it has been established that the senior community constable’s actions were not inconsistent with traditional hunting practices,” Stevens said.
Victoria has reacted to media hysteria by banning wombat control without a control order. This leaves rural people in Victoria with a problem – the same problem faced by rural people in New South Wales. ‘Wombats are strong and determined animals and may sometimes build their burrows under houses, along driveways or along domestic stock routes,’ says a New South Wales government factsheet about the animal. This causes conflict between wombats and people, especially when the animals damage fencing.
The NSW government is sensible enough to ban the relocation of wombats. As it says: ‘Wombats are territorial animals and if relocated, they are likely to be harassed or even killed by resident wombats.’
Wildlife managers generally oppose the trend of banning control of wildlife when it hurts people’s feelings
Thanks to Damian Ivan for sending us the source material for this story