Rescue mission for wombats buried alive

By Courtenay Rule November 7, 2013
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Farmers are under fire for allegedly using inhumane methods to kill wombats.

I’VE BEEN WATCHING  with horror this week as conservationists race against time to rescue a number of southern hairy-nosed wombats buried alive by farmers’ ploughs in the Mt Lofty Ranges near Adelaide.

So far one wombat has been found alive, but up to 10 others may still be trapped underground. It’s a horrible situation – if they are not rescued, they face a slow and agonising death from suffocation.

According to the non-profit group Wombat Awareness Organisation, this is the latest of an increasing number of deliberate and cruel attempts by farmers to eliminate wombats from their properties.

Wombats’ burrows damage farmland, and in South Australia farmers may apply for a permit to shoot wombats. However, the conservationists are alleging that many farmers are resorting to illegal and inhumane methods of destruction, including bulldozing burrows, planting petrol bombs (!), and running over wombats with farm machinery.

“It’s awful and it’s getting worse,” Brigitte Stevens, a Wombat Awareness Organisation representative and wildlife carer, told the Adelaide Advertiser. Without stronger protection laws, she says, southern hairy-nosed wombats risk becoming extinct within the next 15 years.

The group has gathered photographic evidence of inhumane killing methods, which they plan to present to the RSPCA and the South Australian Department for Environment and Heritage.

The claims so far are “largely unsubstantiated,” the department’s chief executive Allan Holmes told ABC News, but “given the evidence we will prosecute with the full force of the law.”

Is this conflict between wombat and farmer inevitable? Burrowing wombats are only doing what wombats need to do in order to survive. I find it saddening that native species in Australian face such a constant battle with human encroachment.