THERE’S a war brewing in Australia’s backyards and backblocks - and Mother Nature has been declared the enemy.
From flying foxes to kangaroos, we are witnessing a battle of genocidal proportions against this country’s wildlife.
Vast tracts of land continue to be taken over for human habitation or exploitation and the native fauna and flora are losing territory and sustaining mounting casualties on a massive scale.
The latest shot fired in this war on nature came earlier this month from maverick politician Bob Katter.
He announced that if his fledgling political force won government in Queensland at the next election he would introduce legislation for a flying fox cull and allow everyone the right to remove or kill deadly animals from their own property.
Rather than helping to resolve a highly-charged issue, Katter’s NIMBY attitude to “nuisance” wildlife has serious consequences for all Australians.
His proposed open season on flying foxes comes at the same time as the United Nations is trying to draw attention to the important part these much-maligned creatures play in our ecosystems, having declared 2011-12 the International Year of The Bat.
Bats have been around for at least 55 million years. Australia is home to almost 100 species, many of which are classified as endangered.
Residents who have them roosting in their backyard may curse them, but where can they go? If they are moved on they will just end up in someone else’s backyard.
What is also often forgotten is that these flying mammals play a critical and highly beneficial role in our environment.
Nectar and fruit-feeding bats are pollinators and dispersers of seeds and are critical to regeneration of flora, in particular forests. Their lesser known cousins, micro bats, are important in the natural control of insects.
The war against flying foxes has escalated dramatically since the mysterious Hendra virus emerged. A campaign of fear has led to much misinformation about bats.
The facts are that findings so far suggest flying foxes are a natural host of the Hendra virus, but their transfer of the virus to horses seems to be rare.
Furthermore, it is believed that loss of habitat and natural food sources has increased the stress on bats, which in turn can trigger the virus.
So, in a bid to disperse or cull flying foxes, we are potentially responsible for the spread of Hendra virus.
Another front in the war on our wildlife is the slaughter of our best known marsupial, the kangaroo.
Australia must be the only country which issues permits for the massacre of its national symbol and allows the meat to be used for cheap pet food.
Often wrongly derided by farmers, kangaroos have a vital role in Australia’s ecology, replenishing native grasses and controlling introduced pests such as rabbits. They are often blamed for the much greater damage caused by overgrazing and clearing of forests.
Kangaroo numbers may spike in good seasons, but they are also kept in check by drought and other environmental influences independent of humans.
Pastoralists in Tasmania offered similar arguments of the danger to introduced stock and their income in their bid to shoot the Tasmanian tiger out of existence. By the time the numbers of this unique animal had decreased to unsustainable levels it was too late to save.
Whether kangaroos, flying foxes or any other native species, we should be seeking to live harmoniously with our wildlife, not in constant battle with them.