Cockatoos come before people

The irony is that these birds are worth thousands of dollars overseas -- but it is forbidden to export them. Trapping and exporting them would be to everybody's benefit but bone-headed regulations stand in the way

WHITE cockatoos - not bats - are in plague proportions in Atherton, south of Cairns, and locals want the Queensland Government to consider a kill permit. The far north rural hub is under siege from thousands of protected sulphur-crested white cockatoos and locals want some shot or poisoned.

Huge flocks roost in the trees next to the Atherton Hospital directly in the flight path of the rescue helicopter, make a racket, strip and kill old gum trees, and ravage corn and peanut crops.

Council staff have started blasting the air with special blank cartridges called Bird Frite to try to scare away the birds.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the kill permit for bats, revealed by The Courier-Mail last week, was only a last-resort option for farmers, with no intent to deploy it in urban areas.

"The intent is to still look at relocating bats," Mr Powell said. He said there was no plan to extend it to the cockatoos.

Tablelands Mayor Rosa Lee Long said she hoped Bird Frite would not shift the problem to another part of town. "They are lovely birds, very pretty to look at, but they are a noisy nuisance and make a terrible mess," she said.

"The only other option is a cull. "It is a bit like the bats, if they are in plague proportions, they may need a cull to bring back a balance."

She urged the Government to consider extending lethal Damage Mitigation Permits to bats, dingoes, wild dogs, crocodiles and parrots.

"Like bats, dingoes, and crocodiles, the cockatoos are protected species. No one likes to kill anything, but our priority must be to protect the health, life and limb of people over wild creatures."

Pensioner Gaye Webster, in her 80s, lives under some of the favoured roosting trees of the vast flocks. She wants a cull.

"Shoot them," Mrs Webster said. "Kill off a few cockys. The mess they make is absolutely disgusting. "Bushies reckon it only takes a couple of dead cockatoos to scare the whole lot off. "It is like these bats and the Hendra virus. Give me the poison, I'll dish it up to them. "People against a cull are the ones who don't have to live with them."

Alex Adoberg, who owns the Atherton Hinterland Motel, said he was opposed to killing the parrots. But the Bird Frite program, trialled last year, did not seem very effective, he said. "They seem to lift off and then come back and land again. I'd prefer to keep trying to scare them off, I don't like the idea of a cull."

He said the biggest threat - other than farmers losing entire crops in a day - was the risk posed to incoming helicopter pilots. "They lift off out of the trees straight into the helicopter flight path. That is the scariest part."


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