Complaints about skinny camels, wounded devils, joeys dressed in human clothes received by Government
Tasmania’s Environment Department has received “disturbing” complaints about wildlife parks and zoos displaying skinny camels, wounded devils and joeys dressed in human clothes, but documents show only one complaint was considered a breach of the operator’s permit.
- One complaint about wildlife treatment came from a volunteer after just one day in the job
- The DPIPWE says it has investigated eight complaints since January 2018
- Greens say the reports are “disturbing” and animal welfare comes “a lazy second” in the state
The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) has released two years of complaints made about wildlife exhibitors under the state’s Right to Information laws.
One report showed authorities were called 12 times to an unnamed Tasmanian site.
Another DPIPWE inspection of a zoo revealed a long-billed corella and galah were kept in cages that were “way too small”, two eastern quolls were missing and a pademelon looked “on the scruffy side”.
In October 2019, DPIPWE inspectors followed up a call from the public at an unnamed site about a Tasmanian devil with an “ugly wound on its side, who kept falling over and falling down the hill”, as well as another devil seen staggering through its den. A vet was ordered to the park.
In another report, an extremely skinny camel with “hardly any lump” was found to have worms and placed on a special diet, after a couple visiting a Tasmanian zoo called DPIPWE and the RSPCA with a long list of concerns.
The DPIPWE file note said a keeper at that zoo was unable to handle the amount of animals on her round.
One complaint came from a wildlife park volunteer after just one day in the job.
In an email to DPIPWE authorities, the volunteer said they swallowed their fear of birds to feed an enclosure full of chickens because they were concerned about their welfare.
“I realised that if they weren’t [fed], and given water especially, I wasn’t sure how long they’d actually have left as it looked like they hadn’t been attended to in a while,” the complainant said.
A separate 2019 incident in which punters were invited to enter a “name a pademelon” raffle saw seven individual concerned phone calls made to one unnamed, independent carer, who passed their concerns on to DPIPWE.
“This group is renowned for releasing tame wildlife, this is not what rehabilitation is,” the person said.
Greens say ‘complaints haven’t gone far’
A spokeswoman for the DPIPWE said the agency had investigated eight complaints related to the display of wildlife since January 2018, six of which related to wildlife parks or zoos and two related to the temporary display of animals.
“One investigation identified that several animals on temporary display were of inappropriate age, and the displayer agreed to only display animals in the appropriate age range in the future,” the spokeswoman said.
“No other investigations revealed breaches of permit or license conditions, although the opportunity to improve the conditions for some displayed animals were identified in several cases.”
Recommendations included providing more water and shade for wildlife on very hot days, ensuring appropriate veterinary checks were undertaken and removing very young animals from display.
Industry veteran Androo Kelly, who operates a wildlife sanctuary in Tasmania’s north, said there was goodwill within DPIPWE’s wildlife unit, but it did not have enough resources to monitor all operators effectively.
“With the growth of the wildlife park and zoological [industry], they haven’t also given more roles to wildlife park officers,” Mr Kelly said.
“We have actually seen a reduction of the wildlife officers.”
Greens leader and animal welfare spokeswoman Cassy O’Connor said the DPIPWE reports were “disturbing”.
“It’s clear from the DPIPWE documents that these complaints haven’t gone far, nor has any wildlife park or zoo operator been cautioned or faced any sanction,” she said.
“Why is it the welfare of animals so often comes a lazy second to the profits of business in Tasmania?”