Conservationists want hunters’ help in controlling pest animals.
A study from Australia’s University of Queensland says that recreational hunters could contribute significantly to native species conservation on the continent.
Australia is overrun by non-native pest animals that are crowding out native ones. If hunters go after the invaders, native animals will be given some ecological breathing space.
“Wildlife management in Australia could benefit from greater engagement between wildlife managers and the recreational hunting community,” said the study’s main researcher, associate professor Peter Murray.
As more than a dozen introduced species of predator and herbivore expand their populations across Australia, the numbers of native species continue to dwindle. Highly adaptable species such as cats and deer, which can survive in a wide range of climatic conditions, are gaining a strong foothold over natives.
Losing the Fight
Australia’s native plant eaters are losing the battle on two fronts. First, they are disadvantaged by an inability to compete with large feral browsing and grazing animals, which thrive in the modified habitats that have been created through land-clearing and agricultural practices.
Second, they are suffering intense predation from hunting animals like wild dogs and foxes.
The University of Queensland study, called Expenditure and Motivation of Australian Recreational Hunters, estimated that up to 300,000 Australians are hunters, and 99% of these are keen to assist in pest management activities.
“If the public understands there are pest animals eating native animals and destroying native habitat throughout Australia, it makes a lot of sense for hunters to be allowed to assist in the management of those populations at no cost to the government,” Murray said.
Murray also believes that introducing hunting taxes could bolster government and not-for-profit funding for conservation efforts. His study surveyed hunters’ attitudes about the idea of introducing a levy on hunting goods and found that 90% of respondents supported a levy of either 5% or 10%.
“Should such a levy be introduced in Australia, it could generate significant funding for conservation in this country,” Murray said.
Could a wildlife conservation model like North America’s work in Australia? What do you think?