Poisoning apex predators - land and sky
A few weeks ago I was listening to Triple J hack and they had a segments about the awful wedge tailed eagle poisoning in Gippsland, Vic (see here). Whilst I was listening they had several guest speakers, one being from the Victoria Farmer Federation. They also spoke to several sheep farmers. Most said the poisoning was wrong... BUT that "we" needed to have a discussion about "management" options to stop economic impact on sheep farmers. I took this as implying that perhaps eagles may need to be controlled in some regions/areas.
To me this is wrong headed and a slippery slope. Predators eat herbivores, this is the natural way of things.
Sheep are an introduced herbivore species and in some parts of Australia the environment is so disturbed that they are one of the only species found/available for predators to eat (ie the native species are locally rare/extinct). There may well be some small number of sheep (lambs) lost to eagles, dingoes etc but predators serve an important ecological role in balancing ecosystems.
For example in Victoria approximately 2,000 sheep are lost per year to dingo (or "wild dog") predation. This might seem significant and it probably is to individual farmers, but it is tiny compared to the number of lambs who die each year from exposure (~3 million - see here for more information). Despite this we as a nation spend millions on "wild dog" control and management. Perhaps alternative solutions should be explored, ie allocating funds to fencing, non-lethal predator management, guardian animals and paying farmers for their verified stock predation losses. Our current practices aren't long term solutions and aren't properly assisting farmers.
Perhaps we as a nation need to have a conversation about lethal control, particularly using poison, and how we can best support our farmers whilst protecting our biodiversity and natural ecosystems.
I support farmers but I also support sensible evidence based environmental stewardship.