Department aims to kill off roos who survived the bushfire it began

An orphaned joey from the Lancefield fire that was raised and cared for by the Pastoria East Wildlife Shelter that now faces being culled. Photo: Pastoria East Wildlife Shelter

An orphaned joey from the Lancefield fire that was raised and cared for by the Pastoria East Wildlife Shelter that now faces being culled. Photo: Pastoria East Wildlife Shelter

UPDATE: Pastoria East Wildlife Shelter co-owner Marcus Ward has queried the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s claims officers “explored all practicable non-lethal control methods” before issuing a permit to cull kangaroos.

“It’s a novel thing,” Mr Ward said.

“We know nothing about what they are talking about.”

Pastoria East Wildlife Shelter has stopped accepting kangaroos because of the cull threat. 

“We can’t continue… knowing any animal that comes here is under risk,” Mr Ward said. 

“That won’t change until we’re confident the culling won’t proceed.”

Without Pastoria East Wildlife Shelter, Mr Ward said rescuers had few local options for shelters to take kangaroos.

“The shelter in Kilmore is overloaded from the area, and the one in Hepburn that we rely on a lot closed their doors to any new animals last week,” he said.

“It really has taken the wind out of everybody’s sails.

“You just feel like you get absolutely no support from the department.”

An online petition for the cull to be called off attracted more than 1000 supporters. 

EARLIER: Kangaroos nursed back to health after a planned fire escalated out of control now face a cull on the orders of the same department that ordered the burn.

Wildlife organisations including the Pastoria East Wildlife Shelter, which spent thousands of dollars and many hours rehabilitating the kangaroos  burned in last year's Lancefield fire, have vowed to fight the hunt.

The shelter's owners, Christine Litchfield and Marcus Ward, have started a Facebook campaign to raise awareness of the kangaroos' plight and called for the cull to be postponed.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, which signed off on the planned burn that started the Lancefield fire, has approved the six-month culling permit for the owner of a property that borders the shelter because of damage caused by the kangaroos to the land, where he runs sheep, and fences.

Ms Litchfield and Mr Ward say they are bemused by the department's "heartbreaking" decision, given that they claim the department had been so happy with their care of the animals last year that it had wanted to arrange for pictures to be taken for an internal magazine.

Ms Litchfield said the neighbour had agreed to a meeting to discuss non-lethal ways of limiting the damage to his property but were told this week that a permit had been issued.

"We got a fencing quote to pay for his fence to be heightened and all sorts of other measures that we had packaged to put to him and then on Thursday morning, the department's (Bendigo) office called and said it had already issued the permit'," Litchfield said.

Marcus Ward with one of the kangaroos injured in the Lancefield fire. Photo: Pastoria East Wildlife Shelter

Marcus Ward with one of the kangaroos injured in the Lancefield fire. Photo: Pastoria East Wildlife Shelter

Ward conceded there was an issue with "lots of kangaroos" but that they were just asking for time to implement other control methods, for which they were willing to pay.

"We know that something has to be done but they (the department) were unwilling to give us a stay of execution. When they told us that they were issuing the permit we had a meeting set a couple of hours away but they were unwilling to even give us two hours grace to negotiate with our neighbour, who at that stage seemed willing to sit down and discuss.

"... Keep in mind we're in a conservation zone, we are up against a large crown land forest. The idea that you're going to kill kangaroos to stop this problem is unlikely to work completely," he said

"There will be a short period of time when the kangaroos are scared off and a lot are killed but ... they will come back, so our suggestion was to build a fence that excludes them which you'd think would be the most sensible thing to do. Then in the short term we would also do things to change their behaviour so they don't see that as their habitat ... using scare guns and horns and lights and a Roo guard, which sends out a weird noise."

Litchfield said one of the hardest things to come to terms with was the thought that many of the kangaroos she had nursed back to health would be killed.

"I've got 15-year-old animals that have been released here," she said. "They're free they come and they go  and I know them by name."

A department spokesman said officers had explored all practicable non-lethal control methods but action had to be taken quickly to ensure the health of the pasture.

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