Wombats buried alive by logging company
Published: August 10, 2014 - 12:00AM
Forestry Corporation of NSW has buried wombats alive in their burrows, causing slow deaths, despite a deal with wildlife groups to protect the animals during logging.
About 150 burrows were marked with GPS co-ordinates in bright paint by the Wombat Protection Society in the Glenbog State Forest, so loggers could avoid the burrows, and restrict truck movements at dawn and dusk.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority confirmed the state government-owned Forestry Corporation had agreed to ensure entrances to the burrows weren’t obstructed by logging debris as it felled the southern forest.
But Marie and Ray Wynan, who run a wildlife sanctuary at a neighbouring property, said contractors ignored the special conditions, and they discovered nine collapsed and blocked burrows soon after logging began. Four burrows were so compacted by machinery and logs they couldn’t be re-opened. In one case, a dirt road was built over the top of the burrow.
‘‘The wombats have not been able to dig themselves out. They have died,’’ said Ms Wynan, director of the Wombat Protection Society, who photographed the devastation. After EPA officers were sent from Sydney to investigate the deaths, a Forestry Corporation spokeswoman admitted ‘‘some entrances have been disturbed’’.
But the spokeswoman claimed ‘‘wombats use multiple burrows’’ and ‘‘larger burrows generally have several entrances and wombats are able to re-excavate or remove obstacles at burrow entrances.’’
The comments were rejected by wildlife groups as ignorant.
‘‘During 25 years of observing bare-nosed wombats, we have never come across a wombat with a chainsaw or able to use machinery to remove excessive compacted soil or logs or rocks or debris, as occurs during logging,’’ said Ms Wynan.
She said thorough searching hadn’t found a single burrow with more than one entrance, and such burrows were rare for this variety of wombat.
The Australian Wildlife Society regional co-ordinator Linda Dennis said Forestry Corporation's comments were ‘‘ridiculous’’.
‘‘The bare-nosed wombats just have one entrance in and out, so if it is ploughed over, that’s it. You are looking at a slow death with lack of food and water,’’ said Ms Dennis.
NSW Labor’s environment spokesman Luke Foley said Forestry Corporation should honour its agreement with the wildlife groups, which had been ‘‘an opportunity for a positive community partnership to ameliorate the impacts of logging’’.
‘‘Wildlife carers spent many hours painstakingly marking and recording wombat burrows only to return and find callous disregard had been given to these harmless and vulnerable animals,’’ he said.
The logging was moving into forest that is more heavily populated with wombats, and Mr Foley said the NSW government should ‘‘call its forestry agency to account’’.
He accused the government of failing to enforce environmental protections.
The EPA's acting director south, Steve Hartley, said EPA officers had inspected the site and met residents to discuss their concerns. ‘‘The EPA also inspected how harvesting was being undertaken and made recommendations about how to better protect wombat burrows,’’ Mr Hartley said.
Forestry Corporation had been told to change the way it stored and handled logs and machinery in particular locations, he said.
But Ms Wynan said the loggers had ‘‘deliberately’’ removed the GPS markings and filled burrows in again once the EPA officers had left. Forestry Corporation said it had completed three-quarters of its operation in Glenbog.
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This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/wombats-buried-alive-by-logging-company-20140809-10251m.html
Ray Wynan clearing a bulldozed burrow
Pollution left in the forest
Marie Wynan surveying the damage caused by logging
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