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Tasmania considers culling kookaburras in the wild as the ‘pests’ threaten native species

Matthew Denholm, March 8, 2020 3:00AM The Australian

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Kookaburras having a laugh. media_cameraKookaburras having a laugh.

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The culling* of kookaburras is being considered in Tasmania with new data showing the species* — considered by many as a pest — has spread to remote* and wild areas.

The latest BirdLife Tasmania surveys show laughing kookaburras, introduced to the island state shortly after Federation* in 1901 to “unite the new ­nation”, have settled in new areas in the island’s west, south and highlands for the first time.

Iconic* nationally but regarded by many Tasmanians as a feral* pest, kookaburras are known to kill, outcompete and displace* smaller native birds and eat a variety of other species.

Kookaburra media_cameraBonorong Wildlife Sanctuary head keeper Melissa Gard and one of the Sanctuary’s Kookaburras George. Picture: Peter Mathew

For decades the kookaburra has been largely confined* to eastern parts of the state, but the species is now on the edge of the South West Wilderness.

The state government said selective culls may be needed.

“Total eradication* would not be feasible* but the (relevant) department may consider control of kookaburras in specific circumstances,” a spokeswoman said.

This could include culling kookaburras to protect the highly endangered* orange-bellied parrot at Melaleuca.

VIDEO: A wild kookaburra feeds orphan chicks

Wild kookaburra feeds orphan chicks

Greg Irons, director of the Bon­orong Wildlife Sanctuary, north of Hobart, which runs a major 24/7 wildlife rescue service, said it was time to consider a kookaburra cull.

“I’m 100 per cent behind it (a cull) — it’s always met with a backlash*, and we’d want to make sure it’s done in a humane* way and very carefully,” he said. “But no one bats an eyelid about a rabbit and this is no different.

“The damage kookaburras do is absolutely phenomenal* … They kill thousands of native species. It costs taxpayers, over time, millions upon millions of dollars because they are killing the same species that we are trying to save.”

Eric Woehler, convener* of BirdLife Tasmania, said kookaburras were spreading as western and southern areas dried and warmed, becoming more suitable for them.

He said more research on the number of kookaburras in certain areas and their impacts should be conducted before a cull was considered.

“They will almost certainly have had an impact on native species, but we can’t give figures on the extent of that impact,” Dr Woehler said.

GLOSSARY

  • culling: killing
  • species: a group of animals of the same type
  • remote: far away from populated areas
  • Federation: when six colonies joined to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901
  • iconic: an image or emblem of something
  • feral: wild or untamed
  • displace: replace or take the place of
  • confined: restricted to an area
  • eradication: remove or destruction
  • feasible: workable or practical
  • endangered: at risk of dying out
  • backlash: a strong negative reaction
  • humane: kind and compassionate
  • phenomenal: remarkable
  • convener: someone who calls people to meetings

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. Why is Tasmania considering culling kookaburras?
  2. When were kookaburras introduced to Tasmania?
  3. Name three problems the kookaburras are causing.
  4. Which wilderness area is now at risk?
  5. Which endangered bird is Tasmania trying to protect?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Responding to objections
Some people may be against the idea of culling kookaburras, particularly if they have not read this article and do not understand all of the facts. Write down how you could politely and intelligently explain the situation in response to these objections:

  1. “You can’t kill kookaburras, they’re native to Australia.”
  2. “Wouldn’t it be damaging to the ecosystem to cull kookaburras? Other species would be impacted.”
  3. “This plan sounds expensive!”

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English

2. Extension
Do you know the song Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree? If you’ve never heard it, look it up.
Write a new verse for the song that captures the information you have learnt in the news story.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English; Music

VCOP ACTIVITY
1. Proper Noun Police
A proper noun is a noun that names a particular person, place or thing. It always has a capital letter.

How many proper nouns can you find within this article? Find them all and sort them into the category of name, place, time (date/month).
Can you find any proper nouns included in your writing?
What are they?
Can you sort them into their categories?


HAVE YOUR SAY: Should Tasmania cull kookaburras to protect other species? Why or why not?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will show until approved by editors.

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