An independent review of the Biodiversity Conservation Act recommends that the New South Wales government consider funding models to support vets, volunteers, wildlife hospitals, and accredited specialist rehabilitation facilities for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.
The review, led by Dr Ken Henry AC makes 58 recommendations of changes that need to be made to effectively conserve biodiversity at a state scale. It was tabled in the NSW Parliament last week.
Dr Stephen Van Mil, CEO of Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital, the only all-species wildlife hospital in NSW outside of Taronga Wildlife Hospitals welcomed the review’s recommendations.
“This review is very timely because Australian wildlife is in crisis,” said Dr Van Mil.
“Volunteer carers and veterinarians with the skills and knowledge of the physiology and anatomy of wildlife are demonstrably effective in rescuing, treating, caring for and releasing native animals into the wild. These people are doing essential work to prevent further loss of biodiversity and species extinction. They need support.”
The Review panel notes that providing care to sick, injured and orphaned wildlife comes at a great financial and emotional cost to professional service providers and volunteers. Legally, native animals are the property of the State, yet the State bears none of this cost. Members of the public and veterinarians are unreasonably expected to attend to the emergency needs of injured wildlife at their own expense. This is unsustainable, given the rising probability of wildfires, flooding and storm events of increasing frequency and severity.
“Wildlife must not be sacrificed through human progress with no constraints.” Added Dr Van Mil. “As the review states, the case for giving primacy to environmental repair is inescapable. Our future depends upon it.”
The review notes that only 50% of NSW threatened species are expected to survive in 100 years. This grim statistic compounds Australia’s unenviable record of having the world’s highest mammal extinction rate.
In June, Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital learned that a $6 million, four-year funding grant announced by the NSW Government in February was not approved, citing inadequate value for money. Last week, a delegation from the hospital met with NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe MLC seeking emergency funding to avoid closure.
“We were pleased that the Minister took the time to meet with us, along with the Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin and the Member for Ballina Tamara Smith”, said BBWH Chair Mr Karl Cope.
“We do not yet have the funding we need but were reassured that the Minister said she had no interest in seeing us close and wanted to visit our facility. We were also pleased that she agreed to table our petition of over 20,000 signatures supporting emergency funding for our work for wildlife.”
“The invaluable work of charities like Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital restores many stricken animals to good health, ensuring their future viability, said Hospital volunteer Delvene Delaney. “We are on the perilous brink of losing many of our wonderful, wild species. As a concerned volunteer, I welcome this review’s findings to fund wildlife hospitals to continue their important work.”