Hundreds of animals are being killed at Hamilton Island to protect property and human health on the resort destination in Queensland’s Whitsundays.
The ABC has learned wallabies, possums and native birds are being culled on Hamilton, renowned as one of Australia’s premier island tourism destinations.
The resort island’s managers have Queensland Government permission to kill an unrestricted number of agile wallabies, which were introduced to Hamilton in the 1970s.
Between November 2014 and May 2016, 393 agile wallabies were shot dead.
Nearly 600 brushtail possums were eradicated in the same time period, but Queensland’s Environment Department allows up to 5,000 to be killed over three years.
RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said the number of animals killed was a concern.
“We’re certainly not in favour of culls of this magnitude continuing, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“I don’t feel that’s the overall answer at all.”
It is unclear what percentage of each species is being culled on the island, raising questions about whether the process is sustainable.
An Environment Department spokeswoman said they did not have data on animal populations on Hamilton Island.
Three damage-mitigation permits are in place on the island “to prevent damage or loss of property and to protect the health and wellbeing of staff, guests and other visitors,” she said.
One permit covers the airport for reducing interference with aircraft, but the department has not clarified which areas are covered by the other two permits.
Native birds included in culls
Experts are particularly worried about the island’s native birds.
The sulphur-crested cockatoos are famously friendly, as seen in singer Taylor Swift’s tweets during her visit to the island last year.
But 35 of the birds have been killed in the past 18 months, along with 36 pied currawongs and a kookaburra.
Rochelle Steven from Birdlife Australia said killing birds was a drastic move.
“We really need to know the populations of the species we’re dealing with before we take these quite drastic measures,” she said.
“I would definitely think it needs to be monitored and potentially revisited by the department.”
Mr Beatty said there were too many unanswered questions and the RSPCA would approach the Environment Department on the issue.
“If they’re just culling them because they’re basically an inconvenience then we just can’t support that,” he said.
Culling a last resort, management says
Management at Hamilton Island said the animals were culled “as a last resort to control numbers”.
It said agile wallabies caused significant damage to native vegetation and could be a road and aircraft hazard.
In a statement, management said sulphur-crested cockatoos and possums could harass guests — removing food off plates and tables at outdoor eating areas.
It said there were also hygiene and disease concerns with the animals.
Management said Hamilton Island was proactive in managing problematic wildlife using non-lethal methods, including educating guests, putting barriers around bins and outdoor eating areas, removing leftover food, and prompt cleaning.