This is the question we all get faced with when confronted with the insurmountable task of SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT. Luckily, you don’t have to save the world all on your own. But you can do a little. At Bonorong, we bring people together to ensure their little bit joins with other little bits, to make a big difference.
Whether you are a Tasmanian, or a visitor to our shores, here are some things most of you can do today!
Become a wildlife rescuer
Do you know what to do when you come across an injured animal? Or when you hit one on the road? Bonorong run FREE courses for people who wish to learn the basics of wildlife first aid and rescue. These are important life skills that everybody can and should learn; we teach many of the skills to children during our school talks. Find out more about our FREE wildlife rescue training here.
Take it easy on the roads – drive below 80 km/hr at night
It is estimated that up to half a million native animals are killed by cars each year in Tasmania, making Tasmanian roads deadlier for wildlife, per capita, than anywhere else in the world. This means that there is a constant stream of injured and orphaned animals requiring transport to veterinarians, rehabilitation centres, or qualified orphan carers. Vehicles do not discriminate between species, so all wildlife from wallabies, wombats and possums to Tasmanian devils and Wedge-tailed eagles are at risk.
For the most part, these animals are brush tail possums, pademelons and wallabies that might be crossing the road or feeding on the abundant green roadside grass. However, road traffic is also a particular problem for carnivorous animals such as quolls, wedge tailed eagles and Tasmanian devils that come to the roads to feed on other animals that have been killed there. These three species in particular are facing other challenges from disease, habitat loss, and competition from feral cats so the added pressure from car strike can have a disproportionate impact on their populations. For instance, it is thought that around 3,000 Tasmanian devils are killed by cars each year. Combined with the massive impact that the Devil Facial Tumour Disease has had on the species, the devils are facing real threats to their survival.
There are many things people can do to avoid hitting animals on the road, or to help animals that have already been hit:
Slow down between dusk and dawn. As many of our native species are nocturnal (mainly active at night) or crepuscular (mainly active at dawn and dusk) they are often found near roads when it is the most difficult to see them. By slowing down at night, drivers are able to see animals earlier and have time to avoid hitting them.
According to our friends at Roadkill Tasmania, 50% of roadkill happens where vehicles travel over 80 km/hr. The vast majority of animals are hit between dusk and dawn – we ask everyone to please slow down at night. If you drive below 80 km/hr you will be HALF AS LIKELY TO HIT AN ANIMAL. Plus it’s safer for you and yours.
Check for joeys. Tasmania is home to many species of marsupial (including possums, wombats, and Tassie devils) who keep their joeys safe inside a pouch. When marsupials are killed by cars, these joeys are often uninjured and able to be hand raised to adulthood. If drivers find a marsupial on the road, the pouch should be checked for joeys. If a joey is found, the 24-hour Bonorong Wildlife Rescue Program can be called on 6268 1184 for advice.
Remove road kill from the road. Scavengers such as Tasmanian devils are attracted to the roads by the availability of food. To prevent these animals from being hit by cars themselves, road kill should be moved several metres off the road. THIS SHOULD ONLY BE DONE IF IT IS SAFE TO DO SO – DRIVERS WILL NOT BE HELPING ANIMALS IF THEY ARE HURT THEMSELVES.
Be a wildlife guardian
Tasmania’s island status makes our environment and wildlife unique and something to celebrate. But it also means we have a delicate balance to maintain, which can be easily upset. Invasive species such as foxes, cats, dogs, ferrets and some parrots pose the number one threat to our native species. You can educate yourself on which animals are not meant to be here by reading this brochure from the Tasmanian Government. If you see animals in Tasmania that you don’t think belong here, contact Biosecurity Tasmania immediately on 03 6777 2200.
Make your backyard wildlife-safe
There are so many things people can do in their own backyards to help protect our native species.
According to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy every cat allowed to roam outside kills approximately five native animals each night. With one in four households owning a pet cat, and an estimated 15 million feral cats in Australia, the pressure on wildlife is immense. Domestic cats will act on instinct and continue to hunt even after being fed.
In addition, cats are also a prime carrier of the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. Wildlife suffering from ‘toxo’ is frequently reported to Bonorong but the condition causes irreversible central nervous system damage and is always fatal.
► Keep cats contained inside or in a secure cat run – this will reduce the potential for cats to be injured by cars or in fights with other cats, and will prevent them hunting and spreading toxoplasmosis.
► Put two bells on cat collars to provide a warning to prey.
► Domestic cats can go ‘feral’ or mate with feral cats – desexing is important in order to prevent the wild population booming.
► Unwanted cats should be surrendered to the RSPCA or the Hobart Cat Centre so that they have the chance to be adopted by another home.
LAWNMOWERS AND WHIPPER SNIPPERS
Many native animals, like blue-tongue lizards, like to hide in long grass or next to fences. When lawns are mowed or edges trimmed, these animals are often left with serious injuries.
► Walk through the back yard before mowing and check for hidden animals.
The baits that we use to control pest species, such as snails or rats, can find their way to other animals, such as blue tongue lizards and birds of prey and our pet dogs, and poison them just as effectively as the intended target.
► If you must use baits, use multiple dose types so that predators do not receive a large amount with their meal.
It is popular to feed human food to our animal friends, and many people still consider it an act of kindness. However, many of our foods can cause wildlife to become ill or injured. Further, long-term feeding can encourage animals to live close to humans where there are other dangers such as cats and cars.
► Don’t feed human food to wild animals – it is always best to let them remain healthy and wild.
Marine Debris and Litter
Worldwide, it is thought that about 7 billion tonnes of debris enters the oceans each year. The majority of this marine debris is plastic, due to its versatility and use in a wide range of products. Plastic items can last in the marine environment for decades, meaning that remote corners of the world that were once pristine are now being touched by our litter.
Plastics are becoming stronger, cheaper, more buoyant and more durable, leading to an increasing amount of plastics in the marine environment worldwide. These properties also increase the likelihood that they will be discarded, and mean that they take longer to break down once in the water. Further, the invention of ‘biodegradable’ plastics has not assisted the problem, with plastics now simply breaking down into smaller particles which can better infiltrate the food chain. Similarly, a range of personal care products can have plastic microbeads in them that can be mistakenly eaten by a range of small marine species.
Australia is not immune to this problem, as a recent study by the CSIRO showed. Major results of their study found that:
- In Australia, approximately three-quarters of the rubbish along the coast is plastic.
- Most is from Australian sources, not from overseas, with debris concentrated near urban centres.
- Litter impacts wildlife directly through entanglement and ingestion and indirectly through chemical affects.
- Globally, approximately one third of marine turtles and nearly half of all seabird species have likely ingested debris.
What can you do to help?
- Never throw litter in the street as it will wash into storm water drains and end up at sea.
- Do not leave litter behind at the beach as rain, waves and tides can wash it out to sea.
- Try to use products that do not contain ‘microbeads’ as these last a long time in the environment.
If you find an animal injured or entangled by marine debris call the Nature Conservation Branch on (03) 6233 6556 or Bonorong (24 hours a day) on (03) 6268 1184.