New legislative measures for Tiger Quolls are coming in thick and fast, with upgraded “protection” at both State and Federal level. Following the new Action Statement at State level last year, the Feds announced on May 17 that Tiger Quolls are in deep trouble and should be upgraded to “endangered”.
I tell you what, if legislation and listing statements were den sites and prey, Tiger Quolls would be fat and well housed. But no matter how well meaning the intention of all these documents, protection for Tiger Quolls is hopelessly compromised by the ongoing commitment to supply native forest to loggers.
The problem is most easily described using an example, such as the quoll our volunteers located near Misery Spur in January. The new Federal listing hasn’t come into force yet, and the Flora and Fauna staff in Orbost are still processing the upgrade of local prescriptions under last year’s new State-level Tiger Quoll Action Statement.
That Action Statement gives strong prescriptions on the size and quantity of Quoll conservation zones. There will be 75 in East Gippsland. They must have a 500ha Special Protection Zone (no logging is allowed) and 1000ha of Special Management Zone (a ‘conservation zone’ that allows clearfell logging), and den and latrine sites will be in the SPZ. This sort of prescription must be followed to the letter. But other values are left open to interpretation.
In the case of our quoll near Misery Spur, we don’t have a den or latrine site (or the holy grail). In this case, the Action Statement says a new conservation zone “will generally” include the detection site, unless there are “compelling reasons” not to. One such “compelling reason” is “proximity of existing protected habitat”, whatever that means. It could mean “create new reserves to link up with existing protected habitat” or it could mean the opposite: “don’t protect new areas if there are existing reserves nearby”. And what’s “proximate”? 100m? 5km? Your guess is as good as theirs. And don’t get me started on “will generally”.
The interpretation is done at local level – the Orbost DSE. With all the good will in the world, the staff there must inevitably be compromised by the DSE’s raison d’etre – to provide habitat for the most studied and protected mammal in East Gippsland – the logger (Chainsawit Redneckus ss. handout).
And the compromise is not only at local level. I cannot imagine that the same people who wrote about the threat of extinction from habitat fragmentation and low population density in the Action Statement really thought it was adequate to protect only 75 quolls scattered across all of East Gippsland.
It’s interesting to contrast this compromised protection with the ambitious “Southern Ark” project, which plans to pretty well eradicate foxes from East Gippsland east of the Snowy River, creating the largest substantially fox-free area of Australia. A team co-ordinated by DSE, Parks Victoria and the Department of Primary Industries will bury poison baits at 4,500 sites, then replace the bait in each one every 4-5 weeks. This will be a bonus for a whole raft of ground dwelling marsupials, like potoroos, bandicoots and quolls. This brilliant conservation initiative doesn’t conflict with logging, thank goodness, so it’s all systems go.
The new Federal “endangered” listing means there will have to be a new “Recovery Plan” drawn up within the next three years. If we’re lucky, it will be very prescriptive and increase the protection measures. But there’s also provision for the Feds to adopt the State’s Action Plan if they want to. In the end, it’s a matter of political will – which really means it’s up to all of us.