• Question without notice

Wombat Mange

Ms ARMITAGE question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT

[2.39 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE: Regarding the scourge of wombat mange, will the Leader advise -

(1) In response to a question asked by the member for Rosevears on this subject in November 2019, the Leader advised that improved options for treating wombat mange in partnership with the University of Tasmania were to begin field trials this year. Can the Leader indicate what progress has been made with this?

(2) The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment - DPIPWE ‑ website states that consideration of active reintroduction of wombats to Narawntapu National Park will be given. Can the Leader indicate if there has been any progress towards making a decision on this?

(3) With regard to the previous question, what factors will be taken into account in making a decision on this? Does DPIPWE have adequate resources to ensure that a project of this nature will be viable over the longer term?

(4) What support is currently being given to volunteers who locate, treat and take ongoing care of wombats both in the wild and in captivity? Where is the Government's ongoing plan to ensure that volunteers are adequately supported, trained and retained?

(5) Are there strategies in place to recruit volunteers to take on this type of work? If so, what is the nature of these strategies? If not, why not?

ANSWER

Mr President, I thank the member for Launceston for her question. There is a large degree of interest in this answer. Bearing in mind the answer is lengthy, does the member want it read out or will I table that answer? Mr President, I seek leave to table the answer to this question and incorporate it in Hansard.

Leave granted; document incorporated as follows -

(1) With funding and support from the department, the University of Tasmania has undertaken trials with wombats in captivity to determine the potential effectiveness of this insecticide (Bravecto®) treatment. The results of these trials are very encouraging, and the university is now planning field trials in Tasmania and New South Wales.

The department is in regular contact with the university’s lead researcher and can advise that while the trials have been delayed in the first half of 2020 as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, they are scheduled to start in the coming months. These trials will provide the information required to ensure any future approved use of Bravecto for the management and effective treatment of mange-affected wombats in the wild is safe and appropriate.

(2) A DPIPWE Wombat Working Group comprising wildlife ecologists, veterinarians, land managers and university researchers has considered a range of options for the management of wombats at Narawntapu National Park following the decline of the population due to sarcoptic mange. Monitoring by the department using remote sensing cameras since 2018 has confirmed the persistence of a small but apparently healthy population of wombats in the national park. It is encouraging that no evidence of mange has been observed in the wombats detected in the camera images and that recent breeding is also confirmed as evidenced by a mother and her young being among those images. These monitoring results provide critical information in guiding decisions regarding the requirement for intervention.

(3) The department will continue to monitor the health and status of the wombat population at Narawntapu National Park. The persistence of healthy wombats in the national park is very positive and at present indicates active intervention is not warranted at this time. Additional tools to manage wombats and mange, including the promising results of the research into more effective treatment options, will be considered over the longer term should the evidence from monitoring suggest that intervention is necessary.

(4) The Natural and Cultural Heritage Division of DPIPWE works collaboratively with community volunteer groups to coordinate the treatment of wombats with mange in Tasmania. This includes groups such as Wombat Rescue Tasmania and Bonorong Wildlife Rescue. NCH is the central point of contact for mange reports, and maintains a list of these reports (through the Natural Values Atlas).

Reports of wombats with mange are discussed with community groups to ascertain whether the report is a new case, or relate to a wombat that is already undergoing a course of treatment by community volunteers. NCH provides preliminary advice on the best course of action for individual wombats, and, where a wombat requires euthanasia, may assist if resources are available.

Under the Wildlife (General) Regulations 2010, NCH also grants permits to allow community volunteers to assist injured and orphaned wombats, which are primarily -

  • For community volunteers to provide ‘pole and scoop’ treatment of mange (treatment is applied via a long pole). This allows volunteers to ‘disturb’ wombats so that they may receive beneficial treatment.

  • Permits to possess wombats for the purpose of rehabilitating them for release back into the wild.

As new scientific research is released, NCH will continue to work with community groups to identify ways to support their volunteers to treat mange.

(5) NCH values the dedication of members of the community in treating wombats with mange. Community volunteer groups that undertake the treatment of mange are not classified as DPIPWE volunteers, therefore it is the role and responsibility of community groups to recruit and retain volunteers, similar to what occurs in other jurisdictions. All volunteer groups should follow Volunteering Australia’s National Standards for Volunteer Involvement.

NCH has several mechanisms in place to assist with recruitment of community volunteers, including -

  • Providing funding to develop an introductory marsupial rehabilitation training course under the nationally accredited Animal Studies Certificate, through Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and TasTAFE. Developed in 2018, the aim of this course is to recruit more community volunteers, provide foundation level training for marsupial rehabilitation, and to improve retention of community volunteers. Many of these newly trained community volunteers will progress to assisting with the treatment of mange and/or rehabilitating orphaned wombats for release back to the wild.

  • Referring members of the public who contact NCH and are interested in assisting with the treatment of mange to local community groups.

  • Notifying community volunteer groups of grants programs that are available to them.

NCH is currently investigating whether it can assist wildlife community groups to build their capacity to respond to injured and orphaned wildlife, as well as meet the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement. The includes investigating resources that can assist with recruitment, improvement of volunteer management, good governance, grants writing skills, understanding legal obligations and providing a safe working environment for volunteers.

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