Margaret River Owl-Friendly Region program spreading its wings as rodenticide review in slow motion

by Pelican Press
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Margaret River Owl-Friendly Region program spreading its wings as rodenticide review in slow motion

A program started in Margaret River to protect the State’s precious birdlife is spreading its wings to Perth local governments — and not before time.

The Margaret River Owl-Friendly project was launched by ornithologist and former Nature Conservation Margaret River Region chair Dr Boyd Wykes as an effort to save owl species threatened by poisons and native predators.

While the program has received great support in the Capes region, metropolitan councils including the City of Fremantle are now also signing up for the venture, with the City of Cockburn expressing interest too.

The scheme has also encompassed other regional districts including the City of Geraldton, and was a model for similar initiatives in other jurisdictions.

Reflecting on the uptake of the movement he started, Dr Wykes told the Times work continued to get serious governmental recognition of the risks posed to native owls.

“The Owl-Friendly Margaret River group is continuing to promote to our community management of rodents in ways that are not harmful to owls and the many other wildlife that are debilitated and killed by the so-called ‘one-dose’ anticoagulant rodenticides that are sold without restrictions by supermarkets and hardware stores,” Dr Wykes said.

“Finally, after commencing deliberation in 2021, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority expects to produce some sort of report on addressing the rodenticide issue by end-of-year.

“It commenced deliberations in 2021 and has refused to place a ‘precautionary’ moratorium on sales while taking all these years to deliberate, despite the growing, overwhelming evidence of harm to wildlife worldwide.”

The owl-friendly movement also featured in the documentary Night Calling, produced by Sue Taylor, that debuted last year and continued to screen around the country.

Dr Wykes recently returned from a screening in Melbourne supported by Birdlife Australia that continued to push the message.

He said he was enthusiastic about the uptake of the program among metropolitan local governments, noting Margaret River’s masked owls — the ambassadors for the initiative — were being found in wider areas, frequently as victims of poisoning.

The owl-friendly movement had contributed greatly towards pressure for action at the highest levels, he said.

Last week, a delegation of the country’s leading environmental scientists rallied in Canberra to protest against inaction on rodenticides.

Edith Cowan University School of Science lecturers Dr Robert Davis and Dr Michael Lohr said the regulator was too slow to act on evidence of the effect of those poisons on native wildlife and the knock-on effects on the food chain.

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