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Community intervenes to save St Kilda's stranded possums

Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.


Sunday 5 August 2007

On Wednesday morning last 1 August 2007, contractors moved into the Catani Gardens in St Kilda and, ignoring a community picket, proceeded to strip off access chutes on the metal 'possum exclusion bands' high up on the Canary Island Palms, thus effectively stranding about twenty possums asleep in the crowns of the trees. This meant that, come night time, the possums would be unable to get down the trees to feed and so would be condemned to starve to death or die of dehydration. If, in desperation, they jumped from a great height they could be killed or badly injured. Likely as not, once on the ground with no place to hide (since most trees are now banded) they would fall victim to dog attack, human cruelty or road kill.

Members and friends of Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc. (PPL VIC) called a commercial wildlife rescue service to come to the Gardens to work out how the stranded possums could be rescued. Council refused to engage him and deferred making a decision. On Wednesday night PPL VIC members confirmed that there were, indeed, numbers of desperate possums trapped possible 15 metres or so up in the trees, above the bands.

Next morning, on Thursday 2 August, Council stepped in and ordered Parks officers to inspect the treetops, thus proving us right that there were possums trapped there. Contractors then reinstalled the metal chutes on the trees to allow possums access to the ground and food that night. Had PPL VIC not intervened then Council would have simply left the possums to die stranded in the treetops.

Julianne Bell PPL VIC Secretary comments: "Last year Port Phillip Mayor Janet Bolitho announced that Council had employed a consultant to work out a 'humane' way to exterminate the tiny colony of possums, supposedly guilty of chewing palm fronds and damaging trees. In our opinion installation of the consultant's Heath Robinson contraptions, consisting of a unique arrangement of monster steel bands with access chutes and traps, has proved a major bureaucratic bungle being vastly expensive, completely unnecessary and exceptionally cruel. Also in our view the project is illegal under the Wildlife Protection Act 1975 and possibly under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1985. The Mayor and Councillors may imagine that the trapped possums are spirited away and euthanased quietly. But ASU members have recently refused to handle possums and local vets have denied any involvement. The tragedy is that while Melbourne City Council promotes possum spotting tours in the Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens, Port Phillip Council is attempting to exterminate the Catani Gardens possums, which draw hundreds if not thousands of tourists a year."

Lucy Fairley, a British tourist (name and details can be supplied) wants to be on record as saying: "As a holidaymaker from England, I was thrilled to read in my guide about feeding possums in Melbourne's parks. My daughter and I visited a number of parks at dusk and finally struck lucky in Catani Gardens. There were a handful of lively and almost tame possums - they even let us stroke them; it was the highlight of my holiday. I was struck dumb when I learnt of the council's eradication plans; how they had already killed a number of possums and were on the point of rounding up and murdering these last few, defenceless animals. I am outraged - I cannot believe in such barbarous and short-sighted behaviour. Just to think of the tourist potential the council were ignoring - they should be writing to guide books to publicise their asset, instead of persecuting these beautiful animals... I, for one, would find Melbourne a far less attractive place to visit without this compelling attraction and my estimation of Australians (certainly of council officers) would be significantly reduced if the possums were to be exterminated."

Note that Tourism Minister Tim Holding has declined an invitation to visit the Catani Gardens and over the past few months has been, reportedly, too busy to meet PPL VIC representatives.

Media contact:
Julianne Bell, Secretary, Protectors of Public Lands Victoria (PPL VIC)
03 98184114 or mobile 0408022408 or
Jill Quirk (PPL VIC) on 03 95097429 or 040 09742927.