Many people consider themselves animal-lovers. Every day, strangers in the street exclaim at how gorgeous my two dogs are, and ask for a pat. Cat videos easily go viral on social media. Baby farm animals in petting pens are often the most popular attraction at markets.
Expose cruelties in the live export trade, or in greyhound racing, and the public outcry is enormous.
But if wildlife habitat is destroyed, there is barely a whimper from the vast human swell of animal lovers. I’m talking about the widespread death of coral in the Great Barrier Reef. And the large-scale destruction of forests and woodlands in Queensland through vegetation clearing. Most of the animals that live in these habitats have no-where else to go. Most of these creatures will die, and suffer great cruelty in the process.
I even read, just yesterday, this quote from a blogger who has begun posting about Queensland agriculture to her audience of Australian ‘mums’:
“Ms Allen said her followers had so far shown a lot of interest in the agricultural content she had posted.
“[Of] their main concerns, animal welfare would be at the top,” she said.
“I know tree clearing is a really big topic but I don’t think most mums are interested in that. They want to know that the meat they buy, you know the cows, are being looked after and there’s been no cruelty.” [/pullquote]
Jody Allen is Agforce’s latest recruit in the quest to convince urban mums that Queensland farmers are “not raping and pillaging the country” (according to a beef producer quoted in the same story). (Agforce is an industry body that represents the interests of some Queensland farmers). Well, if Agforce representatives such as Jody continue to deny the devastating effects of the land clearing conducted by cattle farmers, no doubt many animal lovers be happy to keep buying meat. As long as the cows are well-looked after, of course. Bugger all the native animals that are maimed, killed and starved in the process of replacing native vegetation with pasture.
But before you think I am a farmer-basher, let me make one thing clear. Some of the Queensland farmers I have met are true conservationists and excellent land managers. They understand how to manage the land sustainably for wildlife and for cattle. It is possible, and it is beautiful to see what these people are achieving. Not surprisingly, these are not the farmers (or pastoralists, as some prefer to be known) that are undertaking broad-scale vegetation clearing. And these are not the farmers that Agforce is representing.
Furthermore, large areas of native vegetation continue to be cleared for urban development – houses, shopping centres and roads. It’s not just the farmers who are responsible for habitat destruction. It is happening all around us.
I think that many people are still not aware of the link between animals and the habitat they need. And increasing alienation from nature certainly doesn’t help. Somehow we need to raise the awareness of the link between animals and trees. Animal lovers should also be tree lovers.
I don’t really know what the answer to this is, but I think images have a role to play. So when I was asked to do some drawings for the excellent Land for Wildlife program, I jumped at the chance.
Land for Wildlife supports landholders who manage their properties for wildlife. To date over 50,000 hectares of habitat for wildlife has been protected with a further 3700 hectares under restoration, just in South East Queensland alone. Deborah Metters, who coordinates the Land for Wildlife program in South East Queensland, requested two colour-in drawings for the Land for Wildlife newsletter. One was to depict a woodland scene, the other a rainforest, with examples of the native species that rely on these habitats.
The final ‘woodland scene’ is at the start of this story, and it contains 33 plant and animal species. The ‘rainforest’ scene is below, and it contains 22 plant and animal species. Each picture includes some non-native species, as that’s the reality of managing Land for Wildlife today. How many species can you spot? (the species lists are at the end of this story).
These pictures give a tiny taste of the native animal (and plant) species that rely on two types of native vegetation in Queensland. When vegetation is cleared for pasture (or urban development), which continues at a vast scale in Queensland, this is what is destroyed.
Genuine animal lovers would want this mindless cruelty to stop. Right now.
Plant and animal species included in each picture:
Grey-crowned babbler Pomatostomus temporalis temporalis
Yellow-rumped thornbill Acanthiza chrysorrhoa
Yellow-faced honeyeater Lichenostomus chrysops
Tawny frogmouth Podargus strigoides
Laughing kookaburra Dacelo gigas
Mistletoebird Dicaeum hirundinaceum
Brown falcon Falco berigora
Great egret Ardea alba
Australian magpie Cracticus tibicen
Joseph’s Coat Moth Agarista agricola
Host plant: Forest Grape Clematicissus opaca
Scarlet Jezebel Delias argenthona
Host plant: Gum mistletoe Amyema bifurcata Found on eucalyptus
Caper white butterfly Belenois java
Host plants: Capparis arborea, C. lucida (not illustrated)
Lace monitor Varanus varius
Red fox Vulpes vulpes
Koala Phascolarctos cinereus
Cow Bos taurus
Whiptail wallaby Macropus parryi
Narrow-leaved ironbark Eucalyptus crebra
Grey gum Eucalyptus propinqua
Pink Bloodwood Corymbia intermedia
Spotted gum Corymbia citriodora
Mistletoe Gum mistletoe Amyema bifurcata
Tiger orchid Diuris sulphurea
Dianella caerulea Blueberry lily
Yellow buttons Chrysocephalum apiculatum
Slender hyacinth orchid Dipodium variegatum
Kangaroo grass Themeda australis
Lantana Lantana camara
Grass tree Xanthorrhoea johnsonii
Wompoo pigeon Ptilinopus magnificus
Eastern yellow robin Eopsaltria australis
Noisy pitta Pitta versicolor
Lewin’s honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii
Eastern Whipbird Psophodes olivaceus
Brown gerygone Gerygone mouki (nest)
Australian brush turkey Alectura lathami
Bassian thrush Zoothera lunulata
Grey-headed flying fox Pteropus poliocephalus
Cat Felis catus
Red-necked pademelon Thylogale thetis
Southern leaf-tailed gecko Saltuarius swaini
Land mullet Egernia major
Giant barred frog Mixophyes iteratus
Pink underwing moth Phyllodes imperialis smithersi (larva)
Watkin’s fig Ficus watkinsiana
Richmond birdwing vine Pararistolochia praevenosa
Stinging tree Dendrocnide excelsa
Macadamia Macadamia integrifolia
Camphor laurel Cinnamomum camphora
That’s so true. The cruelty to millions of native animals through loss of habitat is invisible to most people, yet just as real as cruelty to domestic animals.
Hi Carol, good to hear from you, and thanks for reading and commenting 🙂
I’m interested to know if Australia has any scheme for paying farmers to do positive work for wildlife like the countryside stewardship schemes we have in England. The countryside stewardship scheme is far from perfect but it does give farmers an incentive to manage land to benefit wildlife and gives wildlife on farmland a value. Although I’m against putting a monetary value on wildlife then I can see the practical benefits of doing so for farmers.
Hi Carol. If only! As far as I’m aware, schemes like you describe are rare, localised and short-term in Australia.
The carbon-farming projects come closest – in that some approved carbon-farming methods are about restoring vegetation, or managing it to lessen biomass loss. But wildlife conservation is just positive side-effect of these projects and not the main target.
Most states have some sort of private land conservation scheme. Landholders who put a conservation covenant on their land are sometimes eligible for discounted property rates, or grants for on-ground works (which they still need to apply for). Other stewardship schemes may be conducted in certain regions -where landholders get a financial payment for managing their land for wildlife – but these projects tend to be funded by short term (usually about 3 year) funding cycles that are tied to State or Federal government election cycles.
At least, that’s my understanding. I’d be happy to hear from other readers if there are better stewardship schemes than this happening now in Australia.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
A well written article Paula and fantastic drawings again. The subject of your article is one which always frustrates me, mostly because the vast majority of people, including politicians, don’t consciously understand that having a healthy and intact habitat means healthy wildlife communities, including ourselves. Humans need to realise that we are part of the biodiversity and, as you mentioned, an ‘increasing alienation from nature certainly doesn’t help’. For conservation to work we need empathy for the environment which in turn leads to action. Empathy only happens through experience and education (such as your beautiful blog).
Hi Craig, yes it is an ongoing challenge, trying to instill empathy for wildlife and the environment. And sometimes I think it’s a lost cause – especially when dealing with adults – because people’s values and world view are shaped by so many things, and often early in life. But then I firmly believe it’s better to do something, rather than let apathy and cyncism take over. Just like your blog, which is wonderful too! Thanks for reading and your kind praise . Cheers, Paula
Neat article Paula and great drawings too!
Getting people excited about plants and habitats can sometimes be a tough sell – they are not nearly as cute and fluffy as their animal counterparts. But I like to think that the more people learn about something, the more they feel invested in it and see the value in it. So keep up the excellent work!
Hi Robert, thanks for reading, and your encouragement! I needed a bit extra this morning, so it was most timely 🙂
Yes I guess people can relate more easily to animals – because they are more like us than plants – and people relate the most closely to familiar animals like dogs and cats. But your blog is excellent because you’re tapping into the cultural context and uses of plants. Perhaps if we didn’t purchase our medicines as pills in plastic vials from brightly-lit, sterile pharmacies, and instead had to trek through beautiful forest to collect them as leaves… well then maybe people would be more closely connected to plants!
“Mummy blogger” seems to have become code for PR front, since big agriculture business (starting in the home of PR, the USA) decided that was the best way to market pesticide contaminated produce, GMOs, etc to a skeptical public. Because how could a mummy lie about, or take risks with things like the food she feeds to her kids? Or so the reasoning goes. If she’s posting to facebook 24 times a day as well as sending a daily newsletter, I suspect there are more people than just one “stay at home mum” involved in her effort! Either that, or her kids no longer stay at home with her, anyway.
Oh yes, there it is, she employs 17 staff.
Hi Ben, that’s very interesting about the US agribusinesses using the same strategy. Yes, ‘mummys’ are probably seen as trustworthy or at least well-intentioned, by many. But another thing operating here is an audience identifying with an ‘expert’ who they can relate to. Most people tend to pay greater attention to information if the provider of that information is part of their ‘tribe’ or is seen as a ‘good bloke’ (or ‘good mummy’?). This is a huge obstacle for anyone who wants to connect with people outside their ‘tribe’. It hasn’t quite driven me to try to alter my online persona, or change the tone of my blog posts (maybe some cat videos would help?) with the aim of attracting a wider audience…but the thought has crossed my mind!