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.”
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