Can Humans and Wildlife Really Co-exist?

People live in the Mission Beach area for a variety of reasons, but chief among them is the wish to surround themselves with nature. I’ve never been to a place where wild animals co-existed so closely with humans. I guess South Mission Beach is just special like that.

Unfortunately, no one said that wildlife and humans co-existed in harmony. In Mission Beach there are definitely differing opinions on the topic. To ask a local what they think of the wallabies is like broaching politics or religion at a dinner party. It’s just not done.

While overseas and Australian tourists flock to the area to see the mobs of wild agile wallabies or to catch a glimpse of the endangered cassowary, some locals call the animals pests and apply for culling permits to decrease their numbers. These people dislike the wallabies because they eat veggie gardens and defecate on private property. They believe the animals are ruining their farmland and blame them for economic hardships suffered.

But why are people blaming animals for simply existing? How are they to know that certain pieces of land are off-limits to them when they have always grazed this area? And, if land and property are so valuable to them, why not erect fences to keep the animals off the property? Few residences in South Mission Beach  have any kind of perimeter fence, which I found a bit peculiar. It also baffles my mind that people immediately seek lethal methods of control the animals without first attempting non-aggressive ways to deal with the issue.

The longer I lived in South Mission Beach, the more I learned how divided the community was over the issue of nature vs. development. I suppose this is a common theme throughout the world as well. I began to see people taking sides, and relationships between friends and neighbors grew tense.

At some point, passions ignited and feelings became raw. Weird things were occurring in the area, and there were hints of acts of animal cruelty. There were whisperings around town of wallaby killers who drove straight into the animals, even hopping the curb sometimes to get their prey. Dead wallabies were found in people’s gardens completely scalped. Dead or dying joeys appeared around the shelter. People drove by the shelter hurling profanity and taunts.

It was bizarre to be caught in the middle of it all. It was too surreal for me. Was I living some Hollywood movie where the rich farmers, corrupt law enforcers and an ineffectual government tried to scare the one voice who dared speak up against injustice? Sometimes it really felt like I was.

I’m not sure how to salvage a situation like this when things seemed to have deteriorated to such an extent. It will take a lot of effort on all sides to find a solution that benefits everyone. However, from what I experienced, I do not have much hope that the parties involved will reach a compromise any time soon. Too many people aren’t willing to listen. Too many attitudes aren’t willing to change. Too many residents are apathetic about what is happening in their community.

I think it will take a new generation of people to broach these topics without the use of violence, intimidation or threats, but I know this will happen someday. My only concern is whether or not the wildlife in Mission Beach can survive until then.


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Filed under Australia, Nature, Politics, Volunteering

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