Cats and foxes a bigger threat to finch than Adani
BIRD breeders say the finch at the centre of the Adani debate is an easy bird to breed but they are under threat, not from mining but from feral cats and foxes.
One Nation candidate for Capricornia, Wade Rothery, a fourth-generation bird breeder and a miner, has put the blame on state and federal governments for the vulnerable status given to the black-throated finch.
His brother Dean Rothery has been breeding finches for 25 years and black-throated finches for six years and said some of the safest habitats were on land owned by mining companies, which were obligated under law to control feral pests.
Wade Rothery said if the State Government was serious about protecting native species, it would lift the game on feral animal eradication programs.
"If it wasn't for feral cats and foxes, the numbers would be much higher," he said.
"When you consider the average feral cat can kill anywhere between five and 30 animals each day, we're staring down the barrel of mass extinction for many native species here in Australia.
"Mine sites regularly monitor feral animal numbers and call in expert trappers to clean up problem species ... which in turn safeguards native animals that live within the mine's care.
"Feral cats have directly contributed to the extinction of more than 20 Australian mammals ... and are responsible for the direct pressure on a further 124 endangered Australian species close to extinction."
Finch breeder Les Horstman has been breeding the birds for 50 years and said a breeding pair cost around $50 and 10 pairs could produce 50-100 young every year.
"They're all up through the Razorback Mountain and Wowan areas too," he said.
"I don't think the mine will affect them.
"They will travel 300-400 kilometres to breed."
The man who led the review into Adani's black-throated finch management plan, Professor Brendan Wintle, said the scientific evidence strongly suggested habitat loss due to grazing was a major threat but he didn't believe the "likely negative impact on finches from feral cats and foxes had been quantified by anyone yet".
"We do know that feral cats kill around one million native birds per day, so anything we can do to reduce feral cat and foxes is worth doing," he said.
"Anyone, whether they are mining companies, park managers or farmers who are controlling feral cats and foxes are helping to conserve Australia's native animals."
Mr Rothery said a bipartisan approach must be taken to find a solution to Australia's feral animal problem and said the Queensland Government and The Greens need to stop playing games with locals counting on mining jobs in the Galilee Basin.
The Carmichael project conservation area is more than 33,000 hectares in size, and is one of the largest privately managed conservation areas in Queensland.
A spokesperson from Adani said to ensure the finches could thrive in the conservation area a permanent water supply was being created for the birds, along with programs to control weeds, manage pests, and bushfire threats.
The Australian Government, through the feral cat taskforce, is trialling a number of approaches but the responsibility for control ultimately lies with state and local governments.
A spokesperson from the Department of Agriculture said under the Biosecurity Act 2014, everyone had a general biosecurity obligation to take reasonable and practical steps to prevent or minimise the risks and anyone with concerns about feral cats and wild dogs should contact their local council.
According to the Department of Environment, there are two species of the black-throated finch: southern and northern.
The southern subspecies is listed as endangered in Queensland and nationally whereas the northern species is not.
The site of the Carmichael coal mine is considered to be the site of the most significant population of the southern subspecies in Australia.
"This is why it is imperative that the mine's operators satisfactorily address the conservation and protection of this species in its natural habitat, and why this requirement is written in the operator's environmental authority," a spokesperson said.
"The presence of animals in captivity does not negate the need to protect them in the wild.
"As the Carmichael mine site and its environs are more than 100 kilometres from the nearest protected area estate, the department does not operate an eradication program for feral cats and foxes in the project area."