Interview of Fiona Corke ― Resistance Radio

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(Sound of corellas)

Hi, I’m Derrick Jensen and this is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is Fiona Corke. She is an Australian actor, wildlife campaigner and activist. For about 15 years now she has volunteered to protect wildlife, and served for about 10 years as Vice President for the Australian Society for Kangaroos raising awareness of the beauty and also the cruel fate of kangaroos slaughtered for damage mitigation by farmers and government departments and the commercial kangaroo industry for their meat and skins. In 2007 Fiona cofounded the Macedon Ranges Wildlife Network, where she lives. The network is actively involved in wildlife rescue, wildlife care and rehabilitation and raises awareness of the risks and threats wildlife faces from human interaction and imminent development. Today we talk about corellas.

So first, thank you as always for your great work, and second, thank you for being on the program.

FC: Thank you, Derrick, and thank you for asking me back on to talk about corellas.

DJ: So people who don’t live in Australia probably don’t know what they are. Can you talk about them a little bit?

FC: Absolutely. I guess a lot of people in the world, and probably in America, know about cockatoos, which are large white parrots with crests on their heads. People keep a lot of them as pets. There are probably a number of people in America keeping them as pets, as they do here in Australia. Corellas are a member of the cockatoo family. There are 21 species of cockatoo that come under that. So, as I said, you’ve got your white sulphur-crested cockatoo, which is the one people keep as pets. You’ve got your Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, which is a white cockatoo with pink markings on it, you have the little corella, which we’re going to talk more about today, and the long-billed corella. You have a number of other crested cockatoos. Then, belonging to the cockatoo family, you have dark cockatoos. And in those you get red-tailed black cockatoo, yellow-tailed black cockatoo, Carnaby’s black cockatoo. So cockatoos can come in white and dark colors. And under that too you have Gang-Gang cockatoos, which are gray with a red head, and palm cockatoos. They’re quite a big family, cockatoos.

So, the corella, which we’re going to talk about today: there are two species of corella, the little corella and the long-billed corella. The little corella has quite a large range over Australia. They live in a lot of parts of Australia. The long-billed corella, however, has quite a limited range. There are long-billed corellas in western Australia, and in Victoria, the southern state where I’m situated. But they’re not all over Victoria. They’re only in a few parts.

The long-billed corellas in western Australia, in the late 1990’s, were not considered the same species of long-billed corellas as in Victoria. So basically we’re talking about the long-billed corella in Victoria being the only kind of its species, only living in Victoria and only in a few areas of Victoria.

I just want to be clear with you, Derrick, that I am not expert on cockatoos. I’m no expert, actually, on any wildlife. I don’t have any formal training. I don’t have any piece of paper after my name. I only know what I know because I just can’t stand them being killed all the time. I’ve had to do my own study to find out more about them so I can actually do what I can to stop them being killed in the large numbers that they are. They’re killed in large numbers mostly for damage mitigation. Cockatoos always are in quite large flocks, particularly little corellas. So people want them killed because they say they damage their grain crops. People want them killed because they say they damage the sprinklers that water the crops or grapes. People want them killed because they sit on your roof and maybe peck at your antenna. They want them killed because they’ll maybe sit in a tree and chew branches and twigs off and throw them on the ground, so that’s considered messy. People want them killed because they say they’re too noisy. It kind of goes on and on and that’s really where I come in with all of these. I’ve been involved in a number of situations where there has been a damage mitigation permit out for a number of cockatoos or corellas; long-billed corellas and little corellas. That’s where I come in to see what I can do, with a few other people, to try and stop them being killed, and try and put some nonlethal methods of management on the table instead of this continual killing.

There are a lot of fantastic nonlethal methods that have been tried and proven with little corellas and with long-billed corellas. But for some reason, as you would know, that happens in America with prairie dogs and all sorts of things; there’s a solution on the table but they don’t want to look at it because it seems to be the habit is to pick up a gun and shoot it, or with little corellas and long-billed corellas, their death is also of being trapped in large nets and then placed in 44-gallon drums of carbon monoxide to kill them. It is just the most cruel and unimaginable thing that we do, that we keep committing these awful crimes upon our wildlife.

DJ: So what are the … so how big would a flock of corellas be, and what is the population of especially the long-billed corella in Victoria?

FC: It’s interesting … nobody knows, of course, Derrick. They say that these species are secure and they’re safe, or they’re abundant. According to Zoos Victoria there are 180,000 long-billed corellas in Victoria. So that’s long-billed corellas. If there were 180,000 little corellas nobody would know. Personally, for myself I believe the flocks of little corellas have reduced over the years. I remember flocks of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of corellas flying over. The sky would be nearly white with them and the sound would be deafening. It was just amazing and you’d almost feel yourself right in there because they fly low and you can feel yourself, really, as a part of the flock, it’s amazing.

The long-billed corellas are probably not in such big flocks as that. The long-billed corellas and sometimes the little corellas also hang out with other cockatoos. So you might go outside and you might see a group of sulphur-crested cockatoos feeding on the ground, but then you’ll see maybe five or six long-billed corellas eating there with them. You also might see some galahs. I forgot to mention them. They are another cockatoo family that’s gray with pink markings. So there are all kinds that fly together and feed together.

Going back to the 180,000 long-billed corellas that they say are in Victoria; they’re classed as being of the species of least concern. If I was to go back and give you some estimates of some permits that were issued for those long-billed corellas, it wouldn’t be hard to see that the species would be wiped out very soon. So, for instance, last year in 2017 there were 50 permits issued for long-billed corellas. This is for their death. And that meant the number of animals to be killed, birds to be killed under those permits, was 5,854. So that’s 5,854 birds had permits on them, and if we go to the year before that, it’s 3,830. If we go to the year before that it’s 4,540. And the year before that is 6,744. So we’re talking about numbers targeted to kill in the thousands, and they say there are only 180,000 of them.

There’s something else that’s interesting about all this in what I read, is they say that the long-billed corella isn’t in trouble because it seems to have expanded its range. And when they say it’s expanded its range, they’re saying that with the assumption that the expansion of the range means that there are actually more long-billed corellas. But that’s not necessarily the case.

One of the really big issues facing all the cockatoos, including the long-billed and little corellas, is the lack of available nesting sites and the lack of suitable nesting sites. With all the land-clearing and logging, all the old trees have been removed. It takes over 150 years for a hollow to start forming in a tree. This is a really, really big concern, that there aren’t enough nesting sites left. So they’re expanding their range, I would think, to try and find suitable nesting sites, and also perhaps for food. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are more of them. But that’s what’s assumed. I think that’s the thing with all wildlife. It happens with kangaroos. They say “Oh, kangaroos expanded their range. They were never here before, but they’re here now.” But they don’t consider that where they were before now has a residential housing estate on it, or a supermarket or whatever. They don’t realize that wildlife gets pushed to places where they might not normally live, and then they complain “Oh my God, now there’s a plague of them!”

And that’s what happens with the corellas. It comes back to there being a “plague” of them. Corellas naturally always fly in a very large flock, obviously for their protection. They don’t have a lot of predators besides humans, which would be their biggest predator. We would be looking at wedge-tailed eagles, and peregrine falcons have been known to take cockatoos and corellas. They don’t experience a lot of predation from these predators, but they are unfortunately prone to a disease called “beak and feather disease” and they can contract this when they’re quite young. I actually have a local, a crackle of cockatoos that come here every year. We have chooks, so they were hanging around trying to get the last of the chook food. So I have a pair of sulphur-crested cockatoos that come here every year, among other ones, but I know this couple. And unfortunately every year they have a beak-and-feather baby.

And it’s really sad, because there’s not much you can do for beak and feather. If I was to catch that young cockatoo and try and treat it, it’s not known whether beak and feather can ever be gone from the system. So the parents obviously are carriers of it, but they don’t exhibit the signs of beak and feather. It’s known that it might come through their saliva, so that would come through the nesting and also the feeding. It’s incredibly sad and it’s a horrible disease. Their beaks grow very long and misshapen and the feathers don’t grow properly, and then the feathers start to fall out. And then winter comes and it gets very cold, and they don’t usually make it past winter. And they also have trouble with their weight, with putting weight on.

I did try to save one, one year, on our back veranda. He was just hanging out there. His parents weren’t with him anymore. So I went out, and I could just pick him up. He was just sitting there, and I picked him up, and when I did I got a bit of a fright because he was very light in weight. So I took him to a friend of mine who runs a wildlife shelter, and we tried to do what we could for him but unfortunately he passed away because he also had some parasites as well. So basically the beak and feather disease can weaken their whole immune system, which then makes them much more vulnerable to parasites.

Corellas, and particularly little corellas – long-billed corellas can be too, but little corellas are highly social. They’re extremely playful. You’ll see them outside and they’ll be playing and they’ll be hanging off a tree or an electricity wire, and they’ll kind of spin around and around, and they’ll play with each other on the ground and jump on one another. It’s lovely to watch them interact and they’re very well known for their playfulness. They’ll slide down roofs and all sorts of things. If you look on YouTube, there are a lot of clips on there of corellas having fun.

But to go back more to their nesting and how they grow up. You have a pair of corellas, any of the cockatoo family, which includes corellas. They mate for life. They don’t become sexually mature until they’re between three and seven years old, so it’s quite late. They live to be over fifty in the wild. Cockatoos in captivity have been known to live to ninety or a hundred years old but they say in the wild they don’t live that long, so we’re looking at probably fifty to sixty years that they live in the wild, so obviously their sexual maturity is later. As they grow up, they have to learn when they’re younger, from their parents, about good feeding grounds and where water is. They usually roost near water courses. And predations, there are a lot of things they need to learn when they’re younger. So when they do find their mate, they’re mated for life and they find, hopefully, a suitable nesting hollow, and two to four eggs would be laid in that hollow.

I’ve never personally, but then again I’m not an expert, I don’t know – I’ve only ever seen probably at the most two young with corella. I’ve never seen three or four. The chicks are fed by both parents, and they’ll be in their nesting hollow for about 12 weeks and then they venture out. I think what’s really interesting with them, too, is when they get to that size, if you were to see them in a tree, you wouldn’t be able to tell which were the adults and which were the young ones. They seem to get as big as the adults quite quickly. Their behavior is the only thing that shows they are babies. They’ll sit in the tree and whine and make noises all day and demand to be fed. I’ve got some sitting in a tree out back here who do that. All this time, even though they’re as big as their parents, they still need to be fed by their parents. No way are they independent. And their parents teach them the lay of the land, where everything is.

What’s been noticed amongst the cockatoo family, and it’s really very moving – I haven’t personally noticed it much with corellas, though I would think that they would do the same. I have noticed it with galahs. I’ve had several experiences of that including, my mother has had one. I should tell you my mother’s experience because it’s really interesting. She was driving down the road, and it’s just a dirt road, and up ahead she saw a group of galahs, who are members of the cockatoo family. They’re pink and gray. And she saw about ten of them on the road in front of her, in a kind of circle. And she stopped the car and thought “that’s really unusual.” She stopped the car because she didn’t want to scare them off the road. They obviously seemed to be doing something. And she got out of the car and stood up and looked. And what was going on was that there was a dead galah. One of their own had died on the road. And the others had come to gather round. And they gathered round in a circle, and they sort of talk and bow their heads up and down, and do that for awhile. They’ll stay near the dead body for quite awhile. And I have noticed this often with cockatoos and galahs. I’ll always stop and get one off the road, and if its mate has died, that one will stand next to it and bob its head up and down and just stay with it. So you have to remove the dead one off the road so its mate can continue its grieving for it. It’s really moving and sad. That’s also a part of corellas and galahs and cockatoos, that whole family. It’s a part of their social structure and behavior.

When they get culled, or killed, whether they’re shot or trapped or netted and gassed in 44 gallon drums with carbon monoxide, what it does is leaves a lot of young orphaned, because they’re always dishing out the permits over the summer, and that’s when they’re young and totally dependent on their parents. They can’t be identified as being a younger bird. That’s why I wanted to mention that before. For instance, a shooter couldn’t stand there and go “That’s a young one and those are the adults.” They all look to be the same size and the shooters are probably not going to take the time to look at their behavior. They’ll take the gun out and shoot as many as they can in the short space of time before anyone finds out what they’re doing and stops them.

So it’s a very saddening situation. Nobody knows the numbers of young who have been orphaned because their parents have been shot or killed in some way. It’s incredibly irresponsible because you’re then adding more dead animals that they’re not counting – the parents are both dead and then, down the track, the young one will die. But that’s never counted in the figures. It’s just very cruel to leave a young bird to starve, to slowly die, because it can’t eat food because it’s still being crop fed, which means that the parent mushes up the food and brings the food up and actually with its beak pushes food into the younger bird’s mouth.

It poses a lot of problems. There’s no need to shoot or kill any wildlife. There are a lot of nonlethal methods on the table, and nobody can really be bothered looking at them, and that’s what I want to try and push. It’s just a habit of picking up a gun, and that’s the way it’s done, particularly in country areas in Australia. It probably would be the same in America or any other country.

In the city, for instance the city of Melbourne, if there’s an issue there on the cricket club with cockatoos or whatever, they won’t shoot them to kill them because it’s in the city and everyone would find out. Everybody would be so horrified and it would all be open. So then they get a nonlethal method, and it works. But then for instance there might be a golf club 100 kilometers from the city that wants to shoot corellas and they’re not made to get a nonlethal method, because it’s in the country, and no one will ever know. It’s just a little golf club so we’re not going to be bothered. And this kind of hypocrisy really annoys me. If the governmental environmental department is going to say that that’s okay to use it in the city; “Hey, it works everybody, isn’t that great, we don’t have to shoot them,” then why can’t they do that everywhere else? They can’t be bothered. And then it’s left up to volunteers like myself and others to try to address and fix these problems. It’s incredibly unfair. It’s just ridiculous.

DJ: I’m thinking a few things. One of them is; a long time ago you were talking about expanding range, and that reminded me of something that I read about when I was writing Strangely Like War, which is that there are what some people call “extinction debts,” because there has been habitat loss but the creatures weren’t killed themselves. And so forest-dependent creatures, for example, and then if there can be say ten of the species per square mile, and there are 100 of them living in 10 square miles, and then you destroy half of that forest, you still have those extras. Just yesterday I was in town and I was wearing a sweater that had a mountain lion on it, and a guy said “Hey, I saw one of those just yesterday, walking across the road.” And you know, mountain lions don’t want to live in town. You see this a lot, that there are – or back in the 80’s and 90’s when there was a big flap over spotted owls, they were saying that spotted owls were causing logging to go down. Some of the anti-environmentalists would say “Hey, I’ve seen a spotted owl sitting in town.” Yeah, the reason you saw a spotted owl sitting in town is because you cut all the trees within 20 square miles.

So there’s that. And then another thing I was thinking, a different subject. I was just watching a baseball game a couple of days ago on T.V., with the San Francisco Giants. And a guy missed a fly ball because seagulls got in his way. And apparently seagulls are an absolutely standard part of the game at Giants games. And the announcers were making jokes about how the seagulls start assembling in the seventh or eighth inning of a nine-inning game because they know that after nine innings everybody’s going to leave and there’s going to be all sorts of nachos and everything else that everybody left behind.

And the point is that in San Francisco at least, I mean I don’t know what they do elsewhere in the city, but at the Giants games basically everybody just laughs about it.

And the third thing I was going to say was, how you talked about how the country is different from the city: I’ve lived in the country much of my life, and a phrase that was very common in some of the places I’ve lived is “the three esses: Shoot, shovel and shut up.”

FC: Exactly. I’ve never heard that one.

DJ: That’s pretty much the attitude in the countryside here towards any species that you perceive may possibly someday harm any economically valuable crop. Or actually just anybody who’s wild. Just leave it at that.

FC: Or just being too noisy, or there’s too many of you. It seems to be some sort of threat, whether they actually destroy anything or not. If you’re talking about kangaroos it’s the same thing. A farmer will look out and go “Oh, I think there are too many kangaroos.” It doesn’t mean they’ve done anything. It’s just his opinion, so he can apply for a permit. It’s just insane.

It’s interesting what you said about the range expansion. I think you were referring to regional extinctions where creatures can disappear and then turn up in other places. If you look at the story of the passenger pigeon, which I know you know very well, not every one of the passenger pigeons was shot. Not all of them were killed, as I understand it. I actually spoke to a climate change scientist once about the extinction and how it happened, and that’s actually something that nobody really knows, exactly how extinction happens. He said with the passenger pigeon, they weren’t all shot, that what happened was the flocks were reduced to such a small size that, because they relied on large numbers, that they actually couldn’t survive. One, because the reduction in their numbers led them to be very stressed. And the reduction in their numbers led to not enough genetic diversity for their breeding. So it was a number of these things that actually caused them to become extinct, because they couldn’t survive in smaller numbers. This is what I don’t think people understand. It’s all very well to say we have, say, 180,000 long-billed corellas in Victoria and they’re classed as secure. And I have read out how many thousands have permits issued for them every year. Yet they still say they’re secure. But how do we know what number of long-billed corellas it’s going to reach? If it gets down to 100,000 is that going to be the tipping point for them, that they won’t be able to survive? They need that larger number in the flock to actually survive. If it’s reduced, they’ll just go.

It could be the same with kangaroos as well, particularly the red kangaroo. So these are all the things – it’s not properly understood, and I can’t believe that we are where we are now, and this actually isn’t really understood, or maybe it is but they’re not telling anybody. It’s really a disaster because it can happen so quickly without anybody knowing. That is the thing. The numbers can be reduced like that, because there’s no record taking. I mean, our state environmental department issues out permits but they don’t ask for any returns. So they’ll say “We’ll issue this many permits but we have no idea how many birds and other animals were killed under the permits that we issued last year.”

So there’s not even any record-keeping, not even any proper way of being able to monitor our wildlife. Most wildlife in Australia is protected, but unfortunately the cockatoo family isn’t protected. And wombats aren’t protected. Most other wildlife is. But it still doesn’t make any difference if it’s protected under legislation, to have this kind of monitoring put on it. Sure, they do surveys for kangaroos, that’s one, but they only do the surveys because they want to have a commercial meat industry and they have to for the export license. It’s not because they want to, or because they care. It’s because they have to.

So I think what’s really interesting, and maybe you are referring to, is that people assume that birds and other animals have spread because we see them in places that we haven’t before, but it doesn’t mean that at all. It really is a sign that they’re in big trouble. That’s how I see it. If they only have ever been in a preferred range, like the long-billed corella, they would have been in those other places before, if they liked them. But obviously these aren’t their preferred places. They would like to be where they always were. So I just think it’s a sign they’re in trouble, but it’s not seen like that by the authorities who manage our wildlife.

DJ: So before we talk about the nonlethal means of deterrence that you want to promote, can you talk a little bit about what is their preferred native habitat, and also what do they eat in the wild?

FC: Mm. Okay. Well, they all need trees to roost and to nest in, so that’s obviously very important, and water is also. Corellas are probably more known for it. I’m not too sure. I’m not an expert. But generally a lot of cockatoos will roost along water courses or where there is a water source. They feed off the ground, so they will eat some bulbs, like onions and some different corms. They’ll also eat some grubs out of the ground. Some species have also been known to eat termites and beetles that live under bark. So they’re fairly, I guess, diverse in their feed. That’s what, then, if you’re coming back to golf courses, is the problem, or bowling clubs, tennis clubs, cricket grounds. Because corellas and cockatoos come and feed on the ground and they tend to dig it up. So they will use their beaks to push through the ground and get grubs and corms and bulbs, and of course the golf clubs and tennis and bowling clubs don’t like that, because it leaves a mess and it makes the ground uneven. And that’s why they want to kill them. So that’s a problem in that regard. And I guess, too, those places are watered a lot. They have sprinklers on them. So there may be more food on those places than other places, so they may be attracted to them.

So that’s basically what they eat, but they seek their food from under the ground, which causes a problem.

DJ: Why do people who run vineyards care then? Do they eat the grapes? Because you’d think that if they were just disturbing the ground there, they’re just doing a sort of mini-tilling. That doesn’t seem like a problem.

FC: Yes. The way I see it, they’re just aerating the soil. I mean, all those things are important. It’s not like they’re doing it just because they can. Everything that I believe, and you probably do too, everything that they do in nature is for a reason, it’s all embodied. If they do that it aerates the soil, and then this happens and then that happens.

DJ: Absolutely.

FC: But humans don’t see it like that. It’s like “Corellas made a mess on my lawn!” Or they’ve made a mess on the golf club. And then they say “Oh, we can’t have our great golf tournaments now because the golf club isn’t in top condition. Our fairways have got holes in them.” That’s what it’s about. This is about recreation.

There are a number of nonlethal deterrents…

DJ: Go ahead with that. What are some of the nonlethal deterrents?

FC: Okay. So, there are quite a number of them. For instance, kites that look like eagles. They flap around and they have them in the sky. They use those on the Melbourne cricket ground in the city, to keep seagulls and cockatoos and all sorts of things off that ground. That’s highly successful. They used, once, a wedge-tailed eagle, a trained eagle that would come back to its owner, so the eagle was trained to scare the cockatoos away, as a predator. They used that on the Arts Center tower, for instance, in the city because cockatoos were picking at the spire and they were worried they were going to pull it apart. Of course they couldn’t go and shoot them, because everyone in the city would hear and know about it, so they did the right thing there and tried a nonlethal method, using a live wedge-tailed eagle. It didn’t kill any of them. It was just to scare them, and that worked.

A number of other places use light beam devices that distract the birds and disorient them from their roosting sites. A number of golf courses have actually used these devices, and also people with crops, and they’ve been highly successful, depending on the size of their property, or their golf club or bowling green or whatever. They may need to use several of them. But they’ve had great success, and I’ve spoken to golf clubs who use them, and they say that they’re fantastic. Yet we have golf clubs here in Victoria who just won’t look at it, refuse to, and say they don’t work. They don’t even try it. They would just rather shoot them. It’s just stubbornness.

For instance, one of the issues that I’ve cited is someone gets a permit to kill corellas or cockatoos because they’re damaging the sprinkler systems in their vineyard or somewhere, and I say to them “Why don’t you make a wire cage that covers the sprinkler system?” It doesn’t even make sense what they’re saying. A long-term thing here would be to bury the sprinkler underground, cover it with some kind of metal cage so that it can’t be tampered with, and then you’ve got the problem solved forever.

I just don’t think people can really think around things anymore. It just seems that people can’t use their brain to work things out. They’re just “I’ll get a permit and I’ll shoot them.” So then shoot these ones and then more come, and then they shoot those and then more come. I call it the Elmer Fudd Syndrome. He’s sitting up there on his fence and just keeps shooting and shooting without realizing that it’s not changing anything. It’s only depleting the species.

DJ: So how did you get started? How did you go from “Wow, this is a drag” to actually doing something about it?

FC: I don’t actually know what it is within me, Derrick. I don’t know if I could even describe it. It’s just something within me that I can’t, I just have to do something about it. I just can’t stand seeing that kind of unfairness and injustice continue. We need to stand up and try and do something about it. So I guess that’s what I’ve done. I mean, a lot of the shooting of little and long-billed corellas happens outside the area, say the Macedon Ranges Wildlife Network. I don’t really have a platform to be able to talk about corellas on a larger level. There isn’t really a group out there who’s talking about this sort of thing, which is a shame. I’ve tried to encourage people that it would be a great idea but it hasn’t really come off yet. At the moment really we’re dealing with issues here and there. It’s not one big blanket approach. There’ll be another golf course that wants to shoot, so then we’ve all got to get onto that, and then we hear about another place it’s happening. It can be quite exhausting.

There are a few of us, probably a couple of handfuls of us now across the state that are trying to do what we can, and we kind of work together to circumvent these culls of corellas that are happening. And that seems to have worked quite well as of the last couple of years, although some of these places have backtracked and still tried to get a permit to kill, and said that nonlethal methods don’t work. And really the only way through this is to try and embarrass them. That’s all we’ve got, is to embarrass the golf club as much as you can publicly, or the council that wants to kill them because they’re wrecking the local cricket pitch. And talk about it. Get stories in the local papers, or other media if we can, to talk about what’s going on, because really a lot of people don’t know because a lot of people don’t think about it. Because wildlife – I think animals might be on their agenda, but wildlife is the last thing, I think, pretty much. A lot of people don’t think about it at all.

DJ: You know, there’s a line that really hit me hard from Naomi Klein’s film based on her book This Changes Everything. In there, she says, toward the end, something about how, you know, “I’ve been to a bunch of climate marches, but I gotta tell you: polar bears, I wish them well, but they just don’t do it for me. This is all about us.”

And that’s the problem with modern environmentalism.

FC: Yes. And threatened species. Everybody wants to save the threatened species, but I say every species was common before it became threatened. I actually concentrate on what they call abundant and common species because they’re actually the ones that are going to be threatened next. That’s where I come from.

DJ: Obviously if somebody wants to work on a threatened species, I don’t have a problem with that.

FC: Absolutely.

DJ: But I agree with the approach that the time to really try to save a species is when they’re going from incredibly common to kind of common. Because then you can make mistakes, you – it takes time to start building up. So I completely agree with your approach.

FC: I just had to start doing something, because I just couldn’t bear to see so many thousands of birds being shot or gassed every year, leaving their babies orphaned. I just can’t stand it.

DJ: And if, say that someone hears this in Australia, and they also have been bothered by this, but they’ve not been able to figure out what to do, what should they do?

FC: Well, I think what they could do, what I probably would suggest is find any other people around them who feel the same way. Even if it’s one other person. And with that, go to your local paper. Talk about the issues. Contact whomever it is that is doing the shooting or the culling, and either try to talk to them and offer them non-lethal methods, because they may not be aware that nonlethal methods exist, so at least tell the person who may be wanting to kill them that they exist and they’re available, and offer a solution to them. That’s what we do. And, as I said, go to the paper, talk about that and they will feel the pressure – they’ll either feel the pressure or not. Some of them, it’s harder for them to feel the pressure, and some of them feel the pressure very easily. It’s about testing the waters. There’s no one recipe for that. You just have to try it and see how that golf club or bowling club or tennis club, even the landowner, though that might be a bit different, because he’ll claim his financial loss as being a really major thing.

But I just think the thing is to say that there is a solution, that they don’t need to kill, and do they know about it? And if they’re not going to go ahead with that, then you have to go to the paper and let everybody know that they kill them. That’s pretty much the method that we use here, and that’s been quite successful when we haven’t had much help, or there’s not a lot of us to do that.

DJ: And so what about on other issues, like if there is someone who cares about wombats, or somebody in the United States who cares about, I dunno, spotted owls? If somebody cares about something apart from your two issues, your two primary issues of corellas and kangaroos, how do they get the guts to do something in the first place?

FC: I’m not quite sure if I know the answer to that, where you get the guts from to do something like that. I guess when I started I thought there would be more people who would want to do something. I guess after doing it for this long I’ve realized that there aren’t many people who really want to do it. It’s all really too hard. But I don’t want to put anybody off by saying that.

There are a number of wildlife organizations in Australia, national organizations. There are a lot of little wildlife groups throughout the state, so I guess that’s another thing that they could do, is contact their local wildlife group or national group and see what might be done. If they want support from, say, a national or bigger group, perhaps they could put that to the group. They might still need to drive that with the group, to say “Look, I’d like to do something, can I do something under your group?” Or “What is your group doing about these? Can I help do that?” I guess that’s something. So you could work on your own with a couple of other people to see what you could do, or you could try to work through a bigger organization. That would probably be at this stage what I would suggest.

DJ: So I guess the last question is: kangaroos, corellas – are there any others you’re thinking of taking on? I know it’s just a horrible question.

FC: (laughing) I know. I wish I could. I wish there were three or four of me, because I could then probably get a lot more done. I really feel for wombats, because they’re not protected. There are people out there trying to do what they can for wombats and I know that you spoke to Brigitte Stevens a year or so ago about what she’s doing for wombats in South Australia. She and Claire are amazing with what they do. There are a number of people who put a lot of work into wombats so that makes me feel that something is being done. But it is a long haul, and really wildlife needs people, needs everybody’s help. And if, I guess, more people helped it wouldn’t be such a load for volunteers who are kind of doing it on their own or in small groups with no resources, no funds, no finances.

That’s not what drives us. I think what compels people to save wildlife is they just love it and they don’t want to see it disappear. And we want to try and encourage other people to do the same, because it is up to us. The government and authorities have clearly, repeatedly shown that they’re not interested in trying to protect it. They’re only there to manage it. And manage it means to kill it. It doesn’t even mean to manage it with nonlethal methods. I mean, our environmental department says “We only issue permits after all nonlethal methods have been exhausted.” It’s never the case. It’s a lie. Because that’s what they say on their website. That’s what they say on the application for a permit. Yet they don’t have to actually push that. The fact that the farmer or the permit applicant could turn around and go “Oh, it wasn’t practical for me to do that.” And that’s how they get out of it.

So those are the issues we face, but the more people that can stand up against it, that’s what will make it a lot better for wildlife generally, not only in Australia but all around the world, where it’s left.

DJ: You know, every time we talk it reminds me of something that a friend of mine says often, which is that love is a verb. I wish that more people understood that. And I would just like to thank you again for all your work, and I would like to thank listeners for listening. My guest today has been Fiona Corke. This is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network.

Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen
No Responses — Written on July 8th — Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen

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