Up To 44 Wallabies Found Dead In 'Suspicious Circumstances'
Up to 44 wallabies have been found dead in the last week on a sporting field in Far North Queensland, in what rescuers believe are "suspicious circumstances".
On Tuesday morning, wildlife rescue volunteers found the bodies of seven Agile wallabies on the Trinity Beach Sporting Precinct grounds, in Trinity Beach, north of Cairns.
The Agile Project, a wallaby carer group, has reported 44 deaths -- including adults and joeys -- in the same precinct over the past seven days.
At least nine joeys have been found alive, but some have had to be euthanised due to their small and unviable size, weighing under 160 grams.
Spokesperson Shai Ager said every new discovery is "absolutely heartbreaking".
"We put so much time and effort into raising just one joey. To see this many die is just slowly breaking us," Ager told 10 daily.
"I don't believe any person should have to see this."
The Agile wallaby species, also known as the sandy wallaby, is found in northern Australia and overseas. The marsupial, while not threatened, is protected under Queensland's Nature Conservation Act of 1992; illegally killing one carries a maximum fine of more than $30,000.
Harrowing video taken by Ager on Tuesday shows dead wallabies marked with spray paint, scattered throughout the field.
"It's day seven and today is even worse than yesterday," she says, her voice visibly shaking.
"We are leaving the bodies here. Our rescuers aren't moving the bodies -- the DES [Department of Environment and Science] said they can't come out and make a statement unless the bodies were found as they were."
In a statement to 10 daily, a DES spokesperson said they received a report about several deceased wallabies from Cairns Regional Council on Friday.
"DES wildlife officers conducted a detailed inspection, but all of the wallaby carcasses had been removed and they could find no evidence of offences having been committed against Queensland’s nature conservation laws," the statement read.
A Council spokesperson told 10 daily its officers have so far removed 24 wallabies from the sporting precinct in the past week, while "continuing with its own investigations".
Ager said the dead animals have been found in similar conditions -- some with wounds, possibly from dog attacks, with others frothing from the mouth.
Strangely, she said, many of them have been found with "white eyes".
"I've never seen that in my whole time -- nine years -- as a wildlife carer," she said.
Autopsy results are not expected for at least a couple of days, though Ager believes the circumstances are "suspicious".
"There are so many dying in such a small time, and in such a small area," she said, adding a one-way gate, reportedly trialled by the local council last year, has been tampered with.
The Council spokesperson said initial indications suggest external factors have caused "stress-related deaths, likely to involve dogs".
"However, this is yet to be verified," it said.
In early 2018, Council endorsed plans by The Agile Project to relocate the species from Trinity Beach to a private sanctuary amid nearby development. But the DES did not approve application for a Damage Mitigation Permit to allow their removal.
The group claims the marsupials are being "landlocked" into a shrinking habitat between the Captain Cook Highway and Bluewater housing estate.
According to Ager, more than 500 wallabies have died in the last 14 months.
"The state government has known about this issue, where development is taking over their [the wallabies'] land. It needs to step up to the plate," she said.
The case for a relocation permit will return to court in October.
"Our big aim is to show people that relocation is an option over culling," she said.
In the meantime, the DES asked anyone with evidence of the incident to call Crimestoppers on 1800 333 or the DES on 1300 130 372.
Ager urged the public to keep their dogs on-leash.
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