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Rat poison a threat to owls

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Augusta Bendigo Bank's Amy Beaton with Owl-Friendly Margaret River's Karen Majer and Boyd Wykes, and Witchcliffe Eco-Village's Michelle Sheridan.
Camera IconAugusta Bendigo Bank's Amy Beaton with Owl-Friendly Margaret River's Karen Majer and Boyd Wykes, and Witchcliffe Eco-Village's Michelle Sheridan. Credit: Warren Hately

A new community conservation website launches today with a drive to save the region’s diverse owl population.

The Owl-Friendly Margaret River Region campaign is a project of the Margaret River Region Rodenticide Action Group led by former Nature Conservation chairman Boyd Wykes and his wife Karen Majer, chair of Transition Margaret River.

The campaign has launched as the Federal Government’s Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority reviews rat poisons for public health and environmental safety, with submissions urged by July 3.

Dr Wykes said many commonly available rat poisons inevitably entered local habitats and killed the region’s precious owls.

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“A year or so ago, a community group of volunteers in our region formed a Rodenticide Action Group to address the insidious poisoning of wildlife by so-called one-kill, second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides,” Dr Wykes said.

“Products containing these poisons are available without restriction and dominate retail shelves. This is despite strict controls elsewhere in the world and now alarming evidence from work conducted here in south-west WA by Edith Cowan University researchers.”

The new campaign received a $15,000 funding boost from Augusta’s Bendigo Bank, which helped develop the new website built by local firm Ground Creative.

Bendigo Bank manager Amy Beaton told the Times the bank was looking for a strong local cause that reflected Bendigo’s environmental focus.

Witchcliffe Ecovillage proponent Michelle Sheridan was one of the early adopters of the program. “What we have done is added a by-law to our strata by-laws for all of the ecovillage that people, if they are going to use a rat poison, it has to be first-generation,” she said.

Dr Wykes said other major businesses such as Voyager Estate were also on board.

Funding allowed the awareness campaign to progress, development of merchandise such as campaign T-shirts, help for pest control, and advice to State and local governments as well as businesses and developers.

“Other aspects of the program include support for ongoing research on wildlife implications, and for veterinarians and wildlife carers dealing with the consequences of poisoning,” he said.

“Funding was raised initially through a GoFundMe campaign and other donations.

“Research by members of the group revealed that Margaret River is a hotspot for the little-known, charismatic masked owl (which) has been used to promote the campaign, given that diet analysis based on regurgitated pellets is showing that mice and rats in outer urban Margaret River are their principal prey.”

To get involved, visit owlfriendly.org.au.

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