FEARS that a dispute over kangaroos could turn nasty intensified this week after John Forrest Tavern was threatened with a breach notice for feeding the local wildlife.
Tavern manager Megan Braid and the local customers of the tavern are fighting for the right to continue feeding a small group of kangaroos, after the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) told the tavern to stop the feeding.
Ms Braid said she was approached on Tuesday by a ranger warning that cameras would be installed outside the tavern by the end of the month and a prosecution to follow if its found feeding the kangaroos.
A petition supporting the tavern has gained several hundred signatures from hills and eastern suburb residents in two weeks.
“In April last year they said a complaint was made but won’t show us the complaint or tell us who it was from, then we got a formal written notice in November to say cease feeding,” Ms Braid said.
“Fifteen or 16 years ago, I did a week with the ranger to learn how to look after them and they were happy with that then and now they’re not.
“Their answer was, ‘times have changed’.”
When asked if the feeding of kangaroos was previously permitted, a department spokeswoman said the feeding of fauna or enticing of fauna with food was not permitted under 2002 regulations.
“The feeding of native wildlife is discouraged,” she said.
“Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions staff are currently working through a staged process of reducing supplementary feeding to encourage the animals to forage more naturally.”
Ms Braid, along with her parents Louise and Tom Fitzgerald who have owned the tavern for about 20 years, said they only supplemented the kangaroo’s usual food.
“They (DBCA) want them to naturally forage for food,” she said.
“They think they need to be in their natural environment, but this is what they know now, especially Manky and Dribbly.”
Manky, a 20-year-old roo frequenting the tavern for 17 years, and Dribbly are two kangaroos cared for by Ms Braid after they came to the tavern with injury and illness.
“We don’t let people feed them, we didn’t give people the feed, it was only ever me feeding them.”
The kangaroos are fed a stock feed ‘Roo Mix’ of oats, molasses, sunflower seeds and corn after advice from a vet.
“I take extra care of the ones who are sick, I call the vet if one is needed.
“We have called the department before when we had a sick kangaroo, they wanted to euthanise it straight away.
Hills residents took to Facebook with arguments for and against the petition.
Several people supported the department and said they had seen visitors feeding them bread and other food which led to the kangaroo’s dependence on humans and health problems.
The department spokeswoman said the key to successful interaction with wildlife was to respect their wild nature.
“Feeding wildlife can have a negative impact on animal health,” she said.
“Staff will continue to engage with visitors to John Forrest National Park on a range of park management matters including wildlife interactions.
“There are many privately owned licensed fauna parks that may offer visitors an opportunity to feed animals.”
Mrs Fitzgerald said the tavern had not had a negative effect on the kangaroos in 19 years.
“So what has changed now?” she said.
“Does DBCA have a different agenda?”
Mrs Fitzgerald has asked for the rangers comments to be put into writing.
By Claire Ottaviano