A wildlife rescue group has revealed a sad detail in a viral video recorded at John Barilaro’s Southern Highlands property.
The YouTube video “Bruz” by Friendlyjordies shows footage of at least one wombat on the Deputy Premier’s property exhibiting fur-loss and emaciation – key signs of mange.
Kanimbla Wombats, a volunteer-based mange treatment program in the Kanimbla Valley, raised their concern with NSW Upper House MP for the Animal Justice Party Mark Pearson, who today wrote to the Deputy Premier urging him to investigate the health and wellbeing of any wombats on the property.
“As Minister for Regional New South Wales and a Member of Parliament holding the second highest office of the Government’s executive, you have an ethical responsibility to know if wild animals inhabit your property and are suffering in a way that you can actively seek to alleviate,” Mr Pearson wrote in the letter.
“I am aware the video in question was filmed last year and the wombat in the video may have already succumbed to his illness, but given wombats share burrows and mange is highly contagious, I am concerned other wombats on your property have and will continue to spread the condition.
“I therefore ask you to immediately investigate the welfare of any and all wombats on your property, and urgently engage veterinary advice and the services of local wombat carers who are licensed to treat mange.”
Mange is a skin infection caused by mites eating through a wombat’s skin, causing an unbearably itchy rash and, without treatment, a slow, painful death by dehydration, starvation, a secondary infection like pneumonia, or vehicle collisions caused by blindness.
Mr Pearson has called wombat mange an “animal welfare crisis”, with up to 90% of wombat populations are affected by mange and local extinctions already noted.
There is a 100% infection transfer rate from mother wombat to joey and a very high rate of wombat-to-wombat transfer as they are social animals and share infected burrows.
Though mange is recognised by all Australian states and territories as an animal welfare issue, to date the NSW Government has committed no funding for the treatment of wombat mange.
Last month Mr Pearson wrote to NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, calling on urgent funding for grassroots organisations that treat mange in wombats.
“The Animal Justice Party believes letting wombats suffer this almost unimaginable pain is cruel and unacceptable, particularly because we know community-based treatment programs work,” Mr Pearson wrote to Mr Kean.
“We know that the community does not accept the cruelty of letting these wombats suffer,” said Mr Pearson.
A petition launched by the Animal Justice Party urging Matt Kean to commit to saving wombats already has 2,000 signatures.
“NSW has the chance to lead Australia in the research and treatment of wombat mange, saving thousands of wombats from intense suffering and prolonged, painful death, and increasing our state’s ecological biodiversity at the same time,” Mr Pearson wrote to Mr Kean.
Elena Wewer – 0428 444 132