Cruel indigenous harvest continues on northern turtles and dugong

 Dugongs are being subjected to a cruel harvest in northern Queensland. Picture: AFP/Torsten Blackwood

Dugongs are being subjected to a cruel harvest in northern Queensland. Picture: AFP/Torsten Blackwood Source: AFP

LARGE numbers of north Queensland dugongs and turtles are being cruelly harvested during a grace period attached to new animal protection laws.

Turtles are being left alive on their backs in hot sunlight and dugong are being speared and drowned slowly in age-old traditional hunting practices that will not be outlawed until September.

The State Government last year amended the Animal Care and Protection Act to remove indigenous exemptions from cruelty provisions and make illegal some dugong and turtle hunting practices.

Conservationist Bob Irwin yesterday called on Murris to abandon the cruel practices and to show more care for animals such as dugong whose numbers were declining rapidly.

Mr Irwin said no formal complaints had been laid and much of the information was hearsay but he had no doubt many dugongs and turtles were being killed.

Only a small number of Murris were still being cruel to animals after the concerns were raised last year and he feared this would continue when the new legislation came into effect.

“Without policing, the law means nothing,” he said. “We’re still getting reports of turtles being cut up alive and that is still within the law at this point in time.

“The thing is what may have been acceptable years ago is not acceptable now.”

An Agriculture Department spokeswoman said the grace period allowed time for people to be informed and modify practices to adjust to new rules.

Activist Colin Ridell has called for a total ban on the hunting of endangered or vulnerable native animals.

He was not aware of any other group where extreme animal cruelty was not policed.

Rupert Imhoff, who videos dugong and turtle practices in March last year, filmed a turtle tethered by rope in May this year.

A Perth couple who were filming a documentary on the issue and declined to be named said just four or five extended Torres Strait families were responsible for most of the cruelty.

“They are taking anywhere between 200 and 400, to 500 dugongs and sea turtles – mainly green sea turtles – each year,” the couple said.

A spokesman for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda declined to comment and activist Murrandoo Yanner could not be contacted.

Dugongs and turtles were prolific when whites arrived in Australia. In 1893, a dugong herd in Brisbane’s Moreton Bay was reported as 5km long and about 300m wide. European hunting for oil, accidental kills in fishing nets and boat strikes devastated numbers to the extent there are just a few hundred left in the bay.

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