Torresian Crows… not generally considered invasive.

Columnist ROBERT MACKLIN certainly set the cat among the Australian Ravens when he cheerfully advocated for the demise of crows.  

I UNDERSTAND Robert Macklin’s column – “Stone (shoot, gas or trap) the crows”, CN June 17 – is an opinion article, but it comes across as misleading.

Firstly, Torresian Crows are native to both Australia and PNG. They natively occur in Queensland, NT and WA. Although I have heard of them expanding southwards, they are not generally considered invasive (unlike the common myna, which was deliberately introduced by humans in a miscalculated attempt to reduce grapevine pests).

The Torresian Crow is also very uncommon in Canberra. The main corvids we have here are Australian Ravens, and more rarely, Little Ravens. These are both also native species. Although it was probably Torresian Crows that Mr Macklin had such a bad experience with in west Queensland, the article implies that they are also here in Canberra.

I sympathise with the unsettling experiences he had with the crows while jackarooing, however I think it is damaging to try and assign morals to wild animals. 

Conversely, I could claim the Torresian Crows are gallant heroes of northern Australia, as they have figured out how to eat the cane toads without getting poisoned. But I realise they are just hungry and clever. Even with the common myna, it is not helpful to hate the species. We understand our responsibility to remove a species that is damaging from the environment, but should endeavour to do so in a way that is humane and reduces cruelty to individual birds.

I don’t think the situation with Torresian Crows is comparable to the issue with the common myna, and I don’t see how this article is relevant to Canberra. I am somewhat concerned that your call to arms will result in cruelty against all manner of corvids. The species are difficult to tell apart. All three species I have mentioned here are native, and subsequently protected. And the crows have always been in Arcadia.

Claudia Schipp, via citynews.com.au

Disappointed at ‘emotive’ column

I GENERALLY enjoy Robert Macklin’s columns, but was very disappointed by his highly emotive and factually inaccurate piece “Stone (shoot, gas or trap) the crows…” (CN June 17). 

The Torresian Crow (Corvus orru) is not an “invader from Papua down through the Torres Strait” – it is native to northern Australia, the Torres Strait and PNG. It does not occur in either the ACT or Tuross Heads. If Robert has seen crows in these locations they are most likely Australian Ravens or Little Ravens, both native species. 

I sympathise with Robert’s grief at seeing weakened sheep and horses attacked by crows, but these highly intelligent birds are not “evil murderers” – they are simply doing what comes naturally. 

Robert also fails to mention that crows and ravens perform important ecosystem services: they prey on insect and rodent pests, remove road-killed animals by feeding on carrion, and disperse native vegetation seeds in their droppings. 

Crows and ravens are significant to First Nations people in many parts of Australia, including the Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay and Kulin Nations of NSW, Queensland and Victoria, as well as the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples of the Canberra region. 

Traditional stories featuring the Ancestral Crow, known variously as Waa, Waan, or Wangi, are recounted on the websites of Museums Victoria and the National Museum of Australia. Finally, being native species, crows and ravens are protected by law in most Australian states and territories.

Hilary Howes, via email

Shame on you, ‘CityNews’

RE Robert Macklin’s article about crows, even introduced animal pests deserve humane treatment, so shame on you “CityNews” for publishing a piece that promoted animal cruelty.

Celeste Pascoe, Braddon 

Mistreatment of crows ‘unacceptable’ 

ROBERT Macklin is entitled to his dislikes, but if advocating policy he should be accurate and present supporting evidence. His call for the culling of crows (“Stone the Crows”,June 17) fails these tests.

Macklin claims that crows kill a range of smaller “beautiful” species, implying this threatens their populations but presents no evidence.

In fact, crows and ravens feed predominantly on carrion. In any case, predation is an essential part of natural processes and does not of itself justify culling. 

Furthermore, the Torresian Crow is not found in Canberra; the ACT’s most common related species is the Australian raven.

Macklin’s argument is primarily based on subjective sentiment, devoid of ecological understanding. His praise for the mistreatment of crows and encouragement of hatred of a native species is unacceptable. Such an approach to the environment does not serve us well, with the rapid degradation of our environment increasingly threatening human welfare. As a former manager of the national invasive species program, I am open to the control of invasive species and I supported culling the invasive Indian myna. Macklin has, however, not presented a sound argument for the culling of crows or ravens.

Jonathan Miller, Curtin

Major action again mynas

IT’S worth correcting a few misconceptions in Robert Macklin’s column on June 17 about crows and mynas. 

Contrary to Robert’s impression, mynas are still a major environmental and human health risk, cause economic loss through pecking and fouling, and are still a major public-amenity nuisance. 

The Canberra Indian Myna Action Group Inc, comprising 2660 people with backyard traps, is still on the job: some 74,900 mynas (that we know of) have been removed from the area since we began in 2006. While Robert has a loathing for crows because of perceived impacts on native birds, the research by Chris Tidemann (our first patron) and PhD research by Kate Grarock at ANU, indicated that the introduced Indian (Common) Myna was especially bad. 

The environmental impact is huge – many small bird numbers declined noticeably in Canberra as myna numbers expanded across our suburbs since they were introduced into this area in the 1960s. 

It is gratifying to note that Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti recognises the threat they pose and has now declared this to be a pest animal. 

We look forward to myna control activities now getting a real boost with work on public lands and around businesses, to complement the backyard trapping by dedicated CIMAG members.

Bill Handke OAM, president, Canberra Indian Myna Action Group Inc

In praise of choir’s conductor

I REFER to the article by Helen Musa (“Star conductor sacked days before youth concert”), which was published on citynews.com.au on June 18. 

The article noted that Rowan Harvey-Martin is one of Canberra’s most respected musicians and listed some of her achievements as a conductor and director of Canberra choirs and orchestras.

For the past 15 years Ms Harvey-Martin has directed The Llewellyn Choir, one of Canberra’s leading auditioned classical choirs. 

Rowan’s strong leadership, enthusiasm, musicianship and ability to bring out the best in singers over this time, have allowed the choir to bring new and challenging music to Canberra audiences, in addition to presenting favourites from the choral repertoire. 

Most recently, as the “CityNews” article noted, she won the Canberra Critics Circle 2020 award for the performance of a Will Todd jazz cantata.

One of the hallmarks of her conducting is her compassion and concern for all choir and orchestral members. For example, during 2020 she worked with the choir committee to bring back covid-safe rehearsals to lift the morale of all choristers.

Graeme Taylor, president, The Llewellyn Choir Inc

Barbed wire to protect the trees?

LET us hope that the inconvenience of removing 120 parking spaces at the Jamison Centre works out in the end. 

Apparently, the deep excavations are to plant and test if new trees grow and thrive by supplied water rather than surface water. Obviously they should and will make a nicer landscape, especially for the residents in the new apartments.

However, having conducted a business in the centre from 1991 until fairly recently, I do suggest barbed wire around the saplings may prevent the constant vandal snapping of limbs.

Who’s paying for this (not cheap, I bet ) venture, by the way?

Paul O’Connor, Hawker

Seriously, we take ourselves too seriously

READING the alligator joke in wine writer Richard Calver’s column (CN June 17) reminded me of the classic “Catholic” joke from my boyhood days in the ’60s. 

A man goes into the hotel with a crocodile on a lead. 

“Do you serve Catholics here, mate?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’ll have a schooner, and a Catholic for me mate”.

A recent letter to the daily paper made reference to the lost (cultural) need for the willingness and capacity to laugh at oneself. 

We all too often take ourselves far too seriously. Seriously. 

Christopher Ryan, Watson

Murky approach to planning

PAUL Costigan’s use of the colour-wheel chart to analyse the development and renewal actions of the ACT Labor/Greens government would be quite instructive for many, ie “red” + “green” = “brown”.

In his column, “Failing Greens fall into line for Labor land sales” (CN June 17), it helps to explain the murkiness and muddiness that surrounds much of the government’s approach to planning for this city.

Sue Dyer, Downer 

They don’t need the money!

COLIN Lyons (Letters, CN June 24) raises the point that very well paid Canberra workers are “insensitive to the level of ACT government taxation”.  And also, it appears, where this money goes. 

So please stop whinging about the needs of the territory’s poor and homeless and demand our ACT Labor/Greens coalition diverts more of its financial cornucopia to helping them rather than spend $2 million on people who largely did not need it.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

 

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