I’m just forwarding this email response from Stephen Debus, on behalf of Shirley Cook, who had trouble sending it through to Birding-aus this morning.
From: shirleycook <>
Sent: 23 December 2018 6:04 AM
To: 'Stephen Ambrose' <>
Subject: RE: [Birding-Aus] Red Goshawks caught and netted during nesting season
Copied below is Steve Debus; response – for some reason it bounced when I posted it to Birding-Aus.
This case is a good example of trolls and detractors on blogs and chatlines going off half-cocked without knowing the full facts. For starters, the original RAOU Red Goshawk project in the ’80s got some invaluable data on a pair of Red Goshawks that were caught and radio-tracked (female in the breeding season, 2 young fledged) and they bred in the following season after they had shed their transmitters.
The Weipa study is funded by Rio Tinto but the Red Goshawk work is conducted by expert raptor ecologists (and consultant ecologists as trained assistants), notably Dr Richard Seaton who was employed by Qld DEHP and now by AWC. He has extensive experience radio-tracking raptors. The project is overseen by the Red Goshawk Recovery Team, and the Team is privy to preliminary key data on female home range and juvenile dispersal. Transmitters can fail or fall off, so ‘disappearance’ could be a signal issue rather than goshawk death. Raptors are quite robust, and we only know from satellite transmitters e.g. that kestrel-sized falcons can make the return annual migration journey between Asia and Madagascar over 4 years. Responsibility for the Weipa study presumably shifted from the Qld government to consultants for Rio Tinto with Richard’s move from QDEHP to AWC. The Recovery Team is meeting in January, so we will undoubtedly be discussing the issues raised as well as data. The data will be published in due course, and the study arose from Rio Tinto’s obligation to assess and minimise impact on a federally listed species. That can only be achieved with the necessary ecological information.
Feel free to post the above. I hope all’s well, and best wishes for Christmas and 2019,
From: Birding-Aus On Behalf Of Stephen Ambrose
Sent: Saturday, 22 December 2018 3:59 PM
To: 'Greg Roberts'
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Red Goshawks caught and netted during nesting season
I think it is unethical for to us arrive at conclusions about the WA Night Parrot project when the researchers and members of the associated animal ethics committee are not directly involved in the discussion to give their side of the story. I actually don’t know much about what happened and I think most people who have a firm opinion on the issue are relying on 2nd or 3rd-hand information or opinions. If that is the case, how can anyone comment with authority and impartiality about the situation? Just my five cents worth …
Thanks for your input Stephen.
I have friends who have been members and even chaired animal ethics committees. I know there are good people out there doing good work.
However , if we look at the WA Night Parrot example , how could that netting have been approved when no attempt was made to ascertain how many birds were there ? By some accounts there was just the single pair, and they are now gone. And what was the outcome when the ethics committee was informed of this unfortunate result?
In the case of the Red Goshawk, it is difficult to make a more firm assessment when both the Queensland Environment Department and Rio Tinto refuse to answer questions.
Perhaps you should have first-hand experience with animal ethics committees, either as a member of one or as a proponent of an animal research project. You would then realise the detailed justification that is required to be granted a permit, the level of thought required by the researcher regarding animal welfare, and the extent of reporting back to the committee on animal welfare outcomes of the research. If you did that then you would realise that your assertion of animal ethics approvals are freely-granted is incorrect. Animal ethics committees must ensure that all animal research projects conform with the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes https://nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/australian-code-care-and-use-animals-scientific-purposes . Note that animal ethics committees have at least one vet and a member of the public who has experience and expertise in animal welfare as members https://www.animalethics.org.au/animal-ethics-committees , so there is real community input into this process.
In my experience, and those of many other researchers, ethics committees respond to an initial application for animal ethics approval with a request for more information. This usually means that either not enough detail about the proposed research project was provided in the initial application, the committee has some questions that need answering, the committee has some genuine concerns about the project that need to be addressed by the researcher, or all or a combination of these things. Then there is the requirement of reporting back to the committee, either at regular intervals (if a long-term research project) or at the end of the project (if the project is short-term) on animal welfare issues. Researchers often grumble at the amount of paperwork, research justification and reporting that is involved, but animal ethics committees do really make a difference and are far from rubber-stamping entities.
From: Birding-Aus <m("birding-aus.org","birding-aus-bounces");">> On Behalf Of Greg Roberts
Sent: 19 December 2018 4:17 PM
To: birding-aus <m("birding-aus.org","birding-aus");">>
Subject: [Birding-Aus] Red Goshawks caught and netted during nesting season
A moment to respond to some comments about this thread relating to this story:
Angus says I am wrong to claim that the Queensland Government has handed over responsibility for the project to Rio Tinto. He might wish to explain this Queensland Environment and Science Department comment to me: "...this project is funded and led by Rio Tinto. All questions can be directed to them."
Yes, the results of research need not be immediately available, but basic information should reasonably be expected to be made public. For instance, how many birds have been caught or will be caught, or have died or are missing? The Department of Environment and Science won't say. Rio Tinto won't say.
As for animal ethics approval, it seems this is freely granted. It was given, for instance, for the netting and tagging of a Night Parrot in Western Australia last year; that critically endangered bird and its mate promptly disappeared.
David says there are more important issues to be concerned about. Indeed. Like the fact that Rio Tinto is strip-mining tens of thousands of hectares of potential Red Goshawk habitat on Cape York.
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