Shoot 40 kangaroos or abandon plans to develop land for a housing estate were the only options a property developer says the government gave them.
Offers to sterilise or relocate the animals were said by the department of environment (DELWP) to be inhumane, according to Intrapac, the group behind the project.
Instead, a company spokesperson says DELWP approved an ACTW permit in August for them to shoot the animals.
Now, Intrapac says they are baring the brunt of outraged locals after they sent out a letter advising the community about the planned cull.
The company’s COO Max Shifman told Yahoo News Australia he was left feeling “bloody frustrated” after five years of negotiations with the government to find a better option.
He wants to see legislative change to create pathways for developers to avoid slaughtering animals.
“It's horrible. I mean, last thing I want to do is go shooting animals,” Mr Shifman said.
“We'd been lambasted as these typical evil developers, trying to destroy the world and kill everything, but it's the last thing we want to be known for.
“We've tried everything possible to avoid it.”
No option despite billions dead in bushfires
The kangaroos are scheduled to be shot on Thursday night at Kinley, a development at the old Lilydale quarry, 34km east of Melbourne.
The animals need to be relocated from the area, because the new houses will leave them landlocked and under significant stress.
While the letter advising residents of the planned cull has the Kinley letterhead on it, the developer says the communication had to be approved by DELWP first.
Mr Shifman knows that the government issued permits to kill 112,477 eastern grey kangaroos in Victoria last year, but for him these 40 individuals animals are important.
“We chose not to do anything especially after the bushfires,” Mr Shifman said
“We spent even more time trying to find alternative places to accommodate them and we just couldn't.
“It is a government policy that pushed us in this direction, nothing more.”
‘Blood on their hands’: Call for government to halt cull
As wildlife advocates intensify their outcry on social media, Animal Justice Party politician Andy Meddick has called on the Victorian environment minister to find an alternative to the cull.
Amid estimates that three billion animals were killed during last summer’s bushfires, Mr Meddick is unnerved that the government is killing animals out of “convenience”.
“Since the bushfire season, I have been working with the wildlife rescue community and the Victorian Government’s environment department to mend their relationship,” Mr Meddick told Yahoo News Australia.
“The imminent killing of a small mob of kangaroos in Lilydale is a clear example of how fractured it is.
“There are vets, wildlife rescuers, shelters and darters all on standby – ready to step in and help these animals completely voluntarily.
“The Department would not even have to lift a finger – and yet they’d prefer to put their finger on the trigger.
“Let me be clear: if this killing goes ahead, there will be blood on the hands of the Victorian Government.”
Vet says more humane options on table
Local vet Dr Natasha Bassett says there is strong community backing to allow the developer to relocate the animals.
Dr Bassett says increased urbanisation in the area has already forced kangaroos into conflict with cars and humans, and she has been involved in wildlife rescues nearby.
In April she was the treating vet after a kangaroo was found under a house with minor injuries.
The young eastern grey was named Branco and rehabilitated by a local carer and later released.
As a vet, Dr Bassett says she is “frustrated” as there is the option to relocate the animals and yet DELWP has approved culling instead.
With anger brewing online about the cull, she is fearful that animal advocates could “tumble in” and create an uncontrolled situation.
“For human and roo safety and welfare, it's far better to do it calmly and in a controlled fashion, using a small vet team and doing them in batches,” Dr Bassett said.
“Having spoken to the developer, I think he’s onside with (relocation) and I’d be really disappointed if this was stone-walled.”
Government satisfied cull is necessary
Following publication of this article, DELWP issued a statement via the Conservation Regulator saying they use non-lethal methods when they can, but when this ineffective or impractical, lethal control may be necessary.
“The Conservation Regulator approved an Authority to Control Wildlife for Eastern Grey Kangaroos at the Cavehill Limestone Quarry, Lilydale site in August 2019,” a Conservation Regulator spokesperson said.
“The Conservation Regulator is aware of community concerns around the permit, however it is satisfied that the authorisation is necessary for the site.”
Victorian Minister for Environment Lily D'Ambrosio has been contacted for comment.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.