Authorities are bracing in northern Australia for an influx of protesters representing Gouldian finch societies and breeders throughout the globe. Police fear a repeat of last years bloodbath when Mitchell hopping mouse advocates protested against further degradation of the marsupials habitat in South Australia.
Lovers of the popular aviary finch are incensed at the inaction of Australian governments in protecting what little habitat remains for the endangered bird. Gouldian finch societies from Australia, the USA, South Africa and many European countries have banded together to raise awareness of the damage that pastoral activities and modern fire regimes are doing to the birds habitat.
Australian Gouldian Finch Society spokesperson Terry Anderson has made an emotional plee to the Australian public to help fight for the remaining Gouldian finch habitat:
“There are only 2500 of these beautiful birds left in the wild…. All Australians have a responsibility to prevent this species from becoming extinct in its natural environment and we are here to remind them of that responsibility”
Police in Katherine, NT are expecting hundreds of protestors and are expected to use a zero tolerance policy after similar protests in South Australia last year resulted in 15 arrests and several police officers injured. Sgt Mackey of NT police states:
“Whilst the 2009 confrontations with South Australian police were instigated by breeders and owners of Mitchell’s hopping mice fighting for habitat protection… we must anticipate that the Gouldian Finch people are capable of the same emotionally driven violence that have made the hopping mouse advocates a household name”
Wildlife advocacy groups and other critics of Gouldian finch breeders claim that dwindling finch numbers are due in no small part to the aviary trade and poaching continues to be a problem as demand for the finch increases. Furthermore they claim that breeding of the finch involves colour and behaviour selection that does not mimic wild Gouldian finch populations. Terry Anderson refutes these claims:
“They’re just nit picking. If the Gouldian becomes extinct in the wild, we are the ones they will come running to”
Outspoken supporter of keeping native animals as pets Prof Mike Archer was (unusually) unavailable for comment.