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Byron Shire
February 5, 2023

Tallow wallabies

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Further to Maggie Brown’s letter regarding the incident on Tallow Beach of a wallaby having to be shot by WIRES owing to dog-induced stress myopathy: as a daily walker along the trails in the Arakwal National Park at Tallow Beach, I regularly see wallabies. They live in a relatively small reserve zone close to roads and houses, and for the most part, they seem unperturbed by human proximity and to be thriving.

However, recently more and more people are walking into the area with their dogs. Whenever I see them, I explain that it’s a dog-free zone and why this is so.

Often they are visitors to the Shire who are surprised by this information, either because they haven’t read the signs or because they Googled ‘dog beach’ and were given no more precise location than Tallow Beach, which isn’t at all helpful as it’s a very long beach with only a limited dog walking zone adjoining Suffolk Park.

No one that I’ve met while walking has heard of stress myopathy in wallabies. They are incredulous when told that their dog could trigger a fatal reaction in a wallaby – even without having made any direct contact with it.

I knew absolutely nothing about this phenomenon until friends who are wildlife carers educated me and I decided to read up on it.

Most people respond positively and take their dog elsewhere but there are always the aggressive or self-entitled ones.

Two possible solutions might be a simplification of the signage by National Parks. I’ve never seen anyone stop to read those complicated signs. There’s also nothing advising people about the actual impacts of the presence of dogs on wildlife. Everyone assumes that this really only means dog attacks – not pursuit or even proximity.

So maybe a designated sign on the specific dangers to wallabies – perhaps something with graphic symbols like: ‘dog+wallaby=shotgun’.

A lot of the problems are caused by simple ignorance. If people were directed to exactly where they are permitted to walk their dogs (step up to the challenge Google!) and were educated in more detail as to why the reserve is a no-go zone for their dogs, it just might make a difference.

It was upsetting to hear of the horrible death of this particular wallaby. I often used to see a semi-blind one quite near to the entrance to the trai – and maybe this was she.

I’ve read that paralysis and other symptoms can occur days or weeks after a dog encounter and that the results are invariably fatal.

Our local wildlife are already embattled with diminishing and degraded natural environments and National Parks rangers are spread thin throughout our region owing to understaffing.

So if you see someone in, or entering, these important protected places with their dog, please go out of your way to clearly explain to them why we don’t want their dogs there.

Margot Duell, Byron Bay

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