Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Did Planted Fox Poo Cost Tasmania $50 Million?

It seems the government of Tasmania has spent $50 million on a Tasmanian fox eradication program that failed to find a single live fox.

What's going on?

It seems that in 2001 the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service reported, without evidence of any kind, that 11-19 foxes had been deliberately released into the Tasmanian environment by hunters.  The concern was that wild foxes could devastate native fauna in much the same way that pet and feral cats have done on the big island.

Although a Tasmanian Police investigation later found no evidence to support the fox introduction claim (and it would be hard to keep a dozen live foxes trapped and transported a secret), a fox eradication program (FEP) based upon widespread buried baiting with 1080 poison was funded and underway by 2003.

Posters were put up and $50,000 rewards were offered for dead fox, but not a single fox was ever shot or trapped. 

Instead, over the life of the 14-year long campaign, four fox carcasses were found by the sides of roads, and a skull, two sets of footprints, and 61 fox-DNA positive droppings were found.

Locals began to suspect the whole thing was a con ginned up for conservation funding, with planted fox feces and a fox carcasses used to support the need for a continuing "fox eradication" campaign.

A year-long investigation by the state’s anti-corruption watchdog has now resulted in a 252-page report which found “no direct evidence” of fabricated or falsified evidence but did find poor scientific testing and handling of droppings which made all of the results ambiguous at best.

You can tell what the anti-fraud commission really thinks, however: "no direct evidence" of fraud is a long way from exoneration. It just means no one was caught red-handed.

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