Roo keepers clear hurdle

By Chris Thomson | posted on June 8, 2018

GNOWANGERUP’S newsagency has cleared a major hurdle in its bid to again display orphaned kangaroo joeys, but the State biodiversity department, aware of public concerns, says the business must now lodge a licence application to do so.

At a meeting of Gnowangerup council on May 23, all councillors except Deputy Shire President Fiona Gaze voted to allow newsagents Phil Vardy and Megan Smith to keep the joeys in their newsagency-cum-cafe.

Shire CEO Shelley Pike said the approval was subject to all relevant government legislation and licences being complied with.

“It is disappointing this has taken so long to reach a resolution,” she said.

“It’s up to [Mr Vardy] to ensure he gets the appropriate documentation in place.”

Mr Vardy said he was “absolutely rapped” the approval had come through.

“I’m just not happy that it took them five months before they let it happen,” he said.

Since the shire in November banned the newsagency from keeping joeys, the three it was caring for have been staying on a farm run by Great Southern Care Wildlife animal shelter in the Shire of Plantagenet.

“Two of the ‘roos are almost ready for soft release anyway,” Mr Vardy said.

Before being banned from keeping joeys, the newsagency had kept three at a time since August last year after Ms Smith signed up to be a wildlife carer.

“They are not locked up in the shop,” Mr Vardy explained.

“They have a quarter-acre backyard to run around in.”

He said the joeys were free to go out into the yard any time they wanted and could only be viewed, not touched, by observers who visit the shop.

A spokesperson for the State Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions said officers were aware of concerns from the public about the display of orphaned kangaroos at the newsagency.

“The owners of this newsagency will need to apply to the department for a licence ‘to keep fauna for educational or public purposes’ with a written plan detailing the educational program being proposed and their plan for the rehabilitation and release of the kangaroos,” the spokesperson said.

“The department is awaiting an application.”

Mr Vardy said he would lodge an application soon, and anticipated he would again have joeys back in the shop in a fortnight.

To raise awareness of kangaroos and raise money for Great Southern Care Wildlife, Mr Vardy and Ms Smith are hosting a screening of the American film ‘Kangaroo’ at the Mt Barker CRC building at 5pm on July 15.

Tickets to the MA-only screening are $10 and can be booked through Mr Vardy on 0455 202 468, or Ms Smith on 0400 752 143.