A man in Australia has been arrested and charged with animal abuse after nearly 140 wedge-tailed eagles were found dead in the Australia State of Victoria. The man, who has not been identified, was arrested for allegedly killing the birds using poisoned baits between October 2016 and April 2018.
According to Australian authorities, the eagles were found on several propert in New South Wales in April and an investigation was launched to determine the cause of the mass death. Killing a wedge-tailed eagle in the state of Victoria is punishable by a fine of up to 7,928 dollars and a maximum prison term of 6 years. Each additional killing carries another 792-dollar fine.
According to the officials, 137 deaths have been confirmed but the true number of causalities is unknown. Indeed, as reported by ABC Australia, a farmer in the area has mentioned a much higher number of 180 dead eagles alongside several hundreds of other animal carcasses, which remain to be unambiguously identified. “We would like to inform the community that investigations are ongoing, including forensic examination of evidence recently seized during searches of relevant properties,” a spokeswoman for the prosecution said.
Eagles in the area have long been targeted by a minority of farmers who believe that the birds of prey are responsible for the killing of new-born lambs, thus causing financial troubles to the farmers. However, many believe that the eagles on the hand play a key role in balancing the ecosystem. “They take a lot of dead animals and if they don’t scavenge there’d be a lot of dead animals sitting in paddocks rotting,” says East Gippsland wildlife carer Rena Gaborov, as reported by ABC.
The man charged been released on bail pending trial. Wedge-tailed eagles are protected under the Wildlife Act. The man’s total fines could reach nearly 120,000 dollars.