What Happens To Dead Donkeys In Australia?
Once more the question is the difference between conservation and preservation.
What happens to all those dead donkeys?
I first wanted to preface this question with a little background on feral donkeys in Australia.
Donkeys originated from Africa and parts of Asia. They were brought to Australia in the 19th century to provide additional options for transportation. Horses were previously the primary use of transportation, but the unfamiliar foliage was poisonous and continuously making them sick. Donkeys eventually replaced horses, as they were more resistant to environmental obstacles.
After automobiles were introduced in the early 20th century, donkeys were popping up in feral herds. Many had been released to the wild or escaped captivity due to a lack of fences and started to become a nuisance.
Today, there is an estimated population of over a million feral donkeys in Australia, which continue to destroy the environment. Weed seeds are spread through donkey hair and feces, erosion is caused by donkey hooves, and overeating is depleting vegetation. The donkeys are also spreading disease and competing for resources with livestock and domesticated animals.
Right now, feral donkeys are controlled with a number of techniques including trapping, mustering, aerial culling, on-ground culling, and fertility control.
So now, what happens next?
I went back to our man, Bob Penfold, contributor of last month's article, to get the 4-1-1 on dispatched donkeys… is it what's for dinner?
Bob Penfold on the Donkey Aftermath
That is the sad part about culling feral animals in the outback. There are several problems.
We operated in really remote areas. My wife had to drive seven hours one way just to buy groceries. Much of the road was unsealed gravel surface, so it was a long, slow, and dangerous drive.
Horses are easy to skin. The skin simply peels off the carcass easily and horses have lots of good meat. They shoot them and recover the meat to supply crocodile farms.
Donkeys however are notoriously difficult to skin. Their skin seems to be glued onto their body and it is a long and arduous job to get a skin off a donkey.
Donkeys are all head and guts, and have very little meat, so the exercise of trying to recover any value in meat from donkeys is simply not cost effective.
In any case, it would cost more to run a big refrigerator plant and transport costs to get any donkey meat to market than you could get for the meat.
So… While we used 300,000 rounds of ammunition and killed 50,000 donkeys, 10,000 horses and a bunch of feral camels we recovered no meat.
You should consider what the word “conservation” means. It really means “wise use of a naturally renewable product.”
Think about this… When hunting deer, I never take any of the offal home with me. We have lots of friends in the bush, including animals, such as foxes, dingoes, carrion eating birds, and even insects that rely on us feeding them, especially during the long dry winter months. They crave any high protein that they can get. So I do my part in supplementing them with as much balance of diet for them with what I leave for them while I take home only the best eating parts of the deer to supply my family and friends.
I call it “feeding my friends”.
So, we simply wasted all of those animals we shot. Can you imagine that on one ranch we shot 23,500 donkeys and on another we shot nearly 10,000. These animals dominated the feed and water supply so the ranches could carry few cattle. On one ranch there were 30,000 donkeys and 10,000 cattle before Dennis and I arrived. Now there are no donkeys and 30,000 cattle on that ranch.
We call it conservation hunting. Changing an environment from a worthless chunk of real estate into a thriving produce producing area. We did that to that area.
One day a rancher came into camp and asked the question “what do you think that I think is the best part about you hunters being here?”
I answered, “The money we pay you for the permission to hunt?”
“No that was not the best part,” was his reply.
“The donkeys that we kill for you?” I suggested.
“No, not that part.”
The rancher went on to explain that before we turned up to shoot his donkeys, each year he would take a helicopter (at huge expense) and shoot 1000 donkeys with 1000 rounds of ammo (also very expensive). He told us that for weeks after, he would see donkeys with half their head shot off still alive, some with their jaw blown off, still alive in agony and starving to death and bad stuff like that.
However, it was a sad fact of life that it was the only way to stop the donkey population getting into his cattle areas. The cost to him was enormous.
Then he told us, “Since your American hunters have been here, you have killed over 7,000 donkeys and saved my ranch. During that time I have never seen one wounded donkey on my ranch and that is the best thing about you guys being here.”
That made us pretty proud. We hunters are conservationists of the highest order. We pour lots of money into the conservation area in license fees and taxes. We humanly remove these destructive animals by carefully killing them cleanly with one shot and leave no wounded and/or suffering animals. We take great pride and care to do the job in the best possible way to have no wounded or suffering animals, just dead animals with one clean instant shot per animal. We simply turn their lights off just as you turn your lights off as you go to bed each night. They feel nothing, just die instantly.
If I had a choice then, that is how I would like to end my life painlessly and instantly.
Living in surburban USA the way that you do, it is a bit hard to realise the way it is out here where ranches are 500 miles from towns and a good size ranch is two million acres.
I taught a lot of hunters how to shoot and how to cleanly kill every animal with one well placed shot. Dick and Mary Cabelas of “Cabelas” were some of my favourite people. They, like Dennis came many times to learn from me as they were serious conservationists and wanted to know how to kill their game cleanly with one shot and with the animal instantly dispatched.
So I hope you understand a little better now of how we did this and how sensitive we are about taking care of our wildlife. It is a bit of an issue of course, about why we choose to kill them when we respect them so much. But if the only way to protect them from themselves is to trim the numbers then we believe that we should do it expertly and inflict no pain.
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