Australian teen ‘deliberately’ mowed down, killed 20 kangaroos

The attack left three joeys, baby kangaroos, without any parents. (Shutterstock)
Updated 02 October 2019

Australian teen ‘deliberately’ mowed down, killed 20 kangaroos

  • The bodies of the kangaroos were found littered over roads in Tura Beach
  • The attack orphaned three baby kangaroos

SYDNEY: An Australian teenager has been charged over the deaths of 20 kangaroos, which he allegedly mowed down with his truck in a killing spree that lasted an hour.
The dead kangaroos, including two joeys, were found littered over roads in Tura Beach, 450 kilometers south of Sydney, on Sunday morning.
At least three other joeys were orphaned as a result of the disturbing attack, according to wildlife rescue group WIRES.
Police said Wednesday the man, 19, had been arrested and charged with animal cruelty offenses on Tuesday.
The man allegedly hit and killed the marsupials with his utility vehicle late on Saturday night.
“We take incidents such as these very seriously and anyone who engages in activities such as these will face the full brunt of the law,” Bega Valley chief inspector Peter Volf said.
Though the sight of dead kangaroos by the roadside is not uncommon in New South Wales state — where about 90 percent of car crashes are caused by collisions with the animals — the scale and allegedly intentional nature of the incident shocked locals.
“It was a very unpleasant sight,” resident Rob Evans told the ABC. “Police see an awful lot of things, but you could see that they were shocked as well.”
WIRES said the incident came to its attention when police brought a six-month-old orphaned joey to one of its volunteers at 1.30am on Sunday. Two others aged around nine months old were discovered later.
The group said it was “horrified” by the “apparent act of cruelty,” with the three surviving joeys now requiring round-the-clock care.
Eastern grey kangaroos usually begin venturing out of their mother’s pouch at about nine months of age, but are not fully independent until they reach 18 months.


Thai rice farmers shun ‘big agribusiness’ and fight climate change

Updated 9 min 19 sec ago

Thai rice farmers shun ‘big agribusiness’ and fight climate change

  • Traditional Thai rice farmers earn around 3,000 baht a month ($100)
  • Rice is a staple in the diet of around three billion people globally
MAE RIM, Thailand: Battling drought, debt and ailments blamed on pesticides, rice farmers in northern Thailand have turned to eco-friendly growing methods despite powerful agribusiness interests in a country that is one of the top exporters of the grain in the world.

Walking through a sea of green waist-high stalks, farmer Sunnan Somjak said his fields were “exhausted” by chemicals, his family regularly felt ill, and his profits were too low to make ends meet.

But that changed when he joined a pilot agricultural project for the SRI method, which aims to boost yields while shunning pesticides and using less water.

“Chemicals can destroy everything,” the 58-year-old said, adding that the harvest in his village in Chiang Mai province has jumped 40 percent since employing the new method.

There have been health benefits too. “It’s definitely better, we don’t get sick any more,” he added.

SRI was invented in the 1980s in Madagascar by a French Jesuit priest, and the technique has spread globally.

It works by planting crops wider apart — thus drawing in more nutrients and light — and limiting the amount of water that gets into fields, which helps micro-organisms flourish to act as natural fertilizers.

In a plus for debt-laden farmers, it also uses fewer seeds, and they are encouraged to use plants and ginger roots that naturally deter insects rather than chemical alternatives — meaning fewer expenses.

Traditional Thai rice farmers earn around 3,000 baht a month ($100) but Sunnan was able to increase his income by 20 percent after adopting the SRI method.
“I’ve finally got rid of my debts,” he told AFP.

Rice is a staple in the diet of around three billion people globally. But agricultural workers are locked in a vicious cycle: beset by drought and floods brought on by climate change, the farmers contribute to the disruption as their fields release methane and nitrous oxide, two greenhouse gases.

With SRI, paddy fields are not permanently flooded, which reduces methane emissions by 60 percent, according to Tristan Lecomte, founder of Pur Projet, a French company supporting the technique.

The project also helped Sunnan plant trees around his crops to reinforce the water table.

According to Lecomte, rice yields can jump from 20 percent to more than 100 compared to the traditional method.

Southeast Asia, where agriculture supports millions, is slowly embracing SRI.

The US-based Cornell University created a center specializing in the technique in 2010 and more than two million farmers in the region — especially from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos — have been trained.

In Bac Giang province in northern Vietnam, net profits for farmers were as much as 226 percent higher after adopting the SRI method than when using traditional ones, according to Abha Mishra, who led a large project on behalf of the Asian Institute of Technology.

The Philippines, which grows rice but is also one of the world’s leading importers, is also interested in this method and the Ministry of Agriculture has started training farmers.

The method is also used in parts of India, China, and Africa. But, while there is support from NGOs, as well as some scientists and authorities, it still has a long way to go before widespread adoption.

It faces resistance domestically from agribusiness as there is no new hybrid seed or fertilizer to sell.

Industry lobbies are very active in Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand, one of the largest users of pesticides in the world.

And they recently won a big battle over chemical use in agriculture.

Thai authorities, who had committed to ban controversial glyphosate, backtracked at the end of November, deciding that “limited” use would eventually be allowed.

The use of two other herbicides has also been extended. Lecomte says the other challenge potentially impacting the rate of adoption is the SRI method is quite complex to learn and it is labor intensive.

“You have to plant one by one and closely control the amount water,” he explained, adding that the extra manual effort required means some farmers don’t want to try the method, and others give up early on.

Sunnan admits that his workload is heavier but the financial and health benefits make it worth it in the end. He added: “It is safe for our body, and the environment.”