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The Forum > Article Comments > A problem of cunning tasmanian foxes or much less cunning innovation? > Comments

A problem of cunning tasmanian foxes or much less cunning innovation? : Comments

By Clive Marks, published 25/9/2012

You cannot extinguish what you cannot find.

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...Now letís be clear on this: Tasmania is bating for foxes without conclusive evidence foxes exist on the Island? I am constantly astounded by the endless stream of stupidity (on all fronts), flowing from Tasmania!
Posted by diver dan, Tuesday, 25 September 2012 9:39:23 AM
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Lets be more clear about this.. The vast majority of Tasmanians , here , are NOT batting for Foxes. We think that it is a total waste of money. Money is scarce in Tasmania.

The continued Fox Programme is a product of The Greens, Most of Labor Government, their "experts", and the Inner Hobart/Battery Point chattering class.

In the countryside we consider it to be the Political Joke that it has become. They will find a Tasmanian Tiger before they find a Fox.

The next election will rid us of all these problems, thankfully
Posted by Aspley, Tuesday, 25 September 2012 12:14:38 PM
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The article does not make clear that those pesky 63 results from 10,000 tests are truly "positives" or simply "non-negatives".

If the latter, then things become murkier still.

If there is an error rate in testing, then it stands to reason that even larger samples will result in larger numbers of errors. 10,000 is a large number indeed. If each test takes two manhours to set up, complete, document and report, then we are getting close to three manyears of effort, 24/7/365. Surely 63 errors in such a program are believable.

If "non-negative" is the criterion, then that leaves all results which are inconclusive within the 63. This could indicate, for example, that amongst the many hairs found in each scat, one might or might not look like a hair from a fox. Hence, this sample becomes non-negative. Not positive, but still counted within the 63.

Tasmania is a delightful place and I was saddened greatly by reports of foxes. I am entirely behind any program to eradicate real foxes. The author is correct in drawing our attention to the fact that these programs may actually be seeking to eradicate imaginary foxes.

It is well written, informative and serves again, if a reminder was needed, to demonstrate that evidence-based enquiry is the foundation of everything that wise governments commit funding to.

My vote would be for the fox-baiters to use their skills to eradicate straying and feral cats and to forget about foxes until such time as they actually have a target to aim at, but that's a story for another day.
Posted by JohnBennetts, Tuesday, 25 September 2012 12:42:40 PM
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In many ways, this is a very disappointing article. The author does not present a strong case to do nothing; instead, he simply suggests that there may not be any foxes left alive in Tasmania. He admits that deliberate introductions of the fox have occurred in the past but seems to be asking the state government to close down its fox control programs even though more introductions are not just possible but likely.
As a zoologist in south west WA where foxes are seriously threatening the existence of several native species, I prefer to err on the side of caution. If there is even a small chance of foxes existing in Tasmania, then my professional view is that it is better to continue the eradication program, albeit at a lower level of intensity and hence cost. In addition to potentially killing some foxes, the program will also maintain community awareness of the threat posed by foxes. In WA, one of our most severe threats is the dieback disease Phytopthora cinnamommi which has been subject to government awareness-raising campaigns every 10 years or so. In between these campaigns, people forget about the seriousness of this slime-mould and new infestations occur as a result of unintended human spread of infected soil.
If the cost of fox control in Tasmania is modest and if the biodiversity at risk from this feral animal is great, then it's a no-brainer to spend the money. Maybe the author and people who've commented on his article should consider what the Precautionary Principle is all about.
Posted by Bernie Masters, Monday, 1 October 2012 1:45:10 PM
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Bernie

I'm sorry you found the article disappointing, yet from your comments I wonder if you might have another look? I respect your opinion, yet worry that some points may not have gone over well in your reading. I am certainly not advocating doing nothing as I state quite clearly. But if you can't detect it you can't eradicate it after 10 years.

Over a decade later after an unsubstantiated founding event that the Tasmanian police say is baseless and no data about fox population distribution (and 50 million dollars so far) and no suggestion of any actual control efficacy (on foxes) just how do you target eradication? For how long do you do this based on no evidence? if you are going to do this at a lower level, what level would this be, where and for how long? Remember, you are trying to eradicate not 'control' and know when this is done - or was even necessary.

I wish that people who keep using the precautionary principle (PP) to justify their support of an environmental action might actually read what the UN has tried to define as valid PP action in this respect.

Please read the UNESCO documents on the PP formulated at the Rio Convention. The Tasmanian eradication programme does not conform to the criteria specified for environmental management - or many other criteria if any. The Rio Convention states that a return to evidence based decision making must be made as soon as possible. The PP is not an excuse for no clear trigger information (as stated) or to keep doing 'something' forever based on no information. It is not a get out of jail free card for failure to collect quality information, the use of poor quality information or no knowledge on the effectiveness of your precautionary action. It is a mechanism used in the initial stages of an uncertain situation and a time to collect better information.

You cannot manage what you cannot measure. A great deal of science says you certainly can't eradicate it either! Good intentions are not enough Bernie.
Posted by Dr Clive A Marks, Thursday, 4 October 2012 3:43:49 PM
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Excellent article.
I would offer the following comments regarding it.
Are foxes in Tasmania - I don't know for sure (I have no evidence) but i doubt it.
The real truth is that the evidence is being planted. By logging companies and people keen to exploit the environment in Tasmania for commericial purposes.
The eradicate foxes regime of baiting isnt aimed at eradicating foxes, its aimed at eradicating the minute amount of thylacine left. If there was evidence of these animals found in these areas it would shut the industry down. So they are taking a proactive approach.
This explains the eradicate at all cost approach taken towards 'foxes'.
Posted by trustnoone, Friday, 12 October 2012 3:45:45 PM
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