The rest of the carcass was evidently stuffed under a plastic tarp. Tony was chatting with the driver (above) so I wandered around to say hello.
I nodded at the back of the ute. “Do you do this for a living?”
The driver said he had been shooting buffalo for 40 years and ran a pet food business in town. I learned his name was Terry and shook the bloodied hand he thrust out amiably from the cab.
A little further down the road at the rustic and roomy Bark Hut Inn we chewed on excellent hamburgers and studied the engrossing memorabilia of early buffalo hunting days in the Territory.
Most of the items and information studded around the rustic building came from the days of the legendary Terry Baldwin. We posed with buffalo hunting vehicles and wondered if the Terrys were related.
At Windows on the Wetlands, the admirable information centre beside the Adelaide River, we had learned that feral water buffalo and pigs were a rotten problem for the Kakadu region, rooting and trampling through the natural levee banks that protected the freshwater marshes.
The careers of both bloodied buffalo hunting Terrys were clearly environmentally noble and, we hoped, suitably profitable.
Not profitable any more, however, is the live export trade decimated by the Gillard Government with its sledgehammer response to a dubious piece of video footage shown on the ABC. An investigation was warranted but the shrieking of citysiders knee-jerked the Labor government into needlessly ripping the guts out of the northern cattle industry. It still has not recovered.
Now on the edge of ruin is the Gulin Gulin Buffalo Company, a joint venture between the Yolngu tribes that exported about 3000 buffalo annually profitably over 20 years.
The live export ban to Indonesia trade has crushed the trade, mainly because a buffalo’s head is thick. Sad that is for the Aboriginal company; even sorrier is the result for Australia’s fragile northern wetlands.
Feral buffalo numbers are estimated at somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 in northern Australia. They were being kept in check by the live export trade but now they are rocketing by 20% a year while export permits remain unfilled.
Gulin Gulin manager Markus Rathsmann was quoted in The Australian (Sept 30) as saying numbers are “multiplying and multiplying” in what is now a mega land management headache. The government is spending money shooting buffalo from helicopters but not getting the export trade going again despite strong demand in Asia.
The problem is regulations covering the stunning of animals don’t take into account the hard heads of the buffalo. A blow that would stun a cow won’t knock out a buffalo. It just makes it really, really angry. To knock it out with pneumatic methods would probably crack its skull, which is not acceptable to Halal slaughter requirements.
New Zealand has electrical stunning technology that could be used but bureaucrats are waffling while hefty water buffalo ravage the wetlands.
How ironic that the greenie-led screams about that gory video have not only caused unnecessary hardship to all and sundry in the export trade. The action they demanded is smashing great tracts of the environment the instigators worship.
The quote is hundreds of years old and its origin is untraceable but it still rings true: “Be careful what you wish for.” The Terrys would probably have a blunter comment.