By ERWIN CHLANDA
The NT Government website promoting tomorrow’s “Festival in Light” is misleading by making comparisons with a similar show at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.
The site asks: “Will the light show impact the black-footed rock-wallabies on the MacDonnell ranges?”
It answers its own question: “Similar lighting specifications have been used for events staged at Taronga Zoo and within the Blue Mountains National Park in NSW, without any evident detrimental effects on wildlife.”
But the Taronga Zoo says that most animals were in their night dens and not exposed to the lights, and the light sculptures were kept away from the paths.
Environmentalists in Alice Springs have expressed concerns about the unprotected wildlife on the northern flank of the range, more than two kilometres of which will be illuminated.
The Alice Springs News Online is seeking further information from the zoo and the NT Government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources which is quoted on the site as saying that “there is a very low risk that the light show will have a significant impact on the population of Black-footed Rock-wallabies and other wildlife on the MacDonnell Ranges”.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Michael Gunner is embracing the show – brainchild of his predecessor Adam Giles – by hosting an invitation only opening night dinner for the show at the Desert Park restaurant. “Dress: Territory Rig. Gentlemen: Trousers, long-sleeved shirt and tie. Ladies: Day dress / after five.”
Further to this morning’s comments, a spokeswoman for Taronga Zoo, while stressing she is making no comment on the Alice Springs event, says the zoo’s “first concern is always the welfare of the remarkable animals in its care.
“Fortunately Taronga Zoo has more than 20 years experience in successfully hosting after hours events, including New Year’s Eve and the Twilight at Taronga Zoo concerts. Keepers constantly monitor the animals for these events, but there has never been a problem.
“The locations of the lanterns and light sculptures have been carefully chosen to focus on public areas rather than animal exhibits.
“Taronga Zoo’s animals also have access to the comfort and shelter of their night quarters and inside areas, but it’s not uncommon for certain animals to choose to remain outside during night events.”
UPDATE 12:50pm September 23
The impact of the light show on wildlife has been exaggerated, says Dr Alaric Fisher, Executive Director, Flora and Fauna Division of the NT Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
In a written opinion given to the organisers he said: “Wildlife scientists from the department have assessed that there is a very low risk that the light show will have a significant impact on the population of Black-footed Rock wallabies in the MacDonnell ranges, due to the very small proportion of their habitat that is affected, and the limited time period of potential disturbance.”
When asked by the Alice Springs News Online to comment further, Dr Fisher said the opinion referred especially to Black-footed Rock wallabies, because they are the subject of a petition, but other wildlife was equally at a “very low risk”.
He said: “They move to the lower part of the range at night for feeding. There are rocks and crevasses and there is plenty of shadow.”
Dr Fisher says the lasers are not concentrated spot beams, such as they have been misused to affect aircraft pilots, but they are “diffused” by the time they reach the Ranges.
He said no referral to the Australian Minister for Environment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is required, “as the action is not likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance”.
Misleading zoo comparison as wallabies get blasted with light
By ERWIN CHLANDA