Rottnest Island life ban if guilty of quokka cruelty
QUOKKA bashers will be banned from Rottnest Island for life under tough new laws to be introduced by the McGowan Government.
Tourism minister Paul Papalia said he was sickened by the increasing number of cases of visitors to the island hurting the iconic marsupial.
"A person who is charged and found guilty of harming a quokka should never be allowed to step foot on Rottnest Island again," Mr Papalia said.
"In the past few years, these incidents have gained notoriety because the cowardly act has been filmed and shared on social media. A fine doesn't seem to be enough of a deterrent. We want them banned from the island for life."
The minister said he was galled by footage of a 20-year-old man kicking a quokka and sending it flying into a wall. Harrison Angus McPherson was this week fined $4000 after he pleaded guilty to ill-treating an animal.
Footage filmed and uploaded to social media by his friend, Corey Douglas James, sparked a name-and-shame campaign that led to their arrest. The pair had been attending the island's Castaway music festival in February.
Mr Papalia said he would ask acting Rottnest Island Authority chief executive Michelle Reynolds to investigate amendments to the Rottnest Island Authority Act so that lifetime bans can be applied.
Currently, there are powers in the act to remove a person from the island for only seven days.
As part of the new laws, Mr Papalia said he would look at whether offenders could be offered an alternative penalty. One option would be for offenders to do community service on Rotto to gain a better appreciation of the animals.
"What I'm inclined to do is offer an alternative to a lifetime ban - whereby they would do a significant time of voluntary work with rangers on the island," Mr Papalia said.
"That would allow a possible re-education and appreciation of the animals.
"So, if you were prosecuted and found guilty of crimes against quokkas, you would be offered rehabilitation on the island or get a lifetime ban if you refused to participate in the volunteer work."
In March, New Zealand man Bevan Denis Hames, 37, was fined $2000 after he placed a quokka into the ocean to show his friends at the pub that the animals were good swimmers. The marsupial was able to swim to shore from the jetty near the Rottnest Hotel.
Late last year, a young man was filmed pouring a mixed vodka drink into a quokka's mouth as people laughed in the background. The video was uploaded onto Snapchat.
Ms Reynolds said the RIA supports the minister's tough stance.
"We will look at ways to control access to the island for people who are charged with attacking vulnerable species, including our precious quokkas," she said.
Dubbed the world's happiest animal, the quokkas has become a selfie favourite and social media sensation.
This week, Qantas announced one of its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners would be named "Quokka" in honour of the critters.
Mr Papalia said quokkas held a warm place in people's hearts, "not just in Western Australia, but around the world".
"You just have to look at the quokka selfie phenomena, which in itself is almost a self-generating promotion tool for our state," he said.
"Selfies have been very successful worldwide promoting our state. Anything we can do to protect the animals, is obviously something we should do."