HUNDREDS of people have signed a petition protesting against a decision by Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) to ban the owners of the John Forrest Tavern from feeding the kangaroos that mill around the pub located inside the grounds of the national park.
Tavern owner Louise Fitzgerald said patrons enjoyed sitting outside in the courtyard for a close encounter with the native animals.
Ms Fitzgerald said staff had been feeding the kangaroos a special muesli recommended by vets for nearly two decades.
“In all that time we have had no problems with the kangaroos who have become quite accustomed to being the star attraction for visitors,” she said.
“Lots of overseas visitors come to the tavern especially to see them and locals always bring their guests for this experience.
“John Forrest Tavern is an iconic and unique Hills pub in the John Forrest National Park and a wonderful opportunity for visitors to see kangaroos up a close in a bush setting.
“Parks and wildlife have turned a blind eye to us feeding the kangaroos for the past 19 years, I don’t understand why they now want it stopped.”
A DBCA spokesperson said concerns over the feeding of the kangaroos were raised by park visitors and staff.
Anyone caught feeding the kangaroos by the department could face a $2000 fine.
“Wildlife can be unpredictable and dangerous, particularly if they feel threatened,” they said.
“The key to successful interaction with wildlife is to respect their wild nature. Feeding wildlife can have a negative impact on animal health.”
The spokesperson said the Conservation and Land Management Regulations 2002 stated a person must not, without lawful authority, feed fauna, or entice fauna with food, on DBCA land.
“Department staff are currently working through a staged process of reducing supplementary feeding to encourage the animals to forage more naturally,” the spokesperson said.
Ms Fitzgerald said the kangaroos did not pose a danger to visitors.
“We have never encountered any problems with the kangaroos and as an extra precaution we installed a fence around the beer garden as too many unsupervised children were running at the kangaroos and startling them.”
Ms Fitzgerald said since the feeding ban the kangaroos were now coming into the tavern.
“They know how to open the doors to get into the back garden where they were always welcome.”