A SPAT involving a local business, a government department, and a squirrel glider has seen the owners of Peel Zoo refer to the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) as “incredibly stupid, phenomenally incompetent, and maliciously obstreperous”.
David Cobbold and Narelle MacPherson made the comments in a six-page email to a DPaW wildlife officer after being advised Peel Zoo was not permitted to display squirrel gliders as part of their mobile education program, Zoo2U.
The local zoo proprietors were advised in November, 2015 they had no approval to use squirrel gliders in their mobile displays.
DPaW informed the pair that as squirrel gliders did not naturally occur in Western Australia, “there is a very low conservation value to be gained from displaying them as part of an educational display”.
Concerns were also raised surrounding the nocturnal habits of squirrel gliders and the potential environmental risk to the environment if they were to escape and breed in the wild.
The wildlife officer said approval had never been granted for the use of squirrel gliders in mobile displays, but Mr Cobbold and Ms MacPherson said their license, issued in accordance with the Wildlife and Conservation Act 1950, authorised them to “display fauna … outside of premises”.
The pair said there were no conditions attached to their license banning the use of squirrel gliders, and DPaW’s November prohibitive missive came “two years, four months, seven days …” after their license was granted.
Mr Cobbold and Ms MacPherson accused DPaW of having a conflict of interest with regard to a department-run program similar to Zoo2U called Nearer to Nature.
“It’s plain to see, we are actually business adversaries,” they said.
“As such, we do not believe [DPaW] should be making decisions as to which animals we employ for our service.”
The zoo owners said they did not trust DPaW, whose knowledge of education and conservation was “pitiful”.
"We’re dealing with idiots and it’s about time someone said so," Mr Cobbold said.
They accused the department of failing to “act in a professional, transparent, and consultative manner”, and called for the resignation of Environment Minister Albert Jacob.
DPaW, who advised Mr Cobbold and Ms MacPherson the department would be conducting a review of Peel Zoo displays "shortly", has been contacted for comment.