Vanishing Life of Australia

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    THE legal position regarding the preservation of the Australian fauna is put briefly in a letter received from an Australian correspondent in comment on our leading article of Sept. 12, which aroused interest in Australian newspapers. “The enactment of laws for the protection of the Australian fauna”, he says, “does not come within the powers of the Commonwealth Government, except in so far as the export of skins, etc., is concerned; but the different States have all legislated to this end in a greater or less degree. Unfortunately, the laws (or their enforcement) are not strong enough to stop the traffic which goes on, particularly in skins of our fur-bearing animals. From the number of prosecutions, it is obvious that many evasions are taking place; and the penalties imposed upon those convicted, though often heavy, apparently do not act as effective deterrents.” Our correspondent includes a cutting from the Melbourne Argus of Sept. 18, recording the conviction of a skin-buyer of unlaw-fully consigning 3821 skins of ‘opossums’ (really phalangers, to which an American Indian word has become mistakenly applied). The fine was £955 5s., and the dealer admitted five previous convictions, including fines of £234 10s. in 1927 and, with two other men, of £616 in 1929. Yet the trade apparently is worth the risk, and so long as that is so, these fur-bearing creatures stand a poor chance of retaining their foothold.

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    Vanishing Life of Australia. Nature 129, 126 (1932) doi:10.1038/129126a0

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