Farmhand guilty of two-year mass bird poisoning
FARM worker Murray James Silvester has escaped a hefty fine despite being found guilty of the poisoning of 420 wedge-tailed eagles over two years across three properties in East Gippsland.
Silvester pleaded guilty to killing the protected species in the Sale Magistrates’ Court.
He was jailed for 14 days and fined $2500, well shy of the penalty attached to the deliberate killing of the birds under the Wildlife Act 1975, which carries a maximum penalty of $7928.50, up to six months imprisonment, plus an additional penalty of $792.85 for each bird destroyed.
The maximum penalty for killing so many eagles is more than $320,000.
“But for the plea of guilty, the sentence I would otherwise impose is three months,” Magistrate Rodney Higgins said in his sentencing notes.
The convicted 59-year-old is the first to receive a custodial sentence for the crime, setting a precedent for the destruction of protected wildlife in Victoria.
The mass poisonings occurred at three properties spanning 2000ha in Tubbut between October 2016 and February this year.
A Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning spokeswoman said the birds were killed using bait impregnated with poison.
In late June, police helped lead the raids on four properties in Tubbut and Orbost as part of the investigation, seizing ammunition, animal traps, chemicals and bird remains.
In June The Rural Weekly’s sister paper, The Weekly Times, revealed about 100 wedge-tailed eagles had been poisoned, with many more expected to be found dead in East Gippsland.