Farmer gunned down 350 kookaburras after they ‘trespassed’ on his rural property, but that’s not why he was fined $5,000
- Neil Gordon Whirford slaughtered kookaburras
- Had wrong firearm license and illegal silencer
- Mr. Whirford was fined $5,000 for the violations.
A farmer who shot hundreds of iconic Australian birds has defended himself in court against the shooting, but it was what he was using to shoot them that landed him in hot water.
Neil Gordon Whirford, 60, faced the High Court in Launceston, Tasmania, on Monday and admitted that he had used an illegally modified semi-automatic rifle, for which he did not have a license, to shoot 350 kookaburras in 2021.
The court heard from Mr Whirford that kookaburras had shelled his rural property and began disturbing natural wildlife after the 2020 Black Summer bushfires.
While Judge Robert Pearce agreed that the property had been ‘trespassed’, the fact that Mr Whirford had a category A firearms license instead of the correct category C license was the reason why the one who was in trouble.
Mr. Whirford was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine within 28 days as punishment for the license error and for the modification he had made to the rifle.
Kookaburras are not a protected species in Tasmania, unlike many other states and territories.
This is because they are not a native species on the smaller island, only being introduced in the early 20th century to control the snake population.
Kookaburras faced massive displacement following the 2020 Black Summer bushfires
Judge Robert Pearce agreed that the birds were legally culled, but said Mr Whirford did not have the correct license to operate a semi-automatic rifle (pictured).
Over a period of nine months, Mr. Whirford engaged in what he described as a culling of the pest species that had colonized his property since their habitat was destroyed by fire.
To aid in the cull, Whirford also illegally purchased a silencer online and added it to the rifle in 2021.
Neighbors welcomed the removal of the kookaburras from the area, the court found no prior convictions on its record and Judge Pearce said he did not care about the cull.
“I am advised that a culling is not illegal…I only deal with firearms related offences,” Judge Pearce said.
Judge Pearce confirmed that the rifle used was “suitable” for pest control.
However, Mr Whirford had knowingly possessed and used it without possessing the proper license, Judge Pearce told the court.
Mr Whirford had also illegally purchased a silencer online for the rifle (file image)
The 2020 Black Summer bushfires caused a massive migration of wildlife into habitats, leading hundreds of kookaburras to ‘invade’ Mr Whirford’s rural property.
Whitford had owned the rifle before 1996, when gun laws changed after the Port Arthur mass shooting, but took it apart rather than trade it in during government buyback programs.
He used it again for pest control in 2021 without upgrading the category A license he had since taking it apart.
Although Judge Pearce was “satisfied that the rifle was used properly”, he was concerned that the weapon could be used inappropriately in the wrong hands.
Tasmanians don’t like kookaburras, and even animal rights groups are calling for the birds to be culled to protect native species.
These groups have included the Greens, who called for a culling in 2020 following reports that they were aggressive towards smaller birds.
The idea was ultimately rejected by Gutwein’s liberal state government.
Kookaburras are not native to Tasmania, but were introduced to help control snake overpopulation in the early 20th century.
Although the Greens campaigned for the culling of kookaburras in 2020 to protect the native species, the Gutwein state government did not support it.