Tourism Tasmania's wombat cuddling competition raises concerns

File photo.
File photo.

THE Greens have written to Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff about concerns over Tourism Tasmania’s “Chief Wombat Cuddler” competition. 

The competition emerged in response to a video of Derek the Wombat on Flinders Island, which has received more than 300,000 views on YouTube. 

Tourism Tasmania has advertised for a “chief wombat cuddler,” who will receive flights and accommodation on Flinders Island to “smother our little friend with affection.”

Bass Greens MHA Andrea Dawkins wrote to Mr Rockliff to express her concern that “’cuddling’ a vulnerable native species is being offered as a competition prize...”

“Messages of disgust from experienced wildlife carers, who are outraged that such practices could be lawfully undertaken, have come into my office requesting that I look into this matter on their behalf,” she wrote.

“I would be pleased if you could outline the permission required by Tourism Tasmania to be allowed to offer our native animals to be handled in such a manner.”

Ms Dawkins said that the rehabilitation of orphaned and injured animals relied on their ability to remain wild, and not be socialised by human handling. 

A government spokesman said the government acknowledged the concerns raised and had requested that DPIPWE ensure all animal welfare requirements were satisfied and that appropriate authorisations were in place prior to the event. 

“Many wildlife carers and experts are skilled in caring for wildlife and can ensure animals are not inappropriately exposed to stress,” he said. 

“It should also be noted that wombats are hardy and adaptable animals that are regularly exposed to human interactions.”

The competition closed on Saturday.