By Mitchell Clarke
A “long-time resident” lace monitor that lived atop Mount Cannibal and famously survived the Bunyip bushfires has been savagely mauled to death.
A botanist surveying flora on the mountain stumbled across the deceased reptile late last year, and judging by the gruesome injuries sustained, it’s “highly likely“ the animal was attacked and killed by a group of dogs.
Friends of Mount Cannibal secretary Sue Harris has regularly seen the endangered animal over the last 26 years, often coming into contact with him during her walks.
“We’re just devastated to hear about this,” Ms Harris said.
“We’ve seen that goanna for years up at the top of the mountain where he lived amongst the rocks.”
The popular reptile famously survived the Bunyip Complex Fires, where it is believed he escaped the flames by hiding in the cracks of the rocks.
“He’s lived up there for years and survived the fires so it was heart wrenching to hear that he was out and about when he was caught by what appears to be a pack of dogs.”
Dogs are not permitted on Mount Cannibal Flora and Fauna Reserve, whether on or off-lead, and Cardinia Shire Council has stressed that it was vital the community and visitors followed the “very clear” signage.
“It is deeply disappointing that people ignored the signage indicating the reserve’s closure and that they’ve taken dogs into the reserve, further endangering the local wildlife who have had limited habitat in which to seek shelter and safety,” development and compliance services manager Debbie Tyson said.
But sadly, this wasn’t an isolated incident. In September, a wombat was attacked by two dogs but due to “insufficient evidence”, council was unable to identify and pursue the offenders.
To make matters worse, both incidents occurred during a period where the reserve was closed to allow the flora and fauna to rehabilitate following the March bushfires.
“While the park was closed we found a runner in the park with three dogs off leash,” Ms Harris explained.
“We shouted out to him but he ran away. He knew he was doing the wrong thing.”
The group said it was “even more distressing” to hear about these incidents during a critical time where wildlife are at their most vulnerable, without cover or protection.
“A large area of the (Bunyip) State Park and Mount Cannibal was burnt so we’re really lucky to have some wildlife left that can build their numbers and hopefully move back to those areas,” Ms Harris added.
“This isn’t a place for dogs. It’s for our plants and wildlife, which are currently under threat at present, we need to respect them, we really do.”
Cardinia Shire Council undertakes regular patrols of the area and encourages anyone who witnesses an offence to report it.
If a person is identified and found guilty of breaching the local law, council may issue a warning, implement penalties such as a fine of up to $2000, or progress the matter to court.