Australia investigates resort offering hunting of wombats

A wombat looking for food at Narawntapu National Park in Tasmania. Farmers can apply for permits to kill native animals such as wombats - which are a protected species - but those found guilty of illegally shooting wildlife face fines and jail.
A wombat looking for food at Narawntapu National Park in Tasmania. Farmers can apply for permits to kill native animals such as wombats - which are a protected species - but those found guilty of illegally shooting wildlife face fines and jail.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - A bush resort in Australia that lured tourists with the promise of shooting wombats and other native wildlife with military weapons is under police investigation, the authorities said on Wednesday (July 31).

Victoria police and the state's environment department told AFP on Wednesday they were probing activities at a former cattle station a two-hour drive north of Melbourne that is owned by a controversial China-born businessman.

Chinese-language ads posted on WeChat for the Juijui Resort offers a A$1,000 (S$945) two-day, one-night hunting experience with luxury transfers from Melbourne.

Guests can use "all kinds of hunting weapons, including but not limited to double-barrelled shotguns, small calibre rifles and large calibre sniper rifles".

"It's the ultimate dream for military fans," state the ads, which include photographs of tourists toting guns.

"Guides with hunting licences will explain how to use the guns and share all necessary knowledge, so even without any hunting experience, you are guaranteed to become the best shooters.

"Wild rabbits, foxes, wombats, wood ducks, red deers, sambar deers... are all waiting to spend a wonderful holiday with you."

Squat and furry, wombats are small burrow-dwelling marsupials that are largely nocturnal and walk on all fours.

The adverts list an address in the town of Murrindindi, which property records show is an A$7.5 million estate owned by Mr Tom Zhou.

 
 
 
 

"Victoria Police is aware of reports of illegal hunting at a Murrindindi property," a police spokesman said in a statement.

"Police will investigate to determine whether any crimes have been committed."

Farmers can apply for permits to kill native animals such as wombats - which are a protected species - but those found guilty of illegally shooting wildlife face fines and up to two years' jail.

A Nine News investigation earlier alleged that Melbourne-based Zhou had a business organising junkets for Chinese tourists to visit Australian casinos, with links to organised crime and the Chinese Communist Party.

The reports have sparked a separate investigation into whether immigration officials illegally smoothed the way for "VVIP" Chinese high rollers.