Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Wallabies accused of opium abuse -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Tasmanian poppy growers have noticed Wallabies behaving strangely in their fields, stumbling around
after eating the plants. While some believe the animals are getting stoned and wonder if they're
becoming addicted, others believe in alternative explanations.

PETER CAVE: The mystery of crop circles which have appeared from time to time in an around
Tasmania's legal opium poppy fields may have been solved.

It seems it's not aliens but junkie wallabies hopping around in dazed circles... well perhaps.

Felicity Ogilvie in Hobart has been investigating the marsupials' nasty habit.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Poppies are grown in Tasmania for morphine that's used by the pharmaceutical
industry to make pain control drugs. But it appears humans aren't the only ones who've discovered
that the poppies contain narcotics.

Recently retired farmer Lyndley Chopping spent more than 30 years growing poppies and he's seen
wallabies acting strangely in his fields.

LYNDLEY CHOPPING: They would just come and eat some poppies and they would go away. They'd come
back again and they would do their circle work in the paddock.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Do they seem to get a taste for it? Or once they've kind of been affected by the
poppies does that seem to drive them away?

LYNDLEY CHOPPING: They seem to know when they've had enough. They'll still be around and they would
leave them alone. It's hard to work out. Didn't seem to be any real pattern to their behaviour.

FELICITY OGILVIE: But the state's largest poppy producer, Tasmanian Alkaloids, has noticed a
pattern in the wallabies' behaviour.

Rick Rockliff is the company's field operations manager.

RICK ROCKLIFF: Often other forms of food are in short supply in late January/February and poppy
capsules contain, half their weight is actually seed which is very nutritious. It's a seed you see
on bread rolls and in bread mixtures and things like that.

But in the process of eating open the capsule, it's quite possible they do ingest a little bit of
the capsule material that does contain the alkaloids and this can have some short-term effect. They
are after all a narcotic and ingested in big amounts it can have that effect.

FELICITY OGILVIE: But a wildlife vet isn't sure that the wallabies are getting stoned. Barry Wells
is the animal welfare officer at the University of Tasmania.

BARRY WELLS: It's quite possible that they are being affected by them but other things can do it
too. So I guess we need to rule out the other things or need to look at this more closely to make
sure that it is affecting them, that they are eating lots of it.

I mean I would expect that they, if they are they could very well become addicted and start eating
lots of them. But that remains to be seen I guess.

FELICITY OGILVIE: If the wallabies are getting addicted to the poppies, what kind of effect would
it be having on their bodies when they eat the poppies?

BARRY WELLS: I would imagine from general principles that apart from things like the possibility of
bowel upsets, constipation and things like that which may or may not be a serious issue, we would
expect to see them being in-coordinate - that is they might stagger about, they might walk in
circles. They might just be acting in what would appear to be a lethargic way and certainly out of
character from what you would expect with wild wallabies.

PETER CAVE: Perhaps their just hippy skippies. Vet Barrie Wells ending that report from Felicity