Everyone who is past a certain age fondly remembers Fatso the much-loved wombat from Aussie soap A Country Practice. Nicole Kidman even got a walk-on part with Fatso – who it’s rumoured did his own stunts.
Then of course there’s Fatso the Fat Arsed Wombat the unofficial mascot of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, a construct of the hive mind of Roy and HG – the same year the duo came up with the “party date”, “battered sav”, “Dutch wink” and the “flat bag”.
Now it's emerged Chinese tourists are paying up to $1000 a night to shoot the cuddly critters.
The story has made it all the way around the world – shoot Fatso? No! – and been condemned by the nation’s politicians.
Vice news says the clandestine hunting lodge’s owner is considered "royalty" by Crown casino, and the lodge is located on a rural property in Murrindindi in a part of Victoria where wombats are unprotected.
A man said by some to be the cousin of Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, colourful Chinese identity Tom Zhou is behind the junkets. According to Nine News, Zhou organised the jaunts for high rollers at Crown Casino.
The company's website, translated from Mandarin, says the first thing tourists should do Australia is head to the mountain wilderness and hunt.
"Even if you don't have any shooting experience, it doesn't matter. With professional guidance, you will be a great shooter.
"Hares, foxes, wombats, wild ducks, red deer, sambars ... a variety of wild animals to spend a happy holiday with you."
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young recently told the Australian Parliament the allegations were part of an evolving scandal surrounding Crown.
“This is beyond bizarre,” she told the nation’s Senate. “This is stranger than fiction. Why on Earth is this government doing absolutely nothing to really crack down on this hideous and obscene behaviour?”
She said high-rollers were being fast-tracked through the visa process, picking up prostitutes, getting access to drugs and going to a luxury digs to chase varmints.
“Does the government really think that it is appropriate to fast-track Chinese gambling billionaires through our border protection processes so that they can come to Australia and shoot our wildlife?” she said.
On the other hand, if they were shooting feral cats they’d be doing Australia’s native wildlife a favour.
Lead Image Credit: Pen ash by Pixabay