Science teacher, 68, is convicted for beating ringtail possum to death for eating his shrubs 

A science teacher has been convicted for beating a ringtail possum to death after he found it eating his shrubs.

Robert Ferguson, 68, was sentenced to a two-year conditional release order for beating the ringtail possum to death at Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on April 1.

Mr Ferguson, who is Head of Science at St Augustine’s College in Brookvale, has expressed his remorse for killing the animal, saying it wasn’t intentional. 

On June 22 in 2017, a witness found the dead possum in the front yard of a Curl Curl property along with two baby possums.

Mr Ferguson, who is Head of Science at St Augustine’s College in Brookvale, has expressed his remorse for killing the ringtail possum (pictured, stock image), saying it wasn’t intentional

The following day members from the RSPCA NSW visited the location and retrieved the possum’s body.

Upon inspection, they noticed Mr Ferguson’s New Zealand Christmas bushes looked like they had been eaten and there was animal faecal matter on the wall beside the bushes.

A post mortem examination revealed the possum had multiple small subcutaneous contusions over the thorax and a single small contusion over the skull, extensive internal haemorrhage and a ruptured artery. 

RSCPA inspectors spoke to Mr Ferguson who admitted to hitting the bushes the night before the possum was found dead.

The science teacher said he had previously taken lawful measures to manage the possum situation, including using lights, noise and chemicals on leaves but none had worked.

‘It is an unfortunate phenomenon of the 21st century where people come before the court for beating at something that annoys them,’ Magistrate Jennifer Giles said. 

Robert Ferguson, 68, pleaded guilty to beating the ringtail possum to death at Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court (pictured) on April 1

Robert Ferguson, 68, pleaded guilty to beating the ringtail possum to death at Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court (pictured) on April 1

‘We have become selfish and impatient. It is a mum ringtail possum eating your trees. She is a protected native animal and you are a science teacher.’ 

Ringtail possums, as well as all native animals, are a protected species under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, meaning it is illegal to kill or catch and release them without a licence.

Mr Ferguson was sentenced to a two-year conditional release order for the death of the ringtail possum. 

‘Conviction here is certainly warranted… non-conviction sends an inappropriate message to everyone else who is annoyed by possums, and that recklessly killing it could be dismissed should they choose to do that,’ Magistrate Giles said.

RSCPA NSW Chief Inspector Scott Meyers said there are reasonable ways to manage local wildlife and killing animals are not reasonable.

‘It was unnecessary for this native creature’s life to end and for its young to be orphaned. The protection of our unique native wildlife is a serious matter,’ Mr Meyers said.  

Mr Ferguson's New Zealand Christmas bushes (pictured, stock image) looked like they had been eaten and there was animal faecal matter on the wall beside the bushes

Mr Ferguson’s New Zealand Christmas bushes (pictured, stock image) looked like they had been eaten and there was animal faecal matter on the wall beside the bushes

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