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ACT Roo killings: Who profits? Behind the Earless Dragon mask

Human Population growth impacts on wildlife: The endangered Earless Dragon is being used to justify killing thousands of Eastern Gray kangaroos in Belconnen and Majura, but the motive is really developers' profit. As grasslands are turned into building sites, as human population growth is encouraged.. Kangaroos are in the way, as is democracy, so both are being buried. See also:Kangaroo articles





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When an Earless Dragon is like a smoking gun we should ask who fired the gun.

Did the ACT government organize the mass killing of thousands of Eastern Grey kangaroos in Belconnen and Majura, near Canberra, in a sudden uncharacteristic and galvanic effort to save the endangered Earless Dragon?

(Illustration of dragon as gun by Carol.)Thousands of Eastern Grey kangaroos have recently been shot and bulldozed into pits in Belconnen and Majura, [1] Australian Capital Territory (ACT), in fatal massive round-ups which have not been seen since early last century. In a torrent of official reports and statements, scientists and politicians have fingered the Eastern Grey Kangaroo for overgrazing rare grasslands and thus threatening their other inhabitants, notably the endangered Earless Dragon.

Who would have thought that the little Earless Dragon had such powerful friends in government, planning, universities and business - even the Canberra International Airport? [2] The Grasslands Earless Dragon doesn't pay taxes and doesn't directly contribute to political fundraisers, but it is often associated with grants and development programs these days.

Were these culls really for the benefit of the Earless Dragon? Or was the Earless Dragon only an excuse for this macropod massacre, in which case, what was the real motive?

Although these planned culls aroused public ire and many questions, formal responses were highly selective. Many questions about the Belconnen cull went unanswered and remain unanswered. When the Majura cull came up on the agenda, the same angry questions received the same infuriating non-responses.

The public and the kangaroos deserve much better.

It was so difficult to make sense of what was happening. Could the whole thing actually be as cruel and stupid as the kangaroo-cull protesters claimed? Or were the protesters really childish people who could not accept the obvious need to put some animals which had ‘bred like rabbits’ out of their misery?

After all, the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) had given its seal of approval. That meant it must be okay, right? Right? (See, for instance: "Questions to Michael Linke, RSPCA re the Majura Massacre of Kangaroos")

Absence of testable theoretical basis for cull

My own preoccupation over the months intervening between the Belconnen and the Majura kills had been to ascertain what population theory was used to arrive at the diagnosis of overpopulation or to assert that there should be only one kangaroo per hectare. My search failed. This question has now become one of whether there was any population theory at all. A theory of how kangaroo populations behave is necessary for any outsider to be able to test the validity of the judgement that the Majura Roos or the Belconnen Roos or any other roos were overpopulating and needed ‘culling’. Saying that there should be one per hectare or that they may die of starvation are remarks which, on their own, do not justify culls.

I was amazed that official reports did not begin with a description of how kangaroo populations were thought to operate, how this theory had been tested and the populations measured. In an effort to find out if any real theory and application had taken place, I attempted to contact officials and scientists involved in kangaroo management programs of one sort or another. No population theory of any kind, whether or not demonstrating lemming-like multiplication tendencies in kangaroos, has yet surfaced as a reasonable basis of the culling of the Belconnen or Majura roos.

What did emerge was that there was an overtly declared perception of conflict between human activities and the presence of kangaroos in grazing and a less overtly acknowledged conflict between land-use intensification in urban development, such as roads and new suburbs, accompanying the promotion of radical human population growth policies in the ACT. (See, for instance, this description of planned expansion and intensification in the area.)

Dr Fletcher’s thesis oddly at odds with Canberra culls

One scientist who was closely associated with the Belconnen cull and the Majura cull, was Don Fletcher. Fletcher is the Senior Ecologist in Research and Monitoring in Parks, Conservation and Lands, Department of Territory and Municipal Services, ACT. His involvement in the Belconnen Roo cull seems to have been officially limited to capturing then releasing female survivors after inserting contraceptives in them. He was one of the writers of the public consultation document leading up to the Majura cull.

He defended these culls and has defended the assessments leading up to the Majura culls in a public consultation document. Yet his own thesis on the “Population Dynamics of Eastern Grey Kangaroos in Temperate Grasslands,” (pdf 4.27mb) seemed to discredit claims at the basis of these culls, which were too high population density and a need to manage it down to one kangaroo per hectare. For instance, he wrote on page 237 of his study that :

“The study did not provide evidence that high densities of kangaroos reduce groundcover to the levels where erosion can accelerate. Unmanaged kangaroo populations did not necessarily result in low levels of ground cover. Groundcover had a positive but not significant relationship to kangaroo density, with the highest cover at the wettest site where kangaroo density was highest. Weather has an important influence on groundcover.” [3]

He also wrote that some of the populations he was studying were at the highest density recorded. They ranged between 4.5 and 5.1 kangaroos per hectare. The density in the studies below was expressed in square kilometers. To get density per hectare, divide by 100. [4] Fletcher wrote:

“The kangaroo density estimates reported in Chapter 7 for the three study sites (mean eastern grey kangaroo densities of 450, 480 and 510 km2) are the highest kangaroo densities reported. For comparison, the maximum density of combined red kangaroos and western grey kangaroos in the Kinchega study was less than 56 km2 (Bayliss 1987) and the density of eastern grey kangaroos at Wallaby Creek (Southwell 1987b) was 41 to 50 km2. The next highest kangaroo density outside the vicinity of my study sites appears to be that of Coulson et al. (1999a) for eastern grey kangaroos at Yan Yean Reservoir near Melbourne, which was 220 km2.”

Coulson’s study of kangaroos at 2.2 per ha was published in 1999 as Coulson G, Alviano P, Ramp P, Way S “The kangaroos of Yan Yean: history of a problem population”. [5] Graham Coulson’s Yan Yean article is frequently cited by kangaroo population students and he seems to be thought of as the originator of the “one kangaroo per kilometer” ‘rule’.

I did contact Dr Fletcher by email, and he was initially quite friendly, but when I attempted to ask him questions about his thesis responses to my emails ceased, even though I re-sent the emails.

For every assertion a contradictory one remains unanswered

The ACT Kangaroo Advisory Committee Report No.1 (issued prior to the Majura cull) reported conflict between kangaroos and the rural community which uses 23% of the ACT.

“A key issue for rural lessees is the conflict between kangaroo grazing and pasture and fodder crop production.”
(ACT Kangaroo Advisory Committee Report No.1. )

It stated as fact anecdotal reports that kangaroo populations ballooned due to man-made pasture improvements.

“There is general consensus that, in other parts of Australia at least, land clearing and swamp drainage to extend areas for introduced pasture, together with the increase in the number of farm dams has improved habitat for Eastern Grey Kangaroos and some other macropods, leading to increased numbers.”

But these anecdotal reports are very selective and easily countered by others, for instance in Dr John Auty’s comprehensive review of original documents forming the history of kangaroo populations from the time of European settlement in Australia. See “Red Plague Grey Plague - Kangaroo [numbers] myths and legends”

Other ACT researchers have also questioned the logistical principle of blaming kangaroos for human pressures on the environment, i.e. why blame kangaroos when we know that the damage is outstandingly done by sheep and cattle? In the Olsen and Low report case cited below the researchers are talking about farming, but they could just as much be talking about new suburbs, i.e. why blame kangaroos when the damage is obviously being done by human population growth, accompanying infrastructure and housing development (roads and suburbs), and human activities (driving cars, growing lawns, shopping, expansion of production, etc.)?

“The discontinuation of damage mitigation as grounds for harvesting is in many ways a more honest approach to kangaroo management given that damage is difficult to monitor, predict and even to prove empirically to be an issue. It also removes the implication that kangaroos are pests.

However, some landholders still perceive damage mitigation to be the main reason for harvesting and continue to call for greater quotas, mainly during the recent years of low rainfall. Arguably, this is a socio-economic problem rather than an ecological one. Certainly, the issue of land degradation will never be redressed by simple reduction in kangaroo numbers when there is no concomitant control of sheep and other introduced herbivore grazing impacts.” Olsen and Low Report. [6]

Is the real conflict over the grasslands between developers and kangaroos rather than kangaroos and earless dragons?

Fletcher, in his thesis, describes Kangaroo density in the ACT as having “increased more rapidly from 1996 to 2000 after sheep and cattle grazing had ended.” [7] Sheep and cattle had been allowed to graze in the threatened grasslands. In some cases they have even been returned to the areas where kangaroos have been ‘euthanazed’ to protect those fragile grasslands.

The question asked here should not be whether the kangaroo density increased to take up pasture vacated by sheep and or cattle. The real question should be: Did such a reduction in sheep and cattle grazing then bring the unfortunate kangaroos into conflict with urban developers over the rezoning of agricultural land for rural use?

In fact, if we drop the non-issue of kangaroo numbers, the relevance of developer-ambition conflicting with retaining grasslands for any indigenous animals becomes obvious.

Kangaroos graze there, which is obviously better than sheep and cattle grazing there, but property developers want to raise far more lucrative crops of humans there by building roads and houses where kangaroos now graze, along with earless dragons.

Unfortunately the government is encouraging developers. Maxine Cooper, Commissioner for Sustainability, in her report on ACT Lowland Native Grassland Investigation, says that the "ACT is fortunate in being in a strong position to be able to advance the protection of lowland native grassland, in particular Natural Temperate Grassland communities and the species it supports," ... BUT... [she adds]:

“Protecting lowland native grassland from development is also a challenge as these areas, being generally flat to gently undulating with no trees, are often prime potential development sites. Much of Canberra’s development is on lands that were once lowland native grassland.” Maxine Cooper Report, p. v.

“Development that potentially affects lowland native grassland is either underway or
planned for the ACT (see Section 5). This development has the potential to sever corridor and connectivity between grasslands and woodlands and/or other adjacent habitats. Many of the recommendations presented in this report reinforce the importance of connectivity.” Maxine Cooper Report, pp 74-75,

Now most of the competition with kangaroos is from property development. Stimulating property development is government policy and the means of stimulus is a policy to encourage interstate immigration and natural increase through baby bonuses. This government decision to stimulate human population growth in the ACT and to expand development in the ACT causes pressure on the local kangaroo population and the population of the Earless Dragon in the ACT.

Grave failure of public education and democracy

The commercially-based decisions about human population policy which cause these pressures, however, are kept entirely out of official calculations, negotiations, and rationales pertaining to kangaroo culls and definitions of kangaroo overpopulation in Belconnen and Majura, ACT. This omission means that the public do not have the information to hold the government responsible where it should be held responsible, nor to question the costs of its policies. This represents a grave failure of public education and democracy.

Oddly, Maxine Cooper, in her “Report on ACT Lowland Native Grassland Investigation,” 12 March 2009, mentions and notes the threat to the grasslands from development, yet she does not factor this logically into the reasonableness of blaming and killing kangaroos.

Instead, she uncritically accepts the illogical explanations which she is provided with about kangaroos. She even provides further faulty measures of kangaroo population densities by rate of car-kangaroo collisions.

“The 2007–08 State of the Environment report states that motor vehicle accidents involving kangaroos has increased by 38% (from 563 in 2005–06 to 777 in 2006–07). Rangers have advised that they now attend more than 1,000 roadside kangaroo incidents per year in Canberra.” [8]

Although Maxine is aware that the building of roads and suburbs is impacting the grasslands, she does not stop to think that these are also impacting the kangaroos through an increasing rate of driving them out of their habitats and onto the roads to make way for houses.

If, however, commercial development pressure were properly assessed, then its role as the primary population impact on the grasslands and the cause of ACT policies to depopulate kangaroos would become obvious and the government would no longer be able to deflect criticism of overdevelopment and cruelty to kangaroos.

Who profits? When an Earless Dragon is like a smoking gun we should ask who fired the gun.

What of the Earless Dragon in all this? Small and scarce, it is not hard to imagine it fitting into a developer’s pocket-size native-style garden. You could even imagine thirty-something refugees from housing prices in Sydney and Singapore cultivating it in garden pots in new high-rises. Imagine is the key, since who would check up?

Pardon me for being skeptical, but the high profile of the Earless Dragon makes me think of advice to writers about mentioning loaded guns in detective stories. If there is a gun it is there to shoot a victim for a motive. The huge importance suddenly given to the humble Earless Dragon bespeaks a greater purpose than the self-evident worth of its own preservation. Cherchez le maccabe. [Find the cadaver.] The Dragon is the weapon to get rid of the much-loved kangaroos. There can be no argument there, for we hear little else but how the kangaroos are threatening this little animal. Once the kangaroos are gone, the tiny Dragon’s profile will almost certainly sink back to the level which escapes most humans’ notice, unreported by the mainstream press.

Let us ask the ever-useful sociological question here. Who benefits?
Developers and their friends do.

Let justice be done

You wouldn’t think it from listening to politicians, but I have it from a reliable source that, in the ACT, the biggest source of public complaint is cruelty to animals. People should realize that they are not alone in their horror at the cruelty entailed by all this unwanted (except by its few focused beneficiaries) and costly population growth and development. The Earless Dragon has been deployed with the effect of sowing paralysing confusion among nature groups by implying an ungenerous bias for furry kangaroos against ugly dragons.

”To save the beauty, or the beast; that is the question
Eastern grey kangaroos are among the most appealing of mammals (Figure 12), while Ginninderra Lepidium, Grassland Earless Dragons, Coorooboorama Raspy Crickets (Figure 4), Striped legless Lizards, Perunga Grasshoppers (Figure5), Golden Sun Moths (Figure5), and other grassland-dependent plants and animals, are all ugly. Well that may be one opinion, but if so, it is irrelevant. Governments are legally and morally obliged to protect each species. Beauty is not a consideration.” ”A Pictorial Guide to the Kangaroo Culling Issue, Dept of Territorial and Municipal Services, ACT Government” [ 9]

This has the hallmarks of a straw man argument.

Let the community be heard as it rises to save the grasslands and return them to their rightful management by kangaroos and Earless Dragons. Let due opprobrium be publicly dealt the Growth Lobby by exposing its greed and cowardice in orchestrating the cold-blooded execution of thousands of living, breathing, social creatures for economic and ecological crimes they could never have committed, merely to defend its exceedingly narrow and debt-ridden interests. Let us sheet home to the Growth Lobby and its minions in government the depravity with which they attempt to corrupt our wider society. We are not cruel or injust. We do not support cruelty and injustice.

It seems amazing that Maxine Cooper can support a kangaroo cull when she also writes that the Majura Valley grassland is “arguably one of the largest areas of Natural Temperate Grassland remaining in southeast Australia” but that it has no long-term planning protection and there is no commitment for any, and that to protect it by defining it as a reserve would

“[…]constrain future development options, for example, the potential Canberra International Airport northern link road and the potential east-west Kowen road [… and] would also ensure that the Natural Temperate Grassland, the Grassland Earless Dragon and other threatened species are not adversely affected through incremental developments, as would be the case if the potential Canberra International Airport northern link road and the potential east-west Kowen road were to be progressed according to existing concept plans.” [10]

In other words, Maxine Cooper is aware that plans for several new roads and urban expansion are planned for the Majura grasslands and sees that it will be necessary to curb this development to protect the grasslands. [11]

Some of Cooper’s other recommendations (apart from those which promote the culling of kangaroos on illogical grounds) are good. I provide these in the appendix to this article.

Earless Dragon scarcity previously coincided with kangaroo scarcity in ACT

Don Fletcher, in “Population Dynamics of Eastern Grey Kangaroos in Temperate Grasslands,” describes how, in the 1940s and 1950s kangaroos actually became rare in the ACT due to competition by European grazing stock. Even when these stock were removed, they remained rare for some time. Salt blocks were put out in the 1960s to attract kangaroos to the Tidbinbilla Fauna Reserve, where in 1963 employees went for three months without seeing one.) [12]

Oddly, at the same time as kangaroos were banished from the ACT, the Earless Dragon also became scarce. It couldn’t have been because of too many kangaroos.

“The Grassland Earless Dragon was very common in the ACT up to the 1930s but there are now very few left. This is mainly because there are so few areas of its native grassland habitat remaining. There are now only two main populations known in the ACT; and there is one near Cooma in NSW.” Source: The ACT Conservation Council, http://www.consact.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=47&Itemid=34#GED
[13 ]

Note that the Earless Dragon was also found in 2001 in Mount Tyson on Queensland's Darling Downs. [14]

APPENDIX: Maxine Cooper, in her “Report on ACT Lowland Native Grassland Investigation,” 12 March 2009

Recommendation 23: Plan a Majura Valley Reserve to protect Natural Temperate Grassland and its supporting species, particularly the Grassland Earless Dragon, by defining the boundaries of this proposed reserve in the near future.”

“Findings that informed Recommendation 27
During the investigation, the Commissioner’s Office found it difficult to identify the location of lowland native grassland sites relative to planning zones that guide land use. To help the community and developers gain information on grassland sites relative to planning zones it is recommended that a map of the location of lowland native grassland sites relative to planning zones be published.

Recommendation 27: Publish a map that shows the location of lowland native grassland sites relative to planning zones. This should be readily available through the ACT Planning and Land Authority and the Department of Territory and Municipal Services.” Source: Maxine Cooper, Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, “Report on ACT Lowland Native Grassland Investigation,” 12 March 2009, pp 73-74

“In terms of biodiversity conservation, the ideal approach is to establish a series of conservation reserves (which may include voluntary schemes) that are of sufficient size and biodiversity to maintain a full range of ecological communities (and hence species) on a long-term basis. It is also desirable for such reserves to be located to enable connectivity for animal movement and other interactions between them.125
The natural connections between grasslands and adjoining woodlands have mostly been severed, but should be retained where they still exist.

Important grassland sites for connectivity between woodland and grassland are at:

• Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve and Campbell Park (MA05)
• ‘Callum Brae’ (JE02)
• Jerrabomberra West Reserve (JE03) and woodland to the west
• Gungaderra Nature Reserve (GU02) and Gungahlin Hill
• Aranda Bushland and Caswell Drive (BE10)
• Majura Valley at the Majura Training Area (MA01).

Important grassland sites for connectivity between grasslands are at:

• Campbell Park (MA05) and Majura West (MA06)
• adjacent grassland on either side of the ACT and New South Wales border via Harman Bonshaw North (JE06) and Harman Bonshaw South (JE07), Jerrabomberra East Reserve (JE05), Woods Lane (JE06), and Queanbeyan Nature Reserve (Letchworth, New SouthWales)
• adjacent grassland between the Canberra International Airport (MA03) the Majura
Training Area (MA01) and ‘Malcolm Vale’ (MA04). Pp. 74-75

NEW POPULATION BOOK HOLDS SOLUTIONS TO HABITAT DEPLETION: Sheila Newman has just published new theory in a new book, Demography, Territory & Law: The Rules of Animal and Human Populations (see link). Two chapters are on multi-species demography, the rest apply the theory to non-industrial societies and the author comes up with a completely new test for the collapse model of Easter Island, which will stun those who thought they knew all about it. Forensic biologist, Hans Brunner writes of it: "This book takes us to a completely new paradigm in multiple species population science. It shows how little we understand, and how much we need to know, of the sexual reactions when closed colonies with an orderly reproduction system are destroyed, be it people or animals."

NOTES

[1] “Majura roo cull targets 6000, Canberra Times, 2 May 2009, http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/majuraroo-cull-targets-6000/1502384.aspx and
Victor Violante, “Roo cull under way: 2000 shot”, Canberra Times, 9/05/2009,
“About 2000 eastern grey kangaroos at the Department of Defence's Majura Training Area have been culled this week, with a further 4000 expected to be shot. Defence confirmed yesterday that culling had begun on Tuesday and contractors doing the cull had already achieved about a third of their target.
Defence spokesman Brigadier Brian Dawson said there were about 9000 eastern grey kangaroos on the Defence-owned site, and they would reduce the population to the ''sustainable level'', a density of one per hectare. This would reduce the population to about 3000.
‘The cull is being conducted humanely by licensed and experienced professional contractors,'' Brigadier Dawson said yesterday.’”
[2] Kangaroos Threaten One Of Australia's Last Remaining Original Grasslands, And Endangered Animals (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/ 080521114923.htm) “The eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) has always been part of the cityscape of Canberra, also known as the "bush capital" of Australia. But even Leipzig-based scientist Dr Marion Höhn and Anett Richter of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) are surprised by the high numbers of them. In her doctoral thesis, Anett Richter is investigating how selected invertebrate species such as ground beetles are affected by landscape fragmentation and habitat alteration in natural grasslands in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Yet during her fieldwork she discovered that there were far fewer of them than expected.
What she found instead were dry grasslands, grazed bare and scarred by the worst drought to hit Australia in a century. Particularly, she was surprised to find large quantities of kangaroo dung, especially in the enclosed military areas: "The results of the fragmentation studies are not yet available. But we assume that there is a relationship on individual sites between the extremely high density of kangaroos and species diversity among the invertebrates – especially in times of severe drought."”

In Peter Robertson & Murray Evans, /files/earless-dragon-management-2009-tympanocryptis-pinguicolla.pdf National Recovery Plan for the Grassland Earless Dragon Tympanocryptis pinguicolla, published by the ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services, Canberra, 2009: http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/43f24013-b621-4ff6-bf09-34da942e8ced/files/tympanocryptis-pinguicolla.pdf the Canberra International Airport is listed as responsible for the management of earless dragon habitat at the airport (p.9); as possibly relatedly suffering economic impacts (p.12); as supporting ongoing studies p.19.

The Airport legal framework for protecting dragon habitat, including land management agreements and conservation directions, is outlined in section A5.1, p.4:

"Development at the Canberra Airport requires approval for Major Development Plans (MDP) (defined under the Airports Act 1996) from the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government (Infrastructure Minister). The Infrastructure Minister, under Section 160(2)(c) of the EPBC Act, must obtain and consider advice from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts (Environment Minister). Although an approval may be given by the Infrastructure Minister for a MDP, a permit from the Environment Minister under Section 201 of the EPBC
Act to move, take or kill is required to harm a Grassland Earless Dragon or its habitat. In issuing such a permit the Environment Minister must be satisfied that the action will not have an adverse impact and will contribute significantly to the conservation of the species."

[3] Don Fletcher, “Population Dynamics of Eastern Grey Kangaroos in Temperate Grasslands,” was on line as a pdf, which is the form I downloaded it as. A copy is preserved now under this article, linked here: /files/Fletcher-kangaroo-thesis.pdf because the pdf is now of limited availability, although copies are still at the University of Canberra Library, reference: http://nla.gov.au/anbd.bib-an42269526. A book by the same title and author has also been published.
[4] There are 100 ha in one square km. So if density varied between 450 and 510 kangs per square km, then that is 4.5 p ha or 5.10 per ha. With 220 per square km 2.2 per ha.
[5] Coulson G, Alviano P, Ramp P, Way S (1999). “The kangaroos of Yan Yean: history of a problem population”, Proc R Soc Vic 111: 121–130.
[6] Penny Olsen and Tim Low, “Situation Analysis Report Update on Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Kangaroos in the Environment, Including Ecological and Economic Impact and Effect of Culling”, School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200
26 Henry Street, Chapel Hill, Queensland 4049, Prepared for the Kangaroo Management Advisory Panel, March 2006
[7] Don Fletcher, “Population Dynamics of Eastern Grey Kangaroos
in Temperate Grasslands”, p.40
[8] In Note 11: “The 2007–08 State of the Environment report states that motor vehicle accidents involving kangaroos has increased by 38% (from 563 in 2005–06 to 777 in 2006–07). Rangers have advised that they now attend more than 1,000 roadside kangaroo incidents per year in Canberra.” Although Maxine is aware that the building of roads and suburbs is impacting the grasslands, she does not stop to think that these are also impacting the kangaroos through an increasing rate of driving them out of their habitats and on to the roads. Nor does Don Fletcher, in his thesis, where he accepts reports on increasing rates of car collisions with kangaroos in Victoria, also a state with a population growth policy which manifests in rapid population growth and development and rapid depletion of kangaroo habitat.
[9] A Pictorial Guide to the Kangaroo Culling Issue (2006) from the ACT Department of Territorial and Administrative Services.

[10] Maxine Cooper Report, pp. xv-xvi
[11] Maxine Cooper Report, pp.74-75 and pp xv-xvi:

“Development that potentially affects lowland native grassland is either underway or
planned for the ACT (see Section 5). This development has the potential to sever corridor and connectivity between grasslands and woodlands and/or other adjacent habitats. Many of the recommendations presented in this report reinforce the importance of connectivity.” pp 74-75

“Majura Valley’s large, intact lowland native grassland area, which consists of a number of sites under the control of various government agencies, does not have long-term planning protection; it is not in a reserve and there is no commitment for this to occur.

Given the significance of the Majura Valley grassland, arguably one of the largest areas of Natural Temperate Grassland remaining in southeast Australia, the presence of five threatened species including the Grassland Earless Dragon, it is strongly recommended that a commitment be made to create a reserve in this locality.” [xv-xvi]

[…]defining the site of the proposed Majura Valley reserve would constrain future
development options, for example, the potential Canberra International Airport northern link road and the potential east-west Kowen road, it would provide a more certain context for potential developments. It would also ensure that the Natural Temperate Grassland, the Grassland Earless Dragon and other threatened species are not adversely affected through incremental developments, as would be the case if the potential Canberra International Airport northern link road and the potential east-west Kowen road were to be progressed according to existing concept plans. [xv-xvi]

The lands for the proposed reserve could be the subject of a formal conservation agreement between the ACT and Australian governments.”
[12] Don Fletcher, “Population Dynamics of Eastern Grey Kangaroos
in Temperate Grasslands”: “3.3 History of eastern grey kangaroo populations on the sites
All three sites had been grazed commercially for 50 – 150 years until withdrawn in recent decades for conservation or water supply purposes. Each site supported an unmanaged population of eastern grey kangaroos, which was at high density. Kangaroos were scarce in the ACT region in the 1940s and 1950s (Schumack 1977; ACT Kangaroo Advisory Committee 1996, p. 9). This included the study sites. The first employees in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve lived there for three months in 1963 before seeing a kangaroo (Mick McMahon, former employee, personal communication; ACT Kangaroo Advisory Committee 1996) and salt blocks were put out to attract kangaroos in the years before the reserve was opened to the public (ACT government official file: Tidbinbilla Fauna Reserve Advisory Committee – 1966).”
[13] Source: The ACT Conservation Council description of the Grassland Earless Dragon - Typanocryptis pinguicolla.
[14] Mt Tyson's Grassland Earless Dragon: not extinct after all
“Chocolate bilbies are facing stiff market competition from the Grassland Earless Dragon in Mount Tyson on Queensland's Darling Downs. GED (as the Grassland Earless Dragon is affectionately known) was thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered in 2001. An adult GED grows to around 12 centimetres long and has spotted spiky skin which makes it a camouflage specialist. […] The Landcare Group has received more than $7,000 from the Australian Government to fund a variety of activities designed to promote awareness of GED and create a conservation management strategy for the species. […] The Group had previously received funding through a State Government Community Natural Resource Awareness Activity Grant, which they used to commission the chocolate mould that was provided to manufacture the chocolate dragons. Support has also been provided by local businesses such as Ergon Energy in Toowoomba and by the Queensland Museum and the University of Queensland Gatton campus.”

Comments

Jon Stanhope is an environmental expert and warped conservationist now? He says that any further delays in kangaroo "culls" would mean that "the ecosystem could be irreparably damaged"!

This is raising the bar of green washing to new and dizzy levels! If he was really interested in protecting delicate ecosystems and endangered moths and lizards, he would get expert and independent advice and fund an inquiry into ACT's ecosystem health and maintenance. He would find that kangaroos are not an environmental threat!

The Defence department and the ACT government are not being honourable, transparent or honest about their real intentions and plans for the land at Majura. Traffic is colliding with kangaroos due to a lack of wildlife corridors and crossings and nothing is more damning for animals than financial losses!

Stanhope and Defence are using public apathy to green wash us with pseudo-science.

Another matter that doesnt have any science to back it up is the number of kangaroos that are described as "sustainable per hectare". In Australia that's an impossible argument, climate variation, weather variation from day to day, it's all academic speculation. In the high rainfall area where I live, possibly 20 or more kangaroos could thrive on one grassland hectare, yet in high rainforest numbers could be much lower, and in the Simpson desert it may be only 1 kangaroo per 20 hectares. The whole concept is nonsense. As we all know, kangaroos control their populations very well if left alone. Pat

Subject was: Please note...

Please note that the 'earless dragon' found at Darling Downs in QLD is NOT the same endangered Tympanocryptis pinguicolla species as found in the ACT and areas of NSW (predominantly Cooma region). Refer to Conservation Genetics and species status of an endangered Australian dragon, Typanocryptis pinguicolla (Reptilian: Agamidae) Melville et al. 2007, Cons Genet.

This particular species of Tympanocryptis faces an uncertain future due to many factors, and has been declining rapidly over the last few years.

I do not necessarily agree with the kangaroo culling, but just because it is an "ugly" reptile or a seemingly unimportant "bug" like the golden sun moth, does not mean it is any less important than a furry face.

Don't forget how intimately things are connected in nature...including the impact on natural populations (both positive & negative, both on dragons & kangaroos) of humans.

Hi Anonymous,

Thank you for thinking carefully about this. I hope that you also note that I said nothing to deprecate the earless dragon or the golden sun moth. What I did was criticise the rationale of saying that culling kangaroos was to save the earless dragon. I pointed out that earless dragon scarcity coincided with kangaroo scarcity in the ACT. The converse would also be true: good earless dragon numbers coincided with plentiful kangaroos. The point is that the conflation is an obvious lie or incompetence used by the government to carry out culls. Another point would be the importance of both species to eachother, perhaps.

Earless Dragon scarcity previously coincided with kangaroo scarcity in ACT

Don Fletcher, in “Population Dynamics of Eastern Grey Kangaroos in Temperate Grasslands,” describes how, in the 1940s and 1950s kangaroos actually became rare in the ACT due to competition by European grazing stock. Even when these stock were removed, they remained rare for some time. Salt blocks were put out in the 1960s to attract kangaroos to the Tidbinbilla Fauna Reserve, where in 1963 employees went for three months without seeing one.) [12]

Oddly, at the same time as kangaroos were banished from the ACT, the Earless Dragon also became scarce. It couldn’t have been because of too many kangaroos.

“The Grassland Earless Dragon was very common in the ACT up to the 1930s but there are now very few left. This is mainly because there are so few areas of its native grassland habitat remaining. There are now only two main populations known in the ACT; and there is one near Cooma in NSW.” Source: The ACT Conservation Council, http://www.consact.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=47&Itemid=34#GED
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