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Why are bullets preferred over translocations of kangaroos?

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE)
“humanely” put down a group of kangaroos that had been isolated on land at South Morang.

DSE wildlife manager Ron Waters responsible for the “difficult” decision. The health and safety of these kangaroos was at risk. They were facing dehydration and starvation because of the progressive loss of habitat at the site. He killed them to avoid them being killed on the roads!

Magnanimously, he claimed that the The welfare and safety issues associated with the capture and relocation of kangaroos were significant.

Suitable places for the translocation were found, but still the official version is that finding suitable habitat to relocate kangaroos to is also a challenge.” Donors, including Westfield, offered to pay the costs!

The area was earmarked for development, not surprising, and if there is no suitable habitat left in Victoria, considering the Black Saturday holocaust, then it is a damning statement of the condition of Victoria, the most cleared and damaged State in Australia.

Whittlesea Council sustainability planning manager John Rawlings said the project had been wound up after four months, but kangaroos remained in the area. A recent effort to try and relocate kangaroos from the Plenty Valley Town Centre area of Mill Park was 'not entirely successful,' Mr Rawlings said. Some of (the kangaroos) kept returning or were being replaced by others coming into the area.' The eastern grey kangaroos had been getting caught in back yards and fences as well as creating traffic hazards.

Translocation attempts

An attempt to relocate the kangaroos was made in early 2007. This relocation attempt was undertaken by a paid consultant in consultation with DSE as part of the Planning permit issued to Westfield. The consultant was able to capture and relocate a number of kangaroos over a few weeks.

They were tranquilised and moved to Quarry Hills, north of South Morang, by State Government authorities as requested by the council.

Initially 2 large males were captured & tagged and moved to the relocation site approximately 3km away. These male kangaroos were moved on their own, 1 at a time, and returned back to the Westfield site. One returned within 24 hours and another took 2 weeks to return. It is only normal that they will want to come back to their mob and protect their females & joeys, they are animals that live in mobs not on their own.

The translocation obviously did not cause injury or too much stress as they managed to safely return to their mob!

A further 3 kangaroos were captured, dye marked and moved to another relocation site approximately 13km away. These animals were not identified back at the Westfield site after they were moved but no one really knows what happened to them at the recipient site either.

The objective to move the kangaroos from the Mill Park/South Morang area was thus deemed a failure.

Ms Fiona Rowley, a Mill Park wildlife rescuer, organised an online petition to save the kangaroos, stranded on land near Westfield Plenty Valley.
According to Fiona :
There is very little research on relocating kangaroos. There has been one study which is still an unpublished paper from a relocation attempt undertaken in Queensland. 3 kangaroos died in the capture process - what injuries were sustained I don't know and after the remaining 10 or so roos were relocated about 4 others died within a six month period, 1 hit by a car and 3 attacked by dogs but none died of stress.

So did the relocation kill them or was it because of predators etc which can happen in any area? Hard to use or quote any of this information as it is an unpublished study.

Animals may be “in the way” of expansion of human settlement or of human activities such as agriculture or mining or may be in conflict with humans. There is an increasing move to attempt to shift animals from such habitat prior to its loss or to shift animals away from the conflict zone.

When DSE refer to studies that show poor survival rates for translocated wildlife what they are referring to are studies that have been undertaken involving brushtail possums, tiger snakes plus there are a number of studies where smaller macropods e.g rock wallabies have been released in areas and have a high mortality rate because of feral cats.

Is it reasonable to keep comparing studies on possums, tiger snakes, rock wallabies to eastern grey kangaroos? A proper scientific relocation project needs to be undertaken with eastern grey kangaroos and the results published so it can be referred to in the future.


The principal reason for translocating Common Brushtail Possums from urban environments to rural locations is to reduce human-possum conflicts without killing the possums. According to a study (R. S. Pietsch, 1992): The reality is that translocation may result in the deaths of more than 70 per cent of possums during the first week after release. There fore, the conclusion was that translocation is hardly a satisfactory means of dealing with nuisance urban possums, particularly considering the possible impacts and costs in term so time and resources involved in the process.

Translocated tiger snakes (H Butler, B Malone, N Clemann, 2005) have much larger home ranges, and make larger movements than do resident snakes. Thus, translocated snakes frequently breached management boundaries of the release site and entered residential properties. Whether this also occurs with other species and other release sites requires investigation.

Over the last several years, Parks Victoria relocated more than 6000 koalas from these parks to ensure that the overall survival and health of both forest and koala populations are maintained. Relocated koalas have been surgically sterilised to minimise the risk of over-abundance occurring at the release sites. Relocation programs over the last century have ensured that koalas are once again found throughout all suitable habitat for them in Victoria. According toAustralian Koala Foundation , while relocation programs over the last century may have ensured that koalas are once again found throughout all suitable habitat for them in Victoria, there is no mention of the limited genetic stock from which they were derived, the effects the introduced animals had on local gene pools, subsequent rates of habitat decline and koala population decline and so on. The AKF does not support the view that koalas now occur in all suitable habitat throughout Victoria.

Risks with larger mammals

The capture of large mammals such as kangaroos can be difficult. Where animals are simply chased and caught, skeletal damage (broken bones, joint damage) and muscular injuries such as capture myopathy may occur, but in practice rarely does. Capture using chemical darting is usually satisfactory and relatively risk free but adverse drug reactions and even deaths can occur. Overall translocations are being used to manage more and more ‘at risk’ species.

Although several post-release field studies have been undertaken to determine the survival of translocated animals, (Scott Craven, Thomas Barnes, and Gary Kania, 1998) little research attention has focused on the impacts of translocated animals at the point of release. Survival of released animals has been compared to survival of established, wild populations. In such comparisons, the released animals usually suffered higher mortality rates.

Decisions on translocations should be species-specific. The population status of animals to be translocated should be considered. Most people appreciate and enjoy the animals that make up the urban wildlife community. "Overabundant" implies a value judgement and should be justified with supporting information on habitat carrying capacity, habitat degradation, historical population trends, and reported levels of damage.

Translocation denied for kangaroos in Canberra

According to
Living with Eastern Grey Kangaroos in the A.C.T. - RURAL LANDS
FIRST REPORT TO THE MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, LAND AND PLANNING
A.C.T. KANGAROO ADVISORY COMMITTEE FEBRUARY 1996

Translocation of free ranging animals is a deceptively attractive option for dealing with excess animals because it appears to remove the problem. However, it is not a real solution and can create problems elsewhere. While it is possible to move small numbers from one area to another, it is not practicable for large numbers of free ranging animals.

Translocation is expensive because it requires large numbers of skilled staff and
specialised equipment. In the Committee's view, it is not an effective management tool
for large numbers of free ranging kangaroos.

The kangaroo survey conducted in the ACT has demonstrated that there was “no room available for translocation of even small numbers of free ranging animals. Obviously they didn't value them very much!

Further, translocation of animals to another State is not appropriate because the species is common in eastern Australia and other wildlife authorities do not support importation. No other State wanted them!

There are also significant animal welfare reasons for not translocating animals:
1. the stress associated with capture, transport and release;
2. the possibility of introducing animals to an inappropriate site;
3. the likely stress associated with introduction to a new social environment; and
4. the likely stress on resident social groups.

They concluded that translocation is not an appropriate management strategy for free ranging kangaroos in the ACT (refer to page 15 of the report). Were they really interested in the welfare of the animals or lethally "managing" them?

Defence in April 2008 said the trial would "deliver scientific evidence relating to translocation, assist the protection of endangered ecological communities and threatened species, and inform debate on humane management of eastern grey kangaroos."

It said the cooperation of the ACT Government and key experts in developing a proposal to support a pilot program would help identify a sustainable and responsible approach to land management.

Why then was Chief Minister Stanhope and his local government so keen on kangaroo slaughter when translocation is the preferred option in other Australian states?
Where is RSPCA (ACT)’s evidence that slaughtering a large number of kangaroos with a rifle over three days is humane? Why were they opposed to the use of proven methods of translocation?

Mr Stanhope and RSPCA ACT director Michael Linke claimed moving the kangaroos would be inhumane, citing a report stating large numbers of kangaroos could be expected to die as a result . They preferred bullets instead of the risk to a few?
(photo: Canberra's final solution to kangaroos "management". Courtesy of Bernie)
The director of the University of NSW arid zone research station, David Croft, dismissed this claim as ill-informed.

Dr Croft conducted a two-year study in central NSW on the impacts of translocation which showed no kangaroos died after being released into new habitat, and animals quickly integrated with wild kangaroos. Dr Croft, who has published numerous scientific papers on kangaroo management, said Wildcare's plan to move the kangaroos could potentially deliver breakthrough science. The Wildlife Protection Association of Australia and other Wildlife/Wildcare Organisations, Animal Liberation has been assured that the translocation would be successful if handled correctly. A group called Wildcare Queanbeyan has offered to transport the kangaroos at $3600 a head, but pressure is building on Defence to go ahead with the cull instead.
 
Former Queanbeyan Wildcare president Professor Steve Garlick said moving kangaroos was now commonplace.

As someone who has translocated up to 15 kangaroos including large ones in one day with simply the right medication and right destination facilities, its easy to see that a team of people would have little difficulty in moving greater numbers over a period of time. Dr Croft said the translocation program would have allowed scientists to test methods to be applied to moving threatened species.

Site quality - rather than the number and timing of translocations - primarily determines the long-term persistence of populations.

The characteristics and success of vertebrate translocations within Australia:
A final report to Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry by Dr Jeff Short compiles 380 translocations of 102 species. Of these, 195 translocations (51% of total translocations) are of 50 threatened species (roughly half of all species translocated). The two species (Brush-tailed Bettong and Tammar Wallaby) that have the most translocations were delisted as threatened species in the late 1990s, in part, because of the success of translocations.

A frequent criticism of translocations is that they often fail (Griffith et al. 1989; Short et al. 1992; Fischer and Lindenmayer 2000) and that there has been little improvement in the success rate over time (Fischer and Lindenmayer 2000). Lack of adequate monitoring and reporting is a theme common to most reviews of translocations (Short et al. 1992, Fischer and Lindenmayer 2000), and appears equally true today.

The major factor affecting the success of translocations of mammals was predation, typically by an exotic predator. Predation was given as the key cause in 80% of failed translocations. Typically introductions and restocking of mammals were far more successful than were reintroductions. The success rate for mammal translocation (62% of those with a recorded outcome) was substantially higher than for birds (38%), reptiles (33%) and amphibians (10%).

Seventy seven of 107 (72%) translocations of mammals were to unfenced sites that had active programmes of fox control. Successful translocations included those of Koala (4), Brushtail Possum (3), Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Common Wombat, Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby, Sugar Glider and Rothschild’s Rock-wallaby. Hence, successes at unfenced site in the apparent absence of fox control were largely from species either outside the critical weight range, arboreal, or beyond the northern boundary of the range of foxes.

Fischer and Lindenmayer (2000) found that most translocations that addressed human-animal conflicts (typically restocking) were unsuccessful. Contributing factors were homing behaviour and the poor adaptation to a shift from an urban to a non-urban environment. However, this conclusion was not based on macropod species.

Island populations of some translocated native species (Western Grey Kangaroos from Granite Island in South Australia) have subsequently been removed due to their environmental impact. These animals are victims of their translocation success!

Therefore, on what scientific basis, or body of experience, do our official “experts” conclude that a mass slaughter of kangaroos is more humane than translocation?

According to the Invasive Animal Cooperative Research Centre,
contraception methods are considered an ethically more acceptable alternative to culling or translocation when dealing with population control of large mammals, particularly for native species such as kangaroos.  Recent studies in eastern grey kangaroos using implants of a synthetic progestagen  have shown they provide a safe, effective, and long-term (at least 27 months) method of contraception for eastern grey kangaroos.  However, infertility by surgery is prohibitively expensive and improbable, given the numbers of animals involved. 


(photo: courtesy of Wildlife Victoria)
Wildlife Protestors
gathered at Parliament House on Wednesday 31st March
to bring the government the messages of grief and anger written on the Spirit Kangaroos at the Memorial Protest on the previous Sunday.

The group then walked to the offices of The Department of Sustainability and Environment and called for Mr Ron Waters to explain why these kangaroos were killed when he was aware that Wildlife Victoria had indicated this mob for scientific research into feasibility of translocation of landlocked kangaroos - a research project based on specs Mr Water's had recommended at a meeting of the South Morang Kangaroo Working Group.

Roos at McDonalds Rd weren’t starving or dehydrated, just a convenient excuse to undertake a kill to avoid setting a precedent of successful relocation!

Griffith, B., Scott, J.M., Carpenter, J.W., and Reed, C. (1989). Translocation as a species conservation
tool: status and strategy. Science 245, 477-480.

Short, J., Bradshaw, S.D., Giles, J.R., Prince, R.I.T., andWilson, G.R. (1992). Reintroduction of
macropods (Marsupialia: Macropodoidea) in Australia - a review. Biological Conservation 62, 189-
204.

Fischer, J. and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2000). An assessment of the published results of animal
relocations. Biological Conservation 96, 1-11.

R. S. Pietsch, 1992. “The fate of urban Common Brushtail Possums translocated to sclerophyll forest”.

H Butler, B Malone, N Clemann, (2005). “The effects of translocation on the spatial ecology of tiger snakes Notechis scutatus) in a suburban landscape” Wildlife Research, 32, 165-171, CSIRO Publishing

Scott Craven, Thomas Barnes, and Gary Kania, (1998)Toward a professional position on the ranslocation of problem wildlife.

Comments

Thank you Vivienne,

This is an important ecological issue that is not going to go away with human populations permeating further into the last remnant wildlife islands we have.

This issue would seem to come under the generic topics of:

* Human-Wildlife Conflicts
* Wildlife Translocation

On these topics I recommend the text 'Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts: The Science of Wildlife Damage Management' by Michael Conover, CRC Press 2001.

These topics deserve to be explored and publised with a view of legislating best ecological practice.

I also highlight the comparison of 20th Century treatment of Australia's wildlife (kangaroos, wild fouls in Victoria's duck season) to the British colonial treatment of Aborigines in the 19th Century.
I recommend adults only reading of BLACK WAR - THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TASMANIAN ABORIGINES By RUNOKO RASHIDI, in particular Part 2.
It is disturbing reading and I warn it may offend.

Tiger Quoll
Snowy River 3885
Australia

Tremendous effort, Vivienne.
My understanding is that releasing kangaroos to new territory needs to be done in groups. They have to be a viable mob.
So the mob, or large sections of it, should have been transported all in one go.
There have been enough experiments on tranquilising kangaroos to be useful. What about the ones that Don Fletcher did on kangaroos at Belconnen. He knocked them out and put masks over their eyes and then took them away for contraceptive implants or some such.

Detail on kangaroo relocation provide here is fantastic and the Victorian government should be ashamed of its lame excuses and negligent, callous behaviour.

According the Victorian Ombusman, the DSE acted appropriately by "culling" the kangaroos in South Morang, despite the evidence contrary.

  • The site was allocated for development by Westfield Shopping Centre
  • The South Morang Kangaroo Working Group (SMKWG) met seven times but was unable to decide on alternative animal management plans!
  • The kangaroos were "culled" discretely to avoid possible risks to members of the public.
  • Translocation of the kangaroos was attempted on two separate occasions over that period of time.

Accordingly:
As a result of my enquiries, I am satisfied that the Department has acted in accordance with legislative requirements and has followed appropriate policy and procedure in this matter. As such, this office does not propose to make further enquiries.

There was no serious attempt to translocate the kangaroos. It was done without proper consultation from wildlife experts and was doomed (designed) to fail.
Wildlife Victoria had plans to translocate the kangaroos, and Westfield offered to even pay for it! Sites were found and translocations can be done successfully.

Developments have priority over wildlife, and bullets the preferred "management" method for wildlife!

Transparency, community consultation and protection of wildlife are not to be expected from our Brumby government, clearly.

By mass slaughtering of wildlife South Morang Kangaroo Working Group are worse than gang rapists. At least in the latter case the victims survive to see the dawn of the next day. It is one small mind game step between wickedness to animals and wickedness to humans of any age.

South Morang Kangaroo Working Group's actions are akin to neo-Nazi death squads in the bush. That the Ombudsman deemed the slaughter "appropriate" suggests he is well read in Goebbles.

Tiger Quoll
Snowy River 3885
Australia