You are here

One more Kangaroo 'Cull' in Canberra - this time in Nature Parks!

On 18th June, the ACT Government advised that areas within the Canberra Nature Park would be closed from 19 June to 31 July 2010 to allow for the controlled culling of 'over-abundant' Eastern Grey Kangaroos. The sites closed were Callum Brae Nature Reserve, Crace Nature Reserve, Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve, Kama Nature Reserve, Mount Painter Nature Reserve, Mulligan’s Flat Nature Reserve and unleased territory land adjacent to Kama Nature Reserve.

This makes a mockery of 'nature park' when there is supposed to be a higher level of protection for native animals than in National Parks. It also makes a mockery of democracy when there was no public consultation on the cull. It also makes a mockery of science when the ecological benefits of native species is totally disregarded.

The purpose of this cull is to 'maintain kangaroo populations at appropriate levels to protect the integrity of ecosystems, several of which contain endangered flora and fauna such as Grassland Earless Dragon, Golden Sun Moth, Striped Legless Lizard, Perunga Grasshopper and threatened plants such as the Button Wrinklewort (a perennial herb).'

Apparently they are worried that the grasslands and woodlands will be overgrazed by kangaroos and threaten species and ecosystems. Yet where is the proof of this? I would like to see before and after photos. Since when do kangaroos create excessive soil loss and destroy habit for ground-feeding birds? That is something sheep, cows and humans do, not native species.

The cull is part of the recently released Kangaroo Management Plan (KMP) which sets out the ACT Government’s approach to managing the environmental, economic and social impacts of kangaroos to ensure their numbers are maintained at a sustainable level into the future.

I wonder when humans are going to maintain their own species at a sustainable level? It's obvious that the greatest threat to our native grasslands and woodlands is not kangaroos but human activity.

Apparently relocation (a compassionate approach) has been ruled out because 'that would be offloading the problem to another location' and lead to their starvation. How considerate of them. Killing them is better than saving them.

Why do we continue to close off green corridors with new housing estates and expressways that fragment Nature Parks leaving wildlife with nowhere to go? Until the government acknowledges this, the bloodshed will continue until kangaroos are no longer on the face of this continent. The relentless slaughter of healthy kangaroos is creating an ecological depression* which could very really push kangaroos over the edge of the precipice to extinction. We can already see signs of that at http://www.stopkangarookilling.org


(Flier: Sylvia Raye)
The RSPCA has failed abysmally to point out the sheer cruelty of the way joeys are despatched. Until a truly 'humane' way of killing baby kangaroos can be found no further slaughter should be allowed by anybody.

When a female kangaroo is shot, any 'in pouch' babies are killed by bashing their heads in. Also, as shooters have difficulty locating 'at foot' kangaroos (these are baby kangaroos still dependant on their mothers), whose mothers have been shot, these babies will most likely die a slow painful death from starvation, dehydration or predation.

ACT Hypocrisy
Does the ACT government really think we have not noticed their hypocrisy? On the one hand they blame kangaroos for damaging grasslands and endangered species while themselves approving environmentally destructive projects such as:-

- 73 hectares red/yellow box to be destroyed in West Hume
- Canberra Airport runway extension dissecting Earless dragon colony
- Canberra Airport freight, shopping and office hubs built over and dissecting grasslands
- Proposed Cowan Expressway dissecting grasslands
- New and extended AFP training facility over Majura grasslands
- Dept of Defence Majura Training Area extended due to the increased volume of Defence training and traffic
- Symonston Long Stay Caravan Park debacle where land of high grassland value was sacrificed as compensation to developer
- Lawson Housing estate to be built over endangered colonies in the water tower section of the BNTS site
- Decontamination earthworks at the BNTS site wiped out tracts of grassland
- Irreversible damage done to BNTS grasslands by vehicles driven continuously across the grasslands to round up and slaughter kangaroos in May 2008
- New mega-housing estate at Downer destroying more grassland/woodland habitat that backs onto Nature Park
- Where are the 'Friends of Grasslands' and 'Limestone Plains Group of Scientists' on these issues? We haven't heard a peep.

Australia's Culling Territory
Cull after cull, the ACT is gaining the reputation as the Australian Culling Territory.

Why the obsession with exterminating kangaroos? In May 2008, 514 kangaroos were killed at Belconnen Naval Transmission Station and the reason given by the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment was:-

'At BNTS the natural temperate grassland is the habitat of the perunga grasshopper (which the Minister, on the recommendation of the Flora and Fauna Committee, has declared to be a vulnerable species), the golden sun moth and the ginninderra peppercress (both of which the Minister, on the recommendation of the Flora and Fauna Committee, has declared to be endangered species). Another vulnerable species, the striped legless lizard, has been found outside the secure area; however, it was most likely present in the secure area at BNTS in former years. Under the EPBC Act the golden sun moth is listed as critically endangered and the ginninderra peppercress and striped legless lizard are listed as vulnerable.'

The advice of experts who recommended against the cull was not taken into account. The offer to professionally relocate these kangaroos was rejected. As if that was not enough, because toxic contaminants were found in the soil at BNTS the remediation of the land naturally caused massive damage to all the above species and was not even questioned.

After the slaughter 4 wheel drives turned the place into a dust bowl. Then in came the earth movers to take out the toxic soil remediation required for the area to be a new housing estate. So much concern for endangered species or grasslands. The legless striped lizard, golden sun moth and ginninderra peppergrass were all buried without any further ado.

The construction of new housing estates immediately adjacent to the area gave no concern to the government. What about the dust and fumes from cars and trucks, the footsteps of people plodding through BNTS walking their dogs, playing with their children, and their cats killing fauna, wouldn't that have a damaging effect on endangered species?

There was no evidence that kangaroos threatened any endangered species but plenty of evidence that humans did.

Majura
Since Belconnen there have been several other large culls. In May 2009 over 7000 kangaroos were killed by the ACT government at Majura Firing Range once again on the grounds of 'degraded grasslands'. Once again, only junk science to back it up. No other options considered, no conservation experts bar Don Fletcher and RSPCA who know nothing of marsupials (their specialty is cats and dogs). Our experts were not called in but they were discriminated against because they have the best interests of the kangaroos at heart.

Callum Brae
And in July 2009 550 kangaroos were 'culled' at Callum Brae, Nature Park in Canberra. The usual story i.g. kangaroos were eating too much grass but nobody talked about the degradation of grasslands by cows or sheep. Most likely the kangaroos at Callum Brae were deemed to be a problem by local farmers. Farmers hate kangaroos. Why don't farmers erect kangaroo-proof fencing instead of killing them on sight? Sheep's grazing pressure is 10-20 times higher than kangaroos so we are focusing on the wrong target.

As usual, it was declared that the cull would be 'conducted in the most humane way with highly trained marksmen using high-powered rifles according to the code of practice including hairless joeys to be decapitated and larger joeys shot at close range or injected.' Even Landcare said they were 'happy' with the 'cull.' What kind of monsters have we turned into?

Ecological benefit of Kangaroos
It's also time the ecological benefits of kangaroos on the land were acknowledged by governments, farmers, ordinary people i.e.
1. Kangaroos lessen the possibility of bushfires by eating dry grass that ignites easily.
2. Their soft padded feet and long tail are integral to the ecological health of the land, as regenerators of native grasses. Any seedling that falls into the long-tapering footprint of the kangaroo is buried into the hole left by the toenail. Covered and with moisture concentrated at one point, the germinated seedling has a chance of survival. Their tail drags along behind them while they are grazing, pressing the ground, rolling seeds into the earth.
3. Kangaroos also help regenerate native grasses (which is their preferred food) by excreting these seeds onto the ground thereby spreading the growth of grasses, undoing the damage caused by livestock which is turning this country into a dustbowl.
4. Kangaroos play an undeniable role in biological diversity and ecological integrity.
5. Their urine and faeces is a natural fertilizer (not excessively high in nitrogen which pollutes ground and surface water like livestock waste), essential to the health of the soil meaning that many species depend on kangaroos.
6. Unlike livestock kangaroos do not produce greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide), drink massive quantities of water, cause soil erosion, loss of soil nutrients and soil ecosystems leading to deserts. Nor do they destroy wildlife like the livestock industry does by shooting, deforestation and habitat destruction. If they were allowed to co-exist with livestock they could undo the extreme imbalance caused by cattle. Government statistics show that kangaroos only exert 1-8% of grazing pressure on land.

Therefore, the more kangaroos, the better for the land.

Kangaroo Extinction Around the Corner?
It's time we had a real government environment department that did proper studies on how to protect our native species from extinction. Australia has the highest rate of wildlife extinctions in the world because our government is in collusion with the Kangaroo Industry, which it subsidises. If it had any economic sense it would be supporting nature-based eco tourism worth $85 billion to Australia (compared to a measly $250 million to the kangaroo industry). A kangaroo is worth more alive than dead.

Take a look at how kangaroo populations have crashed since 2001 on
http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/2006/publications/drs/indicator/162/index.html)
You can see that half of them have gone in less than 10 years. Shouldn't we be taking the precautionary approach, considering the drought and other factors? What would Australia be without any kangaroos? We would have to take the kangaroo off our national emblem, off Qantas jets, we would have to rename rugby teams and every business that uses kangaroo on their logo would have to remove it so as not to have the constant reminder of how we have FAILED to protect these magnificent animals.

It's time the ACT government was challenged on their view that kangaroos overgraze (their own literature shows that kangaroos only have 1-8% grazing pressure compared to sheep and cows - http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/2006/publications/drs/indicator/162/index.html )

Another report from CSIRO shows that kangaroos do not threaten sheep: http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/WR9740027.htm

I can't help but wonder if in a few short years governments, due to their chronic short-sightedness and predictable mismanagement, will be pleading for endangered kangaroo species whom it helped drive to the state of quasi extinction just as with the Grassland Earless Dragon.

Not only for tourism but consider some of the new information coming out about biodiversity.

It's time people woke up to the horrific way we are trashing our wildlife in particular our national icon. These are sentient beings with feelings we are talking about, not pests to be dispensed with because they are 'in our way'.

Who is the Real Pest?
Kangaroos have been living harmoniously with their environment without driving a single species extinct for at least 16 million years and they are perfectly suited to their natural habitat. Government's speculation that kangaroos are driving other species extinct is a projection on man's part. Only man is causing the 6th Mass Extinction of all species on the planet and that is a scientific fact. Man's insistence on destructive European farming techniques has caused a large part of the problem in addition to urban spread putting too much pressure on native species by destroying and polluting their habitat.

The result of all these cumulative government 'culls' (in addition to the illegal killing, farmers quotas, roadkill, loss of habitat, fires, floods, drought) will lead us to ecological impoverishment.

The Role of Farmers
Additionally the intolerance of farmers towards kangaroos who put pressure on politicians to kill kangaroos needs to change. We need to adopt a mentality of 'live and let live'.

Personally I would like to see the livestock industry fold. There are many other reasons for this besides the threat to any fauna that is not a cow, sheep or cattle dog. The livestock industry causes deforestation (a major influence in causing the drought) and biodiversity loss from loss of habitat for wildlife. It also causes pollution of groundwater and surface water and pollution to the air through methane and nitrous oxide. Then there is soil erosion and loss of soil ecosystems from the hoofed feet and the fact that cows and sheep pull up grass by the roots. Finally the incredible amount of water needed dwarfs all other industries combined. Clearly the only diet for a sustainable future is a plant-based diet. That would take up less land than livestock require and with kangaroo-proof fencing there would be nothing for farmers to complain about. It would be a win-win situation for wildlife and farmers.

Kangaroos are not overpopulated. Sheep are overpopulated (there are 5 times more sheep than kangaroos) and the human race is definitely overpopulated (at 7 billion). Kangaroos were here first remember and should have the simple right to live in peace.

Once again, humans are the main culprit of endangered species and it is wrong to blame another species that has always lived in harmony with the land.

****

* An ecological depression is where a species critical mass is reduced to where the species can no longer survive due to factors such as a compromised gene pool and disease.

Many thanks to Y.IZITSO for her brilliant cartoons.

Comments

I despair when I read this kind of discussion by intelligent people. While I agree 100% with your points about the reductions of size and effectiveness of nature parks by encroaching suburbs, the anti-culling hysteria is badly informed and very damaging.

ANYONE who studies -- real study, actual science -- of local ecologies agrees with the need to cull roos (and rabbits). The reasons are very simple:

- the density of roos in these constrained places is way higher than occured naturally.

- the reason for this is partly lack of predators (humans and dingos) and other issues, but mainly the presence of water that was not available naturally. The dams that still exist in these reserves provide drinking water that allows roos to breed to levels limited by vegetation where otherwise they bred limited by water.

- this significant overrepresentation of roos means that the local ecology is degraded enormously as grass is unable to set seed, lack of green/brown stuff means erosion and soil dynamics change, and the normal ecology of these grasslands disappears. (together with lack of small mammals and other animals that used to live here but have entirely disappeared. Apparently these animals had an important role in soil turnover etc and we need to get them back too).

- without the original ecology, other species are unable to survive. It is these species that land managers are trying to protect, and that people interested in animals should be concerned with. It is in essence very simple and it's unforgivable that supposedly intelligent and compassionate people are allowing these species to die/disappear.

Just ask yourself why the government and scientists decide they need to cull. Why would anyone do something that causes such ructions unless it was really necessary? It's not a 'hate roos' mentality, it's a 'save ALL the animals and plants" outlook. Really it's time people like you got aligned with science, compassion and real life and made an effort to understand what was going on, and then support necessary culling.

Unless you have a better idea for saving these entire ecologies and the smaller, not necessarily fury animals and plants that belong there?

This argument is so logically off base and critically unexamined that I almost didn't respond. However, I believe "Anonymous" might benefit by examining two key issues.

First, he begins by stating that kangaroo lack natural predators and then uses humans as an example. Humans are the ultimate predator, and our global negative impact continues to grow in scale and scope beyond any historical record. In regard to kangaroos here in Australia, we commercially kill millions of them every year, recreationally and privately shoot them, smash them all over the roads with cars and trucks, and take away their homes, food, and genetic diversity by making their world "islands" of nature between developed and cleared land.

Second, he fails to mention that the reason the 'original ecology' doesn't exist is because European land management is particularly harmful in Australia. Low fertility, ancient land with little topsoil that has been cleared, overgrazed, polluted, and has had natural waterways and watersheds destroyed isn't going to support much life. There are ways to begin to heal the land and watercourses if that is the intent, but killing kangaroos isn't one of them.

~Robyn Cooper
Permaculturalist, Social Ecologist

Anyone who likens wildlife to ferals is one-eyed and disrespectful of nature,and probably a feral descendant themselves. Anyone who kills wildlife deserves to live an urban environment where they are not exposed to wildlife - just like dangerous criminals are kept away from ordinary society for society's own protection.

Those who constrain wildlife, forcing then to exist in a restricted unsustainable manner are cruel, invasive and disrespectful of the natural ecology and it is time such ecological vandals and errant poachers were outlawed as criminals.

As for the excessive numbers, start with humans. Ban immigration, implement a two child policy, prohibit new dams - 'the presence of water that is not available naturally will limit human breeding' and population.

Test farms for viability and triple bottom line sustainability and if they fail remedial testing, evict them back to the big smoke. Use rural land profitably and sustainably, or lose it to National Park!

Pen humans in urban enclaves since there is a significant over-representation causing the local ecology to be degraded enormously. This way Australia can sustain the wildlife, stem the tide of extinctions, plus sustain indigenous Australians and a restricted number of introduced human ferals.

It is in essence very simple and a better idea.

As for so-called 'scientists' recommending killing wildlife, name one that is a native zoologist and not paid for doctored reporting?

Tiger Quoll
Snowy River 3885
Australia

Anonymous's reasoning is ridiculous. As he/she says themselves, it's the ecology that determines the balance of species. If members of a dominant species are killed, it just encourages them to breed back up to fill the void. Kangaroos don't eat plant roots, their soft feet don't damage soils, rather their motion creates small depressions for seeds to fall into to germinate and their waste uniquely fertilises the soils. We need them to help regenerate degraded and overgrazed land. Kangaroos are beneficial and necessary for Australia's ecological biodiversity. It is not the presence of kangaroos that threatens our other native species, it is a lack of wildlife corridors, land clearing, introduced plants and animals and pseudo scientists that think they know better than nature. At the rate we are going we will lose all our native plants and animals, including kangaroos. Look at what Australia has already done to its koala populations. Let's not keep repeating the mistakes of the past we have already lost more of our native species than anywhere else in the world. It might be worth Anonymous taking a look at the Belconnen naval station site where over 500 kangaroos and their babies were brutally herded and killed to ensure the survival of native plants, insects and reptiles in 2008, to see how the current kangacide system works!!

in response to anonymous (21 June) I would suggest that anyone that studies kangaroos using real study or real science is aware of the fact that kangaroo numbers have been proven to be controlled by the presence or absence of vegetation. I do not see any reason why the ACT grassland kangaroos should be an exception to this rule even though you claim this to be so. You can give them all the water in the world but it won't make an iota of difference if they haven't got any food. Many studies have demonstrated this.

More recent studies have also demonstrated that perceived high kangaroo numbers on areas that have been used previously for commercial grazing (sometimes for centuries), such as the ACT grasslands in question have very little to do with hampering the regeneration of the ecosystem. It goes without saying that kangaroos would have inhabited these areas in very high numbers before we degraded the land to the state we see now.

Shooting kangaroos to achieve a density that is deemed appropriate is simply guess work. If biodiversity is the main aim here then ACT kangaroo management should seriously consider re-introducing dingoes. This would control the numbers of kangaroos naturally and increase the level of biodiversity in the area. Many studies have demonstrated that dingoes are a key factor in controlling smaller predators such as cats and foxes, they are also fond of rabbits. Survival of small native mammals such as bettongs increase significantly in the presence of dingoes as do other small animals such as ground dwelling birds. Despite these findings ACT kangaroo management insist on short sighted kangaroo culls in "seeking successful ecological management outcomes". How realistic is that?

The desk-bound pen-pushing public servants in Canberra probably have never seen the grassland earless dragon, golden sun moth, striped legless lizard, pergunda grasshopper, or threatened plants such as the button wrinklewort. They wouldn't even know any of them if they fell over them! These environmental extremists, armchair conservations, are making policies based on paid ecologists' reports to meet their own ends. The farmers and land holders are such a powerful lobby that any impediment, such as kangaroos, must be got rid of or they lose votes! Anything native or indigenous about Australia is being eradicated, and purged.
Instead of being the "bush" Capital, Canberra is the heart of native animal mass slaughters and an anti-Australian drive. Anything belonging to our history, indigenous people, Colonial heritage, or uniquely Australian such as wildlife and wilderness areas are a reminder of Australia that was! Now we are global citizens, a resource in the southern area of the Asia Pacific region. Kangaroos should only be a symbolic presence, not real animals that are actually part of our biodiversity. It is more convenient to "greenwash" their slaughter as if are not contrary to their environment's integrity.

The comment of Anonymous (21st June) presents more fact of relevance and reason than the original article by Menkit Prince.

Anon says “….the anti-culling hysteria is badly informed and very damaging.” and I agree.

I could only guess if the view put forth by Prince is badly informed or just poorly presented perhaps even both, but it is undoubtedly hysterical and to a substantial degree nonsensical.

I agree wholly with Prince that the greatest threat to our ecology is human impact but so much of her article lacks merit right down to the fluff of the juvenile cartoons.

As merely one example, the 2006 SOE report ( quite erroneously) expresses that Kangaroos exert a grazing pressure of only 1-8% substantially less than that of sheep and cattle and Prince seeks to use this to justify her no cull never kill viewpoint.

The SOE figures merely represent a comparison of national populations. True grazing pressures can only be assessed with relevance in a local context. Thus the SOE figures have no relevance at all in judging the need to cull or not in a confined area such as the Canberra Nature Park represents. I suspect that Prince may lack understanding of what a grazing pressure actually represents.

Prince is entitled to her vegan viewpoint and desire to see an end to livestock farming (no matter how fanciful) but her suggestion that farmers have kangaroo proof fencing to protect crops is directly contradicting to her own view of live and let live and exposes the hypocritical nature of her fanciful warped utopian view. No less in measure than the accusations of hypocrisy she levels at ACT kangaroo management.

Displays of nonsensical hysteria and distortion of fact is less than helpful in seeking successful ecological management outcomes.

Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said the "muted reaction" to the killing of 1890 of the animals in the city's nature parks simply means that the community is coming around to his Government's way of thinking!
It is not about accepting that there is a logic or need to kill all the native kangaroos! It is simply that nobody in Canberra, or Stanhope, or the RSPCA, listens. So many people worked hard protesting, sending letters, emails, pleas, submissions, but they do what they want anyway!
The Bush Capital is a Slaughter Capital of Australia with shards of steel instead of patriots and warm-blooded humans!
The "cull" was declared with little warning and with only bogus "science" to justify it. Kangaroos are perfectly adapted animals with soft feet, are frugal eaters and water consumers, and are true-blue Aussies that are meant to be plentiful. Non-indigenous humans have brought devastation, prolific destruction, introduced species and cruelty to the Land of the Southern Cross.
These administrators are not concerned about threatened species and are crucifying our national symbolic animals- kangaroos - out of pure hatred and ignorance!
The "culling" of nearly 2000 native kangaroos ostensibly to protect native species in their natural habitats is not science, just as Japan's slaughter of whales in their sanctuary is not science either.
If native species are killed in their normal habitats, in order to "protect" other native species, it is not science but about mitigating the impacts of human on the ecosystems, and using wildlife as scapegoats.
Canadian seals are clubbed to death, justified because they contribute to over-fishing, and should whales be killed to protect krill stocks?