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.
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.
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.
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
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.