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New Sustainability report criticises kangaroo culling in ACT - says kangaroos protect land from fire

Photo by Jill Quirk

The material below comes from the preface of a new report, prepared by Dane Wood on behalf of the Canberra Environment and Sustainability Resource Centre for the ACT Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment. Available from: Canberra Environment and Sustainability Resource Centre, GPO Box 1875, Canberra 2601.

Risks associated with eradicating native plant and animal life

"This report collates recent existing data on the Australian Capital Territory’s biodiversity in order to analyse and scope the capacity of biodiversity in adapting to climate change and global warming. It intends to provide a report that will ultimately assist research and preparation for the ACT State of the Environment Report with the purpose of educating the Canberra and wider ACT communities on the value of biodiversity for the ‘bush capital’ and warning of the risks associated with eradicating native plant and animal life and the consequences related to this."

The data used for this study was drawn from a wide range of sources to ensure the topic was scoped sufficiently to provide accurate results regarding the Territory’s biodiversity and how successfully it has adapted to the changing climate. Statistics regarding flora, fauna, general biodiversity data and bushfire regeneration figures were drawn from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research (Australian National Botanic Gardens), the bushfire regeneration monitoring on Farrer Ridge report, the Australian Government Bureau of Rural Sciences, Molonglo Catchment Group, Ginninderra Catchment Group, Southern ACT Catchment Group, Countdown 2010 - Local and Regional Authorities and the Canberra Ornithological Group.

Collectively the information we have collected has provided us with sufficient data to produce a report that will inform the Office of the Commissioner of the scope, range and value of the region’s biodiversity within the overall context of climate change adaptation.

We found that in response to bushfires and controlled burning throughout the Australian Capital Territory, the area’s flora was quick to re-establish itself and was closely followed by the return of fauna. This is a positive sign in how the Territory’s biodiversity has adapted over the years to regenerate quickly and has tailored itself to not only suit the changing climate but slow the process of global warming through quick restoration of carbon sequestering flora. Also noticed was the positive impact on the environment by particular native species that have had the opportunity to adapt over millions of years when compared to the less suited domestic species such as cattle and sheep. Kangaroos in particular have proven to be the ideal species to help the natural environment revive and also assist in minimising the hazards which can lead to bushfires. There was sufficient additional literature to support the finding that biodiversity-rich environments not only regenerate faster, but can also play a part in preventing the spread of fire and control fires as a total system.

While the ACT is rich in biodiversity across the scope of flora and fauna, there is cause for concern from the long term perspective of preparation for climate change:

-- Of the 47 species of mammals found in the ACT, less than half are commonly found, with 57.45% of the total declared as uncommon, scarce, insufficiently known or endangered.

-- The reptile population returns similar statistics, with 59.32% of total species declared uncommon, scarce, rare or endangered.

-- Of the amphibians population, 58.82% are uncommon, scarce or endangered, and a further 2 species of amphibians have been declared extinct.

The effects of climate change on the region are expected to include:

-- higher temperatures
-- increased winds in summers months
-- drier average seasonal conditions
-- increased frequency of extreme weather events including storms
-- increased risk of bushfire

Given this, it is particularly relevant to examine the role of biodiversity in adapting to these conditions over time. After the 2003 bushfires the Farrer Ridge Landcare group undertook a study on the restoration of the landscape and found that native flora species recovered quickly. In response to this, there is a need for community education in the role of native species in gardens as a means of maintaining native habitat as the landscape undergoes the changes that will accompany the expected changes in climate.

Bushfire remains a crucial risk in the region. We found that an ecosystem containing a rich biodiversity recovered more quickly and provided greater ecosystem stability during the restoration period than an ecosystem which featured monoculture (such as the pine forests) or where biodiversity was lacking.

This report has concluded that as climate change progresses further, communities within the Australian Capital Territory will notice dramatic changes to the local climate. In order to address this, three key issues regarding the biodiversity of the ACT must be addressed. These are:

-- protecting and nurturing the diverse ecosystems around the ACT
-- better integration of the natural and human environments
-- closely following the 18 year plan set out in the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2007 – 2025.

These points if addressed properly will have a beneficial effect on the local ecosystems and biodiversity and will increase the capacity of our landscapes to adapt to the process of climate change over a period of years."

This is a report well worth reading: short, clear and showing a responsible, knowledgeable and positive regard for our indigenous animals.

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According to an email from the office of Premier Anna Bligh:
"The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia reports that the commercial kangaroo industry provides over 4000 jobs and contributes approximately $270 million annually to regional economies. "

The argument of "jobs" and "economic benefits" is becoming rather tiresome and well-worn! If the means justified the end, i.e. money and jobs, then crime definitely pays, and so does pornography, the sex industry and any sort of environmental destruction! If one ignores the moral, ethical and sustainability issues, anything that employs and pays is quite acceptable. Interestingly, Anna Bligh is quite willing to privatize public assets to the value of $15 billion and outsource jobs overseas!
"Kangaroo numbers in Australia have increased substantially since European settlement due to the development of the pastoral industry resulting in increased availability of food and watering points".

Why has Australia the dubious reputation for killing off about 40% of the planet's mammal species in the last 220 years if conditions have improved for them? Pastoral industries have caused devastation to our environment due to deforestation, destruction of rivers and waterways, and climate change. The historical record shows that at the time of first European contact the kangaroo was numerous and abundant over the continent and Tasmania. Government data shows that Australia-wide kangaroo numbers are down 75% since 2003, with populations well below the accepted 'sustainable ' level in most of the NSW, QLD, and SA commercial kangaroo shooting zones. Development driven population growth has already eradicated much of Queensland's koala populations and they could be gone in a few years.

"The industry operates under an annual quota system limiting the number
of animals that can be sustainably harvested. Aerial surveys are
conducted annually to determine the kangaroo population with the harvest
quota typically being set at between 10 to 20 percent of the population
depending on the population density".

Just how accurate are numbers seen from aerial surveys? Such a massive areas and so few kangaroos - this is really unbelievable!

"The (National) Code of Practice also provides for the humane euthanising of pouch young and young at foot".
This means that joeys have no commercial value and can be pulled from their mothers' pouch to be decapitated or bashed to death! It this "humane"? Yes, according to the industry and Anna Bligh.

Very good post, thanks a lot.

Gathered by the lack of responses about culling kangaroos, you should be now aware that not many people give a bugger about the issue except for your own little closed club.
Mainstream society are happy to to eat roo.
The scare campaign makes you look like idiots.
Truth allways shines through.

Hi Get Real,
I feel sorry for you if you are in this industry. It's being offered as a pap for country people with little else to support themselves with. But if you are in the industry then you have to realise the official stats are nonsense or you need glasses or to go out in the field and notice how small your quarry have got.

That the official stats are nonsense has recently been confirmed by a series of auditor general reports on wildlife statistics - reliability, collection - they are just not being done. The official stats are myths.

I can understand why people are angry and confused. We are divided, separated and lied to. The kangaroos are the meat in the political sandwich.

People do care. Russia stopped importing roo meat. The EU is considering stopping importing it. Those who don't care either have an investment in the industry, or simply believe what they are told, or they've been told that it's sooky to be nice to animals. Some of our stories about indigenous animals have the highest reader-count of any subject on

The recent auditor generals' reports on government collection of statistics in Tasmania, West Australia and Victoria shows what a sick joke government stats are on any indigenous animal. See stories "Damning Auditor General Report on Fauna protection for Victoria" of 3 Jan 10 and "Tasmania, West Australia, Victoria - our wildlife are ignored by government" of 3 Jan 10.

It's no better in the ACT, Queensland or the NT either.

Sheila Newman, population sociologist

Editorial Comment: An unsubstantiated post claimed that a person

was unqualified. As it adds nothing of substance to this debate and as it could be defamatory, we have removed it.

The author is invited to resubmit the comment in a calm manner which does not appear derogatory and personalised. Be aware that formal qualifications may not reflect either honesty or real ability.

Subject was: "Unbelievable" - JS

You wiped that post because it was true.

The info I posted was taken directly from the Canberra Environment and sustainability resource centre website. Check the "staff under who we are" by Dane Wood:

Dane has experience in project management in sport and recreation and joined the Environment Centre in March 2009 to manage the Food for Life project and strengthen our work in biodiversity. He is undertaking study in native wildlife conservation and rehabilitation and is keen to pursue this interest in his project work. (added by me - JS)

Just another biased activist group with opinions that are supposed to be gospel.

As far as I'm concerned your censoring my post that IS fact, because it takes away the credibility of your argument.

Stop internet censorship, what a joke!

You won't even post this will you?

Editorial comment: The claim that Dane Wood is unqualified remains unsubstantiated, although it might be true to say that you are unaware of any evidence of his qualifications may be true.

You hadn't provided us with a contact e-mail address so we weren't able to pursue this further with you.

Whatever, we are firstly concerned with whether or not his case stands up and you have provided no evidence or argument to show that it does not. - JS.

The ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, Dr Maxine Cooper, since 9 September 2007 is unqualified to run an organisation that makes so-called expert claims about indigenous fauna such as kangaroos.

Cooper's academic qualifications are not in the natural environmental sciences as one would expect and assume, but in Environmental Planning, Environmental Design, and Urban and Regional Studies.

Cooper is a member of the Planning Institute of Australia and the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand (EIANZ). So in Cooper the ACT peak environment body is being run by a town planner!

That should enhance the bias of the body. Where is the ecological, biological and zoological expertise in Australian fauna?

Noting EIANZ's position statement on biodiversity, EIANZ recommends the adoption of the precautionary principle along with other principles of sustainable development in decisions affecting biodiversity, which sounds good, yet at the same time it also recommends research to "develop the taxonomic knowledge necessary for the...sustainable use of biodiversity".

In the Commission's most recent ACT State of the Environment 2007 report (now two years old), on the issue of conserving biodiversity it claims the threatened Grassland Earless Dragon population at Majura is due to "the recent drought and/or overgrazing by kangaroos or some other reasons". It ignores the bleedingly obvious fact that Majura is a busy Army training ground. Is this blissful ignorance or just playing politics?

The report also states "Land and infrastructure development (on the outskirts of Canberra) is a continuing threat to biodiversity". It suggests solving the problem by finding "potential avenues for the movement of species" - that is make way for development by relocating the biodiversity.

Cooper is another e-puppet placed to make government look as though it actually gives a damn about the environmental and biodiversity, while in reality achieving tuppenny squat. Putting a town planner in charge would be like NSW appointing ex-planning minister Frank Sartor as NSW Environment Minister. Would be a joke if it were not true.

Tiger Quoll
Snowy River 3885

OK, for the third time, what are Dane Wood's qualifications to prepare a report like this? As I have read on the website they have, it says his background is in sport and recreation and he is curently undertaking studies in native wildlife conservation and rehabilitation. Does that mean he is qualified to do so? Is he biased?
Any kangaroo culler could go and write a report and submit it.

This is a response to "Dane Wood qualified?"
Apologies to Mr Wood, should he ever see this. I have not met or talked with him and I am trying to promote debate on this site whilst avoiding targeting any individual - for fairness and for defamation reasons.

We published the report because it made sense. It would also make (more) sense if you argued with what is in the report rather than with what your understanding is of formal qualifications. I have personally found wanting the arguments used by people with formal qualifications in the same area, but I have argued with their arguments, not with their qualifications. For instance, in this article, I comment on how Don Fletcher's recent PHD thesis seemed to contradict his later opinions in the Madura culls. In the same article I argued with Maxine Cooper's use of stats on collisions with kangaroos and inferences she drew from these. I also argued with her failure to factor-in multiple use of grasslands and obvious developer plans. And that is not the limit of the arguments I raised. No-one has yet even attempted to deal with my arguments here. I also argued about the role of immigration/emigration of kangaroos in Madura and Belconnen (which areas were not, from my reading, entirely closed) and pointed out that no-one had given any indication of having taken DNA samples to demonstrate if the populations being exterminated were really isolated. We were expected to believe guesswork and sometimes baseless opinion from 'qualified' people who had a vested interest (retaining their jobs) in a development-mad government. I also commented on the lack of definition of kangaroo overpopulation. I have corresponded with the scientist whose work is usually associated with the 1 kangaroo per ha 'rule' and he denies any such arbitrary measure.

Finally, if you were to glance at the articles about auditor generals' reports for endangered species definition and preservation in Victoria, West Australia and Tasmania, you would have to conclude that these governments do not have any valid comprehensive statistics on the population movements of any indigenous animals and is therefore unqualified to say anything about kangaroo movements. If the ACT, the NT or NSW or the Australian Government have markedly superior collection, definition and reliability of relevant statistics on Oz species, I will personally eat a hat. It is therefore even harder to have confidence in the official story. Add to that my personal observation of kangaroos in Queensland and in Victoria over past few years.

My experience is that the position of a researcher and their qualifications may mean very little, whereas the lack of position and lack of obvious narrow qualification in a researcher may also mean little. I have actually spent quite a lot of time talking to one kangaroo culler who is a researcher, who is published, and who is still undertaking studies. We talked on the merits of arguments, not the merits of qualifications.

In the end we do not have any choice but to examine the facts that are presented and check on their reliability. The Dane Wood report was, as I recollect, put together by Dane Wood, for other people. However I now cannot find my copy, so have emailed the centre to ask for another one.

I know that I was familiar with some of the material already in the report and couldn't see any problem with it. How about you tell us what there is in the report that you can show has no basis?

Please don't think that we are hostile to people who have different views on these matters. As long as you can defend them you have the same rights as anyone and are very welcome to express them here.

I am sorry it has taken so long to deal with your complaint.

all the best,

Sheila Newman, population sociologist