Editorial by Maria Taylor
Our neighbour across the border exhibits a fine sense of irony about motherhood. The ACT, encouraging the idea that killing and cruelty to animal families and dependent young is what we, Australians, do with our wildlife, once again around Mother’s Day announced the next in its notorious ‘culls’ of kangaroos on reserves and sanctuaries.
See ‘ACT government kangaroo cull to target 2606 animals, expand to NSW’ story in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Kangaroos find shelter in reserves (and on rural residential properties) against a background of shooting and persecution. Commercial shooting for petfood and skins is operating in our region. This is enabled by state and federal governments. Well over a million kangaroos are killed nationally every year.
The commercial kill is limited only by whether shooters can actually find animals (that desktop formulas say exist), and whether a disapproving international community can be convinced to buy the carcasses. Some graziers continue to kill kangaroos as believed competitors for grass. We have all seen death by dogs, fences and, carstrike.
The grassy woodland habitat shared by small native animals – that the ACT says it wants to save by killing kangaroos – is covered by more roads, housing and other development on a daily basis. When remaining grass gets higher and poses a fire risk, they bring in the heavy-footed cattle to those same grasslands.
Drive though the ‘bush capital’, or casually walk its reserves and you’d be lucky to see a kangaroo or two anywhere these days. Yet since 2009 the ACT parks bureaucracy has propagandised a compliant public with ever-changing stories, thinly veneered as science, on why it’s a good thing to destroy remaining mobs and families, leaving orphaned joeys to jump in front of cars near reserves or suffer a slower death without their mothers to feed and guide them.
Meanwhile, requests for evidence on what this program is achieving or impacting remain unanswered after almost a decade.
Recently, ACT bureaucrats and politicians backed (or did not protest) ramping up daunting financial and possible criminal penalties for anyone daring an on-site protest, on public land, against the destruction of everyone’s heritage, our wildlife.
The territory government spends hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on killing and propaganda and related court cases, while other areas like the arts lose funding (District Bulletin April issue, p 9).
What they haven’t spent money on is what good science would require: baseline population and ecological studies for the populations they are killing but say they want to sustain. Equally lacking after eight years is evidence of benefit from their practices other than for commercial interests (suburb developers or neighbouring graziers) or the car insurance industry.
Is that all there is to it? People find it hard to get their heads around what is motivating all this. Here we have wildlife managers and researchers who dog-whistle pest-eradication values right out of our colonial past (regardless of how they spin it) and who are conducting a long-term deadly numbers experiment that may get some of them a few journal articles.
They soothe the public by calling it “saving the environment” or “saving biodiversity”. Who can resist saving the environment with valiant public servants, researchers and shooters? The penny dropped recently when I read that the already minimal animal welfare code of conduct drops to an even lower bar when ‘management’ and ‘ecological reasons’ are cited, preferably together one supposes.
This year, park manager Daniel Iglesias and his rangers have moved into our region with their hired guns –to the ACT-managed Googong reservoir reserve. 2600 animals are in the gun-sights, 1400 at Googong alone. ‘Trespassing’ on any of 12 public reserves posted for shooting will draw heavy fines.
The story from last year’s annihilation of the kangaroos on Isaacs Ridge, documents the impacts on neighbouring residents and possible reasons why the government wanted the kangaroos out of the way. It is a reminder of how this thuggish program proceeds and what is at stake.
Also see Roogate for the whole saga.
From the Animal Protectors Alliance ACT and NSW that bears witness to the cull every year
“The kangaroo slaughter is conducted at a time of year when, according to the Kangaroo Management Plan itself (p10-11), almost every mature female kangaroo has both a pouch young and a young at foot in her care. It is conducted under a code of practice which exists for the purpose of permitting acts of cruelty that would otherwise be prohibited by law.
Spokesperson, Robyn Soxsmith notes, “Yet we have observed first hand that the government shooters ignore even the minimalist provisions of the Code. They leave wounded animals to suffer for hours before delivering the death shot. They leave hundreds of orphaned young at foot to either horribly starve to death or be killed by speeding vehicles every year. In 2012, the evidence from one of their burial pits showed that sometimes they even actively brutalise kangaroos before they die.”