by Maria Taylor
The Bulletin continues to report on the slaughter of Australian wildlife, this month an update on the ACT kangaroo ‘cull’, because of the wall of silence in the mass media in our region; a silence also maintained by almost all state and federal politicians in the face of very troubling science, ethics and welfare issues.
Plans for ACT kangaroo slaughters indicate they may get bigger and be expanded from grassland to woodlands as animal numbers on grasslands plummet or more kangaroos seek refuge on the wooded ridges.
Draft documents have indicated that the new targets include hills like Majura, Ainslie, Farrer Ridge or Wanniassa. In the past four years at least 15,000 kangaroos have been shot and the joeys decapitated or sometimes clubbed to death on ACT nature reserves and defence department lands. Sources indicate that nature reserve management under Daniel Iglesias and his scientific advisers have not put the same ‘research’ priority on the effect of weed infestations in native grasslands since the end of the drought two years ago.
Requests by some members of the Assembly and the public for information since the 2012 cull on evaluation and monitoring data covering the last three years have yielded no information.
The same personnel in Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS) have reportedly taken the position that no other states monitor ‘conservation culls’ (although none as extensive as Canberra’s are known elsewhere) and that biodiversity benefits, if there are any, might take 3–5 years to become apparent. They have acknowledged to enquiries that no-one knows what an appropriate kangaroo population density for the ACT is.
Mass killing is not an experimental method
Regardless, the ACT kangaroo removal target has gone from one animal per hectare to half an animal per hectare in the past three years. But the scarce available data from ACT non-urban sites suggests that much larger concentrations of kangaroos don’t cause measurable damage to groundcover. Critics of the current TAMS research approach say in response that mass killing as an experimental method is clearly unacceptable.
The public has been told that ACT kangaroos are uniquely ‘overabundant’ and multiply at impossible rates – such that single-birth kangaroos rival multiple-birth goats and pigs and rabbits. This theory, which defies evidence that the annual kangaroo population increase is more like 5–8 percent, justifies 40, 50, 70 percent killing rates in the kangaroo management plan, and calls that sustainable. It skirts one obvious point that doesn’t require a PhD to identify: kangaroos can appear to be increasing in numbers as they bunch up after losing habitat with new housing estates such as in Gungahlin and now Molonglo/Mt Stromlo.
Common species that have learned to live with us are treated as pests and killed in nasty ways.
There is an argument in the ACT that native plants, reptiles and birds must be ‘saved’ in the territory’s nature reserves and the more endangered (by human activities) the more interesting. But common marsupials that actually succeed in living amongst humans can be treated as disposable pests. ACT residents might ponder the morality of state-sanctioned killing of mothers and babies, the destruction of families and mobs of a ‘protected’ national species.
The official drumbeat has reached the point where some residents now justify the killing because kangaroos are suspected of eating the plantings on a Canberra hill-side where weeds still proliferate, or they stand accused of mowing down native grassland as if this is bad: but it’s apparently OK to bring in more manageable cows to do the same job, as the TAMS team has told people.