15 May 2024

Review commends 'extremely impressive' kangaroo cull program to protect threatened species

| Claire Fenwicke
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An independent review has commended the ACT’s approach to managing kangaroo populations in the Territory. Photo: ACT Government.

An independent scientific review has labelled the ACT’s kangaroo management program “extremely impressive” in balancing ecological needs with humane practices.

Undertaken by wildlife ecologist Professor Sarah Legge, it found the program “far exceeds” the requirements of the National Code for Non-Commercial Kangaroo Shooting.

“The operation and management of the conservation culling program is effective and has put kangaroo welfare at the heart of activities,” she wrote.

“The contracted shooters and ACT Government staff involved in culling strive to improve standards continually.”

The ACT requires shooters to exceed the specifications in the non-commercial code, including requiring them to pass a shooting accuracy test, a test on the code, and a macropod identification test every two years, as well as regulating that shooting is carried out at night, using night-vision and thermal imaging (instead of spotlights), and suppressors on the guns.

It also imposes a culling season during winter, when fewer joeys are expected to be impacted, and restricts culling to reserves where ecological benefits are greatest.

“The ACT favours small, regular (annual) culls, rather than less regular, very large culls. The culling operations aim to bring the population size in reserves down closer to the target densities, then carry out smaller maintenance culls each year instead of less frequent but larger culls,” Professor Legg noted.

“This results in a welfare benefit because fewer animals are killed … when populations are not released to grow exponentially between culls.”

Her report made 34 recommendations to further strengthen the program.

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ACT Conservator of Flora and Fauna Bren Burkevics said this report validated the work being done to protect the ACT’s conservation areas and threatened species.

“It’s critical to the protection of the ACT’s threatened Box Gum Woodlands and temperate grasslands,” he said.

“[It] is leading to improved targets across our native temperate grasslands, with a grass height between 5 and 15 cm, which are the target densities.”

Threatened species that live in and depend on the grass layer include the pink-tailed worm lizard, Canberra grassland earless dragon and golden sun moth.

Key recommendations that will be implemented for this year’s program include strengthening communications to the community and increasing the involvement of ACT Government veterinarians.

Mr Burkevics said additional options to utilise carcasses will be explored over the next 12 months, as well as strengthening internal administrative processes.

“The recommendations will allow the new plan to take a more holistic view of kangaroo management across all landscapes and within the context of other land management activities,” he said.

Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said while the nature of the program can be confronting, responsible conservation efforts were an important part of protecting the environment.

“If we don’t control species that are negatively impacting our natural environment, then we would very likely see the decline and possible extinction of our native grassland ecosystems,” she said.

“A good Kangaroo Management Program is a program that undertakes the best animal welfare standards while making sure we manage the impact of species on the precarious balance of our natural ecosystem.”

The recommendations will also be considered as the government develops a new Controlled Native Species Management Plan, which will be open for consultation in early 2025.

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It’s come as the next kangaroo cull program has been announced.

The 2024 program targets removing 1336 kangaroos across seven priority reserves.

They will be closed from 9 June to 1 August between 6 pm and 6 am each week. However, they will remain open over the weekends from Friday morning to Sunday evening to allow the community to access the reserves.

The impacted reserves are Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, Gungaderra Grasslands, Mt Ainslie Nature Reserve, Mt Majura Nature Reserve, Mulanggari Grasslands, Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve and Red Hill Nature Reserve.

The fertility control program will also continue for a third year.

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Ana Penteado3:25 pm 19 May 24

This is disgusting, and you all should be ashamed. Killing, such an iconic animal, should not be impressive, that means that you all cannot come up with a better policy. Selling this as a good policy to readers is the lower point of this article.

Absolutely disgraceful. Kill, kill, kill, seems to be the only answer for some.

Ana Penteado3:20 pm 19 May 24

Agree; who are those ratifying killings of the iconic animal that represents Australia? Are you all not able to find a better solution??????? SHAME.

It has been proven time and time again that the only reason the kangaroos in Canberra are being slaughtered year after year is to clear out the ‘parks’ to allow the building of new houses.

No it hasn’t, none of the that has in anyway been proven, and none of the nature parks they’re doing the culling on have ever been turned into housing.

Heywood Smith1:49 pm 16 May 24

Why would you need to cull them to build new houses..?? Once homes start to be built etc they just move into existing bushland near by..

This really doesn’t sound true. Land in the ACT is zoned. You can’t build houses in parks. Where is this “proof” you’re talking about?

Oh, look, it’s one of the nutters telling lies again.

Hi Cienwen. You say ‘it has been proven’ that the ONLY reason for the culls is to clear the parks for housing. Hopefully you wrote that only because your idea of ‘proven’ is that some anonymous ninny said so on twitter? Because if you think about your claim a little bit , it soon falls apart, as follows.

Evidently the culls started in 2009, so this must be about the 16th one. For how many years would they need to cull a place to make it suitable for housing?

All the culls are in nature reserves legally defined in the Territory Plan as Public Land Nature Reserve. The map is publicly available on ACTmapi. I am pretty sure no nature reserve has been reduced in size, at least not in the last 20 years. So where exactly are all these houses on land that used to be ACT Nature Reserve in the Territory Plan? You claimed that every cull is for housing, so after 15 years there would be tens of thousands of people living in these places where kangaroos were culled ‘to clear out the parks’ for development , and plenty of examples you could point to, if your statement was even half true.

Why would they need to cull kangaroos for housing anyway? Why not just build the suburb?

Would the Canberra voters REALLY have allowed housing to be built in most of their nature reserves? In ‘National’ areas like Mt Ainslie, Commonwealth approval is also required . Why would the Commonwealth approve housing on Mt Ainslie?

I have heard two other false claims about such places, but none as wicked as yours. One claim was that the culling at Belconnen Naval Transmitter Station in Lawson (owned by the Commonwealth Government) made way for the Lawson housing. But the Defence culls were in the naval base which naturally is INSIDE the security fence. Some of the kangaroos living inside the fence can be seen from the Lawson homes built OUTSIDE the fence, under ACT Government approval. Same suburb, different place. The other claim (by Save Canberra Kangaroos) was that culling in Red Hill NATURE RESERVE was to make way for housing. But the housing was on Red Hill GOLF COURSE. Again, same suburb, different place.

All the culling has been done in reserve nature park areas. Not one has had housing built on it.

Pretty weird “proof”.

Particularly so as the presence of kangaroos wouldn’t stop housing from being built in the first place as they aren’t protected or endangered.

This was one of the required 5-yearly reviews of ‘Controlled Native Species’ plans. It says who was interviewed (a very comprehensive list except omitting me and you other anonymous people who write comments to Riotact). And it says what data were considered (comprehensive again – plus lots of scientific papers, including ones on ACT kangaroos). I found no mention of volunteers counting on a couple of reserves. The reviewer was not tasked with carrying out themselves the many aspects of ACT kangaroo management that are dealt with by the government – not required to cull kangaroos for conservation themself, nor administer the rural culling, nor count them, nor do research on grasslands, nor research on kangaroo fertility control, nor reduce the risk of kangaroo vehicle collisions, nor attend injured kangaroos, nor rear joeys, etc. But it does cover the government’s counting of kangaroos on p 53 and mentions a previous review of the counting.

But Wow! What a ringing endorsement this review provides, scattered through its many pages – and all from an eminent independent professor at ANU. For example, Recommendation 1.1 says ‘the planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting for kangaroo management in the ACT is extremely impressive and an outstanding exemplar for adaptive management.’

So what aspect of bashing kangaroo joeys to death, orphaning at-foot joeys and terrorising sentient animals in their habitat is ‘extremely impressive’? This is animal cruelty and absolutely nothing to be proud of.

Motojohnno Tell us truthfully, how much of the review had you read before writing that comment, and how much of the 2017 plan? Because they mention measures to PREVENT that, and attend to the welfare of ALL grassland species, including ‘roos and species impacted by ‘roo overgrazing.

Motojohnno613:26 pm 18 May 24

The 2017 Kangaroo Management Plan read in 2021. Sarah’s review…more than you’d realise.

Actually it was a statutory internal review which was almost entirely desk-based using a few volunteers to count kangaroos on a couple of reserves. It simply reviewed the 2017 Kangaroo Management Plan and did not introduce any new research.

I appreciate the need for wildlife conservation and conservative culling for humane reasons in extreme situations.

BUT I cannot even fathom that this yearly slaughter for profit is supported by any government, let alone the Greens.

I have wandered about on Mount Ainslie for over 30 years.
Kangaroos are now infrequently seen. Wallabies even less.
In the past when encountered they seemed pretty relaxed. Now they are skittish.

In the meantime, the weeds and exploding rabbit population, particularly over the past four years, is causing absolute devastation. Lots more snakes and foxes too.

The timing of the reserve closures for two months EVERY year is also questionable. Exercise in winter is not a thing right!

Given my recent experience with the Attorney General I should not be surprised at all – it seems the green in our greens has turned into toxic mould.

I’m curious. How is this for profit?

LdP Enough! I spent ~ 100 hours off track on Mt Ainslie over the summer and saw more native Shinglebacks and Blue-Tongues than rabbits. I also saw plenty of Red-necked Wallabies, which I never saw there in the 1970s to 1990s. Eastern Grey Kangaroos were common in certain places and I even saw a male and a female Wallaroo. On the west facing slope between the lower quarry and the houses, there was a very approachable group of Eastern Grey Kangaroos on more than one occasion. But I agree with you about there being lots of foxes.

Most people visiting Mt Ainslie in winter go in daytime, and on weekends. The closures for culling are on week nights, from 6pm to 6am, Sunday to Thursday. So ‘toxic mould’ sounds more than a bit OTT to describe what I have experienced on Mt Ainslie, and the effect of the cull closures on our ability to visit and get exercise. Don’t you agree?

Andrew Sutton9:12 pm 18 May 24

I do agree with the majority of your comments. I live in Campbell and walk many of the lesser walked trails and in the past 6 months I can total the kangaroos spotted in the entire period on two hands and I suspect a few were duplicated. I have not seen a wallaby for over 12 months.
In the meantime the proliferation of St John’s Wort, Pattterson’s Curse and many other weeds is highly evident, and in reality they will not and cannot be controlled now. Whilst not seeing any foxes, rabbits are also enjoying an increase in numbers.
The whole situation is both incredibly frustrating and sad.

This article will trigger the local kangaroos nutters into a frenzy.

And it should, they are the only people who bother to research kangaroos and try to save a National Icon.

Heywood Smith3:44 pm 16 May 24

1. They are not national icons and 2. they taste yukky.

They ARE national icons and have been for many, many years. As for your comment re taste, I wasn’t aware Australians needed to eat horseflesh.

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