LAST UPDATED: 23 September 2015
For several years, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has been killing vast numbers of kangaroos annually in the Canberra Nature Park, which comprises about 33 suburban wildlife reserves.
In the winter of 2013 and again in 2014, this annual slaughter was challenged by animal protection groups (Animal Liberation ACT and Australian Society of Kangaroos) in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT). Despite expert evidence that the cull was based on poor data and flawed science, the hearing in 2013 allowed the cull to go ahead, but the number to be killed was reduced. Despite the delay in the commencement of the cull and the best efforts of local activists to run interference across multiple reserves every night of the cull, 1,149 animals were ultimately killed.
ACT activist, Frankie Seymour, provided a detailed account and analysis of the 2013 hearing. Some of the main points are:
- The government's assertions that kangaroo grazing poses a threat to Canberra's threatened species and communities were dismissed by the government ecologist as "PR".
- The basis for the government's contention that kangaroos at densities above about 1 per hectare threaten biodiversity more generally is the erroneous assumption that biomass equates to biodiversity.
- The methods for counting kangaroos on Canberra reserves vary from year to year and from reserve to reserve, so the government has no clear basis on which to estimate local population trends.
- The government contradicts itself from year to year on the question of whether kangaroos move in and out of reserves. When movement in and out of reserves is used to argue that "culling" is an ineffective way of reducing numbers of any reserve, they deny that it occurs. When they want to justify high "cull" targets based on what would otherwise be impossible population replacement rates, they claim that kangaroos do move around.
In the 2014 ACAT hearing, a veterinarian who had been present at a previous ACT government "cull" was called by the government as an independent expert witness. He admitted under cross-examination that more than a third of the female kangaroos killed during the annual ACT "cull" would have dependent young at foot. According to his testimony, these youngsters do not qualify as either kangaroos or joeys and are therefore not killed but left to die. This is contrary to the ACT Code of Practice for the Humane Killing of Kangaroos and therefore would seem to breach both the Animal Welfare Act and the licensing conditions of the shooters engaged to kill the kangaroos.
Despite this evidence from the government's own witness and input from scientists and welfare experts brought in to give evidence on behalf of the kangaroos, the Tribunal again dismissed the evidence and allowed the cull to go ahead.
The challenge did delay the commencement of the slaughter by a couple of weeks — but the shooters still had more than twice as long (as in 2013) to kill only 500 more kangaroos. In fact, to meet their target in 2013, they had to kill on average 486 kangaroos each week. In 2014, even after the delay for the ACAT hearing, they needed to kill only 280 each week.
In the end, the government fell short of its intended kill target by 443 kangaroos. The shortfall, the 443 saved, is believed to be due to the presence of defenders on the reserves every night throughout this year's slaughter.
Moves to issue killing licences that remain valid for 3 years
In an effort to prevent further annual challenges to kangaroo "culling", the government now proposes to issue kangaroo killing licences which remain valid for three years.
Other kangaroo killing in the ACT
In 2013, an additional 200 kangaroos were killed in the ACT as part of the ongoing Defence Department cull on military land. It is estimated that 14,000 kangaroos have been killed in the Defence cull over the last four years.
In 2009, Animal Liberation (NSW) challenged the Defence Department cull in the ACAT, won a brief delay but lost at the full hearing. Sadly, 7,000 kangaroos were killed in the ACT in that year alone.
Since then the government scientist on whose evidence the ACAT decision was based has reversed his evidence on the mobility of kangaroos in open systems, but the Defence Department has not altered its culling practices accordingly. Unfortunately, the Defence Department culls are undertaken with considerable secrecy, making it very difficult to challenge them through administrative review processes until it is too late.
As occurs throughout most of Australia, the ACT government also issues licences to farmers to kill kangaroos on their own properties, but details as to where, when, who and how many are not available.
What you can do
- Urge the ACT Government not to allow the 'culling' of kangaroos in Canberra reserves.
- Email the Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne:
- Indicate your concern about the killing of kangaroos on Defence department land (in the ACT and elsewhere) and urge him to ensure only humane non-lethal population management of native animals by his Department.
- Call for an end to the commercial slaughter of kangaroos.
- Don't buy kangaroo meat/leather/fur products.
- Sign an online petition against kangaroo shooting.