Canberra closes parks at night to kill over 1000 kangaroos

Authorities claim 66 per cent of locals support the controversial kangaroo culls.

As the sun goes down, parks and reserves across Australia’s capital will be closed in June to allow shooters to gun down kangaroos.

They are planning to target 1042 eastern greys as part of the ACT's annual “management program” that began in 2009 and has a $620,000 funding allocation this year. While authorities claim 66 per cent of locals support the culling, opponents say it's unnecessary and outdated.

Jane Robinson from advocacy group Save Canberra’s Kangaroos believes shooting adults and bludgeoning joeys is simply the "nastiest, cheapest" form of animal management. In 2022, the Greens-Labor government allowed the killing of 1645 individuals, including 608 pouch young.

Picture of a kangaroo on a hill with Canberra in the background.
Canberra will close a number of parks after 6pm to allow over 1000 kangaroos to be shot. Source: Jane Robinson

Ms Robinson argues instead of opting for guns, the government should create better wildlife corridors, so animals landlocked by development can migrate between habitats. “Kangaroos would have an escape route to move to other feeding grounds,” she said.

She has questioned whether the kangaroos are actually overabundant in these reserves. The ACT environment department (EPSDD) does not generally provide an estimate of how many kangaroos are in the reserves until after culls are complete. "Site-specific population estimates and cull numbers will be provided at the conclusion of the program," it told Yahoo News Australia in a statement.

Why Canberra continues to kill kangaroos

Bren Burkevics, the ACT’s Conservator of Flora and Fauna, said in a statement the management program is essential to protect the territory’s grasslands from kangaroos. “These grasslands and grassy woodlands provide habitat and protection to a wide range of plants and animals that are local to Canberra, some of which are on the road to extinction if these ecosystems are overgrazed and become degraded,” he said.

Birds and small mammals are dependent on these grasslands and they are also home to threatened species including the Canberra grassland earless dragon, striped legless lizard, pink-tailed worm lizard, Perunga grasshopper, hooded robin, and brown treecreeper.

Between May and July 2022 professional shooters killed 1645 kangaroos. Source: ACT Department of Environment
Between May and July 2022 professional shooters killed 1645 kangaroos. Source: ACT Department of Environment

These grasslands have been significantly degraded by livestock and housing developments, leaving just 0.5 per cent in good condition. This habitat loss threatens the future of species like the Canberra grassland earless dragon, which was declared critically endangered last week. The Commonwealth is assessing whether to allow an airport service road to be built through a stretch of its remaining habitat.

Why not just move the kangaroos?

Australia's kangaroo culls constitute the largest land-based wildlife slaughter in the world. It is often compared to the slaughter of dolphins across the Faroe Islands and parts of Japan, because the killing is accepted by local governments but condemned overseas. A decision in March by Nike and Puma to stop using kangaroo leather followed moves by several US jurisdictions to ban its sale.

As well as shooting kangaroos, the ACT government has moved to more humane methods of control, opting to use fertility control to treat a small number of females. In 2022, it was recommended that 135 be treated, and 59 have received doses so far.

During the culls, adults will be shot and joeys bludgeoned to death. Source: Supplied
During the culls, adults will be shot and joeys bludgeoned to death. Source: Supplied

Authorities maintain translocation is “not a feasible option” because of the trauma involved. While this method has been associated with poor welfare outcomes, advocates of the process argue it can be successful when careful planning is used. A Western Australia council is currently investigating translocating a mob of 300 western greys from a site threatened by urban development.

During the Canberra culls, Mount Ainslie, Mount Majura, Mulanggari Grasslands, Red Hill, Pinnacle Nature Reserve and Molonglo River Reserve will be closed between 6pm and 6am every day except for Friday.

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