“I wanted to take my daughter on a walk yesterday, but I couldn’t do it. She’s very curious and she’s going to say: Where are they, mum?”
That’s the conundrum a Canberra mother faces after a mob of friendly kangaroos they’ve been visiting for years were gunned down last week at Red Hill Nature Reserve. Located less than 10 minutes drive from Parliament House, the area is popular with both locals and federal politicians.
For Alex Kucharska and her 3-year-old daughter, watching kangaroos there was a highlight of the week. “I’m not going to tell her the truth obviously. It’s incredibly sad,” she said.
Alex spoke quietly with Yahoo News Australia as she prepared her daughter for ballet, not wanting the youngster to hear details of her trip to the park without her yesterday. During her solitary outing, she snapped a series of photos showing blood spatter, drag marks and broken teeth on the grass close to a path that winds through the park. It left her extremely sad.
“There were no kangaroos there,” she said. “If my daughter asks, I’ll probably cry. But what do I tell her? I’ll have to lie and say: They’ve probably jumped away or something,” Alex said.
Why were the kangaroos shot?
The marsupials were shot as part of the ACT Greens-Labor government’s annual cull, which it says is essential to protect the territory’s other wildlife species from overgrazing.
“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,” its conservator of flora and fauna said before the shooting began this month.
The $620,000 management program which began in 2009 primarily relies on lethal controls. This year 1,042 animals will be either shot or bludgeoned to death around five reserves.
A private company contracted to kill them has a standing nightly contract of $7491 for two teams. Shooters are paid between $1320 and $1716 for a 12-hour overnight shift.
Advocacy group calls for kangaroos to be treated humanely
Canberra’s government maintains 66 per cent of locals support the culling, but Alex is not one of them. She is part of a loose coalition of volunteers called Save Canberra’s Kangaroos who advocate for their humane treatment. They would like to see green corridors constructed so wildlife is able to travel between reserves that have been landlocked by development.
Another member of the kangaroo advocacy group, Aisha Bottrill, was confronted by a similar bloody scene when she visited another corner of the reserve a day earlier. “Normally, you’d see some mums and the at-foot joeys hanging around. They’re quite tame, so when you walk past you can take photos and they don’t mind.”
While kangaroos are routinely killed across regional areas, it’s often only when friendly mobs are shot near suburban homes or recreation spots that many Australians become aware of these culls. The outcry from a planned cull to make way for a housing development in Victoria led to the government agreeing to translocate the animals instead.
ACT government responds to roo shooting concerns
Asked how parents should speak to their children about its culling of kangaroos, the ACT government acknowledged the situation is “confronting and does require sensitive handling”.
It directed parents to its website which includes a video about kangaroo management. The link can be found here.
“These can be used to assist parents to guide conversations that explore the challenging concepts around the reality that the actions of humans, climate change and changes in local ecology mean that we need to make difficult decisions about how to manage the environment for all species and ecological communities,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
They added that the government tries to be as transparent as possible about the program and aims provide the community with information about where its “works” are being carried out.
“Visual signs from the kangaroo management program are a normal part of the culling operation. These can be confronting to some members of the community when found. The visual signs typically dissipate quickly,” the spokesperson said.
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