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Here is what happened: Kangaroo killing ACT nature reserves 2024

Life on land

“Threatening process means a process that threatens, or may threaten, the survival, abundance or evolutionary development of a native species or ecological community”. ACT Nature Conservation Act 2014

July 7, 2024

As it turned out the killing stopped early, not 1 August, but 2 July 2024. Joey numbers are shown in brackets, these animals are killed by blunt force or decapitation. Adults are shot but may be bludgeoned if shot not successful.

Killing sites 2024

In 2024, the ACT Government’s plan was to kill 1,336 Eastern Grey Kangaroos (plus dependant young) on the ‘reserves’ listed below, using the protection of its Nature Conservation Act 2014.

  • Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve: 271 (111) quota met
  • Gungaderra Grasslands: 190 (86) Note ratio females to males high at almost 2 to 1 (1.9), quota met
  • Mt Ainslie Nature Reserve and Mt Majura Nature Reserve: Combined quota 500, actual kill 396 (116), quota not met
  • Mulanggari Grasslands: 220 (70) quota met
  • Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve: 61 (21) quota met
  • Red Hill Nature Reserve: 94 (34) quota met

Yet again the ‘science’ allows those responsible for the killing to ignore the extreme cruelty involved here.

We should also note that the mass killing of female Kangaroos takes out at least the next generation and likely that means an at-foot-joey and a pouched-joey. Assuming a female adult Kangaroo lasts the distance, the maximum breeding rate is one independent Kangaroo per annum. At the killing rates currently occurring in the ACT’s nature reserves, including the loss of large numbers of females, the probability of a collapse in the Eastern Grey Kangaroo population should not be underestimated.

History in numbers

The killing of Kangaroos in Canberra’s public parks and reserves since 2015 (not including joeys to 2021) is as follows:

  • 2015 Target 2,466 / Actual killed 1,689
  • 2016 Target 1,991 / Actual killed 1,989
  • 2017 Target 2,603 / Actual killed 2,592
  • 2018 Target 3,550 / Actual killed 3,253
  • 2019 Target 4,076 / Actual killed 4,035
  • 2020 Target 1,958 / Actual killed 1,931
  • 2021 Target 1,568 / Actual killed 1,505
  • 2022 Target 1,650 / Actual killed 1,645 plus 608 joeys
  • 2023 Target 1,042 / Actual killed 1,041 (533 were females) plus 362 joeys
  • 2024 Target 1,336 / Actual killed 1,232 (657 were females) plus 438 joeys

The road to extermination

Ratio of females to males slightly higher in 2024 (53.3 per cent were female) than it was in 2023 (51.2 per cent). Ratio of joeys to females killed in 2024 (66.7 per cent) was slightly lower than it was in 2023 (67.9 per cent). As a rough calculation we can estimate that 7,329 dependent joeys (in addition to the adults targeted as part of the ‘program’) were killed by the ACT Government in the period 2015 to 2024. The ACT Government likes to claim that the period chosen for their annual nature reserve Kangaroo killing program is at a time when fewer joeys will be caught up in the slaughter. This is not supported by the data that shows very large numbers of joeys are impacted.

Concerns from the data include the large number of females killed in the Mt Ainslie Nature Reserve and Mt Majura Nature Reserve. The numbers also suggest that very few Kangaroos now remain in the Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve and the Red Hill Nature Reserve.

Populations: Citizen science v official estimates

In May 2022 Jane Robinson and John Grace published the report Eastern Grey Kangaroos in Canberra Nature Park: Population estimates and a culling history, 2009-2022. The report includes an insight about what has happened to Kangaroo populations in the ACT’s nature reserve system.

“Over the past eight months, after an extensive, systematic search of all 37 accessible nature parks on multiple occasions, we directly observed 4,074 Kangaroos remaining in Canberra nature reserves”.

The recent independent review of the ACT’s Kangaroo program gives a population estimate with high certainty in reserves with culls over last 5 years at 11,250 Eastern Grey Kangaroos (in those parks and reserves where Kangaroos are ‘managed’). The report also gives a population estimate for Kangaroos in Canberra Nature Park and reserved land where Kangaroos are not managed at 20,300.

The Nature Knowledge Channel estimates that the 2024 ACT kill is likely to have taken out between 20 and 30 per cent of the Eastern Grey Kangaroos that remained in the ACT’s nature reserve system. The reality may be even worse than that.

The missing and the survivors: They never ever learn

The paragraph below is from the introduction of the ACT Kangaroo Management Plan. Odd they used it up front as it describes the decline in the biodiversity of Macropods (and other species went with them). The Eastern Grey Kangaroo and the other remaining Macropod species, which they target with harms / mitigation permits, will follow unless attitudes change:

“Though a larger number of macropod species are known or are thought to have occurred in the ACT in the past, only four species are now naturally present: the Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), Wallaroo (Macropus robustus), Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus), and Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor). ACT populations of these species are part of much larger distributions in eastern Australia, and across the continent in the case of the Wallaroo. The Brush-tailed Rock-Wallaby (Petrogale penicillata), recorded as recently as the late 1950s, is now presumed to be extinct in the ACT and has a sparse distribution across its former range in south-eastern Australia. Some of the potoroids, such as the Tasmanian Bettong (Bettongia gaimardi) and the Rufous Bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens) probably occurred in the ACT in the past, but like the rest of the family, these species have decreased dramatically in range and are not found in the ACT today. Bone deposits from the last 200 years indicate a much more diverse small/ medium mammal fauna in the ACT than is currently present”.

The ACT Government claims that Eastern Grey Kangaroos are threatening ‘endangered ecological communities and species’. This same reasoning is trotted out by Australian State and Territory Governments across the Australian Continent whenever they want to kill large numbers of Kangaroos and sometimes theses claims can only be described as very silly.

What is occurring in the ACT is described so accurately by Frankie Seymour, Save Canberra’s Kangaroos in the report Critique of ACT government kangaroo killing program and the review of the ACT Eastern Grey Kangaroo Controlled Native Species Management Plan 2017, by Dr Sarah Legge:

“Of course, this same species that is now an isolated remnant has been sharing its habitat with kangaroos during droughts for millions of years without being harmed by any level of grazing. Moreover, it has certainly benefitted from the keystone services kangaroos have provided, especially when a drought breaks. The kangaroos carry seeds and nutrients in their fur and faeces, and would have carried them far and wide during the drought, in their search for better grass. These re-seed the soil laid bare by the drought. The roots of the plants that might have been grazed down to stubble (but not gnawed down to bare ground or uprooted as they would have been if they had been grazed by sheep or cattle) have held much of the soil together and begin to come back to life. When the grass grows again, it will be the kangaroos whose grazing keeps it high, and low, and varied enough to protect the ground cover and all the creatures that live in the vegetation.
Clearly the problem species in this scenario is not the kangaroos but the remnant species which, with or without droughts and certainly with or without any drought-driven change in kangaroos grazing behaviour, is far too vulnerable to have any hope of surviving much longer in its fragment of habitat. If nothing else, loss of genetic diversity will be the end of it”.

Frankie also states that:

“The entire Canberra Nature Park (CNP) has been degraded and will continue to be degraded by ongoing habitat loss. The primary causes of this degradation are:
  • destruction and fragmentation of native habitat by the building of Canberra itself, and ongoing encroaching development into rural areas, and right up to the fences of the reserves of the CNP, including multiple bisections of the Park by roads and high speed traffic;
  • the ecological legacy of a century of sheep and cattle grazing (trampling, rootstock grazing and ripping, damming of creeks to water livestock etc) on the land that is now the CNP, along with ongoing grazing of cattle on the reserves in misguided attempts to manage the biomass overgrowth caused by the removal of too many kangaroos;
  • the overgrowth of biomass itself (ie weeds and high grass) since the slaughter has reduced kangaroo numbers too low for the remaining kangaroos to be able to manage it; and
  • anthropogenic climate change (long term changes in general weather conditions, changing tolerability of the climate for the plants and animals that live here, and more frequent, sustained and severe extreme weather events).
These causes of the degradation suffered by the CNP, are well-established. Despite numerous requests for baseline data, the ACT government has failed to produce any data compiled before it commenced its annual slaughter of kangaroos, on any aspect of the status of any species living there. Nor had the government any apparent scientific basis, prior to slaughtering them, for asserting that kangaroo grazing was in any way aggravating the degradation”.

Questions and answers

I have asked the ACT Government (the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate is the lead directorate for both the Kangaroo Management Program and biosecurity in the ACT) questions in relation to this year’s Kangaroo Kill. The answers received raise even more questions, which I will ask in the coming days. The questions and answers in summary as we have them now.

Question one: Why did the 2024 cull end so early given that not all quotas were met? Why the shortfall at Mt Ainslie Nature Reserve and Mt Majura Nature Reserve?

ANSWER: The detection of Avian Influenza (AI) in the ACT required the urgent reallocation of personnel and resources from the Kangaroo Management Program to the biosecurity response. With the majority of the Kangaroo Management Program objectives achieved, it was determined that the lower number removed from Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura would not compromise the achievement of long-term conservation objectives at these sites.

Question two: Given this cull has now continued over several years pls supply the detailed evidence showing that the status of threatened species and communities has improved because of the annual cull?

ANSWER: The detailed and complex response does not answer my question, I quote directly. The Kangaroo Management Program is guided by a large body of research and ongoing monitoring, including numerous local studies that have investigated the relationships between Kangaroo density, grassy layer structure and biodiversity of native species. These studies have been used to establish kangaroo density targets and, more recently, a grass height threshold that are used to guide management decisions and evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Research has shown that grass heights of around 5 to 15cm have consistently been associated with providing suitable habitat conditions for a wide variety of native plant and animal species and has been set as the desired management target for grassy ecosystems in the ACT. The 2024 Conservation Advice available on the ACT Environment website confirms that grass heights are returning to within target range. Furthermore, a recent evaluation of the effectiveness of the ACT Government’s Kangaroo Management Program that compared sites where Kangaroos are managed to sites where they are unmanaged has shown that the program is effective in maintaining Kangaroo densities close to the target densities and that this has improved over time. This evaluation also shows that when Kangaroo densities are managed to target levels, the grass height has been consistently within the desired height range. Further information about this evaluation can be found in the recent Independent Review of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo Controlled Native Species Management Plan by Professor Sarah Legge available on the ACT Environment website.  

The non-answer goes on to describe the ‘background’: The ACT has some of the largest and highest quality remnants of Natural Temperate Grassland and Box-Gum Grassy Woodland in Australia. Both ecological communities are now listed as critically endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. As much of our lowland biodiversity relies on these two ecosystems, as land managers, we have a responsibility to manage them wisely. Of particular concern is the conservation of threatened species, including the Grassland Earless Dragon, Striped Legless Lizard, Pink-tailed Worm Lizard, Perunga Grasshopper, Hooded Robin, and Brown Treecreeper, which rely on an intact grassy layer for survival. Grazing by Eastern Grey Kangaroos is important for maintaining healthy, functioning grassy ecosystems. However, too much, or too little, Kangaroo grazing can negatively impact on these environments. Kangaroo populations can reach unsustainable densities in the urban and peri-urban areas of Canberra, due to a lack of natural predation and heavily fragmented habitat. Research shows that when this happens, Kangaroos can eat down the ground layer vegetation, removing important habitat for other species and degrading the condition of Critically Endangered grassy ecosystems. This is more likely to happen in dry years when grass growth is reduced. Managing Kangaroo grazing is part of a broader land management program that aims to ensure our native grassy ecosystems provide suitable habitat conditions to support a wide variety of plant and animal species. Weed control, pest animal management, ecological burning, slashing, strategic livestock grazing and various restoration, monitoring and research activities are also undertaken to promote a healthy and diverse grassy layer. Shooting is recognised by the RSPCA, as well as Commonwealth, State and Territory governments as the most humane method of culling currently available. The conservation culling program far-exceeds the requirements of the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for non-commercial purposes,  and the contracted shooters and ACT Government staff involved in culling strive to improve standards continually. The ACT also employs additional measures so that best-practice animal welfare standards are met and exceeded. For example, Kangaroo shooters in the ACT are required to pass a challenging marksmanship test and tests on the National Code of Practice and macropod identification. Additionally, the ACT is the only jurisdiction that restricts culling of female Kangaroos to a specific time period each year. By completing culling operations between March and July only, we significantly reduce the risk of orphaning young in the vulnerable age bracket of 8-12 months old, increasing welfare outcomes for our Kangaroo populations. Young in this age bracket have a high milk demand but are sufficiently mobile enough to escape if their mother is shot.  Further information can be found in Seasonal breeding of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo provides opportunities for improved animal welfare in Kangaroo management. ENDS