Decision Maker Response
Caroline Le Couteur, Greens MLA’s response
Jun 4, 2019 — The ACT Greens have looked carefully at this issue over a period of time, and have asked many questions about the policy, the science, and alternative approaches. Since 2004 we have reluctantly but consistently accepted the necessity of managing populations of Eastern Grey Kangaroos in order to protect threatened temperate grassland ecosystems. We understand that reduced habitat and reduced predators have created the imbalance in these ecosystems.
The range of scientific evidence presented to date has informed our view that a precautionary approach requires us to take some action, since many of the species that depend on these grassland habitats are at risk of extinction. Our support for the conservation cull is consistent with our belief that the protection and conservation of biodiversity is essential for the wellbeing of all life on earth. The loss of biodiversity poses an unacceptable threat to the health of people and ecosystems, and drastically reduces our ability to cope with major threats like climate change.
Unfortunately since European settlement, 99.5 % of Australia’s natural temperate grassland communities have been destroyed or damaged, and many plant and animal species have become locally extinct or critically endangered due to habitat loss and degradation. In the ACT, we have been lucky enough to retain a comparatively higher level (although still only about 5%) of the original temperate grassland remaining in moderate to good condition. Many of the species that depend on this threatened community are at risk of extinction, such as Grassland Earless Dragons, the Striped Legless Lizard, Perunga Grasshoppers, Coorooboorama Raspy Crickets and Ginninderra Peppercress. We believe that the ACT Government has a legal and moral responsibility to protect these plant and animal species and the ecological communities that support them.
These critical conservation areas are under threat from overgrazing by kangaroo populations, which leads to a deterioration in the quality of the grasslands. This in turn puts pressure on the species that rely on this habitat. Conditions in the ACT region are very favourable for Eastern Grey Kangaroos, contributing to an extremely high kangaroo population. Eastern Grey Kangaroos are the most numerous species of macropod in Australia, and their conservation status is not threatened. The numbers to be culled have been based on scientific kangaroo counts in each location each year. This has been compared to the sustainable carrying capacity for each area that ACT Government ecologists have established by taking into account the habitat requirements of grassland dependent animals and plants. The condition of the vegetation at each site is also taken into account each year.
When Shane Rattenbury was the Minister responsible for the portfolio, we investigated alternative methods for reducing kangaroo populations in our nature reserves:
o Fertility Control – The ACT Greens achieved additional funding for more research into the best way to implement a fertility program for kangaroos in the wild, as this would be a far preferable option to culling. Currently available methods of fertility control require each individual to be captured and handled, so are suited to small, contained populations. However, the ACT Government is trialing a new method of remotely delivering GonaCon Immunocontraceptive Vaccine via a dart to female kangaroos. Preliminary results looked positive, and we are now following up for recent results.
o Translocation – Unfortunately investigations have not shown a way for successful large-scale translocation, due to low survival rates following relocation as well as the lack of available appropriate relocation areas.
We appreciate that culling native animals is never the preferred option. The ACT Greens will continue to call for the ACT Government to investigate non-lethal alternatives to reduce the population of kangaroos and protect the biodiversity of Canberra's nature reserves. We will also continue to work hard to ensure protection of the natural areas that surround the ACT.
For further information about the ACT’s conservation cull, visit https://www.environment.act.gov.au/parks-conservation/plants-and-animals/urban_wildlife/local_wildlife/kangaroos/2019-kangaroo-cull