“Cull roos now to save rare grassland,” says the headline in the Canberra Times. The ACT’s Commissioner for Sustainability and Environment, Dr Maxine Cooper, goes on to list the evidence use to support this sentence of death by shooting.
“They threaten rare grasslands in a critical condition” is the clincher. But these are native grasslands that have evolved with Eastern Grey kangaroos over millions of years — but can they adapt to shoddy science?
“On advice from experts that I’ve had, the only humane way to reduce large numbers of kangaroos is through humanely culling.”
Evidence from botanists no doubt, and this profession has form — a preparedness to endorse the killing of other indigenous species to protect plant “biodiversity”. In the mid 1980s botanists supported by other scientists propelled a campaign over a decade that led to the culling of thousands of kangaroos in Victoria’s Hattah-Kulkyne National Park.
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In that same decade, in Victoria again, permits were issued to shoot white winged choughs, a delightful bird that lives in family groups and had habituated to the mudbrick dwellings of the dry valleys behind Eltham. Here botanists said that these birds loved eating rare native orchids, (exposed by years of firewood collecting) and were “over abundant” because people had been feeding them. They had to be shot. Shooting white winged choughs was on the border of extreme, when putting wire over the rare orchids protects them to this day.
A similar excuse is given by the ACT commissioner:
“We want the kangaroos as part of the ecosystem, but because they no longer have any natural predators, hunting of them has been reduced and the area on which kangaroos used to graze has been taken up by urban development. You actually have to have the human in there as one of the predators and control the numbers of kangaroos.”
Kangaroos have always had dogs as predators. Dingoes are not that common in the ACT these days, but their place has been more than taken by packs of domestic and feral dogs. Humans and their cars are also a significant source of mortality, as Dr Maxine Cooper states:
“In the 2007-08 State of the Environment Report, Dr Cooper reported rangers picked up about 1000 kangaroos from roadsides as a result of vehicle collisions across the territory each year.”
That number would increase if females carrying joeys are taken into account. They must be expensive panel beaters in the ACT — she also claims they did $7 million worth of damage to cars annually.
This continuing academic assault on kangaroos seems to have a colonial twist — a deep seated insecurity with the Australian landscape and its animals. A need to meddle, to change and dictate and modify. Shooting the kangaroos doesn’t work well as kangaroos can always move in from elsewhere quite quickly if the feed’s good. Then they just need to be shot again.
There are many threats to native grasslands and the animals that live in them. Apart from clearing for development, cats and domestic dog packs threaten what animals are left with little of the former cover while rabbits, hares, goat and even pigs pressure the grasslands — but it is the kangaroos again that are the target.
Living with kangaroos is going to require more effort. Effective fencing, effective road crossing, slowing traffic, movement sensors to slow traffic down in time to stop, etc etc. They mow lawns for nothing, reduce fire hazards and attract tourists. To shoot them is a primitive colonial over reaction to native wildlife and the Australian landscape that we seem to be further from reconciling with than ever.
Odd isn’t it. The over-abundance of other species — the feral pigs, hares, deer, goats, feral dogs and feral cats, let alone domestic and stock animals — are rarely, if ever, referred to.