THE ACT GOVERNMENT supplies anyone who questions their annual kangaroo family slaughter — killing Australia’s favourite tourism icon in the national capital — with a comforting ‘scientific’ fact sheet.
The Bulletin has previously published an independent critique of the relevance or validity of the scientific argument that kangaroos damage other native flora or fauna on the city’s nature reserves.
We also recently obtained FOI confirmation on just how much the killing is costing ACT citizens. A lot, in dollars and also in moral terms for those who care about our wildlife.
There is an underlying sinister reason for brandishing the ‘science’ of management for ecological damage. It is used as a justification for wiping out whole kangaroo families with young at-foot and babies in the pouch.
The ecological arguments get around a provision of the Code of Practice that the government waves at residents saying its activities are “humane”. The code advises against killing females. But if they cite managing for ecological reasons they can. Since joeys are often present with kangaroo mums, they are an inevitable part of the death and destruction.
This risible ACT-devised argument that kangaroos are a threat to surrounding biodiversity is now being used as public relations by others — like the commercial kangaroo industry killing for skins and meat that operates throughout eastern Australia. It may also be taken up by other state parks services to justify killing on behalf of farmers, developers or the commercial industry.
Frankie Seymour* writes:
The ACT government’s basis for claiming its annual massacre of kangaroos on Canberra reserves is humane is the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Non-Commercial Purposes.
This is the same code of practice which proves in fact that the slaughter is grossly inhumane. The requirement to bludgeon and/or decapitate younger joeys is tabulated in detail in Section 5, (on pp12–13).
Section 2.4 advises shooters to avoid shooting female kangaroos except in special circumstances such as “for management and/or ecological reasons”. This is why the ACT government has to pretend the slaughter is for “management and/or ecological reasons”, despite the absence of evidence supporting that claim.
The code goes on to require at-foot joeys to be “shot as soon as possible” after their mothers but the reality is that at-foot joeys move and disappear very quickly when their mothers tell them to run and hide, so shooters rarely get the opportunity to shoot them. [They die later from car strike, dogs or malnutrition]. Furthermore, it was revealed at the ACAT (Tribunal) hearing of 2014 that young at-foot do not count towards the number of kangaroos the shooters have killed, so there is little incentive for shooters to pursue them.
Mothers nurse joeys until 18 months
The ACT government claims that it conducts its slaughter at the time of year when there are likely to be fewer dependent young at-foot; but the government’s Kangaroo Management Plan also admits (p11) that mothers continue nursing their joeys until they are 18-months-old.
So, there is no time in the course of any 12-month period when killing a mature female kangaroo will not orphan a dependent joey. Additionally, in the current good season after drought, virtually every mature female kangaroo can be expected to have at least a pouch joey for the shooters to decapitate or bludgeon to death. (IMAGE: Maria Taylor)
No monitoring of what goes on in the killing fields
There is no enforcement of the even the few, flimsy protections provided by the code: no police, no vets, no welfare agencies. The killing is completely unmonitored, except by protestors. This year there has not been even a single government ranger is sight while shooting has been underway.
The National Code now in use in the ACT was never approved by the ACT government’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. Unlike the ACT’s own Code which it replaced, it fails to prohibit the driving and trapping of kangaroos which caused such horrific panic, myopathy, injury, and separation of mothers from joeys at the Belconnen Naval Transmission Station in 2008.
That suffering was documented and published nationally and internationally by hundreds of eye witnesses (see imagery below). In the absence of a prohibition on driving kangaroos, quad bikes are now routinely used during the ACT’s annual slaughter on Canberra nature reserves to herd kangaroos out of wooded areas into open areas where they can be more easily shot.
*Frankie Seymour is an environmental scientist who has observed and opposed the Canberra kangaroo killing program for the past decade. She is a former long-time member of government’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.