Kangaroo plan unacceptable: wildlife group
By VERITY DUNN
ANIMAL welfare groups have slammed the ACT’s recent Kangaroo Management Plan saying it is inhumane and unnecessary, but the government maintains it is the best strategy to deal with kangaroo populations.
Chief Minister Jon Stanhope released the plan at the end of March and said it aims to manage the environmental, economic and social impacts of kangaroo populations on other biota, grassy ecosystems and people.
“The Government has a responsibility to manage the impacts of over-abundant kangaroo populations and to safeguard the long-term welfare of the kangaroos themselves,” he said.
But some animal welfare groups argue the statistics are wrong and the information is false.
“It’s out of date, it’s not acceptable and it wouldn’t be valid either as far as animal welfare goes,” Nora Preston, the president of Wildlife Carers Group, said.
The executive officer of the RSPCA, Michael Linke, believes the proposed strategies are appropriate.
“It’s well thought out, it’s well researched, it’s peer reviewed and it’s had community consultation. So it ticks the four key boxes that the RSPCA wants to see ticked,” Mr Linke said.
Ms Preston says animal welfare groups like Voiceless, Animal Liberation and Wildlife Carers Group are opposed to the plan and believe at the very least changes need to be made.
The groups want more accurate information on the impact kangaroos have on the environment, exact numbers of populations (not estimations) and caring for the animals (sick, injured and orphaned) to be made legal.
“They need to remove the false statements about kangaroos having an impact on the grasslands,” Ms Preston said.
The plan claims “overgrazing of over-abundant kangaroo populations” is threatening native plants, grasses and animals like the Grassland Earless Dragon and the Striped Legless Lizard.
“It’s not the kangaroos killing the native grasses, it’s the humans with spraying and building . . . kangaroos stimulate the grasses, they fertilise the ecosystem and continue the growth cycle,” Ms Preston said.
The senior ecologist on the plan, Dr Don Fletcher, says Parks, Conservation and Lands took two years to put together extensive research and community consultation for the final report. Dr Fletcher admits that kangaroos are not the main problem and in fact “native grasses” are not threatened with extinction, but other animals and plants are.
“The ‘biggest contributor’ to the loss of the natural treeless grasslands of our region has been agriculture (by far),” he said.
“Within the remaining areas of natural grassland and grassy box-gum woodland, some grazing, preferably by kangaroos, is essential for the conservation of native plants. But excessive grazing by kangaroos (or any animals) can alter the structure of the tussock grassland so that it no longer provides favourable habitat for some small species of animals,” he said.
The plan does not give an exact number of kangaroos in the ACT and Ms Preston says those involved need to start doing physical head counts of the animals and stop using gross estimations that are incorrect and “blown out of proportion” she said.
The 194 page document is based on the presumed ”high densities” or large numbers of kangaroo populations, without the specific number Ms Preston says the rest of the proposed actions are unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
She says, “We just need to leave them alone. Their numbers are decreasing drastically…if they keep culling they’ll drive them [the kangaroos] to extinction. Everyone knows there are fewer kangaroos, even the shooters are complaining, ‘there aren’t any kangaroos, what can we kill’ they say.”
To manage social impacts, the plan recommends fencing or underpasses in future road designs to reduce the number of kangaroo-vehicle collisions that cost $30 million nationally. Culling by shooting will continue to be the main form of population control, but the plan also outlines capture darting then lethal injection, poisoning and fertility control as possible options for the future.
Mr Linke said the RSPCA is interested in ensuring the welfare of the animals impacted by the plan. He admits, on occasion the best solution is culling – as long as it is done humanely.
Fertility control would be the best alternative but current research is insufficient to start the program the plan explained.
“We need to find the ice cream for kangaroos, the one thing they’ll eat rather than anything else to ensure preferential grazing. That’s the key,” Mr Linke said.
Mr Linke says the plan needed to be produced in light of the past controversies over kangaroo management and welfare.
“It needed to happen, governments needed to show to the community, the broader community that they take kangaroo management seriously. And it’s not just culling at the end of the day where is becomes a problem or it’s a crisis,” Mr Linke said.
The Kangaroo Management Plan is available on the Territory and Municipal Services website: Kangaroo plan is here