An Australian Department of Defence proposal to cull 400 Eastern grey kangaroos in Belconnen has generated a diverse range of responses on ABC News Online comments.
A contributor, Annabelle, said,
“The killing of kangaroos for convenience is disgusting. Killing kangaroos is just like killing whales-not necessary. It is a hang over from the ‘we must conquer the bush’ mentality of the past.”
It would be easier for the Department of Defence to take no action, which is problematic from an animal welfare perspective because no culling has the potential negative effects on this Eastern grey kangaroo population to lead to insufficient food and shade for the kangaroos. In addition, in this case, expert opinion suggests the Department of Defence needs to cull some of the kangaroos to protect endangered grasslands and amphibian species.
It is also questionable that the killing of kangaroos is not necessary, as asserted by Annabelle, considering that it appears there is overpopulation of Eastern grey kangaroos on this site.
According Michael Linke, the CEO of the ACT branch of RSPCA Australia, there are approximately 600 kangaroos on a site with room for about 100 kangaroos.
The CEO of the New South Wales branch of RSPCA Australia told Kerri-Anne Kennelly that in the past 10 months, there is an additional 80 kangaroos on the site.
Since it appears that Eastern grey kangaroos are overpopulating the site and are continuing to increase in numbers, it is arguably necessary to cull to reduce the numbers of kangaroos on the site. The cull in this case is clearly to reduce numbers of kangaroos on this site since the proposal is for the culling of 400 kangaroos, rather than killing all the kangaroos on the site.
In addition to overpopulation of Eastern grey kangaroos on the Belconnen site, according to ACT Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope, experts argue that overpopulation of kangaroos on the site is causing damage to endangered native grasslands and lizards . Considering that overpopulation is causing damage to endangered grasslands and species, it is arguably necessary to cull some of the kangaroos on this site to protect the environment and biodiversity on the site.
In contrast to Annabelle’s view, a contributor at ABC Online using the name ‘wildlife rescuer’ said,
“I work as a volunteer animal rescuer. Let me explain some things for you: 1. All kangaroos have home ranges (area which they know intimately) which means if relocated they become lost, confused and more often die from stress; 2. To sedate and move 400 adult kangaroos (each weighing up to 90kgs) is going to take a lot of manpower and drugs regardless, you also need people at the relocation site to ensure sedation doesn’t have nasty side effects; 3. Due to the drought we are getting more calls to kangaroos in suburbia where they have gotten lost in looking for food which just isn’t around, in travelling on concrete and asphalt these animals destroy the pads on their feet and need to be euthanized anyway. So although I am an animal lover, rescuer and activist even I have to admit that the best thing for these animals is to put them down in this instance because to move them is to kill them slowly and cruelly and with no food available nature is doing the same thing. Why make them suffer when the solution can be painless for them?”
While wildlife rescuers contribution is an opinion, it is arguably an opinion informed by practical experience and training. This opinion is interesting because it suggests that the decision to cull kangaroos in this case is in the best interests of the kangaroos in question, rather than being a choice between the best interests of the kangaroos and the best interests of humans. It is also interesting to note that the view of ‘wildlife rescuer’ is consistent with the expert advice to the ACT Government, which recommended a cull as the most humane option.
Despite expert evidence that culling of 400 kangaroos on the Belconnen site is necessary to effectively reduce environmental damage to the site caused by overpopulation by the kangaroos, activists argue for the relocation of the kangaroos to New South Wales. It is questionable whether re-locating the 400 kangaroos to New South Wales is a viable option, considering that veterinarians and animal welfare experts argue, in a report to the ACT Government, that relocation is traumatic to the kangaroos and is an inhumane option in this case . It is questionable whether relocation is a viable alternative in this case because New South Wales law utilises the commercial harvesting and culls of abundant kangaroo species in order to resolve the problems associated with overpopulation. Given that New South Wales utilises commercial harvesting and culls to address overpopulation by some kangaroo species, it is arguable that relocating the 400 kangaroos will avoid the killing of these kangaroos. It is interesting to note that it is unclear whether the New South Wales Government would allow the relocation of the 400 kangaroos to New South Wales .
Then on ABC Radio National ‘World News Today’ on Tuesday, April 1, 2008, the Department of Defence announced that the planned cull of 400 Eastern grey kangaroos on its Belconnen site would no longer take place because the Department of Defence is researching relocating the kangaroos. The Department of Defence spokesperson claimed that the Department of Defence had always wanted to relocate the 400 Eastern grey kangaroos but the ACT Government only granted a permit to allow for the culling of the kangaroos.
For the CEO of the ACT branch of RSPCA Australia, Michael Linke, this decision is questionable because the expert evidence, in this case, is that a cull was the most humane option. In this case, a cull was the most humane option because experts on animal welfare view relocation as traumatic and inhumane to the kangaroos.
It is unclear how the kangaroos would adapt to changes in location.
It is also questionable whether the Department of Defence decision to research relocating kangaroos is a positive considering that this is research on relocating an abundant species. It is arguable that there is a greater need to research relocating endangered species to improve their chances of survival. The relocation of the kangaroos to New South Wales is also questionable considering that New South Wales law enables the commercial harvesting and culls of abundant kangaroo species, including the Eastern grey kangaroo.
It is interesting to note that the Department of Defence decision to research relocation comes after two weeks of activists protesting at the Belconnen site with media coverage of the issue. It is curious that the Department of Defence is now a vocal supporter of a relocation plan, considering that representatives of various animal welfare/wildlife activist groups argued that relocation is an alternative to the cull.
Considering that veterinarians and RSPCA surgeons agree that relocation is traumatic and inhumane, it is questionable whether wildlife/animal welfare activists were protesting for the best interests of the kangaroos because they support the inhumane option rejected by experts. However, by researching the relocation of the 400 kangaroos from the Belconnen site, the Department of Defence is effectively acting against expert advice on the best interests of the kangaroos, by ‘researching’ a inhumane alternative, to appease activists who appear to have no idea about why the cull is necessary and the effect of relocation on kangaroos.
Nichole has posted a lot of information on kangaroos at the environment wiki linked to this blog: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/wiki/Australian_Kangaroos