Why does the ACT Government do kangaroo research?
There are both geographic and policy reasons to research kangaroos in the ACT. Canberra is the only city where large numbers of people and kangaroos live close together, and research from elsewhere does not always provide the required information to develop evidence-based policy for the ACT. Eastern Grey Kangaroos are the principal native herbivore of the region, and one of the wildlife species best known to the general public. They are exceptionally abundant in the region. Generally regarded with affection, their populations are also known to have a range of impacts, including environmental, economic and social impacts, e.g. serious motor vehicle collisions with kangaroos. For further information on impacts, refer to Chapters 5 and 6 of the ACT Kangaroo Management Plan.
To manage kangaroo impacts the ACT must devise robust policy and management responses. However, experience around the globe has shown that the reduction of wildlife damage is often more complex than it first appears, and in general, making wildlife policy in the absence of scientific evidence has proven unsuccessful. Evidence-based management is a key principle of the ACT Kangaroo Management Plan. To meet the need for evidence, kangaroo research is essential, conducted both by the ACT Government, and through partnerships with other research organisations.
Kangaroos are a national icon, and have been the subject of divisive national and international media, and court action. Therefore, scientific evidence is also of high value for conflict management. Beginning with the international controversy in 1993 over kangaroo management at Government House, it has gradually become clearer that kangaroo management in the ACT requires special scientific attention. Sixteen years later, in 2009 legal challenges against the granting of culling licences were decided solely on ecological grounds, supported by a body of research developed in the intervening time. An aspiration for the future would be to prevent court challenges as much as possible, by conducting incisive research investigations, and communicating the results clearly.
What research is completed, underway or planned?
The ACT Government is playing a role in several areas of kangaroo research, through the Conservation Research Unit within the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate. Projects listed below, have either been recently completed, are underway, or are about to commence.
Since the ACT Kangaroo Management Plan (KMP) was published in 2010, eight studies on the effects of kangaroo grazing on biodiversity, based on work carried out in the ACT, have been published or submitted and are in review.
- ACT Conservation Research: the effects of kangaroo grazing on biodiversity (2015)
- Community attitudes to kangaroo management (2015)