Movement behaviour of kangaroos in urban Canberra

Collared kangaroo

Compared to any other city, Canberra has a lot of kangaroos. Many of them live in small nature reserves right within the city – at least during daytime. Canberra has often been called the ’bush capital’ because it has so many urban reserves. It also qualifies as the ‘kangaroo capital’.

The natural behaviour of these urban kangaroos is being measured using tracking collars. Each collar contains a GPS which records the location of the kangaroo every hour.

This research will assist the ACT Government to make evidence-based decisions about future kangaroo control programs, and about reducing the risk of motor vehicle collisions with kangaroos. Twenty-four kangaroos are being monitored in 17 areas throughout Canberra, such as Red Hill and Mount Taylor, which are nature reserves surrounded by suburbs. Some rural kangaroos are also being monitored for comparison.

The collars do no harm to the kangaroos. The design was refined and tested in a one year study with captive kangaroos before the first collars were fitted to wild kangaroos. The collars are programmed to automatically release from the kangaroos in 2011, and will then be retrieved to access the data.

Kangaroo locations from a pilot study with GPS collars in 2009 can be examined in map form, thanks to a free software program called GPS Visualizer. To view the interactive map, you will need to install the Google Earth program available at and download this Kangaroo Project file (KMZ file 142KB). Then, in Google Earth, go to the File menu, and click Open. Browse to where you have saved the Kangaroo Project file then click on the Open button.

When the file opens, you will see groups of green and red symbols, each group located where there was a collared kangaroo. Zoom down to one of these groups. Green symbols show the kangaroo’s daytime locations, with red symbols for night. You can click the individual symbols for the name of the kangaroo, and the time and date it was at that location. Stars are points of the highest precision, triangles are unreliable, and circles are of intermediate quality. Straight lines join successive locations, and do not necessarily show the route used by the kangaroo.

This research requires the kangaroos to be capture-darted. Research staff are expert in capturing and caring for wild eastern grey kangaroos (including their young of all ages). More information is available on research into fertility control. If you would like any further information on the study, or if you wish to report a collared kangaroo that is in an unusual location or injured, please call Access Canberra on 13 22 81.

You may also be interested in the recently released ACT Kangaroo Management Plan.