Question and answers: 2017 conservation cull program

1. Why do kangaroos need culling?

Research indicates that conditions in the ACT region are very favourable for Eastern Grey Kangaroos and, as such, their population has continued to increase to the extent that various nature reserve areas of the ACT have some of the highest densities of kangaroos per square kilometre in Australia. This increase is due to the relatively stable environment, abundance of grassed areas, reduction of natural predators like dingoes, reduced hunting and shooting and reduced or eliminated competition from grazing livestock in many grasslands now reserved for conservation.

The high population of kangaroos combined with dry conditions leads to overgrazing in areas, impacting precious ecosystems and threatening the survival of some local flora and fauna species, including some listed as threatened.

2. Since 2010, what research has been conducted into the impacts of kangaroos?

Since 2010, eight scientific research studies on the effects of kangaroo grazing on biodiversity, based on work carried out in the ACT, have been published. The papers evaluate a number of the ecological relationships between the kangaroo population, pasture and the inhabitants of the pasture such as plants, insects, reptiles and birds. Collectively the eight studies provide strong evidence that high densities of Eastern Grey Kangaroos can negatively impact a range of species in the ACT.

The studies cover:

  • research on vegetation at Goorooyarroo and Mulligans Flat nature reserves
  • the effect of reducing grazing on beetle diversity
  • population decline of endangered Grassland Earless Dragons
  • the benefits of coarse woody debris in ecosystem recovery under different levels of grazing
  • impacts of grazing on ground-dwelling reptiles
  • restoration of eucalypt grassy woodland
  • habitat preferences of the threatened Striped Legless Lizard
  • the effect of grazing on bird communities in grassy habitats.

See a summary of these studies.

The research is also detailed in the Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Controlled Native Species Management Plan.

3. How is the number of kangaroos to be culled for conservation purposes calculated?

Population control is based on scientific knowledge supported by ongoing research, appropriate regulation and monitoring, and codes of practice as outlined in the management plan.  Different methods are used to calculate the numbers of kangaroos that need to be culled for conservation purposes and for rural purposes.

The number of kangaroos to be culled for conservation purposes in each nature reserve is assessed annually on a reserve by reserve basis using a formula. Culling is conducted in a minority of reserves.

The formula takes into account the current knowledge on the density required to support the desired conservation environment in average pasture growth conditions in different vegetation types. For example, in grassland one kangaroo per hectare allows for the conservation of small animals such as the Striped Legless Lizard.

The target number of kangaroos for a site is subtracted from the actual population, making allowance for population growth in the interim to the next cull. This number is reviewed by government ecologists and adjusted if necessary to compensate for environmental variables such as rainfall and pasture growth.

Four different methods are used to count kangaroo populations depending on the site:

  • direct counts of individual kangaroos
  • sweep counts by a line of people walking through the area
  • walked line transect counts
  • pellet counts, particularly in wooded areas where kangaroos are difficult to see.

For more information, see a fact sheet on calculating the cull.

4. Where are you culling this year?

A total of up to 1200 Eastern Grey Kangaroos will be culled within the ACT.

The sites for closure are Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve, Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, Mount Majura Nature Reserve and adjacent territory land, Kama Nature Reserve, Mount Painter Nature Reserve and adjacent territory land, The Pinnacle Nature Reserve and adjacent unleased land, Mount Mugga Mugga Nature Reserve, Isaacs Ridge Nature Reserves, Callum Brae Nature Reserve, East Jerrabomberra Grasslands, and West Jerrabomberra Nature Reserve.

Up to 1406 kangaroos will be culled the in ACT managed Googong Foreshores across the NSW border.

The reserves and other lands will be open to the public during various hours of the day. Please check the closure notification and onsite signage to find out these times.

5. Why are you undertaking a cull at Googong this year? How has that cull been authorised?

Culling at the ACT Government managed Googong Foreshores will be undertaken for the same reason other conservation culling is undertaken in the ACT. Googong Foreshores has important biodiversity and landscape values. The area forms part of a corridor of relatively intact vegetation extending from the Tinderry Range to the north-eastern ACT. It also contains a number of threatened ecological communities and plant and animal species.

The Googong Dam water reservoir provides raw water to Queanbeyan and the ACT. Preventing excessive grazing which can cause significant soil loss from wind and erosion will assist to protect this water supply.

The cull is licensed under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

6. What reserve closures are in place?

The 12 sites to be closed for the conservation cull are Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve (Mulligans Flat re-opened Friday 2 June 2017), Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, Mount Majura Nature Reserve and adjacent territory land, Kama Nature Reserve, Mount Painter Nature Reserve and adjacent territory land, The Pinnacle Nature Reserve and adjacent unleased land, Mount Mugga Mugga Nature Reserve, Isaacs Ridge Nature Reserves, Callum Brae Nature Reserve, East Jerrabomberra Grasslands, West Jerrabomberra Nature Reserve, and Googong Foreshores.

East Jerrabomberra Grasslands and West Jerrabomberra Nature Reserve will be closed between 3 pm and 7 am each day.

Mount Majura Nature Reserve and adjacent territory land, Mount Painter Nature Reserve and adjacent territory land, Mount Mugga Mugga Nature Reserve, Callum Brae Nature Reserve, Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve, Isaacs Ridge Nature Reserve, Kama Nature Reserve and The Pinnacle Nature Reserve and adjacent unleased land, will be closed from 5 pm to 7 am each day.

Googong Foreshores will be closed from 6 pm to 8 am each day.

All sites will be closed at certain times from Wednesday 17 May 2017. Sites will re-open from Saturday 29 July 2017, or earlier if the program is completed sooner.

7. What is the difference between the ACT’s culling program and harvesting programs elsewhere?

Kangaroo culling in the ACT is conducted to reduce kangaroo numbers with the aim of either protecting conservation values in nature reserves or to mitigate damage on rural leases. Elsewhere in Australia quotas are set for the sustainable harvesting of kangaroos for commercial purposes, including for human consumption and pet food.

The ACT is the only state or territory to designate a culling season (March to July). The prescribed culling season has been shown to be effective in protecting young kangaroos at an age when they are vulnerable to being orphaned by the shooting of the mother.

8. Are there alternatives to culling?

All currently available methods of fertility control require each individual to be captured and handled, so are suited to small, contained populations. For example, surgical fertility control has been used since 1992 for the enclosed population at Government House. For efficiently treating free-ranging populations of kangaroos, a long acting contraceptive and a remote delivery system is required. The ACT Government is trialling a new method of remotely delivering GonaCon Immunocontraceptive Vaccine via a dart to female kangaroos. If effective, this fertility control method may be able to reduce the number of kangaroos culled each year in some sites in the ACT. At this stage, shooting remains the most humane effective option.

Kangaroo fencing has been used at several ACT sites (e.g. the front of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve) to reduce the number of kangaroos culled on rural properties but is not always the most appropriate tool.

Translocation is not a feasible option due to the lack of available relocation areas, and concerns about survival rates during and following relocation.  The translocation of kangaroos may only serve to shift the problem elsewhere. It could cause enormous stress to the animals and put them at risk of starvation by releasing them into an ecosystem that is unlikely to support additional grazing pressure. The ACT policy against translocation as an alternative to culling is common to all Australian states and territories. For more information, see the management plan.

9. Why is culling needed when there is a lot of grass around?

The idea is to balance the population. By culling a population annually, rather than delaying for years or reacting to damage, fewer animals are culled over the long term and environmental damage can be avoided. Culling is based on need, considering the landscape condition. Not all areas are culled every year.

10. What support is there in the community for culling?

Surveys conducted in 2008, 2011 and 2015 indicated there is growing support for the ACT Government’s approach to managing kangaroo populations. The 2015 survey indicated that 86% of ACT residents agreed that culling kangaroos is appropriate under certain circumstances, 76% supported kangaroo culling for conservation of other native species while 7% are against culling under any circumstances. The support for culling has grown from 59% in 2008.

11. How do you ensure kangaroo culling is humane?

Kangaroos are culled according to the relevant National Code of Practice. The cull method, shooting, is recognised by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments and RSPCA Australia as the most humane method of culling. Kangaroo shooters in the ACT have to pass a marksmanship accuracy test, overseen by an accredited Australian Federal Police Firearms Instructor. Additionally shooters must pass tests on the National Code of Practice and a macropod identification test to be accredited. The ACT is the only jurisdiction to test and accredit non-commercial kangaroo shooters and the testing process was made even more stringent and rigorous through improvements made in 2014.

An experienced veterinarian conducts an audit of the conservation cull in ACT nature reserves. An audit of compliance undertaken by an independent veterinarian in 2015 found that 'the percentage of kangaroos rendered immediately insensible (98%) was higher than for other published studies of night shooting'. No kangaroos observed to be non-fatally wounded in this study.

12. Will a licence still be required to undertake the cull?

The Conservator for Flora and Fauna or the Custodian of public and unleased land needs to authorise any person culling kangaroos in accordance with the Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Controlled Native Species Management Plan. If a person is authorised to undertake an activity under the management plan they are not required to have a licence under the Nature Conservation Act 2014, but they are required to hold a firearms licence and pass the kangaroo shooter proficiency test.

13. Are they being culled because they are pests?

Eastern Grey Kangaroos are not considered as pests, or treated as pests. Grazing is important to the conservation of grassy ecosystems and the kangaroos are central to the healthy functioning of these ecosystems. However, it is critical to manage the kangaroo population so the kangaroos and other grassland and woodland species can live sustainably. The aim of the conservation culling program is to moderate grazing, not eliminate it.

14. What happens to the kangaroos that are culled?

A proportion of kangaroo meat resulting from the conservation cull in ACT nature reserves is processed into baits for use within the ACT Government wild dog and fox control programs. The remaining kangaroo carcasses are buried. It is not feasible to process the carcasses for commercial purposes.

15. Where can I get more information about kangaroo management in the ACT?

More information about kangaroos can be found at the Conservation Research page.