2020 kangaroo cull

Reserve closures

The 2020 cull will start on 15 June 2020 and be completed by 1 August 2020. Nine reserves will be closed during this time.

Site nameClosed
Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve From 6pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons until 8am the following morning
Isaacs Ridge Nature Reserve From 6pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons until 8am the following morning
Mt Mugga Mugga Nature Reserve From 6pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons until 8am the following morning
Callum Brae Nature Reserve From 3pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons until 9am the following morning
Crace Grasslands Nature Reserve From 3pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons until 9am the following morning
Gungaderra Grasslands Nature Reserve From 3pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons until 9am the following morning
Mulanggari Grasslands Nature Reserve From 3pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons until 9am the following morning
Goorooyaroo Nature Reserve From 3pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons until 9am the following morning
West Jerrabomberra Nature Reserve From 3pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons until 9am the following morning

Frequently asked questions

What is a conservation cull?

The ACT conservation cull is undertaken with the aim of protecting conservation values from the impacts of excessive kangaroo grazing. It is distinct from damage mitigation culling, which is undertaken to maintain economic viability predominantly on rural lands.
The ACT does not currently permit the harvest of kangaroos for commercial purposes, including for human consumption and pet food, as occurs in some other states.

In 2017, Eastern Grey Kangaroos were declared a controlled native species under the Nature Conservation Act in recognition of their potential to impact on environmental, economic and social values. All kangaroo management in the ACT is undertaken in accordance with the Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Controlled Native Species Management Plan.

Why do you undertake a conservation cull?

The ACT has some of the largest and highest quality remnants of Natural Temperate Grassland and Box-Gum Grassy Woodland in Australia. Both ecological communities are listed as critically endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (C'wlth). As much of our lowland biodiversity relies on these two ecosystems, as land managers, we have a responsibility to manage them wisely.

In overgrazed conditions, and particularly during dry conditions, grassy ecosystems may no longer provide food and shelter for small animals such as reptiles, insects, small mammals and ground feeding birds. This is of particular concern for some of our threatened species, including the Grassland Earless Dragon, Striped Legless Lizard, Pink-tailed Worm Lizard, Perunga Grasshopper, Hooded Robin, and Brown Treecreeper, which rely on an intact grassy layer for survival. A loss of ground cover can also cause significant soil loss from wind, heavy rain and erosion – risking significant ecosystem collapse.

As lowland ecosystems in the ACT have been fragmented over time by the development of Canberra, the disruption of natural processes such as dispersal and predation mean that kangaroo populations now require active management if we are to maintain ecosystem balance. By achieving and maintaining this equilibrium over time, ACT Government aims to work with the Canberran community to prevent localised species extinction within each of these 'habitat islands'.

Why do you need to cull this year given the impact of fires on wildlife?

The conservation cull is an important part of the vital protection of the woodlands and grasslands throughout Canberra Nature Park.

The conservation cull is undertaken in a portion of the 38 Canberra Nature Park reserves, none of which were impacted by the 2020 bushfires. Each Canberra Nature Park reserve is managed for its own environmental values. The condition of the grassy layer relative to the size of the kangaroo population is assessed for each reserve, every year, to inform kangaroo management.

In the fire impacted areas of Namadgi and Tidbinbilla (see Figure 1 insert), the more connected and intact landscapes support natural regulation of kangaroo populations through processes such as predation, fire and shifting food availability.  Conservation culling of eastern grey kangaroos does not occur in Namadgi or Tidbinbilla.

Kangaroos have been shown to maintain small, stable home-ranges within Canberra Nature Park, with little evidence of animal movement between different areas of the park or more broadly. Whilst these types of movements do increase when food is scarce (such as during the exceptionally hot and dry conditions experienced throughout 2019), it is essential that we continue to carefully conserve areas of functional native habitat to allow all native species to persist following these significant events.

Why do you need to cull this year given the drought and fires?

Reduced grass growth during hot and dry conditions means the impacts of kangaroo grazing can be even more severe, as they compete to find enough food to survive and raise young. Left unchecked, this competition for limited resources can harm both small grass-dependent native species and kangaroos themselves, especially younger animals prone to starvation.

Ecosystem monitoring in February 2020 demonstrated the combined impacts of recent kangaroo grazing and the hot and dry conditions on grassy habitat condition across Canberra Nature Park. More than 70% of the areas monitored had grass heights below the 5–15cm threshold identified as being ideal for biodiversity conservation (see Figure 1). Areas which maintained appropriate habitat structure (shown in green) tended to occur in reserves where kangaroo densities have been maintained at target densities over time, demonstrating the benefits of ongoing conservation culls in achieving climate resilience.

2020 kangaroo management units and grassy habitat conditions map.
Figure 1. The main map shows priority conservation areas where kangaroo management objectives have been achieved (thick border) and where kangaroo management is ongoing or yet to be initiated (thin border). The condition of the grassy layer relative to target benchmarks is also shown for February 2020, indicating the combined impacts of kangaroo grazing and hot and dry conditions during 2019. The insert shows the extent of Canberra Nature Park throughout the urban areas of Canberra, as well as the extent of the 2020 Orroral Valley fire in Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve to the south of Canberra.

The conservation cull is undertaken in a portion of the 38 Canberra Nature Park reserves, none of which were impacted by the 2020 bushfires. In the fire impacted areas of Namadgi and Tidbinbilla (see Figure 1 insert), the more connected and intact landscapes support natural regulation of kangaroo populations through processes such as predation, fire and shifting food availability.

How do you calculate how many kangaroos need to be removed?

The conservation cull is based on scientific knowledge supported by ongoing research, appropriate regulation and monitoring, and codes of practice as outlined in the Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Controlled Native Species Management Plan.

Each year ACT Government ecologists do an extensive scientific assessment of the condition of the grassy layer and the kangaroo population at each priority Canberra Nature Park reserve. The number of kangaroos to be culled within each ‘kangaroo management unit’ is calculated as the difference between the current population and the population which has been calculated to be appropriate to ensure a level of grazing which is best for the environment, as described in the Conservation Culling Calculator instrument.

The conservation culling formula uses current scientific knowledge to calculate the kangaroo density required to support conservation objectives for different vegetation types. For example, in grasslands an average of one kangaroo per hectare allows for the conservation of small animals such as the Striped Legless Lizard. This base formula is then adjusted annually for each individual site, based on ecological models considering current vegetation condition and forecasted climatic influences. This approach was reviewed by a panel of experts during a Kangaroo Management Research Workshop held in 2018. A summary of findings from the workshop can be seen on the Kangaroo research webpage.

The target number of kangaroos for a site is then subtracted from the current population, making allowance for population growth in the interim to the next cull. The scientific basis for the 2019 culling advice is available in the Eastern Grey Kangaroo Conservation Culling Advice 2019.

Why is the number reduced this year?

Managing kangaroos is as important as ever given the impact on vegetation of record breaking hot and dry conditions over the last 12 to 18 months. However, due to the impacts on operational capacity resulting from COVID-19 social distancing measures, the overall number of animals to be culled in 2020 will be reduced compared to previous years.

Taking into account the changes to operational capacity, a process of prioritising sites according to conservation values and operational efficiency was undertaken resulting in an overall reduction in the number of sites from 2019 by approximately 50%. This measure was necessary to ensure the combined objectives of achieving high animal welfare outcomes, staff and contractor safety, priority conservation outcomes, and a cost-effective program continued to be met.

What safety precautions do you take for the public?

The conservation cull is only conducted at night, when the reserves are formally closed to the public. Signs at all entrances to the impacted Canberra Nature Park reserves clearly tell the public when they cannot enter the reserves. The reserves are monitored for people entering the reserve illegally, that is, trespassing.

How do you make sure the kangaroos are culled humanely?

Kangaroos are culled according to the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Non-Commercial Purposes. 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 are also required to pass a challenging marksmanship accuracy test. They must also pass tests on the National Code of Practice and a macropod identification test.

In 2017, an audit of compliance undertaken by an independent veterinarian found that all aspects of the Code of Practice were complied with.

To minimise the chance of orphaning dependent joeys and young-at-foot, the culling of female kangaroos is restricted to the period between 1 March and 31 July each year. This is designed to avoid the time when most females have large dependent pouch young or young-at-foot. All young-at-foot that are obviously paired with an adult kangaroo are shot, as specified by the Code of Practice. In general during the ACT culling season, pouch young of dead kangaroos are small and unfurred, lacking a fully developed nervous system. They are euthanised in accordance with the Code of Practice.

What if I see an injured kangaroo?

If you see an injured kangaroo at any time of the year, please call Access Canberra on 13 22 81 and a ranger will attend as soon as possible.

What happens to the kangaroos that are culled?

Kangaroo carcasses resulting from the 2020 conservation will are buried. In previous years, a proportion of kangaroo meat resulting from the cull was processed into baits for use within the ACT Government wild dog and fox control programs. Due to reduced operational flexibility resulting from COVID-19 restrictions this will not occur in 2020. However, in the interest of utilising kangaroo carcasses as a resource and reducing organic waste to landfill, the ACT Government has commissioned a paper on carcass utilisation options. The paper will be complete by Spring 2020.

There are no commercial kangaroo harvesting arrangements in the ACT. Given the relatively low number of kangaroos being culled, and the high costs of establishing, administering and monitoring a commercial operation, it is currently not cost-effective for the ACT Government to enter the commercial industry.

Why can't you move kangaroos instead of culling them?

The ACT policy against translocation as an alternative to culling is common to all Australian states and territories. Translocation is not a feasible option. Firstly, it is very difficult to catch kangaroos and very traumatic for them so there are significant concerns about survival rates during and following relocation. Secondly, the translocation of kangaroos could cause enormous stress to the animals and put them at risk of starvation by releasing them into an ecosystem that is unfamiliar and unlikely to support additional grazing pressure. It could threaten the other animals and plants in that ecosystem. For more information, see the Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Controlled Native Species Management Plan.

What support is there in the community for culling?

Surveys conducted in 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2019 indicated there is continued support for the ACT Government’s approach to managing kangaroo populations. The 2019 survey indicated that 79% of ACT residents agreed that culling kangaroos is appropriate under certain circumstances, 72% supported kangaroo culling for conservation of other native species while 12% are against culling under any circumstances. The support for culling has grown from 59% in 2008.

What else is happening to inform and refine kangaroo management in the future?

The ACT Government has been exploring alternative long-term solutions to kangaroo overpopulation and overgrazing in fragmented landscapes since 1998, to inform an evidence-based kangaroo management program. Research to date has focused on the role of grazing in the ecology of temperate grassy ecosystems, non-lethal methods of alleviating grazing pressure (for example fertility control, habitat alteration), and factors influencing kangaroo population dynamics and condition.

ACT Government continues to also monitor the effectiveness of fertility control vaccines and investigate alternative non-lethal strategies for maintaining grassy habitat within our reserves.

What research has been conducted into the impacts of kangaroos in the ACT?

Numerous scientific research studies have been published evaluating ecological relationships between the kangaroo population, pasture and the inhabitants of the pasture such as plants, insects, reptiles and birds. Collectively the 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
  • effects of limited food on kangaroo populations
  • influence of pasture growth rates and condition on kangaroo grazing

See a summary of these studies on the kangaroo research webpage. Much of this research is also detailed in the Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Controlled Native Species Management Plan and the ACT Kangaroo Management Plan (2010).