ACT News

Canberra animal rights activist denies hindering kangaroo cull shooters

A Canberra man who allegedly blew a whistle near the site of a kangaroo cull has faced court to fight charges he hindered workers at the annual shooting operation. 

Police allege that protester Christiaan Klootwijk, 70, repeatedly blew his whistle to frighten off animals and disrupt the cull at Wanniassa Hills Nature Reserve in Canberra's south. 

Christiaan Klootwijk, 70, arriving at court in February.
Christiaan Klootwijk, 70, arriving at court in February. Photo: Graham Tidy

More than a dozen animal rights activists gathered outside the ACT Magistrates Court to support Klootwijk when the case came before Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker on Wednesday.

Klootwijk pleaded not guilty to two charges he obstructed a public official during the cull in July last year. 

Activists from Animal Liberation ACT and the Coalition of Animal Protectors protest outside court before the hearing.
Activists from Animal Liberation ACT and the Coalition of Animal Protectors protest outside court before the hearing.  Photo: Graham Tidy

The prosecutor told the court the defendant had hindered a government-contracted shooter by making loud noises, which included blowing a whistle, and that his actions halted the cull for about 45 minutes. 

Defence lawyer Jack Pappas told the court he would question the validity of the shooting licence and suggested the ACT government employees were not hindered by Klootwijk.

The contractor, whose name has been suppressed, told the court he had started the cull of eastern grey kangaroos at the site with a driver when the pair heard whistling sounds and then yelling about 8pm.

He said the leader of the shooting operation was immediately contacted to let him know they had detected someone on the perimeter of the reserve.

"As soon as we heard the whistles we were concerned, because it means a person in close proximity," he said. 

The man told the court the incident prompted a "check fire", which meant the shooter had to cease firing and unload his gun.

He said security personnel were called and spoke to a man near the fenceline whom they were familiar with and referred to as "Santa Claus". 

Police were also called to the site and the shooting operation was stopped for about 45 minutes. 

The contractor told the court the whistling sound would not have scared kangaroos at the site and caused them to move, rather it was the scent or presence of humans that could "spook" the animals. 

He said rangers had spoken about the man's presence at a briefing that night when the cull was completed.

"It's a large safety issue, it's a big incident," he said. "We review how, when, why.

"You're dealing with something that can be lethal so it's a big incident."

Under cross-examination from Mr Pappas, the witness said he did not recall the security guard telling him the man known as "Santa Claus" had raised the alarm because he was concerned an animal targeted in the cull was injured. 

He told the court he could not tell whether the man was inside or outside the reserve boundary because it was several hundred metres away.

The man said he would be concerned about anyone he saw in the area of the cull and would stop shooting due to safety concerns. 

The court later heard that charges against Klootwijk might change after Ms Walker ruled the contractor hired for the cull was not a public official. 

Prosecutors have applied to have the charge amended to relate to obstructing a public company. 

Wednesday's hearing was briefly interrupted when Ms Walker ordered all members of the public in the hearing to hand over any cameras and mobile phones due to concerns a person was taking photographs inside the court.

The ACT's annual cull is designed to manage kangaroo populations and protect and conserve local habitats and is regularly targeted by animal rights protesters.

Shooters killed 1689 eastern grey kangaroos last year; 168 more than the previous year, but down on the 2466 target. Another 701 joeys were killed.

The hearing will continue in April.