Kangaroo culls on public land could become a thing of the past if a proposed large-scale trial of relocating the animals succeeds.
While ACT Greens minister Shane Rattenbury has expressed his interest in exploring the idea, his Labor cabinet colleague Simon Corbell is sceptical about whether the translocation of kangaroos would be practical or meet animal welfare requirements.
The Alphadog Animal Welfare Foundation is developing a proposal to tranquilise hundreds of kangaroos in reserves with dart guns and move them to southern areas of Namadgi National Park. More than 1100 adult kangaroos and 350 joeys were killed in a recent culling operation in ACT nature reserves.
Mr Rattenbury, the Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, recently instructed his directorate to work with Alphadog to help determine if a large translocation trial was feasible. He said the results of an early trial could help inform decisions on culling next winter.
“That’s all happening at the moment with a view to potentially providing a non-lethal alternative to culling,’’ Mr Rattenbury said.
“If we could do it sooner rather than later that would help inform decision for next year.
‘‘It depends on how quick some of these matters of detail can be resolved.’’
Translocation had previously been ruled out by the government for a variety of reasons,including concerns that kangaroos could be injured during transport.
Mr Corbell, the Environment Minister, said the government would consider the proposal but the weight of scientific evidence was against translocation.
“While we’re open to proposals from groups who believe translocation should be considered again, the advice at this stage from our scientists is pretty unequivocal. That is that translocation is not preferred,’’ he said.
Mr Corbell said kangaroos could be at risk of starving if they were moved to Namadgi.
Any relocation would also need to ensure that dependent young were moved with their mothers.
“It would be unlikely that a translocation would ever receive approval under an animal ethics committee,’’ he said.
The most likely non-lethal alternative to culling to be adopted by the government was sterilisation, Mr Corbell said.
Marcus Fillinger, of Alphadog, said modern technology could enable kangaroos to be safely moved.
Mr Fillinger is a trained military marksman who uses a dart gun to tranquilise kangaroos that require relocation. He recently helped immobilise a 90-kilogram kangaroo that required cataract surgery.
‘‘I actually isolated him, put him into care and had the cataracts removed,’’ Mr Fillinger said. ‘‘Now he’s in care and he will be released in the next couple of weeks.’’
Mr Fillinger said the group was looking at areas with large numbers of kangaroos that could be relocated to other parts of the ACT without a detrimental impact on the environment.
‘‘We’re targeting specific areas and it’s going to be done methodically as well,’’ he said.
‘‘We’re going to look at high [road] accident rate areas, we’re going to look at inaccessible areas and obviously areas where kangaroos are landlocked due to poor planning.’’
Mr Fillinger is standing as an Animal Justice Party candidate for the federal election.
Alphadog believes translocation would cost about the same as culling.
Mr Rattenbury said translocation would require a licence from the Conservator of Flora and Fauna.
‘‘In some ways, it is important for government to be testing some of these things,’’ he said.
‘‘Up until now all of the research has been quite limited and this would be one of the first occasions in which this scale of translocation would be attempted.’’