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Mother's Day slaughter of kangaroos starts again

The ACT government exhibits a fine sense of irony about motherhood. Encouraging the idea that killing and cruelty to animals and their dependent young is what Australians do with our wildlife, it announced – this time around Mother's Day – the next in its "culls" of kangaroos in reserves and sanctuaries.

Kangaroos find shelter in reserves (and on rural residential properties) against a background of shooting and persecution. Commercial shooting for pet food and skins happens in our region. State and federal governments enable this. Well over a million kangaroos are killed nationally every year.

The commercial kill is limited only by whether shooters can actually find animals (which desktop formulas say exist), and whether a disapproving international community can be convinced to buy the carcasses. Some graziers continue to kill kangaroos because they believe they are competitors for grass. We have all seen death by dogs, fences and car strike.

The grassy woodland habitat shared by small native animals – which the ACT says it wants to save by killing kangaroos – is covered by more roads, housing and other development on a daily basis. When remaining grass gets higher and poses a fire risk, heavy-footed cattle are brought in to those same grasslands.

Drive though the "bush capital", or casually walk its reserves, and you'd be lucky to see a kangaroo or two anywhere these days. Yet since 2009, the ACT parks bureaucracy has propagandised a compliant public with ever-changing stories, thinly veneered as science, on why it's a good thing to destroy remaining mobs and families, leaving orphaned joeys to jump in front of cars near reserves or suffer a slower death without their mothers to feed and guide them.

Meanwhile, requests for evidence on what this program is achieving or affecting remain unanswered after almost a decade.

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Recently, ACT bureaucrats and politicians backed (or did not protest against) increasing the daunting financial and possible criminal penalties for anyone daring an on-site protest, on public land, against the destruction of everyone's heritage: our wildlife.

The ACT government spends hundreds of thousands of ratepayers' dollars on killing, propaganda and related court cases, while other areas like the arts lose funding.

What it hasn't spent money on is what good science would require: baseline population and ecological studies for the kangaroo populations it is killing but says it wants to sustain. Equally lacking after eight years is evidence of any benefit from its practices other than commercial benefits (such as for developers, neighbouring graziers or car insurers).

Is that all there is to it? People find it hard to get their heads around what motivates all this. Here we have wildlife managers and researchers who dog-whistle pest-eradication values right out of our colonial past (regardless of how they spin it) and who are conducting a long-term deadly numbers experiment that may get some of them a few journal articles.

They soothe the public by calling it "saving the environment" or "saving biodiversity". Who can resist saving the environment with valiant public servants, researchers and shooters? The penny dropped recently when I read that the already minimal animal welfare code of conduct drops to an even lower bar (allowing the shooting of mothers with joeys) when "management" and "ecological reasons" are cited, preferably together, one supposes.

This year, ACT rangers have moved into NSW with their hired guns – to the ACT-managed Googong dam reserve. About 2600 animals are in the gun-sights, 1400 at Googong alone. "Trespassing" on any of 12 public reserves on which shooting will take place will draw heavy fines.

This tragic slaughter, and costly waste of ratepayers' money, must stop.

Maria Taylor is editor of the District Bulletin, a publication for the Paleraong region near Canberra. media@districtbulletin.com.au