One of Canberra's largest ever kangaroo culls has finished
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One of Canberra's largest ever kangaroo culls has finished

One of the largest ever kangaroo culls carried out in the ACT is over, with more than 3200 animals killed since May 7.

The number was in line with the government’s 2018 target, which included animals across 12 separate nature reserve sites.

Canberra's eastern grey kangaroos

Canberra's eastern grey kangaroosCredit:Mark Graham

The target of 3253 was a thousand more than 2017, as shooters targeted new areas, such as West Majura and Aranda.

The ACT government has carried out yearly kangaroo culls since 2009, in a bid to protect several threatened ecological communities throughout the territory.

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Director of parks and conservation Daniel Inglesias said the cull would ensure that threatened communities were protected.

He confirmed that the cull was finished ahead of time, and that an ACT government vet had been on hand to conduct spot checks to ensure the cull was carried out humanely.

“This kangaroo management program plays a critical role in protecting the environment at these locations," he said.

"Ensuring the grasslands and woodlands are not overgrazed will help to protect our grasslands and woodlands, which provide habitat for creatures such as lizards and ground-feeding birds, and will avoid excessive soil loss whilst still maintaining sustainable numbers of kangaroos.”

Mr Inglesias said while the 2018 cull was complete, and had been without any major incidents, the process involved in managing the environment was ongoing.

“Really, kangaroo management in the ACT is a cycle, and we're doing something at all times of the year,” he said.

“What we're now going to do is prepare for our counts, so we'll go out and we'll start counting again in specific nature reserves where we believe that overgrazing by kangaroos is causing most of the problems.

So what we're able to tell is whether we've reduced the number to a sustainable level, and that sustainable level is different from place to place. It gives us the first check to see if we've been able to successfully drop the population down to something that we can sustain.”

He said while regular culls had been carried out for the last decade, it wasn’t always immediately obvious that the process had been effective in helping the natural environment regenerate.

“It’s a long-term process,” he said.

“Over a number of years you start to see in reserves that have been regularly culled a response by the vegetation, and you start even to see the return of animals that weren't there before.”

Ecologist at the Australian National University David Lindenmayer said the cull was just one part of a complex environmental management plan.

“I think the ACT government is actually doing the best possible job that it can do under very difficult circumstances, because the city itself is pushing out into a whole series of areas where you've got high-quality woodlands and either native grasslands or derived exotic grasslands where kangaroo numbers have been very high,” he said.

He said calls to halt the cull out of concerns for animal welfare, while driven by different considerations, were simplistic.

“We're talking about ecological systems that are many orders of magnitude more complicated than human constructed systems,” he said.

“You have large numbers of species in a very variable system, and you have many factors that affect how the system behaves, so you're going to have large amounts of uncertainty, and so you need very special design with many, many sites. And yes, you see a signal in the data that indicates that there's a change, but it's not to say that instead of getting three lizards you're going to get seven or 10, because it's just not that simple.”

He said the regular culls would remain necessary until a better solution presented itself, but in the meantime there were many other measures to take.

“[One] is to think about more aggressively restoring some of these woodland areas with replantings, or allowing natural regeneration to take place,” he said.

“This does mean controlling the number of mouths that we feed, so probably some careful thinking about what kinds of roadside vegetation that we've got.”

Sally Pryor is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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