by David Brooks
David Brooks is an Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, where he taught Australian Literature from 1991-2013. A poet, fiction writer and essayist, he is co-editor of the journal Southerly and the 2015/16 Australia Council Fellow in Literature. He was born and raised in Canberra.
Shot under cover of darkness, buried in mass graves in the forest. But this isn’t Srebrenica in 1995, this isn’t Poland in 1942. The shooters aren’t rogue militants or members of the SS. They are sub-contractors paid by the government of the Australian Capital Territory, and the victims are not humans but a different species of animal. Many of them female, with, at foot or in the pouch, joeys who will be clubbed to death, decapitated, or otherwise summarily dispatched, if they are found at all.
This is part of a campaign of annual mass killing of kangaroos that has been going on in the A.C.T. since 2009, almost 11,000 according to a recent account, though this figure doesn’t include almost 14,000 killed by the Department of Defence on licence from the same government (dubbed that government’s ‘dirty secret’) or the far larger number killed yearly by rural landholders under individual licence from the A.C.T. government (11.455 in 2015 alone). Why this killing is happening is hard to determine. It is almost certainly not for the reason – that kangaroo ‘over-grazing’ is ‘threatening biodiversity’ and destroying one of the last areas of temperate grassland in Australia – put forward by the A.C.T. government.
The principal reason stares us in the face – or would, if so many hadn’t turned their back on it, as is usually the case when there is (I apologise for the animal metaphor) an elephant in the room. The rapid expansion of the National Capital in recent decades and the extensions of supporting infrastructure have had a devastating impact upon kangaroo habitat. Humans are the greatest threat to biodiversity; nothing destroys an area of natural temperate grassland like a new suburb. Kangaroos are quite simply being forced to pay the price for human priorities.
And for them, as scapegoats, the situation is in fact an awful, compounding abyss. If they migrate to avoid the new suburbs their numbers intensify in and increase the pressure on adjoining grasslands; if they move into the suburbs in search of grass when their adjoining grazing areas are exhausted, their encounters – and conflicts – with humans increase; the expanding suburbs multiply the number of roads across kangaroo territory, making movement more dangerous, increasing the number of encounters with cars; kangaroos are shot because their numbers are deemed by some to be too great for their diminishing grazing areas, and the traumatic impact of these shootings (the slaughter of friends, family, destruction of social networks), plus the cars, the deprivation of native habitat, affect their character, lead to ‘aggressive’ behaviours (read P.T.S.D.) that erode the sympathy of the human community and make kangaroos even more vulnerable to human aggression.
Although unofficial and peri-official communications occasionally admit some of this, the official position of the A.C.T. government is, as I have stated, quite different. The kangaroos are eating down the biomass (just call it grass, since a kind of verbal obfuscation has marked the government’s attempts to justify this campaign). Rumour has it that, with the kangaroo population now drastically reduced in some of its KMUs (‘Kangaroo Management Units’: read parks, wildlife reserves, reclaimed and rezoned grazing properties, the airport, the Department of Defence’s weapons training range), and so a biomass (grass, weeds) that is rapidly growing, the A.C.T. government has had to bring in cattle (cattle!, whose hooves, unlike the feet of the kangaroo, which have evolved to such conditions, do so much damage) and employ controlled burns to reduce it.
The A.C.T. government claims that, when the kangaroos reduce the biomass (as contrasted, let’s say, to rapid urban expansion), there are some species of flora and fauna – the Grassland Earless Dragon, the Striped Legless Lizard, the Golden Sun Moth, the Perunga Grasshopper, the Button Wrinklewort – whose populations and species-viability are endangered, although the A.C.T.’s Senior Ecologist, who would appear to have had a significant role in the genesis of this program of mass killing, and whose PhD thesis concerned the possibility of overgrazing by Eastern Grey kangaroos (a conflict of interest there?), has actually admitted in public that the A.C.T. government’s reference to endangered species is largely a PR exercise. And of course it is, since the same government has already taken measures (e.g. fenced ‘kangaroo exclusion zones’) to ensure the species-safety of these endangered creatures (yet is prepared to expose them to the feet of cattle).
Leaving aside the facts that the means of determining optimum biomass are far from clear, and that the A.C.T. government hasn’t yet produced any real evidence that the killing of the kangaroos has had any positive effect upon the population of the aforementioned small reptiles and other endangered species, there is also, and one would think most importantly, the matter of how the number of kangaroos to be killed each year is arrived at in the first place.
The A.C.T.’s Senior Ecologist (again) is on public record as having admitted to a 2013 hearing of the A.C.T. Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) that he couldn’t remember how he had arrived at some of these figures, and indeed a special report, commissioned by the A.C.T. government and undertaken by an invasive-mammal specialist from New Zealand and a Victorian expert in pest species (more conflict of interest here?) recommended in 2014 that the A.C.T. government not only be more rigorous and transparent concerning their kangaroo-counting methods, but that it not use the term ‘carrying capacity’ when it came to the ideal number of kangaroos per hectare in the KMUs, since it had no real way of knowing what this capacity was.
The report recommended that the A.C.T. government use instead the term ‘target density’, which if nothing else is a great deal more honest (its sad pun aside). But the A.C.T. government is no more convincing now than it was before in terms of its kangaroo-counting methods – in fact appears to employ methods which its own consultants recommended that it not employ – and still uses the term ‘carrying capacity’ rather than ‘target density’. ‘Carrying capacity’, after all, sounds a lot more like they know what they are doing.
According to the A.C.T. government’s account, they are struggling to contain an over-population of over-grazing kangaroos. According to other accounts – those that point out that kangaroos breed slowly and have a high juvenile mortality (c.73%), that maximum wild population growth rates average approximately 10% in optimum conditions, with annual declines of up to 60% during drought, and that cull rates even as ‘low’ as 15-20% therefore exceed population growth rates – the A.C.T. government’s current cull-rates (which are hard to determine, change from KMU to KMU, but appear to average 30-40% and have been as high as 80%) are driving the mobs in question toward extinction.
Or would, if we were dealing – as it would seem the A.C.T. very much wants us to think we are dealing – with a stable kangaroo population in the first place. But it would seem we are not. There is, for example, the most interesting story of the Googong Eight Hundred.
At the 2009 ACAT hearing the aforementioned and, it would appear, somewhat conflicted Senior Ecologist argued that Eastern Grey kangaroos (EGKs) were ‘relatively sedentary and loyal to a particular area’. In the 2013 hearing of ACAT, however, he admitted that he had got this wrong. His earlier ‘expert’ account of Eastern Grey kangaroos as ‘relatively sedentary and loyal to a particular area’ had been incorrect. He had not allowed for ‘inward migration’.
In explanation he told the story of a ’roo cull on the Googong Reserve undertaken by the A.C.T. government in 2004, a cull about which, ironically, he seems to have been quite uneasy at the time. Before the cull there had been eight hundred on the reserve. Five hundred had been culled, to reduce that population to an environmentally sustainable figure of three hundred. This should have been an end to it. Soon after the cull had been completed, however, the population had returned to eight hundred. The cull, in other words, had been quite useless.
All very well. It is good that one admit one’s errors. But the 2009 cull – and the numbers involved – had been approved on the basis of the Senior Ecologist’s advice that EGKs were ‘relatively sedentary and loyal to a particular area’. His 2013 admission – in effect that ‘Eastern Grey Kangaroos killed in open system reserves may immediately be replaced by kangaroos from close by’ – becomes in this light an admission that, unless the area involved is thoroughly fenced, all culling is useless until such time as the population of kangaroos in the surrounding area is itself dramatically reduced. Does this mean, as it would appear to, that most of the A.C.T. culling has been a more-or-less useless endeavour? And why on earth, five years after the Googong fiasco, was the Senior Ecologist still speaking of sedentary populations? Was he so slow to realise? Was he repressing information? Was this, to bring the kindest words to it, gross negligence, or just a terrible blunder?
The only alternative explanation – but how could this be? – is that KMUs in the A.C.T., under a smoke screen of environmental protection, biodiversity, etc., are being used as killing-zones to reduce, over time, the wider kangaroo population of the area.
It’s not, after all, as if there aren’t very viable alternatives to the killing (and, Canberrans take note, potentially far less expensive ones). Although the concept is not without its own ethical problems (surely our fellow animals should be allowed to conduct their lives as fully as we wish to conduct our own), there is, for example, the possibility of population reduction through contraception, rather than slaughter.
There is also (or would be, if we were dealing with a sedentary population) the very real possibility of relocation, a private trial of which suggested that it might be done at a fraction of the price per head (i.e. between $10 and $50 depending upon distance) that the A.C.T. government is currently paying to have them killed (in 2013, $182). Why this alternative, brought up continuously, has not been employed has been something of a mystery. In the light of inward migration, however, the reason seems clear: one would simply be engaging in an endless and futile game of musical chairs.
To do them justice, and how can one demand justice without extending it?, the A.C.T. government does appear to have been trialling a contraception option. At least, they have been talking about it, unenthusiastically, for some time. One wonders if this too isn’t a PR exercise. (Or if the real problem with it is that it would compromise the Experiment – of which more shortly.)
To do them further justice – but I have my tongue in my cheek here, for this is in fact a travesty, an intellectual insult to the people of Canberra – they have put up on their website summaries of eight scientific papers which they claim validate their cull. Opposition to the cull has several times in the media in the last eighteen months been dismissed by reference to this body of expert evidence.
Citing these papers thus, however, is tantamount to admitting that one hasn’t read them (not that the A.C.T. government makes that easy). These papers are a study in themselves. While I don’t dispute the competence of the researchers involved, the claims made for these papers by the A.C.T. government are misleading in the extreme. Given the use to which that government tries to put them, they become far more a case of conflict of interest, research cadre formation, and scientific/bureaucratic encryption than of independent, objective, state-of-the-science evaluation.
To give just a taste, three of these papers are written by a first-class honours student previously employed and still, it seems, part funded by the A.C.T. government. Of these three, directly contrary to the government’s claims, two, at the time the A.C.T. government first vaunted them (and still, at the time of the 2015 cull) had not only not yet been published (one, it seemed, had not yet even been peer reviewed), but had actually been co-authored by the aforementioned A.C.T. Senior Ecologist. Another, on the Grassland Earless Dragon (T. pinguicolla), seems actually to contradict the A.C.T. government’s position (‘It is clear T. pinguicolla is in decline, but the causes of that decline are not readily identified’), and still others to support that position largely or only by referring, in a curiously circular manner, to the A.C.T. government’s own Kangaroo Management Plan (KMP) for figures that the government in its turn claims that the papers provide.
All of these papers, too, are co-authored, as is often the way with scientific papers, but lest this be taken as evidence of a wide experience-pool, it should be noted that, amongst these co-authors, the same names keep coming up again and again, locating the pool of expertise quite firmly in the C.S.I.R.O., the University of Canberra’s Institute of Applied Ecology, and the A.N.U.’s Fenner School of Environment and Society – all partly funded, in some manner (scholarships, research partnerships, etc.), by the A.C.T. government. In effect – and I mean no insult to the scientists themselves, who can’t be held responsible for the manner in which their work has been instrumentalised – these papers, used thus, are not much more than an interesting breed of infomercial.
Clearly there is, in the explanations most commonly put forward by the A.C.T. government, little or no real justification for this systematic slaughter, and clearly there are viable and significantly less expensive alternatives. So why on earth is this killing still going on?
Although we can’t entirely discount the possibility that there is just someone of some power in the A.C.T. administration who hates kangaroos with a passion, I think this is actually a very large and very complicated question, a full and proper consideration of which is far from impossible yet would take so long in the reasoning and involve such detail in the writing up that, in the current discursive environment (the Age of Twitter), it would have little if any impact. And meanwhile, of course, night after night, in the months of May, June, July, the kangaroos are being shot. A dilemma for anyone trying to understand and explain this bizarre and deeply troubling situation, and one that the A.C.T. government is taking full and cynical advantage of. But I also think it’s not too hard to set out, in agonising brevity, at least some areas such a consideration might look at.
First and simplest is what I’ve come to call the Experiment, although ‘project’ might be a better term: ‘experiment’ implies testing whether an hypothesis is true or correct; ‘project’ might be seen to involve – as the use of the Eight Papers suggests – promoting that hypothesis whether it is correct or not.
The brouhaha that has so far marked both the protest against the culling and the government’s responses to that protest have served as a smoke-screen to what some see as the real ‘scientific’ reason for the cull, namely (the Eight Papers again), a many-fronted and coordinated attempt, by a group of applied ecologists and conservationists/land managers in the A.C.T., to prove a theory, set out in (but not the exclusive province of) the PhD dissertation of the aforementioned Senior Ecologist, that the decline of temperate grassland in Eastern Australia – to the point, supposedly, where the largest surviving pockets are in the A.C.T. – is due to over-grazing by Eastern Grey kangaroos. (To be careful here, I do not say that the A.C.T. government has lied about this, so much as spun it. It is presented that the kangaroos are the reason for the decline in temperate grassland, and that they have to be killed as a consequence, not that they may be a contributing cause, and that the killing is an experiment. This, presumably, would be too much for the public to wear.)
Leaving aside (but can we?) the fact that even this Senior Ecologist has argued de facto that culling is not the solution, indeed that it’s virtually useless in any area not surrounded by prison-like fences, the theory this experiment seeks to test can only be demonstrated by a carefully-controlled count (there are serious doubts that they have managed this) and reduction of Eastern Grey numbers within a large but very clearly defined and (supposedly) controllable area, and for this, bureaucratically, the A.C.T. would seem to be ideal: an administrative island, as it were (albeit without the actual fences that might make more sense of all this), with only the one very sympathetic authority to deal with, upon which researchers and administrators can closely cooperate.
I don’t dispute that there may be something to this theory – i.e. of damage to extant temperate grassland – but a huge number of kangaroos have been dying in its cause. And if, as many suggest, the theory is wrong, or at least very poorly conceived, then those kangaroos will have died, often horribly, for nothing. Indeed even if the theory is proven correct, there will still be a large party, of which I will be one, who will still think they died for nothing.
The Experiment, that is to say, may be a reason to try to control a kangaroo population within a determined area, but – setting aside the nonetheless significant suspicion that this is ultimately an aesthetic motivation (an important question for conservation: what period or state to we wish to ‘manage’ our ecosystems back to? pre-1788? [in this case it’s certainly not that!] and why do we make the choices that we do?) – it is no reason for mass killing (forget ‘mass’ there: it is no reason for killing, period).
Which leaves us with this bizarre but apparently unquestioned phenomenon of killing as a default mode. Why on earth is killing – such a violent action – seen as the preferred option? Is it just that it is easiest? The least expensive? Or is there, along with everything else involved here, a need in us to expend a violent energy?
The etymology of the word ‘cull’ has nothing to do with that of ‘culture’, though in Australia you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Here it can seem all too often that the idea of killing is almost synonymous with that of conservation and/or ‘ecological’ land management. This is perhaps not all that surprising when one considers how inappropriate farming and pastoral practices have so rapidly destroyed so much of the friable soil surface, and thus created such intense competition for what fodder the land can still produce. When you are determined to raise cattle and sheep in a land where their hooves will inevitably drastically reduce the productive capacity of the soil they walk upon, then of course the rabbits, the kangaroos, the wild horses, the wild camels (the wild pigs, the wild goats), will be seen as enemies that must be eliminated.
It doesn’t take much thought to see how such a mind-set, bred of misapplication, might become entrenched and, extending beyond agriculture to culture itself, lead to the culling of flying foxes, cockatoos, galahs, koalas, sharks, crocodiles, and whatever else irritates the human animal or embarrasses it by stirring its bad conscience.
And yet, although there seems to be an historic numb-mindedness when it comes to them, it is not – as we have seen – as if there aren’t ready alternatives, or as if, in some areas, the mood isn’t changing. Indeed there appears to be a growing split in the ‘conservation’ movement itself in this regard, and such a growing heft of thought behind it that one might even speak of an impending paradigm shift in our ideas of conservation and ecology, entailing serious interrogation of our existing ideas of ecosystem, biodiversity, and the various binaries upon which we base our current practices, to say nothing of our determinations that some lives are worth many times more than others (native/exotic, beneficent/pest, feral/tame, wild/domesticated, endangered/‘of-least-concern’, livestock/pet, etc.). But, again, this is too vast an issue to take further here. I raise it only to set the scene.
According to hearsay – I freely admit that this is all it is – the beleaguered Senior Ecologist once warned a public meeting of people concerned about the kangaroo cull of the imminent arrival of ‘compassionate conservation’, as if this were a heresy much to be feared. And yet compassionate conservation is nothing more than an attempt to find and advocate for ways of protecting wildlife and the ecosystem that do not involve killing.
What’s to be feared about that?
Well, there is, in this instance, the Experiment, and to change methodology mid-stream might seriously compromise it. But that is just local. Behind the broader culture’s resistance to a default-change from conservation killing to compassionate conservation there is, probably first and foremost, the issue of cost, or should we better say economic/political commitment.
Leaving aside that ‘cheap’ and ‘expensive’ are relative terms and only express our priorities (nothing is too expensive if we want it enough), killing is cheap. The alternatives, with less and less credibility, are made out to be too expensive, and require substantial investment of thought, a whole new mindset. Sooner invest vast amounts in overseas military campaigns or border protection. For animals there is little political will. Killing, ones ethical qualms aside, is also easy and ‘effective’: all it requires is a gun; nothing is so final as a shot to the head.
And there is also, of course – again I use the metaphor embarrassedly and under erasure – another elephant in the room. We are, as are almost all other human cultures, a culture that insists upon mass slaughter of non-human animals to provide for our dietary choices. We’ve become inured to this aspect of ourselves. This repression surely contributes to our lassitude when it comes to kill/cull-culture.
But of course there is more involved here than cultural bias. We must also consider that, in the A.C.T., a bureaucratic process has begun and, juggernaut-like, is very hard to stop.
On the one hand there is the logic of culling itself: presuming that there is some reasonably accurate means of determining it – and the A.C.T. government seems to have tied itself in knots trying to do so – there will be a figure, a proportion, which, supposedly, can be culled without threatening the sustainability of a population – indeed it may even be that one of the purposes of the Experiment is to determine or confirm this figure. One must cull below this figure, to ensure sustainability, but of course, having culled below this figure, one must inevitably, as the population reproduces (and leaving local migration aside), have to cull again.
And on the other hand there in the matter of administrative structure and forward estimates. To put this most simply, but not unrealistically, we have a bureau set up to administer the killing, with people employed to do so, and a budget-line their unit is in danger of losing if it does not administer the culling, so the killing has to occur.
It may be even simpler than that. Perhaps, that is, one or two senior administrators and politicians – for there is an A.C.T. government minister ultimately responsible here – have dug in their heels and are refusing to admit, perhaps even to see, that they have been wrong, for fear that their jobs and reputations might be at stake. As of course they should be, for these people now have a great deal of blood on their hands.
Death by ego? Who knows? Ludicrous and bizarre as such a possibility might seem, the daily news surely teaches us never to discount it.
However one looks at it, the cynicism with which this campaign is being conducted is alarming, even to the most cynical. Why has no investigative journalist done a thorough exposé, bringing this situation to the wider Australian public and demanding justice for these creatures? (I was told, by a friend who helps produce one of our best-known national investigative documentary programs, that it would help if I had a whistle-blower. I don’t suppose the seventy-year-old man arrested in mid-2015 in the A.C.T., on charges of hindering public officials, for blowing a whistle to try to scare kangaroos away from the shooters, would count.)
But of course ‘they are only animals’, and for animals there is no international war crimes tribunal, no court in the Hague in which to try human animals for crimes against non-human animals. And not even (not especially) a Native Title tribunal, to assert their rights to their own habitats.
Is there any chance that the bureaucrats who persist with this campaign in the face of all the evidence against it will ever be seen as criminals, ever be brought to justice – even (as is, sadly, about all we can hope for) the symbolic justice of a small fine and slap on the wrist for animal cruelty? We’ll see. But don’t hold your breath.
Is there a bigger picture? Where such secrecy and mixed messages surround so strange, vicious and largely inexplicable and indefensible a phenomenon, you might almost think there has to be.
The meat industry is one of the largest in the country. It has a substantial lobbying power, as is testified by the recent passage of biosecurity laws, labelling of animal rights advocates as terrorists, and media campaigns vilifying, with apparent impunity, those who do not eat the flesh of animals. And as far as the wider meat industry is concerned the development of the kangaroo industry is in every respect a win/win situation.
The meat industry, after all, has its own bigger picture. In a time of mounting environmental (/market) pressure, it finds itself in transition, keen to identify more sustainable and less environmentally destructive sources of product, and kangaroos are clearly in its sights, although in all likelihood it is shorter-term gains that are at issue here.
As the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia (KIAA) argues it, a widespread, systematic and continuous (read industrial) culling of kangaroos would not only reduce what the current meat industry presents as a pest and a liability to the maximum production of sheep- and cattle-meat, thereby enabling greater profit from that production, but would also produce in itself commodities – hides, and meat for both human and pet consumption – for which there are a larger and larger international markets.
Kangaroo products at present go to more than fifty countries and are worth over a quarter of a billion dollars annually. With recent free trade agreements with China, Japan and the United States, and a Trans-Pacific Partnership in the offing, there is a clear hope that this market will expand dramatically. These agreements have been coming for some time. It would be foolish to think that the meat industry more generally, and the kangaroo industry in particular, have not been preparing for them.
But there are some thorns in the industry’s side, as evidenced by the California Legislature’s having only recently renewed a long-standing ban on the importation and sale of kangaroo products, and by the great lengths the KIAA (with substantial and ominous government assistance) has gone to try to have that ban rescinded. California is only a small market, but its stance is pivotal. Its resistance creates resistance elsewhere.
The California ban is based on renewed advice that the kangaroo populations involved are not at pest level but in fact under threat. Every study suggesting otherwise is therefore gold to the KIAA – platinum if it can at the same time demonstrate that, for environmental reasons, the kangaroo population in fact must be culled, and that the kangaroo industry would be doing the country not just an economic but an environmental favour. If it turns out that the ACT experiment, after years of trying, is not actually able to provide this supporting data, then heaven forbid that that information get out.
But enough. It’s February, 2016. There is every reason to think that, despite their protestations that they are actively seeking alternatives, the A.C.T. government is already preparing to take the low road again, and that, unless this baseless, barbaric, ineffective and unimaginative process is not brought abruptly to a halt, in May, June and July of yet another year, night after night in the forests around Canberra, the kangaroos will be dying, for reasons not even their killers can explain.
But let’s leave a door open. Adversity may be one of the least helpful factors here. It is, after all, first and foremost a matter of political and community will and the re-prioritisation of effort and resources. Let there, please, be a moratorium on the cull. Let the financial and administrative resources be redirected to a serious search for a humane, non-kill solution that respects and does all it can to marry the ethology and social structures of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo with the needs of an expanding Canberra. Australia once amazed the world with the Snowy Mountains Scheme; surely, with cooperation and open-mindedness, this much smaller task will not be beyond us.
 The Canberra Times 6.vii.15
 ‘Anger at Defence cull of 14000 Kangaroos’, The Canberra Times, 2.ix.13. See http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/anger-at-defence-cull-of-14000-kangaroos-20130901-2sz23.html
 2015 licences were in fact issued for a cull of 20,722 (figures from A.C.T. Conservator of Flora and Fauna, 23 February 2016). The 2010 Kangaroo Management Plan gives an ‘indicative’ figure of 42,695 kangaroos culled under individual licence from 1997-2009 (inclusive), an average of 3,284 for those years. The 2015 figure is just under three and a half times this.
 ‘Is it fair’, wrote the minister until recently responsible, ‘that individual animals must pay the ultimate price for the effects of ever-encroaching human settlement?
‘No it’s not fair. But it’s the right thing to do.’
(letter to The Canberra Times, 21 May 2015).
 See http://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/kangaroo-killing-canberra.php . The Senior Ecologist also admitted this to the 2013 ACAT hearing (see next paragraph, and p.12 of the dossier detailed in note 9 below).
 They also mow and slash in some reserves, and do little to control the foxes and feral cats who prey upon some of the species in question.
 See http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/act-government-ecologist-defends-kangaroo-cull-figures-at-hearing-20140605-zrz34.html
 See http://www.arcohab.org/#!point1/c1l85
 See http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_re leases/tamsd/2015/ conservation-cull-to-take-place-in-act-grasslands-and-woodlands
 E.g. Ray Mjadwesch, on p.18 of a dossier (‘complaint and request for investigation’) prepared by Maria Taylor and others for presentation to the A.C.T. Commissioner for the Environment in 2013.
 Ibid. (dossier), p.5. The truth, as is often the case, would seem to lie somewhere between. Research has demonstrated that EGKs are relatively ‘sedentary’, but over a territory of approximately ten square kilometres. Within any such territory, however, there will be many mobs, however, each with its own slightly differing territory. Any one 10k2 area will overlap with numerous others, so that boundaries cannot be fixed, and the migration toward better (i.e. recently vacated) grazing land (and so supply to the cullers) need not be impeded. Unfenced, a zone of consistent killing can therefore become a species drain for a much wider area.
 See http://www.awrc.org.au/uploads/5/8/6/6/5866843/garlick_austen_translocation2.pdf - item 5.6, and http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/annual-roo-cull-costs-182-a-head-20131115-2xmw9.html
 Particularly mysterious is the fact that, when the Australian Navy attempted to relocate, rather than kill, the kangaroos slated for death on their land, the A.C.T. government denied them a permit! Why might this have been? Because it might have compromised their own argument that relocation was not an option?
 See http://www.tams.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/715487/ACT-conservation-research-the-effect-of-kangaroo-grazing-and-biodiversity-Summary-of-recent-papers.pdf
 The website neither presents the papers in their entirety nor provides links to them. It’s up to the reader to locate them – not an easy task for some of the papers, and quite impossible for those not yet published! Most readers – to continue the circularity of this curious operation – will have to take the A.C.T. government’s word for what they contain.
 Wendy Dimond et al, ‘Back to the Brink: Population Decline of the Endangered Grassland Earless Dragon’, Herpetological Conservation and Biology 7.2 (2012): 141.
 I will leave my own readers to speculate upon the independence or otherwise of the peer assessors of these papers.
 A new minister has been appointed as this essay has been prepared for press. Will anything change?
 See http://www.kangaroo-industry.asn.au/media/ki_med_kit_gen.html
 $143,000 to help fight the California ban; $800,000 more recently from the Department of Agriculture.
Tags: cruelty to animals, kangaroo culling, kangaroo products, kangaroos, pest management, wildlife management