Few animals worldwide are as iconic as the kangaroo. As a first-time visitor Australia years ago, I can testify that one of the most sought-after encounters I wanted to experience was a chance to see these unique marsupials in the wild.
By my third or fourth trip there, though, after taking hundreds of photos, after seeing hundreds of dead kangaroos along rural highways in New South Wales and especially after seeing a large and nearly domesticated group of roos roaming a local golf course night after night—patiently waiting just off the 18th green at duskas the last golfers finished their rounds—I began to recognize the parallels between Australia’s kangaroo and North America’s deer populations.
Including the problem of overpopulation.
The exploding numbers, exacerbated in both countries by farming and settlements that increase the available food sources (kangaroos feast on irrigated golf courses during eastern Australia’s long, dry summers, for example) and the absence of predators that would ordinarily exercise rigid population control, are negatively affecting their respective ecosystems.
In the United States, we’ve driven wolves and cougars out of the Eastern states; in Australia, there never were any large carnivores that hunted roos.
The result, both here and there, is that efforts are underway to control the populations of these large, browsing animals, which threaten the eco-balance of forest, range and grassland areas. Here, we call it “wildlife management.” Aussies are a bit more forthright in labelling it “kangaroo culling.”
A proposal to cull some 2,000 eastern grey kangaroos from the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) surrounding the country’s national capital of Canberra—a jurisdiction roughly equivalent to our District of Columbia, only three times larger—has animal activists up in arms Down Under.
A predictable response
Members of several animal welfare groups, including the Australian Society for Kangaroos, are launching protests as ACT government officials announced closure of nine nature reserves for a couple weeks to facilitate the culling.(And don’t you love Australian—actually, Aboriginal—geography? The reserves include the Goorooyaroo Nature Reserve, Jerrabomberra West Nature Reserve and the Wanniassa Hills Nature Reserve).
A Society spokesperson told The Canberra Times that their members would try to physically disrupt the kangaroo cull.
“We’ll mount the usual public protest, but we’ll also make it as difficult as we can for the government, the shooters and the rangers,”activist Carolyn Drew told the newspaper. “Protesters will be there, but we can’t divulge what we’ve planned. That is for everyone to find out.We’ll be out there as soon as it gets dark.”