26 September 2023

EPSDD hops in to control kangaroos

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The Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate is to integrate fertility control into the ACT’s kangaroo management program to enable non-lethal management of kangaroos in some of Canberra’s nature reserves.

The announcement by Minister for the Environment, Rebecca Vassarotti follows successful trials of a contraceptive vaccine by the Directorate, in partnership with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

“The ACT wants to make sure our kangaroo management practices are the most humane in the country,” Ms Vassarotti said.

“We know we need to address over population in ecologically sensitive areas and we have been working for decades to trial non-lethal methods,” she said.

“While it is challenging, the majority of the Canberra community understands the need to manage our kangaroo populations in our nature reserves to protect biodiversity.”

Ms Vassarotti said Canberrans had shown interest in non-lethal wildlife management techniques, with 80 per cent of residents surveyed in 2019 supporting the use of fertility control for kangaroos.

“Through 20 years of ACT Government-supported fertility control research with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, the GonaCon Immunocontraceptive vaccine has proven to be an effective and long-lasting fertility control treatment for female kangaroos,” she said.

“Recent trials of GonaCon are showing that approximately 80 per cent of female kangaroos remain infertile five years after treatment.”

The Minister said the announcement marked a transition from small-scale trials of GonaCon to broader management use, with the vaccine to be utilised across multiple sites over time.

“The use of the GonaCon vaccine at selected sites is expected to reduce population growth rates and decrease the amount of conservation culling required in future,” she said.

ACT Conservator for Flora and Fauna, Ian Walker said Eastern Grey Kangaroos were managed in priority areas of Canberra Nature Park each year to protect critically endangered grassy ecosystems from the detrimental impacts of overgrazing.

“This year, kangaroos will be darted with anaesthetics and injected with GonaCon by hand,” Mr Walker said.

“At the same time, they will be fitted with ear tags for monitoring purposes,” he said.

“In future, GonaCon will also be administered remotely using a dart that simultaneously injects GonaCon and sprays a marking paint on the fur of the animal.”

Mr Walker said fertility control methods were best suited to relatively small, discrete populations with minimal immigration, “so culling will continue to be required as part of our ongoing kangaroo management”.

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