A controversial cull of kangaroos has begun on the outskirts of Australia’s capital, animal rights activists said today.
Between 20 and 40 kangaroos were tranquillised and then killed by lethal injection by contractors today, said Angie Stephenson, project manager of Animal Liberation New South Wales.
The Defence Department said last week that it would begin culling the nearly 600 eastern grey kangaroos at an abandoned military site outside Canberra after a proposal to truck the animals to remote forest land proved too costly.
Scientists said the animals are destroying the native grassland habitat of some threatened species.
Ms Stephenson said a baby kangaroo was trampled and killed when the animals were rounded up into a pen today.
She said there were a handful of activists at the site to witness the killing, and dozens more were expected to gather in the coming days. Last week some vowed they would protest over the cull.
The issue has split Australians over the merits of killing kangaroos to protect rare lizards and insects which share their grassy habitat.
Because of the suburban environment, contractors are using tranquilliser darts to catch the kangaroos, then kill them with lethal injections.
Scientists point out that eastern grey kangaroos are abundant and destroying the native grassland habitat of threatened species such as the grassland earless dragon lizard, striped legless lizard, golden sun moth and perunga grasshopper.
European settlers built Australia’s cattle and sheep industries on grass seed imported from Britain, and native grassland, which is imperative for some species, is now rare. In some parts of Australia it can only be found in old cemeteries where livestock never grazed.