“What kind of a plan is that, that’s just stupid!”. So asked my 8-year-old son Billy when I told him of the latest plan by animal rights activists to circumvent the need for kangaroo culling in the ACT by tranquilising kangaroos and injecting them with a birth control drug. My own question is, if an 8 year old can see the idiocy in such a proposal, why is it being suggested by fully grown adults? Furthermore, why is the ACT government actually considering it? It’s a perfect example of why we find it so hard to implement proper wildlife management in this country.
According to a report in the Canberra Times, the ACT government is considering an offer by the self-titled ‘Alphadog’ animal rights group to put kangaroos on contraceptives as a way of ending its annual cull. Take one look at the photo in the press release, though, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that this proposal is more about Alphadog director Marcus Fillinger than it is about kangaroos.
According to the report, kangaroos can be put on the equivalent of birth control drugs to stop them over-populating. I don’t doubt that. What I seriously doubt is that it could be done cost-effectively and on a wide enough scale to “effectively end the need for future culls in the ACT”, as Fillinger claims.
Fillinger said he would write to Minister for Territory and Municipal Services Shane Rattenbury to offer to tranquilise the kangaroos and have the charity's own vets administer the fertility drug Deslorelin, which would be slowly released via an implant under the skin. The government would be asked to pay only the cost of the Deslorelin drug: Alphadog would shoulder the rest of the costs of the program, which I for one could only envisage as being substantial.
The method is very similar to implants with birth control drugs used by a number of Australian women and administered by general practitioners.
Mr Rattenbury told the Sunday Canberra Times he would seriously consider the proposal, and in my view that is the most worrying part. Rattenbury said the government had its own fertility program for kangaroos but it was still in the trial phase, using a different drug, and had encountered a hurdle in finding a method to administer it to the population. Really?
Mr Fillinger, whose organisation rescues more than 600 domestic animals and native wildlife each year, said his charity was ready to mobilise immediately.
''Why re-invent the wheel with a different drug when there is a non-lethal, proven and effective solution already available?'' he said.
''Deslorelin is an off-the-shelf, vet-prescribed drug that is easily available for this purpose.''
A CSIRO research paper, titled 'Deslorelin implants in free-ranging female eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus): mechanism of action and contraceptive efficacy', concluded the drug was successful in reducing fertility in free-ranging female eastern grey kangaroos over three successive breeding seasons.
Mr Rattenbury said the government had not yet decided whether it would hold a kangaroo cull this year.
''The government has undertaken a population count, those numbers are being peer reviewed,'' he said. ''Once those figures are back, a decision will be undertaken.''
Mr Rattenbury said the government would have to consider Alphadog's proposal.
''I have not seen this (proposal) yet, but I will obviously look at it very closely,'' he said.
''The government's overall objective is management of the ecosystems. There are obviously different ways to do that and the approach so far has been culling, but the government has been looking at alternatives including fertility treatment.''