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Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 50 [51]

Cluster Fencing

Clearly not a cluster fence in this Hill End photo by Andras Berkes-Brandl. If only (a roo’s perspective) all fences were as tumble-down as these.

As if they didn’t have enough to worry about, kangaroos have a new and very nasty threat on their block. ‘Cluster’ fencing. It doesn’t sound too sinister, perhaps, and certainly none of those who are marketing or considering it are presenting it as such, but then they’re not roos.

Indeed it’s being presented as the saviour of the wool industry in those parts of Queensland and New South Wales – but it will spread – where dingo predation and ‘competitive grazing’ by kangaroos are seen as a problem. It’s claimed, for example (over and over), that, with the aid of cluster fencing, a grazier can improve the survival rate of new lambs from 20 to 80 or 90 percent. (I’m very happy for the lambs – tough, brutal and short as the life ahead of them is now going to be – but there are other ways of achieving this…)

The concept is not complicated. Get together with your neighbours and, where it’s found possible – i.e. where neighbours are ‘on the same page’ (it may not be feasible where a neighbour is running cattle, doesn’t have enough of a problem with dingoes or roos to make it worth their while) – apply for a government grant toward the cost of having a 1.7 metre high fence around the perimeter of a ‘cluster’ of your properties. It’s not complicated, and it’s hardly new: the idea of vast fences to shut out pesky animals (the Rabbit-proof Fence, the Dog Fence … I won’t stray into contemporary geopolitics) is pretty much a feature of Australian history.

If you’re in luck the state government will pitch in for nearly half the cost. The rest is up to you and your neighbours. Overall it can cost around $5000 to $6000 per kilometre. You can imagine the fencing companies are crowing with delight. Not fences to cut the whole country in half, but fences to make great ‘pest’-free islands upon it. Already there are some clusters, agreed and ready to go, of twenty or thirty properties. One cluster I’ve been reading of will be of only three properties, but one of those properties alone is of 180,000 hectares.

Kangaroo habitat will be massively fragmented. Roos used to migrating from watering-place to watering-place, grazing-place to grazing place, will suddenly find their passage barred, water-holes and graze they depend upon now inaccessible to them. There are reports already of disrupted migrations, roos gathering and slowly starving at fences like refugees at a closed border – and of graziers bringing in ‘sporting shooters’ to gun them down, and gun down the dingoes feasting upon them. Roos thus stymied can go a hundred kilometres in either direction – such are the size of some of these clusters – without finding an end to the fence.

That is the outside, but there is also the inside to consider. Not much mention is made of landholders within a cluster trying to herd out of the cluster kangaroos or dingoes, or what other ‘pests’ might be concerning them, before the fencing is completed. The properties are too large, the effort and expense too great. No, once the fence is completed these islands can instead be ‘cleansed’ of such creatures, by all sorts of means. There is traditional roo-shooting (a plenitude at first but a dearth thereafter), but there are reports also of removing one’s stock animals from one part of a property or another and temporarily poisoning the water-troughs (urea is mentioned, in this interesting piece). The stock are safe, but thirsty roos die a painful death. Even the roo-shooters are up in arms, appalled at the cruelty of what they have been seeing.

And once the property/cluster has been cleansed, of course, there is another large area in which kangaroos are, technically, extinct.

For a little more you might like to check this ABC story.

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