LACK OF TRANSPARENCY AND ABSENCE OF CONSENSUS REGARDING THE NUMBER OF KANGAROOS AND KANGAROO POPULATION GROWTH ESTIMATES ON RELEVANT RESERVES
The lack of transparency in the counting, evaluation and estimation methods employed by the ACT Government raises serious concerns as it precludes any kind of analysis and independent evaluation of these methodologies and the data themselves.
Such lack of transparency has been criticised by various parties. These include, among others:
Scientists and wildlife experts
who have raised their concerns publicly in various ways and/or testified during the court hearings in 2009, 2013 and 2014.
Concerned ACT citizens
who in 2012 on Minister Rattenbury’s invitation and under expert guidance, conducted independent preliminary counts on the reserves; these counts suggest alarmingly low densities of kangaroos on these reserves. The participants, some of whom have extensive experience with kangaroo rescue and rehabilitation, also observed high levels of stress in the animals on reserves where killing and harassment had occurred, with potentially long term negative impact on the remaining populations.
Reviewers of the ACT Kangaroo Management Plan
Cmmissioned by the ACT Government, the review has been seen to lack credibility as the two authors (Parkes and Forsyth) are an invasive mammal specialist from New Zealand and a pest species expert from Victoria respectively. Nevertheless, while the reviewers, expectedly, support the killing, they do recognise the lack of transparency and encourage the ACT Government to describe the methods employed to ensure the knowledge of the methodologies is shared beyond the small circle constituting the current staff. The reviewers specifically acknowledge that they do not understand “how the expected annual population growth rate is estimated and applied to each culled population.” Dr Donald Fletcher, the ACT Government senior ecologist, himself admitted during the 2014 court hearing that he could not remember how he had calculated certain figures in these estimates.
Furthermore, the review points out that the ACT Government should not employ the term “carrying capacity” to refer to its desired number of kangaroos per units of land, and suggests that the term “target density” be adopted instead, reminding that field evidence to validate the ACT Government’s target density (“carrying capacity”) is not available. “Carrying capacity” sounds much better of course, and suggests far more authority and scientific certainty compared to “target density” hence the Government continues to employ the term “carrying capacity” contributing to further confusion (misleading) among the public. The term “carrying capacity” appears in the April press release issued by the Government, and more recently, on 5 May 2015, Mr Rattenbury used it in a public social media post defending the killing.
The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal
In the summary section of the 2013 hearing Dr Donald Fletcher was criticised for the lack of transparency by a member of the Tribunal who called for independent evaluation of the methodologies and data.
Before any kind of interference with the kangaroo population on these reserves is even considered, a consensus on the estimates of kangaroo densities should be reached.