Eight people were arrested yesterday after they jumped a fence surrounding a controversial kangaroo cull in Canberra and tried to claim the area as Aboriginal land to stop the killing, activists said.
Police said the four men and four women were charged with trespassing on government land after breaching the defense department site in the Australian capital where a cull of about 400 eastern gray kangaroos was being carried out.
One of those arrested, Isabell Coe, said the group tried to stake a claim to the property in the way indigenous leaders took over a patch of grass outside the old parliament house 36 years ago to raise an Aboriginal tent embassy.
“We tried to reclaim the land but we did it in order to try and save the kangaroos. That was the idea,” Coe said. “We lit our sacred fire and we sat there waiting for the police to come.”
Kangaroos have overcrowded the military-controlled site for years and government and military officials say they are endangering other flora and fauna.
The cull, which the animal welfare group RSPCA has said is the only option for the site and is being conducted humanely, has attracted outcry from animal-rights activists, who have asked former Beatle Paul McCartney for his help in saving the kangaroos.
Pat O’Brien from the Wildlife Protection Association said his group wanted the land to revert to Aboriginal control.
“Our preferred course of action was to leave everything the way it is and leave the Aborigines to control the site,” he said.
“The next option is to do ... a properly constructed translocation program,” he said. “The trouble is we are not getting any response from the defense department — all they want to do is keep killing the kangaroos.”
The defense department defended the cull, which it had previously delayed until all other options were explored, saying it was managing the site in an environmentally sustainable manner.
“We call on the small group of protesters to act in a peaceful and law abiding way,” spokesman Brigadier Andrew Nikolic said.
“The cull is being undertaken in the most humane manner possible,” he said.
Police said the eight protesters, who face a maximum fine of A$1,100 (US$1,055), will appear in court next month.