An annual kangaroo cull near the Australian capital Canberra is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, with plans to shoot over 1,600 of the animals -- 450 more than last year. The government has also announced plans to include 500 kangaroos in a fertility control trial in which they'll be given birth control pills, which animal welfare advocates have argued is cheaper than killing. The government claims it must conduct the cull in order to maintain a booming kangaroo population and curb the resulting decimation of other species.
The organization set to conduct the trial, Alphadog, claims that the cost of kangaroo control could be brought down nearly $100 per head if the government used fertility control methods. But according to Marcus Fillinger, Alphadog's director, the government is determined to "kill a bucketload of animals" instead. Still, he told the Canberra Times, the decision to test reproductive controls in kangaroos is a major step. "The [Australian Capital Territory] will be a leading jurisdiction if this project works," Fillinger said, "so this is significant move by the government to explore non-lethal alternatives to culling."