“There is no commercial harvesting of Kangaroos in the ACT though the question of whether the animals that are culled (eg on rural properties) could be used is sometimes raised”. — ACT Government
Killing Kangaroos in Canberra is an expensive business and the public pays. Here are some numbers (total costs), again under FOI, for financial year 2015–16 $856,671.58; 2016–17 $715,345.48; 2017–18 $855,022.39; 2018–19 $893,660.51. During this period $866,756.12 was paid to commercial shooters to kill Kangaroos in nature reserves in the ACT (this figure is included in the annual figures given here). The current contract with shooters runs for five years at a cost of $880,000 as payment to shooters plus admin costs which appear to be averaging out at around $613,500 per annum.
Particularly terrible aspects to the treatment of Kangaroos in the ACT include a policy that Kangaroos and their joeys MUST NOT be rescued and rehabilitated if they are injured in the ACT and another, the use of Kangaroo meat as a vector for 1080 poison. There are very substantial fines for Canberra residents protesting the Kangaroo slaughter on their doorstep and, as in other parts of Australia, the people who care about wildlife have few or no rights. Hardly democratic conduct. There is a clear lack of wildlife corridors between nature parks and reserves in the Canberra Park system, the lack of which creates road safety issues and the death of a large number of Australian animals across a range of species as they try to cross the major roads intersecting the parks. To add to this, exclusion fencing is now being used to exclude wildlife from significant areas within the nature parks.
So let’s put Canberra and the ACT into context with what is happening to Kangaroos in other states and territories in mainland Australia. Let’s do this by pulling some government numbers and statements from their websites. We don’t need a vast amount of detail, we will just pull out a few things that can only be described as shocking. These comparisons depict a shameful set of activities underpinned by marketing spin and disinformation from those responsible.
“A couple of hundred years ago some fellas rowed ashore on the continent and proceeded to shoot everything that moved or flew, and chop down and dig up everything that didn’t. How the Aboriginal people standing and watching this event survived that day is a miracle. These whitefellas were collecting specimens to take back to Motherland; a scientific expedition”.
The Commonwealth Government’s Department of Agriculture still claims that the population of Kangaroos subject to a commercial trade in wildlife is 50 million. This claim is nonsense. If we add up the latest state by state population estimates across the places Kangaroos are killed commercially, that is in those places they still exist in numbers to make this possible, we get a population number of around 34.3 million. This last number is an exaggeration given the silly numbers coming out of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The evidence on the ground is that Kangaroos are increasingly hard to find in more and more places and population estimates are driven by silly claims of booming populations, when state government figures (with the exception of Victoria in 2021) mostly show precisely the opposite is occurring.
These Commonwealth Government numbers have surfaced from an FOI request: World value of Kangaroo exports (A$ current value) 2014 — $20.25 million (4,216.89 tonnes of meat); export value 2019 — $14.86 million and a volume of 2,581.18. This represents a decline in value, when the two periods are compared, of 27 percent in value and 39 percent in volume. Reasons for decline are likely to be twofold, it has become much harder to source Kangaroos because of steep declines in population (hence opening up Victoria to the commercial trade) and the low value (and difficult work life) for shooters. (NB – when I try to run calculations on these numbers I cannot make sense of them). In 2018, as a very rough figure, this puts an export value of each Kangaroo at around A$10. The value of the export of skins has been hard to obtain so we will add more information when we can.
In this same document (2020) the Commonwealth Government claims a total population of the species subject to a trade in wildlife (bushmeat) of 45.4 million Kangaroos (while still claiming a population of 50 million on their agriculture website — both numbers are nonsense). The government tells us that 1.44 million Kangaroos were killed in 2018 for commercial purposes, they claim just 3.1 percent of the total population of these target species in the shooting zones where they are killed, also nonsense. This document also tells us that there are 1,400 licensed Kangaroo shooters in Australia. The 2016 Australian Census shows that 309 people in Australia gave their main work area as Hunting and Trapping (all species), that is, 72 people in New South Wales, 100 in Queensland, 66 in Victoria, 20 in South Australia, 24 in Western Australia, 12 in Tasmania, 12 in the Northern Territory and 3 in the Australian Capital Territory. This probably indicates that the commercial killing of Kangaroos is mostly a part-time occupation, akin to low-paid piece work.
NEW SOUTH WALES
We will start with adjoining New South Wales. Four species of Macropod, the larger Kangaroos, are part of the commercial trade in wildlife occurring in New South Wales. The species are the Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus), the Eastern Grey Kangaroo (M. giganteus), the Western Grey Kangaroo (M. fuliginosus) and the Eastern Wallaroo (M. robustus). These Kangaroos are killed for commercial purposes within fifteen commercial Kangaroo shooting zones. Killing Kangaroos for commercial purposes is currently prohibited within National Parks and other reserved areas in NSW.
At the same time as the claims that populations are exploding in Victoria (by 41 percent from the previous year), the New South Wales Government advised its Kangaroo population had plummeted by 25.5 percent. The New South Wales annual survey estimated there were 10.5 million animals in 2020, compared to 14 million in 2019. It is a significant collapse since a peak of 17 million was reported in 2016.
Here are two of the western / central shooting zones in the state. For the Grey Kangaroos in the Tibooburra shooting zone the government’s population estimate for 2016 for this species in this zone was 451,594, by 2020 the population estimate had fallen to 6,859. For the Red Kangaroo in the Cobar shooting zone the population estimate in 2016 was 437,129, by 2020 the population estimate was 102,480.
Conclusion: Given what has been done to Kangaroos in the state over the last decade, the New South Wales Government is pushing its luck in claiming a population number of 10.5 million. Time will be the judge.
At the time of writing this, two species are shot commercially in Victoria, the Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroo. Ten percent of the estimated population is targeted in the annual quota. Absurdly, given declines almost everywhere else in Australia, the Victorian Government claims a significant increase in its Kangaroo populations.
Here is what the population numbers for the commercially targeted Kangaroo species in Victoria currently look like. The commercial industry (as a trial) commenced in Victoria in 2014 and without any understanding of Kangaroo populations in the state. The trial was completed by late 2019 and the full industry commenced at that time. The first population survey was conducted in 2017 and included three species, the Red and the two Grey Kangaroos. The 2017 population estimate for these species was 1,442,000. Since 2014 and including 2021 the government will have issued permits (commercial and non-commercial) to kill 1,213,111 Kangaroos, a number that excludes joeys which are also killed. Add to this the catastrophic fire in 2019–20 (they were bad the year before as well). So if we include the killing of joeys and the Kangaroos which perished in the worst fires in Victoria’s colonial history, we get to a number of 1,523,111 supposedly dead Kangaroos in the period since 2014, more than the 2017, 2018 and 2020 population estimates for these species. In 2021 we suddenly get a population estimate (for the Greys only) of 1,911,550, a population increase of over 40 per cent over the previous survey. That is, a population increase of Grey Kangaroos in Victoria of well over half a million over the previous year estimates (2020) and the previous survey (2018), despite the catastrophic fires of 2020.
What we can say with certainty is that the probability of a sudden population increase in 2021 is zero. And this year the Victorian Government want to kill more Kangaroos than ever before.
As a point of history, the Victorian Government population estimate for the Red Kangaroo in Victoria was 6,000 in the year 2000, in the 2017 survey when they counted just 23 Red Kangaroos, the government then estimated the population to be 13,000, in the 2018 survey they counted 91 Red Kangaroos, this gave a population estimate of 44,000. Since 2009 the Victorian Government has issued permits to kill 59,214 Red Kangaroos PLUS their joeys — many of these on public lands including State and National Parks.
The very concerning thing here, is that, in the period 2009 to 2012 permits were issued to kill 2,155 Red Kangaroos, by 2016 to 2019 this number had risen to 43,191 (2019 is the last year I currently have comprehensive data for). So it is highly probable that the Victorian Government was issuing permits to kill Red Kangaroos well in excess of their Victorian population. If the early years in this time series are compared with the later ones the difference in the number of Red Kangaroos (year high and lows) is 15 (in 2010) to 15,187 (in 2017). That is 1,012 times higher.
For these reasons and the evident silliness of the numbers, the Red Kangaroo was removed from the commercial trade in wildlife list towards the end of 2019. By counting them again in 2020, and as Grey Kangaroo populations in the state are destroyed, it looks to me as if the Victorian Government is conniving to put the Red Kangaroo back on the commercial trade in wildlife list once more.
Conclusion: Claims of increased populations are silly. Very silly.
Six species of Kangaroo and Wallaby are now killed commercially in South Australia, the Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroo, The Sooty Kangaroo from Kangaroo Island, The Kangaroo Island Tammar Wallaby, the Red Kangaroo and the Euro.
2020: “South Australia’s Kangaroo commercial harvest zone will be expanded, and the 2020 quota has been set to help manage Kangaroos, as well as support primary producers. The Kangaroo commercial harvest zone will be expanded from South Australia’s pastoral area to cover Yorke Peninsula, Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula, South East and Kangaroo Island. The species of Kangaroo available for commercial harvest will include three new species, Tammar Wallaby (note from Peter Hylands: mainland species once thought to be extinct), Kangaroo Island sub-species of Western Grey Kangaroo (Sooty Kangaroo) (until recently listed as threatened) and Eastern Grey Kangaroo (note from Peter Hylands: classified as rare in South Australia until they decided to kill them commercially), as well as the existing species of Red Kangaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo and Euro.” — Government of South Australia
In South Australia, the 2020 commercial quota for all Kangaroo species was 518,600 Kangaroos across the entire expanded harvest zone, representing a 477 percent increase on the number actually harvested in 2018. This quota is less than the 2019 quota of 730,200 and reflects the reduced population estimates as a result of the current dry conditions”. — Government of South Australia
A total of 74,027 Kangaroos were killed for commercial purposes during the first eight months of 2020. This represents 14 percent of the combined commercial Kangaroo quota for the year. The projected kill in 2020 for all species is now 108,609. This represents 21 percent of the combined quotas.
“The sundry Macropods are not just a fine animal that looks cool on a coat of arms, they are a part of this land. Dtjowdtjba, the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, is not my brother or sister: Dtjowdtjba and I are one. Hurt Dtjowdtjba and you hurt me. I, just because I am human am not superior to Dtjowdtjba, neither is Dtjowdtjba superior to me: we are simply one. Sure I will eat Dtjowdtjba if I am hungry, but only after asking Dtjowdtjba if I may. Sometimes we die and we provide food for the grasses that will feed Dtjowdtjba. This is life. Dtjowdtjba and I are a part of the universe: a part of the web of life. Vital and important to that web as the other.”
In 2019, the commercial Kangaroo kill in South Australia for all species was 99,289. This figure was 13 percent of the approved quota of 752,100 (including Special Land Management Quota). The highest recorded annual quotas achieved are 555,000 for Red Kangaroos (1997), 280,000 for Western Grey Kangaroos (1997), and 103,000 for Euros (1997).
In 2020 the estimated Red Kangaroo population in all commercial zones in South Australia (including the expanded zones as of 1 January 2020) is 1,178,888, a decrease of 24 percent from the previous year total of 1,552,679 and 24 percent lower than the long-term survey data average of 1,545,893 (1999–2019 data from model estimates). The estimated population of the Western Grey Kangaroo in all commercial zones (including the expansions to Mallee and Yorke Mid North sub-regions but excluding Southern Agricultural region) is 846,127, a 22 percent decrease from the 2019 population estimate of 1,085,193 and 28 percent below the long-term average of 1,180,479 (1999–2019 data from model estimates). The population in the new Southern Agricultural zone is estimated at 208,811, a decrease of 24 percent from the 2019 population estimate of 276,183.
The estimated population for the Euro in all commercial zones is 517,108, a decrease of 9 per cent from the 2019 estimate of 570,021 and 8 percent above long-term average of 479,078 (1999–2019). For the Eastern Grey Kangaroo surveys show a large drop in population compared to the 2019 estimate at 61,826 Kangaroos. For the Kangaroo Island (Sooty) Western Grey Kangaroo aerial surveys found that Kangaroos were spread across the island, although fewer were present in the burnt areas. Compared to the 2019, the 2020 survey indicates a 34 percent reduction in the Sooty Kangaroo population on Kangaroo Island. For the Tammar Wallaby (Kangaroo Island sub species) the survey gives a population estimate showing a reduction in population of approximately 40 percent post fire.
Conclusion: South Australia has an appalling record of native species endangerment and extinctions, the driest state on the continent might not be the brightest. Things need to change.
NOTE: Adding new species to the commercial trade in wildlife is a very clear sign that there are no longer enough of the main commercially targeted species to make commercial activities properly viable.
Population surveys for Kangaroos in Queensland commenced in 1980, these were originally conducted by the CSIRO. Since 1991 the Queensland Government has conducted these surveys by helicopter. Population estimates are calculated by extrapolating the mean monitor block densities within population estimate regions to a larger area in the commercial shooting zones of 895,824km² for Eastern Grey Kangaroos, 1,006,876 km² for Red Kangaroos and 766,613 km² for Wallaroos.
Because of the remoteness of some regions in Queensland Kangaroos have been commercially killed for skins only in some regions. In Queensland, the majority of Kangaroo skins utilised for leather and fur products are sourced from meat processors. According to the Queensland Government, in 2020 there were no Kangaroos killed commercially for their skins only.
“Inna the Wallaroo: though if Inna becomes extinct, so will the people of that totem.”
Queensland is divided into the following commercial shooting zones (Kangaroos): Central East / Central North / Central South / Eastern / Western / non-commercial shooting (the latter part of SEQ and part of Cape York (the Western zone extends along the Gulf of Carpentaria Coast to just south of Pormpuraaw). Commercial quotas in Queensland are set between 10 and 20 percent of the estimated population for each species killed for commercial purposes. The species in Queensland are the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, the Red Kangaroo and the Wallaroo.
“The maximum proportions used for each species are 15 percent of populations for Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Wallaroos and 20 percent of the population for Red Kangaroos. These maximum proportions are only applied to populations within the central harvest zone where survey effort is greatest and hence confidence limits for population estimates are within acceptable limits”. — Queensland Government
The most recent population survey which sets the quotas for 2021, put the population of Queensland’s commercially killed Kangaroos at — for the Red Kangaroo 4,135,700 (quota 673,050 – 16.3 percent) – no quota for Central South; for the Eastern Grey Kangaroo 10,043,400 (quota 1,087,450 – 10.8 percent) – no quotas for Central South and Central North and for the Wallaroo 2,484,750 (quota 220,650 – 8.9 percent) – no quota Central North, even though the trigger point to stop commercial shooting (population decline) has been reached in Central South there is still a quota of 8,100 Wallaroos in this zone.
Quotas are now never reached, which is an indication of exaggerated population estimates. In 2019, across Queensland, Kangaroos killed for commercial purposes were just 24 percent of the quota for that year, in 2018 it was 26 percent. Dealer returns for 2019 (entered up to 10 February 2020) indicate there were 758,362 Macropods killed commercially in Queensland, just 26 percent of the overall combined quota. Of the animals killed for commercial purposes, there were 216,437 Red Kangaroos, 483,385 Eastern Grey Kangaroos and 58,540 Wallaroos exterminated (excluding joeys). Quotas for individual species in each commercial shooting zone were not exceeded in 2019. The maximum commercial take, as a percentage of the approved quotas, was 31.9 percent for Eastern Grey Kangaroos and 27.3 percent for Wallaroos, both in the Central Zone.
In 2020 (from 1 January) shooting in the vast Central Zone was suspended for the Wallaroo and the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, including the shires of McKinlay, Flinders, Murweh, Paroo, Quilpie, Richmond, Winton, Longreach, Barcoo, Blackall-Tambo, Bulloo and Barcaldine. This is a vast area that runs from the Mckinlay Shire boundary in the north to the NSW border in the south and east to Morven. This ban was because of the devastation of Kangaroo populations in this zone.
By the end of 2020, the highest number of tags sold as a proportion of quota was 100 per cent for Wallaroos in the Central Zone, the actual killed for this species, in this zone was 77.9 percent of the available quota. The data from dealer returns, entered up to 5 February 2021, shows that there were 514,144 Kangaroos killed commercially and sold, representing 18.2 percent of the overall quota, the majority of the killing traditionally occurring in the Central Zone. Of the 514,144 Kangaroos killed for commercial purposes in 2020, there were 200,779 Red Kangaroos, 263,409 Eastern Grey Kangaroos and 49,956 Wallaroos killed for commercial gain.
“According to figures supplied to the Commonwealth Government Department of Environment and Energy, Queensland populations fall from a high of 32,803,900 in 2013 to 20,999,900 in 2018”. The total population of the three commercially targeted species in 2021 is estimated to be 16,663,850.
Conclusion: In the Central South and Central North shooting zones, Kangaroo populations have been significantly depleted by a combination of exaggerated populations estimates, inflated quotas, intensive killing and climate change impacts. It also looks as if killing pressure on the Wallaroo has increased significantly because of the drastic decline of other commercially targeted species. This puts significant pressure on Kangaroo populations in other commercial shooting zones in the state. In 2020, 18 percent of the quota was filled, in 2019, 24 percent and in 2018 it was 26 percent. The year on year declines should tell us a lot and the commercial Kangaroo industry will kill every animal it can find to maintain the viability of the industry. Evidence suggests that chiller boxes are being moved from Queensland to Victoria.
No commercial activity in relation to Kangaroos at this time, which would likely be culturally unacceptable. We spend a lot of time in the Northern Territory and see very few Kangaroos. The Northern Territory makes the point that the financial outcomes of creating a commercial trade in Kangaroos, Red Kangaroos and Euros, given very low population densities, would be unacceptable. Densities much higher than five Kangaroos per square kilometer are required to sustain a commercial industry over the majority of a shooting zone.
Two species of Kangaroo are currently killed for commercial gain in Western Australia, the Red Kangaroo and the Western Grey Kangaroo. In 2021, the quota for the Red Kangaroo is set at 17 percent of the annual population estimate, for the Western Grey Kangaroo the quota is set at 15 percent. Since 2003 the number of Kangaroos killed commercially shows significant decline. There was no commercial harvest of Euros from 2003–06 and from 2010–15. There is no current plan that allows shooting of Euros for commercial purposes, however Euros are shot for non-commercial purposes on farmland or leasehold land used for grazing.
Within the commercial shooting zones in Western Australia, the 2019 population estimate for these species was 3,090,605 — reducing to a population estimate of 2,412,050 in 2020. The quotas accordingly reducing from 489,130 in 2019 to 381,880 in 2020. In 2020, the commercial trade in Red Kangaroos was 13.8 percent of quota and 26.1 percent for Western Grey Kangaroos.
Conclusion: Serial declines in Kangaroo populations. I have serious concerns for the Red Kangaroo and Euro, things are not looking too bright for the Western Grey Kangaroo either.
There are five remaining species in the Kangaroo family in Tasmania, the Forester Kangaroo, Bennett’s Wallaby, Pademelon, Eastern Bettong and the Long-nosed Potoroo. No commercial activity is evident since 1999, but mass killing is evident, including killing activity because of claims of exploding populations, which are of course, yet again, nonesense. Around 7,500 Tasmanians can hold a Wallaby licence in any one year with no limits to the numbers killed, that is an estimated 900,000 to 1,000,000 Pademelons and Bennett’s Wallabies being killed each year. Estimates are that around 2,000,000 native animals are killed annually by primary industry in Tasmania alone.
The 1999 commercial trade in Wallabies totalled 21,000 animals (Pademelons and Bennett’s Wallabies), down from 300,000 in 1984.
HOW KANGAROOS MAY DIE AND ALL TOO OFTEN DO
The following extract is taken from a post mortem examination conducted by the eminent wildlife carer, veterinary surgeon, doctor of human medicine and anaesthetist, Dr Howard Ralph. The animal in question was a young male Eastern Grey Kangaroo. The animal was killed (mid-2012) during an ACT Government sponsored killing event of Kangaroos in the capital’s nature reserves. (Image supplied)
I will jump straight to the interpretation. The first wound to the face was consistent with a gunshot from above, the bullet entering at the dorsal part of the right hand side and exiting at the level of the mandible and causing massive damage to the bone and teeth. That was likely to be the primary wound of a series of three wounds and it is not likely to have been fatal.
The second wound, to the skull and brain, caused extensive trauma / damage to both structures and is consistent with blunt trauma caused by a blow with a heavy object. Considering the bleeding along the dorsum of the neck and the series of three assaults on this Kangaroo, this trauma to the head was unlikely to have caused immediate death.
The third wound is consistent with a penetrating knife wound to the neck. The skin, muscle, vessels and trachea were divided in such a manner as to be also consistent with a deep knife injury. The presence of blood aspirated into the trachea, bronchi and lung is consistent with aspiration before death.
The above series of lesions indicates that the Kangaroo was first shot, then bludgeoned on the head and then stabbed in the neck. The evidence is consistent with the Kangaroo being alive until finally being exsanguinated and asphyxiated by a laceration to the throat . The Kangaroo very likely suffered severe pain and distress for some time during this progressive attack, until the fatal exsanguination and asphyxiation.
A NOTE ON KANGAROO CODES OF PRACTICE
Australia’s commercial trade in wildlife and specifically in relation to Kangaroos is recognised internationally as the most cruel and extensive exploitation of land-based mammals on Earth.
An update to the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes (the Code) was released on Wednesday 18 November 2020. The protections for Kangaroos were further weakened by this update.
The purpose of these codes of practice in relation to Kangaroos in Australia are twofold:
1. To legitimise extreme acts of cruelty which would otherwise be illegal by negating animal cruelty legislation; and
2. To create the impression for consumers, particularly overseas consumers, that Australia’s trade in wildlife, in this case members of the Kangaroo family, is humane and is closely managed for compliance, nothing could be further from the truth.
While we do not agree with the mass slaughter of Kangaroos, we spent several days preparing a submission for AgriFutures on behalf of the AWPC to attempt to moderate the extreme cruelty and evident dishonesty. AgriFutures, the organisation responsible for the update of the national code (Federal Government funded) took precisely no account of what we had suggested, our submission was completely ignored, never acknowledged and we were not informed of the publication of the new code — so a long established Australian charity and its members were treated with complete contempt by the individuals preparing the update. I have personally prepared a large number of submissions and this excuse for a consultation was the worst I have seen anywhere.
In Victoria, commercial Kangaroo shooters are licensed under the Conditions of Authorisation under section 28A of the Wildlife Act 1975, to hunt, take, destroy, possess, dispose of and sell Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Western Grey Kangaroos in accordance with the approved Victorian Kangaroo Harvest Management Plan 2021–2023. These conditions explicitly state that (clause 7) Kangaroos with obvious dependent young must not be shot. Precisely the opposite has occurred and females with dependant young are killed each and every night across the state in large numbers. Yet not a single prosecution has occurred in relation to this matter. So suggesting there is any kind of compliance regime is incorrect.
Quotes in the story are from Kangaroos: Myths and Realities, published by AWPC, 2005, from a contribution by author Kakkib li’Dthia Warrawee’a entitled The Kangaroo betrayed.
More imagery at Going going gone | Creative Cowboy Films