Research indicates that kangaroo populations increase by 10% to 13.5% under good conditions. During drought, kangaroo numbers decline by up to 65%. Joey mortality is as high as 73% in good conditions and 100% during drought.
According to the South Australian Department for Environment and Water (DEW), between 2021 and 2022, red kangaroo populations allegedly increased by 20% in Gawler Ranges, 62% in Marree (Inside Dog Fence) which wasn’t surveyed in 2022, 47% in North Flinders which wasn’t surveyed in 2022, 52% in North-East Pastoral, 24% in Eastern Districts, 41% in South Flinders and 66% in Yorke Mid-North.
Between 2021 and 2022, western grey kangaroo populations allegedly increased by 33% in Kingoonya, 49% in Gawler Ranges, 21% in North Flinders which wasn’t surveyed in 2022, 316% in Eastern Districts, 29% in Murray Mallee, 60% in Yorke Mid-North, 56% in Eyre West which wasn’t surveyed in 2022, 52% in Eyre East which wasn’t surveyed in 2022, 42% in Hills and Fleurieu and 398% in the Lower South East.
In the 2023 Quota Report, DEW stated that the increase in red kangaroo numbers was likely in response to improved environmental conditions across South Australia and that the increase in SA’s western grey kangaroo population was most likely in response to the recent high rainfall conditions across most of South Australia. The Lower South East was surveyed in May 2022. DEW alleged that western grey kangaroo numbers increased by 398% and eastern grey kangaroo numbers increased by 341%. In May 2022, the Lower South East was still experiencing serious rainfall deficiencies with some areas recording the lowest rainfall on record. It was impossible for kangaroo numbers to increase in response to rainfall. The estimated increases alleged by DEW are simply impossible.
Rainfall Deficiencies During 2021 and 2022
The above maps show serious rainfall deficiencies in the Lower South East, Upper South East, Murray Mallee, Hills & Fleurieu and Yorke Mid-North.
A combination of aerial and ground surveys (walking and driving) were used to survey kangaroo populations across South Australia between May and September 2022. During mid-August 2022, the survey plane flew in east-west transects 250 feet above the Southern Flinders, Murray Mallee, Mid North and Yorke Peninsula regions. A joey stays in mother’s pouch for up to 11 months. Spotting pouch joeys during aerial and ground surveys would be near impossible. For the purposes of checking rainfall since the last survey in 2021, we’ll go back to March 2022 because any joey born before March 2022 wouldn’t be visible in the pouch. The following table is a summary of South Australia’s rainfall since the last survey in 2021.
Very much below average
Above average (except for southeast)
Above average/Very much below average for far west and southeast
Above average in east/Below average in central areas including the Eyre Peninsula
The following images show how rainfall deficiencies in South Australia began to improve between August 2022 and October 2022. These improvements came after South Australia’s kangaroo populations were counted, which means that “rainfall” had nothing to do with the biologically impossible increases in kangaroo numbers in South Australia.
Why Did Population Estimates Increase So Much?
The 2023 Quota Report stated: “The kangaroo industry had consistently harvested the full sustainable use quota each year since the sub-region was opened for commercial harvesting on 1 January 2020. During May 2022 DEW undertook a helicopter survey of kangaroos in the Lower South East sub-region to develop a more robust survey method for the region and re-set the sustainable use quota.” Shooters killed more than 99% of the quota on eastern grey kangaroos in 2021 and around 86% in 2022. Therefore, in 2023, DEW increased the population from 20,933 to 92,317 – an increase of 341% – so that the quota could be increased from 2,500 to 15,100. Shooters killed 66% of the quota on western grey kangaroos in the Upper and Lower South East in 2021 and 40% in 2022. Therefore, in 2023, DEW increased the Lower South East population from 7,934 to 39,565 – an increase of 398% – so that the quota could be increased from 900 to 5,900. The increase in populations are biologically impossible. No doubt DEW would say that they did a “more robust survey” in 2022 which is how they managed to find so many more kangaroos previously missed in 2021, 2020 and 2019.
The 2022 Quota Report stated: “Due to the fragmented nature of native vegetation and cover (e.g. pine plantations), kangaroos are in high numbers in relatively small areas and in low numbers across a larger proportion of the harvest sub-region.” This observation has been confirmed by local wildlife carers. The problem with kangaroos in the South East is loss of habitat which has resulted in the unnatural situation of larger kangaroo numbers in smaller areas. Curiously, the situation described in the 2022 Quota Report miraculously disappeared and suddenly, amazingly, kangaroos in the Lower South East increased from 28,867 to 131,882 – an increase of 357% – despite being fragmented with high numbers in relatively small areas and low numbers across a large proportion of the harvest sub-region.
Sorry. These increases are biologically impossible. These increases are also impossible due to the fragmented nature of native vegetation and cover (e.g. pine plantations). The increases in population were solely for the purpose of increasing the quotas. Eastern grey kangaroos and western grey kangaroos in the South East are at risk of serious decline due to excessively high quotas. The 2023 quota on eastern grey kangaroos is 72% of the 2021 population estimate and the 2023 quota on western grey kangaroos is 74% of the 2021 population estimate.
Perhaps DEW wants to seriously reduce kangaroo numbers in the Lower South East due to the fragmented nature of native vegetation and cover (e.g. pine plantations), which resulted in high numbers in relatively small areas and low numbers across a larger proportion of the harvest sub-region. The problem is that such a massive slaughter of kangaroos in the Lower South East will result in these kangaroos being at risk of extinction, especially when bushfires, floods and droughts also threaten their viability. A massive slaughter now combined with a drought next year could force these kangaroos to the brink of extinction.
The mass slaughter of kangaroos in South Australia is for the sole purpose of producing profits for a commercial industry. Sustainability doesn’t enter the equation. That’s why DEW can create ridiculous impossible population increases, to increase kill quotas, and the real number of kangaroos, the real sustainability of local populations is ignored.
Australian governments manipulate figures to give the impression that the commercial killing of kangaroos is sustainable. Australian governments hide the truth because they don’t want people to know that kangaroo populations at risk of extinction are being killed for their meat, body parts and skins or that localised extinctions are already happening. What you read in this blog is just the tip of the iceberg.
Multiple scientific reports conclude that no killing should occur when kangaroo populations are less than 10 kangaroos per square kilometre.
Density of unharvested populations in these simulations rarely fell below a minimum of 5 individuals/sq km. Although the critical minimum density is not clearly deﬁned, populations below 2/sq km would generally be considered at risk of extinction. On this basis, Figure 19 suggests that any option resulting in an average long-term density of less than 10/sq km should be rejected since in all such cases the minimum density is likely to fall below the critical level. (Kangaroo management options In the Murray-Darling Basin Hacker et al, 2004, Page 37)
Situation Analysis Report Update on Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Kangaroos in the Environment, Including Ecological and Economic Impact and Effect of Culling (Penny Olsen & Tim Low) was prepared for the Kangaroo Management Advisory Panel March 2006. The report states:
In light of the above research, kangaroos shouldn’t be killed in Western Australia or South Australia under any circumstances. Only 1 out of 7 zones in Victoria has a grey kangaroo population greater than 10 kangaroos per square kilometre. In New South Wales only 1 out of 9 red kangaroo populations is greater than 10 kangaroos per square kilometre, zero wallaroo populations are greater than 10 per square kilometre and only 7 out of 14 grey kangaroo populations are greater than 10 kangaroos per square kilometre. In Queensland, one out of 21 red kangaroo populations, one out of 21 wallaroo populations and 5 out of 21 eastern grey populations is greater than 10 kangaroos per square kilometre. The majority of Australia’s commercially slaughtered kangaroo populations shouldn’t be killed for any reason.
Killing Kangaroos at Risk of Extinction
The Science Density of unharvested populations in these simulations rarely fell below a minimum of 5 individuals/sq km. Although the critical minimum density is not clearly deﬁned, populations below 2/sq km would generally be considered at risk of extinction. On this basis, Figure 19 suggests that any option resulting in an average long-term density of less than 10/sq km should be rejected since in all such cases the minimum density is likely to fall below the critical level. (Kangaroo management options In the Murray-Darling Basin (Hacker et al, 2004, Page 37)
The Reality Red kangaroo populations generally considered at risk of extinction are commercially killed in 7 out of 17 zones in Queensland, 6 out of 9 zones in New South Wales, 6 out of 11 zones in South Australia and 3 out of 3 zones in Western Australia.
Eastern grey kangaroo populations generally considered at risk of extinction are commercially killed in 10 out of 19 zones in Queensland.
Grey kangaroo populations generally considered at risk of extinction are commercially killed in 3 out of 14 zones in New South Wales and 3 out of 7 zones in Victoria.
Western grey kangaroo populations generally considered at risk of extinction are commercially killed in 6 out of 14 zones in South Australia and 3 out of 3 zones in Western Australia.
Wallaroo populations generally considered at risk of extinction are commercially killed in 18 out of 20 zones in Queensland. New South Wales and South Australia only count wallaroo populations every three years, so current populations are unknown.
Commercial killing was suspended in Cobar in New South Wales during 2019 and 2020 due to this kangaroo population being considered at risk of extinction.
In 2020, red kangaroo numbers allegedly increased by 184%. The biologically impossible increase allowed the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage to re-open Cobar to commercial killing. The 2021 kill quota is 17,422, which is 17% of the alleged estimated population.
In 2020, grey kangaroo numbers allegedly increased by 504%. The biologically impossible increase allowed the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage to re-open Cobar to commercial killing. The 2021 kill quota is 4,421, which is 10% of the alleged estimated population.
Commercial killing was suspended in Tibooburra in New South Wales during 2019 and 2020 due to this kangaroo population generally being considered at risk of extinction.
In 2020, red kangaroo numbers allegedly increased by 153%. The biologically impossible increase allowed the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage to re-open Tibooburra to commercial killing. The 2021 kill quota is 20,046, which is 10% of the alleged estimated population.
Kangaroos in New South Wales defied science and a 3-year drought by miraculously increasing throughout the state. Red kangaroos allegedly increased by 124.7% in the Lower Darling, 103.2% in Bourke, 129.1% in Coonabarabran and 137% in Griffith South. Grey kangaroo numbers allegedly increased by 63.5% in Narrabri.
In spite of the biologically impossible increases, New South Wales kangaroo populations have declined by 40% since 2016. The biologically impossible increases suggest that kangaroo populations have declined by much more than 40%.
Since 2016, Western Australian kangaroo populations have declined by 55%, South Australian kangaroo populations have declined by 50% and Queensland kangaroo populations have declined by 36%.
In 2014, a report was prepared by the Australian Government Department of the Environment for submission to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and included the 2013 and 2014 estimated total population of the commercially killed kangaroos in Australia. Coincidentally, during these two years, the number of western grey kangaroos increased by 116% in New South Wales, 33% in South Australia and 78% in Western Australia. In New South Wales, eastern grey kangaroos increased by 41%. In Queensland, red kangaroos increased by 42%, eastern grey kangaroos increased by 25% and wallaroos increased by 72%. In South Australia, western grey kangaroos increased by 33%.
A study of the estimated kangaroo populations in Australia over the last 20 years suggests one of three things – the method used is woefully inadequate and flawed, or the humans managing kangaroos couldn’t manage a sock drawer, or the figures are as fictional as the Harry Potter books. Maybe all three statements are true.
Kangaroos are not farmed. Wild kangaroos are shot during the night in rural locations.
Shooters aren’t monitored or policed because they work in rural locations from dusk to dawn, even on weekends.
Hunters leave dead kangaroos on the ground, touching each other, causing cross-contamination, and the bodies to be covered in dirt and insects.
For transport, dead kangaroos are hung from the back of an open truck. As the truck travels through the night, dust, flies and faeces cover the dead bodies.
Shooters often travel long distances for their night’s kill.
In summer, night-time temperatures are still between 25°C and 35°C. Kangaroo carcasses can hang on the back of open trucks, covered in flies, dust and faeces, up to 14 hours in temperatures of 25°C to 35°C.
The food poisoning bacteria that are a major concern with harvesting and initial chilling of wild animal carcasses grow between the temperatures of 7°C and 60°C.
Bacteria act like a time bomb. The bomb goes off if the carcasses carrying harmful bacteria are kept between 5 – 60°C for longer than 4 to 6 hours.
Federal laws allow shooters to hang dead kangaroos on the back of open-air trucks for up to 14 hours.
Shipping containers are used to store kangaroo carcasses in rural areas.
Federal laws allow dead kangaroos to be stored up to 14 days from the time of kill to processing (that is, processed product).
Testing found that chiller boxes are unhygienic – unclean; uncleanable; a big incidence of fly-struck meat; congealed blood and muck.
Hunters usually don’t wear gloves when gutting and handling kangaroo carcasses.
Contamination is anything on or in a meat product that shouldn’t be there. The 3 main types of contamination:
microbiological – e.g. any microorganisms or bacteria that gets on the meat from unclean hands, dirty equipment, faeces, ingesta or the skin of the animal during field harvesting operations.
physical – e.g. dirt, dust, hair, leaves, faeces, ingesta.
chemical – e.g. agricultural chemicals used on farms, or cleaning chemicals not properly rinsed off equipment that could get into the meat.
Examples of physical contamination include hanging dead kangaroos off the outside of the hunter’s open vehicle, overcrowding of dead bodies on the vehicle, and making incorrect cuts that allow faeces, urine, fur, dirt and dust to spill onto the meat or other dead kangaroos.
Chemical contamination can occur if kangaroos have been foraging in areas treated or contaminated by chemicals, such as sprayed farmland.
Disease and Bacteria
Given that bacteria can double their numbers every twenty minutes, it takes only 5 hours for one bacterium to reach sufficient numbers to cause carcass spoilage and possible food poisoning.
Shooters are supposed to monitor the movement of a kangaroo to look for signs of sickness. Yet, monitoring is impossible because shooting animals at night requires them to be transfixed by a spotlight. If a kangaroo is ill, the dark colouring of the meat hides any visual clues of infection.
Toxoplasmosis and Salmonellosis are two infections with public health significance related to the handling, processing and consumption of kangaroo meat. Toxoplasmosis can cause serious illness, brain damage and death.
Kangaroo meat contains high levels of L-carnitine, which causes the build-up of plaque in arteries responsible for heart attacks, strokes, and vascular disease.
Every time independent testing is conducted on kangaroo meat, the results indicate high levels of dangerous bacteria, including salmonella, E. coli, streptococcus, and staphylococcus.
Pets can also become sick from the bacteria and pathogens found in kangaroo meat. In addition, kangaroo pet meat is preserved with toxic sulphites. These sulphites cause Thiamine Deficiency in pets, which can be fatal.
TRUTH: Kangaroos are not farmed. Wild kangaroos are shot during the night in rural locations.
Hunters leave dead kangaroos on the ground, touching each other, causing cross-contamination, and the bodies to be covered in dirt and insects. For transport, dead kangaroos are hung from the back of an open truck. As the truck travels through the night, dust, flies and faeces cover the dead bodies. Shooters often travel long distances for their night’s kill. Federal laws allow shooters to hang dead kangaroos on the back of open-air trucks for up to 14 hours.
MYTH: Kangaroos are overabundant.
TRUTH: There is no definition for overabundant.
“Basically, it comes down to a handful of lobbyists and other squeaky wheels defining anything they deem to be a nuisance as ‘overabundant’, irrespective of its threat status, ecological role, or purported impacts. It is, therefore, entirely subjective, and boils down to this: “If I don’t like it, it’s an overabundant pest”. (CJA Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Professor of Global Ecology, Flinders University, South Australia)
MYTH: Kangaroos are in plague proportions.
TRUTH: Since 2016, New South Wales kangaroo populations declined by 40%, Western Australia kangaroo populations declined by 55%, South Australian kangaroo populations declined by 50% and Queensland kangaroo populations declined by 36%.
Scientific research concluded that kangaroo populations less than 10 kangaroos per square kilometre shouldn’t be killed under any circumstances (Hacker et al 2004, Olsen and Low 2006).
Red kangaroos have a population density in excess of 10 kangaroos per square kilometre in one out of 21 management zones in Queensland, one out of 16 management zones in New South Wales, zero out of thirteen management zones in South Australia, zero out of three management zones in Western Australia and not included in the commercial quota in Victoria due to numbers being too low.
Eastern grey kangaroos have a population density in excess of 10 kangaroos per square kilometre in 5 out of 21 mangement zones in Queensland and zero out of one management zone in South Australia.
Western grey kangaroos have a population density in excess of 10 kangaroos per square kilometre in zero out of 17 mangement zones in South Australia and zero out of four management zones in Western Australia.
Eastern grey kangaroos and western grey kangaroos are grouped together in New South Wales and Victoria. Grey kangaroos have a population density in excess of 10 kangaroos per square kilometre in 5 out of 16 management zones in New South Wales and one out of 8 management zones in Victoria.
Wallaroos have a population density in excess of 10 wallaroos per square kilometre in zero out of 21 management zones in Queensland, zero out of 3 management zones in New South Wales and unknown in South Australia due to a lack of regular population estimates.
Tammar wallabies have a population density in excess of 10 wallabies per square kilometre in zero out of one management zone in South Australia. The tammar wallaby was removed from the EPBC Act Threatened Species List in order to add the species to the commercial killing industry in South Australia.
MYTH: Kangaroos breed like rabbits.
TRUTH: Contemporary science agrees that the maximum population growth rate is 10% (Arnold 1991; Bilton & Croft 2004). A female kangaroo aged 2 to 3 years old will have one joey a year. A joey stays in the pouch for approximately 11 months, which means a female kangaroo can only have one joey a year. Averaged across species, it takes an average of 18 months for a kangaroo joey to become fully independent of its mother (eg Poole 1975; Jackson; Staker, L; Dawson 1995).
In good conditions juvenile mortality is 73% with 50% taken by foxes (Banks et al 2000). Juvenile mortality increases to 100% during drought (bad conditions). Kangaroos will stop breeding during drought due to a lack of food.
MYTH: The shooting of kangaroos is humane because kangaroos are shot in the head and die instantly.
TRUTH: An independent assessment of compliance with the Code, carried out by Animal Liberation NSW between 2005 and 2008, has identified an average of 40% of kangaroos per chiller in 24 chillers throughout New South Wales and Queensland were neck shot. Neck shot kangaroos may suffer a painful death, which is a clear transgression of humane practices and the Code guidelines. (A Shot in the Dark: A Report on Kangaroo Harvesting by Dror Ben-Ami, PhD, 2009)
Cole has come home with 16 roos, a disappointing tally. He shot two more, but couldn’t find them to retrieve. He’d climbed onto the tray, looked through the monocle that uses thermal imaging to detect body heat, but no good. (From dusk to dawn: A night in the life of a roo shooter, ABC News, 2018)
No one knows how many kangaroos are injured and disappear into the bush to die slow, painful deaths. Injured kangaroos are never recorded or acknowledged by the commercial industry.
MYTH: Kangaroos need to be culled.
TRUTH: Almost 60% of Australia’s land is used for food production, including crops and livestock. Australia grazes 69 million sheep, 27 million cattle and 2.5 million goats. Australian cities account for less than 0.5% of Australia’s land use.
The annual kangaroo cull in Canberra is an example of kangaroos being unnecessarily killed. The ACT Government claims that in sites where kangaroo numbers are unsustainable, a reduction in kangaroo grazing pressure is necessary to ensure habitat is restored and maintained for a range of native species.
The above photo reveals two signs on the gate of a nature reserve in Canberra, ACT. One sign indicates that the reserve is closed due to firearms in use – that is, during the annual kangaroo cull. The second sign explains that ecological grazing of cattle is being used to reduce plant material and improve habitat for threatened species such as the golden sun moth. On the one hand the ACT Government claims that kangaroos need to be killed to protect plant material from too much grazing and to restore habitats, then on the other hand the ACT Government indicates that cattle grazing will be used to reduce plant material and improve habitat.
Each day, one cow eats the equivalent of 60 kangaroos. Let’s say kangaroos are killed to stop them over-eating plant material and to restore habitat, then 50 cows are brought in to reduce plant material and improve habitat – the 50 cows will eat the equivalent of 3,000 kangaroos. The nature reserve was never home to 3,000 kangaroos, so the grazing of 50 cows alone will cause grazing like this reserve has never seen before.
The following photo was taken in a kangaroo sanctuary in which 70 kangaroos are full time residents. The photo shows no signs of over-grazing by kangaroos.
MYTH: The commercial killing of millions of kangaroos every year is sustainable.
TRUTH: During drought kangaroo numbers are known to decline by up to 65%. In 2019-2020, unprecedented bushfires in Australia killed an estimated 3 billion animals. No one knows how many kangaroos were killed. Yet, the commercial killing of kangaroos continues.
Australian governments quote science to justify the killing of kangaroos. One of the most quoted reports is Kangaroo Management Options in the Murray-Darling Basin (Hacker et al, 2004). This report states that populations below 2 kangaroos per square kilometre would generally be considered at risk of extinction. Every state in Australia kills kangaroo populations considered at risk of extinction. In Tibooburra, a region of New South Wales, grey kangaroos at risk of extinction with a density of 0.9 kangaroos per square kilometre are killed at a rate of 14%. In Charters, a region of Queensland, red kangaroos at risk of extinction with a density of 0.28 kangaroos per square kilometre are killed at a rate of 10%. In Kingoonya, a region of South Australia, grey kangaroos at risk of extinction with a density of 0.18 kangaroos per square kilometre are killed at a rate of 12%. There are dozens of examples of kangaroos at risk of extinction being killed for a commercial industry at rates of 10% to 17%.
An example of kangaroos being hunted to extinction is in the Mid-North of South Australia. In 2018, the estimated population of red kangaroos in the Mid-North was 6,227. The commercial kill quota for 2019 was set at 1,000 of 6,227. The actual number of red kangaroos killed for the commercial industry during 2019 was 2,094 – double the quota and 34% of the entire population. Farmers were issued permits to kill 24 red kangaroos. The 2019, 2020 and 2021 commercial kill quotas for the Mid-North add up to 3,900, which is 63% of the entire population.
The killing of kangaroos is driven by market demand, not sustainability.
MYTH: Kangaroo numbers have increased since European settlement.
TRUTH: “The conventional wisdom is that kangaroo (Macropus spp.) numbers have increased in Australia since European settlement due to cessation of predation by Aborigines and dingoes (Cpnis lupus dingo), as well as increased availability of water. The historical record shows that at the time of first European contact the kangaroo was numerous and abundant over the continent and Tasmania.
“Water supplies were largely unimproved by 1860 when Australia de-pastured domestic livestock equivalent to 110 million kangaroos. In 1880 when there were 240 million kangaroo-equivalents, water supplies had been upgraded only in closely settled areas. It seems probable that at the time of settlement kangaroo numbers exceeded the present population at least threefold.
“EXAMINATION of the historical record reveals that kangaroos (Macropus spp.) were widespread in their distribution at the time of European exploration and settlement of Australia and are usually described as being numerous or abundant.
“The population was probably of the order of one to two hundred million.” (Red Plague Grey Plague: The Kangaroo Myths and Legends, Joe Auty, 2004)
MYTH: Kangaroo numbers have increased since European settlement due to increased availability of water.
TRUTH: “The interpretation that these numerous water sources are necessary to sustain the kangaroo population is a falsehood generated by looking at the landscape though the eyes of a livestock manager. This viewpoint started with the very first explorers into the inland.
“Kangaroos have a long narrow muzzle and equally long tongue with which they lap water making small ephemeral sources accessible (Fig. 8). If surface water is not available kangaroos will dig soaks in creeks gaining access to further water that is not available to livestock. Furthermore, all the species of kangaroos need much less water than livestock. Graziers normally budget 10 litres per day for sheep with this potentially doubling in a hot dry summer. The water turnover in summer is around 1 litre tor a 25 kg red kangaroo or euro and 1 75 litres for a 25 kg eastern grey kangaroo. Not all of this is required from drinking as water taken in with plant matter and created by oxidation of foodstuffs both add to the water budget.
“Thus kangaroos are relatively miserly drinkers compared lo livestock and certainly people. They lap with a long and narrow tongue and do not suck water. They can exploit water sources that are small and shallow, which are insufficient for livestock.
“Furthermore, my observations made during a study of drinking behaviour (Croft 1985) revealed that they will readily lap muddy and algae infested water that is unacceptable to sheep. For kangaroos, light rainfalls across the hotter months will maintain adequate ephemeral water sources in the many catchments from claypans and gilgais to swamps and lakes. Many of these have been silted up by the much accelerated erosion introduced by livestock and overstocking (Fanning 1984: Condon 2002). Large water holes have been replaced but not necessarily supplemented by earthen tanks. Many of the latter lie on top of old springs or simply create deep holes in existing swamps. Kangaroos may have expanded the‹r range into areas of central Australia where artesian bores have provided water (Newsome 1980) but equally much well-watered habitat has been lost to irrigated horticulture and crops along inland rivers.” (The future of kangaroos – Going, going, Gone? Croft 2005)
Millions of creeks used to run through Australia. Most of them are now dry due to large dams and reservoirs. While farmers have introduced small water points for livestock, most of the creeks and rivers are no longer available to kangaroos due to dams, reservoirs and irrigation. However, research indicates that kangaroos require very little water. During drought, kangaroos die from lack of food, not lack of water.
MYTH: Kangaroo numbers have increased since European settlement due to a lack of predator.
TRUTH: Kangaroos have many predators.
“Dingoes that live in temperate and sub-tropical eastern Australia more commonly dine on medium-sized and large mammals, including bandicoots, possums, wallabies and kangaroos. For instance, one study from the Blue Mountains found that large mammals occurred in more than 80% of dingo scats, including swamp wallabies in 29% of scats and wombats in 11%.” (Doherty, 2018)
Feral and domestic dogs also kill kangaroos. Foxes kill 50% of all joeys born (Banks, 2000). Between 80 and 90% of a wedge-tailed eagle’s diet is made up of ground-dwelling animals, including rabbits, wallabies and small kangaroos.
Humans kill approximately 4 million kangaroos every year, mainly through the commercial harvest of kangaroos. Other reasons for killing kangaroos are farmers killing kangaroos for being on their property, developers killing kangaroos for being on their property, drivers hitting kangaroos, kangaroos getting caught in fences and animal abuse.
During drought, kangaroo numbers plummet by up to 65%. Kangaroos don’t breed during drought. Every year, bushfires kill unknown numbers of kangaroos.
MYTH: Kangaroos damage the environment.
TRUTH: “Kangaroos aerate soils, top graze dry native grasses thus promoting regenerative growth, and reducing the risk of bushfires. They are essential in seed dispersal, have soft padded feet, and don’t have a water-focused grazing pattern.
“Kangaroo poo is THE best natural fertiliser on the planet, ask any sustainable food producer.
“Research shows that mixed grazing, at sustainable stocking rates between cattle and kangaroos or sheep and kangaroos, is more productive and ecologically sound as kangaroos counteract the destructive grazing patterns of introduced hard-hooved livestock.
“Kangaroos are a keystone species upon which various other indigenous species of flora and fauna depend for their own survival.” (Aunty Ro Mudyin Godwin, 2019)
“The soft padded feet and long tail of the kangaroo are essential for the ecological health of the land as regenerators of native grasses.” (D Ramp)
MYTH: Kangaroos compete with livestock.
TRUTH: Let’s put the above statement into context. The total number of grazed livestock in Australia is approximately 100 million. Kangaroo numbers have crashed due to drought and bushfires. The total number of kangaroos in Australia is less than 20 million.
In 2000, two studies (Pople and McLeod, Olsen and Braysher) concluded that competition between sheep and kangaroos seldom occurs because food is not limited or food choices and feeding sites differ.
“Kangaroos and sheep have not been demonstrated to compete to any significant degree because of differences in diet and spatial use of pastures, except under very poor forage conditions. Grigg (2002) cast serious doubt upon the common assumption that kangaroos have 70% of the food requirements of sheep (a DSE of 0.7), proposing that the correct figure may be 20% (a DSE of 0.2). Dawson and Munn (in press) have since improved the estimate, to 0.48 (48%) using captive animals. This decreases any likelihood of competition and economic loss associated with grazing by kangaroos, and suggests that predictions and estimates based on the old DSE estimates exaggerate kangaroo impacts.” (Penny Olsen & Tim Low, 2006).
MYTH: Kangaroos cause $90 million damage to crops, fences and equipment.
TRUTH: This myth is common but little research has been done to prove or disprove this myth.“Indeed, there is little convincing evidence of substantial damage by kangaroos to crops, pastoral production or rangelands, except in a few localized areas.” (Penny Olsen & Tim Low, 2006)
“Kangaroos generally keep within 100 m or so of the bush that they use for shelter, so crop damage is usually restricted to this zone of the paddock. Measurements were made of crop losses from kangaroos in crops bordering the Tutanning Reserve near Pingelly. These averaged 1 to 2 per cent of paddock yield. Similar results were obtained for crops around the Durakoppin Reserve at Kellerberrin. In some situations losses will be higher, but more than 95 per cent of crops in the wheatbelt are never visited by kangaroos.” (Dr Graham Arnold, 1990)
“Pests is an emotive word. It conjures up visions of animals destroying crops. I can think of no situations where this is likely to be true for kangaroos.” (Dr Graham Arnold, CSIRO)
“Sometimes damage is attributed to kangaroos but the real perpetrator is another animal or even insects. In the Kinchega area, the NSW NPWS first thought that damage to vegetation during the 1982-83 drought was caused by kangaroos, but further investigation indicated that pasture insects were responsible. The Queensland NPWS has also drawn attention to the role of native insects, particularly termites, in pasture losses. Other animals such as pigs, mice, rabbits, hares, donkeys, goats, wombats and emus may also be responsible for damage to pasture.” (Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare, 1988)
The Australian Government and the kangaroo industry would like you to believe that the practice of killing kangaroos is humane and beneficial, even to kangaroos. Let’s see for ourselves.
The following instructions on how to euthanise young kangaroos is taken from the National Code of Practice for the Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes produced by the Australian Government:
Euthanasia of partially-furred to fully-furred pouch young
Concussive blow to the head * The most suitable method that is currently available for the euthanasia of partially-furred to fully-furred young is a concussive blow to the head (also called blunt force trauma). This method is considered acceptable as the skulls of pouch young are small, soft and thin. When it is applied correctly, unconsciousness and death will occur rapidly. * A single sharp blow to the central skull bones induces death by physical (or mechanical) damage to the central nervous system and disruption of brain activity. Death then occurs as a result of respiratory and cardiac failure. * The efficiency and humaneness of this method depends on the operators’ skill and determination. The concussive blow must be delivered with sufficient force and be precisely on target to ensure that adequate damage occurs to vital structures of the brain to cause immediate and sustained unconsciousness and death. * If this procedure is not performed correctly there will be varying degrees of consciousness and it is likely that the animal will suffer prior to death. If the first blow does not hit the skull but hits for example, the jaw or a limb, or if the brain is not sufficiently destroyed, then the animal will experience pain and distress. * To deliver the concussive blow, remove the young from the pouch, hold the young firmly by the hindquarters (around the top of the back legs and base of tail) and then swing firmly and quickly in an arc so that the joey’s head is hit against a large solid surface that will not move or compress during the impact (e.g. the tray of a utility vehicle). * DO NOT hit the joeys’ head against the railing of the utility rack, as this can result in decapitation rather than the intended concussive blow to the head. * DO NOT suspend joeys upside down by the hindquarters or tail and then try to hit the head with an iron bar (or similar). Holding them in this manner allows the joey to move around and makes it difficult to make contact with the correct location on the head. In addition, the force of the blow may not be sufficient to render the joey unconscious with only one strike. * Confirmation of the onset of death should occur immediately after the procedure and death must be confirmed within 3 minutes.A combination of all of the following criteria is the most reliable for confirming death: – No heartbeat – No breathing – No corneal reflex (no blinking when the eyeball is touched) – No response to a toe pinch (a firm squeeze of the pad on the large toe). * An animal is still conscious (sensible) and may be suffering if it is vocalising, attempts to get up, lifts up its head or is blinking. * If onset of death or death cannot be confirmed, the procedure must be repeated (i.e. apply another blow) or a secondary method of euthanasia (i.e. bleeding out by cutting the carotid arteries and jugular veins in the neck, or decapitation) applied if the animal is stunned (or unconscious). * Death must be confirmed before leaving or disposing of the carcass.
The National Code of Practice for the Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes was updated in November 2020. Feedback was sought from commercial shooters at forums in New South Wales and Queensland. The research team gave a short presentation, which was followed by an open discussion of any issues or concerns.
Commercial shooters raised the following concerns: Clarification is required on what methods can be used and how they should be applied in relation to euthanasia methods for pouch young. Some shooters are still using methods not compliant with the Code. Some shooters are still releasing larger pouch young they think can survive. More guidance is required to help make judgements about whether orphaned young-at-foot are weaned (or close to weaning) and therefore more likely to survive without their mother.
In other words, commercial shooters require more training and guidance but the only training and guidance they currently receive is what’s written in the National Code of Practice for the Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes. If what’s written in the Code was enough, shooters wouldn’t have stated that they need more training and guidance.
According to the report The ethics of the commercial killing of free-ranging kangaroos: an evaluation of the benefits and costs of the industry (Ben-Ami et al, 2014): On average, some three million kangaroos are commercially killed annually (Table2). A projection based on the above considerations (as there is no formal assessment) and the national commercial kill statistics (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Population and Communities [DSEPC] 2010) for the period 2000–2009 estimates that approximately 840,000 females, 210,000 young-at-foot and 590,000 pouch young were killed annually (Table 2).
The report states: the welfare costs include deliberate and indirect harm to dependent young (a by-product of the commercial kill), and a number of unintended harms to adult kangaroos, including increased mortality during drought, inhumane killing of a portion of adult kangaroos, and a disruption of social stability and the evolutionary potential of individuals. Furthermore, a substantial gap exists between the intended welfare standards of the code of practice governing the kangaroo industry and the welfare outcomes for both dependent young and adult kangaroos. We found that, on balance, the benefits are lower than expected and the welfare costs are likely to be considerably higher than acceptable.
The report continues: Our analysis suggests that some provisions in the Code relating to best practice by shooters are not met. First, it is unlikely that young-at-foot are killed when their mothers are shot (see above) as required by the Code (Table 1). Second, there is a strong concern about the fate of mis-shot adults. As noted above, existing evidence from RSPCA Australia and Animal Liberation NSW suggests that many kangaroos are not shot in the brain per the desired welfare standard in the Code (Table1), and it is impossible to know how many mis-shot kangaroos are left in the field. The mandated methods for pouch young euthanasia have also been questioned, as discussed above, and there is no requirement for training in the Code—for either the killing of adults, or euthanasia of pouch young.
A study conducted by Animal Liberation NSW of carcasses in 25 chillers between 2005 and 2008, identified that up to 40% of kangaroos per chiller may have been neck shot (Ben-Ami 2009).