Kangaroo Population Estimates are False and Misleading

Biologically Impossible Population Increases

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.

August 2021Below average
September 2021Very much below average
October 2021 Below average
November 2021Above average
December 2021Below average
January 2022Above average (except for southeast)
February 2022Above average/Very much below average for far west and southeast
March 2022Above 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.

South Australia in October 2021 (bom.gov.au)
Drought archive (bom.gov.au)
Climate summaries archive (bom.gov.au)

The Dangers of Kangaroo Meat

The following information can be downloaded as a PDF.

Unhygienic Wildlife Trade

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.

Chiller Boxes

A picture containing outdoor, grass, building, parked

Description automatically generatedShipping 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.

Kangaroo meat not as healthy as you think
The Raw Truth on Raw Dog Food Diets
Why Does Australia Kill Kangaroos?
Volunteer Non-Commercial Kangaroo Shooters Best Practice Guide (nsw.gov.au)