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2023 Commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in New South Wales

Life on land

“It is intensely sad to see the last remaining Australian wildlife in these places and to know so well the fate that awaits them”. Peter Hylands

Peter and Andrea Hylands

May 21, 2023

Given the catastrophic impacts from drought, fires and floods, it seems next to impossible that any Australian mammal species could increase in population. Given the ongoing mass slaughter of Kangaroos in New South Wales during these terrible conditions, we would rate the probability that Kangaroo populations in New South Wales are increasing as next to zero. The recent New South Wales Kangaroo Inquiry raised a number of serious questions, not one has been properly answered.

Visit to the Lower Darling and Broken Hill shooting zones

Following the release of the 2023 quotas for New South Wales and claims of yet another increase in the population of the commercially exploited Kangaroo species, we decided to visit two Kangaroo shooting zones in New South Wales over the New Year period in late December 2022 and early January in 2023.

These were the Lower Darling and Broken Hill shooing zones. Conditions were very hot with flooding in the major river systems, including the Murray River to the south of these regions and the Darling River continued to be severe. There was an evident lack of birdlife in the river systems and wetlands we visited on our journey.

The 2023 New South Wales commercial Kangaroo quota report gives the population of Grey and Red Kangaroos in these two shooting zones at 2,965,948 animals. This comprises in the Broken Hill shooting zone of 1,746,169 Red Kangaroos and 211, 832 Grey Kangaroos, with a combined per square kilometer density of 21.5 Kangaroos. For the Lower Darling shooting zone the report claimed a population of 667,099 Red Kangaroos and 340,884 Grey Kangaroos, with a combined per square kilometer density of 17.8 Kangaroos.

We spent 6 days travelling in these two zones, covering about 1,300 kilometers in our search for Kangaroos. One trip involved travelling the Silver City Highway which services mining activities and industrial scale animal production to Broken Hill and beyond. There were no dead Kangaroos, either recent or old, on the highway.

We would have expected to see many dead Kangaroos here if the population densities were as stated in the 2023 quota report. Instead there were none.

Other trips involved travel on dirt tracks dissecting these zones east to west. We discovered one dead Kangaroo that had been run over on a dirt track, another Kangaroo on the banks of the Darling River that had been shot.

In six days of searching these shooting zones, at last and towards the end of our time there, we discovered one living Kangaroo. So, where there is an estimated population of just under 3 million Kangaroos, we counted just one living Kangaroo.

On edge and ready to escape. After 6 days of searching, our only living Kangaroo

Our single Kangaroo aside, the only other larger Australian wildlife we saw were Emus, perhaps a dozen or so on our journey. Sadly and on dirt tracks in these shooting zones we discovered Emus that had been run down by cars and utes, including evidence of vehicles moving across the road from one side to the other to mow down the young birds after the adult had been killed.

These shooting zones had also been subject to aerial drops of the deadly 1080 poison adding to the depressing hopelessness of these places. How do we come to treat our world in this way?

It is always possible to tell that animals are frightened and, in these places, there was no doubt that we had come across yet more Australian landscapes of fear.

Population estimates and quotas

New South Wales is divided into fifteen commercial Kangaroo shooting zones. Commercial exploitation of Kangaroos is prohibited within national parks and other reserved areas. Commercial exploitation of Kangaroos occurs on private land with the permission of the landholder.

The surveys conducted in 2022 gave a population and quota for commercially exploited Kangaroo species in New South Wales for 2023 as follows:

  • The 2022 survey gave a population estimate of commercially exploited species of 11,882,215, up from the previous year when the population estimate was 10,913,343;
  • Quotas for 2023 were also up at 1,850,228 Kangaroos, with a maximum special quota of 178,233 that may be made available in specific circumstances;
  • In 2022 the quota was 1,692,207 with a maximum special quota of 163,612; and
  • In 2021 the quota was 1,598,761.

Quotas for the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in New South Wales are increasing again, year on year, despite dire climate impacts including catastrophic fires, droughts and floods.

2023: Population estimates and quota by species

  • Red Kangaroo: Population estimate 4,229,211 / quota 718,967 / special quota 63,438;
  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Population estimate for Western Plains 2,726,071 / quota 392,963 / special quota 40,891;
  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Population estimate for Central and Northern Tablelands and South East Tablelands 3,840,9901 / quota 576,149 / special quota 57,615;
  • Western Grey Kangaroo: Population estimate 720,327 / quota 107,307 / special quota 10,805; and
  • Wallaroo: Population estimate for Northern Tablelands (from 2019 survey) 365,616 / quota 54,842 / special quota 5,484.

The main quota as a percentage of the population estimate ranges between 17 per cent to 14.4 per cent of the population, depending on species and location.

Given these population estimates appear to be vastly overstated, our view is that 2023 represents a step change in what can be got away with. Similar issues are occurring in the other states. So when it comes to killing the Kangaroos that remain, the gloves are off and these wonderful animals will be wiped from the face of the Earth. At the same time, the propaganda against these animals, used to justify the slaughter, becomes more and more outlandish and silly.

Road kill: A Goanna guards a dead Emu, Lower Darling shooting zone

The story for 2022

The 2022 full year actual commercial take in New South Wales was 402,719 Kangaroos against the full year quota 1,692,207, that is 23.8 percent of the quota for that year. 24 per cent of the Kangaroos killed commercially in New South Wales in 2022 were females.

“The 2022 commercial harvest is lower than that reported for the previous year, in both absolute terms and as a percentage of quota”. Government of New South Wales

Lowest take against quota was in the Cobar shooting zone where 8.7 per cent of the quota was achieved, that is 3,570 animals were killed for commercial gain. The highest actual take against quota was 60.1 per cent in the Griffith South shooting zone where 57,679 Kangaroos were killed for commercial gain.

The New South Wales commercial kill was made up from the following species, 59 per cent were Eastern Grey Kangaroos, 33 per cent were Red Kangaroos, 5 per cent were Western Grey Kangaroos and 2 per cent were Wallaroos.

A special quota was not used during 2022.

Permits to harm protected wildlife (damage mitigation permits) were also issued to kill the four Kangaroo species on the commercial list. In 2002 these non-commercial permits within the state’s shooting zones were issued to kill 100,043 animals and as far as I can tell and according to the government, the maximum actual likely killed was 56,613 Kangaroos. I suspect the actual number will turn out to be around 40,000, that is 40 percent of the number originally proposed. The New South Wales Government issues a large number of harm permits to kill numerous native species, including other Macropod species not included here.

A grim innovation pointing to dwindling Kangaroo populations:

“A trial of mobile chillers was conducted during 2022. Three licensed harvesters registered mobile chillers for the trial and several valuable lessons were learnt. Mobile chillers are now included as a routine part of the NSW Commercial Kangaroo Management Program licensing framework”. Government of New South Wales

Figures for the first 9 months of 2022 which include shooter returns to 10 October 2022 were as follows:

“Flooding has limited ‘harvesting’. ‘Harvest’ to date is at 19 per cent of quota compared to 22 per cent of quota this time last year. Tag orders down 14 per cent compared to last year”. KMAP, November 2022

The Kangaroo story, following the state's inquiry into these mattes, continues to unfold.  

For all species for this period, 318,225 Kangaroo were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 1,692,207, just 19 per cent of the quota.

For individual Kangaroo species in 2022 in the first nine months

  • For the Eastern Grey Kangaroo 189,009 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 933,037, 20 per cent of the quota;
  • For the Red Kangaroo 105,730 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 619,932, 17 per cent of the quota;
  • For the Wallaroo 6,135 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 44,484, 14 per cent of the quota and

For the Western Grey Kangaroo 17,351 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 94,754,18 per cent of the quota.

“The commercial Kangaroo ‘harvest’ quota is based on harvesting a proportion of the estimated population. Annual commercial harvest quotas are set at a proportion of the estimated Kangaroo populations. Quotas are generally set at 17 per cent of the estimated population for Red Kangaroos, and for Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Western Grey Kangaroos and Wallaroos, 15 per cent of the estimated population”. New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment


Four species of Kangaroo were exploited for commercial gain during the periods discussed. These are the Red Kangaroo, the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, the Western Grey Kangaroo and the Wallaroo.

Kangaroos are also killed in other ways including:

“Non-commercial culling is available to landholders throughout New South Wales to help manage the impact of Kangaroos on their land. Maximum culling limits are set annually, based on the same population survey data that is used for the setting of commercial Kangaroo 'harvest' quotas”. Government of New South Wales

Kangaroo shooting zones in New South Wales, map courtesy New South Wales Goverment

Zones impacted by a reduced or suspended quota in 2022

If what was being done was sustainable as claimed, there would be no need to close zones or reduce quotas. Given the claimed population increases it looks unlikely that there will be any zone closures in 2023 despite the reality of what is likely to be occurring, even in Tibooburra and Cobar.

“The density of Grey Kangaroos in Tibooburra, Bourke and Narrabri was estimated to be 0.30, 0.55 and 4.41 respectively. This places Grey Kangaroos between the upper and lower thresholds for those Kangaroo shooting zones. Consequently, they will have a reduced10 per cent quota for Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Tibooburra, Bourke and Narrabri zones) and Western Grey Kangaroos (Tibooburra and Bourke zones only)”. Government of New South Wales

Recent history

In 2021 the actual take against quota

  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo was 32.5 per cent, that is 321,550 animals instead of the intended kill of 988,660;
  • Western Grey Kangaroo was 28 per cent, that is 25,752 animals instead of the intended kill of 90,765;
  • Red Kangaroo was 30 per cent, that is 142,108 animals instead of the intended kill of 474,852; and
  • Wallaroo was 18 per cent, that is 7,875 animals instead of the intended kill of 44,484.

The 2021 actual commercial kill for all Kangaroo species in NSW was 497,285 (31 per cent of heavily reduced quota), up from 469,186 in 2020, when 22 per cent of the quota was met. The actuals for 2022 are likely to prove very telling.

2020 and 2021 compared

The commercial quota for the four species in 2020 was 2,146,615 with a special quota of 212,376 (revised to 2,126,176) falling to 1,598,761 in 2021, with a special quota of 156,788 in 2021. In 2021 the quota represented 15.3 per cent of their estimated population of the four species in New South Wales of 10,452,526.

In 2020 the actual take against quota was:

  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo was 23 per cent, that is 329,235 animals instead of the intended kill of 1,408,964;
  • Western Grey Kangaroo was 14.5 per cent, that is 18,907 animals instead of the intended kill of 129,030;
  • Red Kangaroo was 20 per cent, that is 115,053 animals instead of the intended kill of 564,137; and
  • Wallaroo was 11 / 25 per cent, that is 5,991 animals instead of the intended kill of 44,484 (revised down to 24,045).

In 2020, 32 per cent of Kangaroos killed for commercial gain in New South Wales were female (150,139). These numbers do not include joeys killed in the process, estimated at an additional 55,000).

Dangerous places, including for the sheep

More places Kangaroos in New South Wales can be killed for commercial gain. An old trick, but not even the expansion of commercial shooting zones has helped much when it comes to bolstering the numbers.

“The commercial Kangaroo ‘management’ area was expanded in 2020 to take in the former Wagga Wagga non-commercial zone to provide landholders with additional options to manage Kangaroo numbers. Expanding the Griffith Zone to include the new area increased it from 98,171 to 129,884 square kilometers. To achieve more refined management, this area was divided into the two new zones of Griffith North (65,758 square kilometers) and Griffith South (64,126 square kilometers)”. New South Wales Department of Planning, industry and Environment
“Zone boundaries: How to address requests for commercial harvesting outside of commercial harvest zones? The KMP receives enquiries and requests for commercial harvesting in areas outside of commercial harvest zones. Options include extending boundaries or look at exemptions – neither are straight forward options”..... KMAP, November 2022

Exclusion fencing: A scourge for wildlife

There are terrible scenes on highways like the Gwydir Highway in New South Wales, along which 2.4 meter high exclusion or cluster fences in some places now stretch both sides of the highway. For wildlife and for large numbers of Kangaroos, now excluded from the land on which they once lived, it means life on the road verge where road-trains which are unable to stop, roar by 24 hours a day. The slaughter of wildlife on these roads is catastrophic.

Exclusion fencing, Gwydir Highway, northern NSW, image courtesy Greg Keightley

Greg Keightley, AJP Parliamentary Candidate, reports that:

“A local wildlife carer who we met with described her desperation in dealing with Kangaroos 'stuck' within the first 6.5 kilometers of the exclusion fencing after construction. The Kangaroos, left with nowhere to escape, maimed and killed by the huge road-trains carrying cattle 24 hours a day along this route. A local petrol station owner described the trauma expressed by truck drivers who stopped for fuel as having little option other than driving into the bewildered Kangaroos which were obviously displaced and unable to get back to where they lived”.

The impact of exclusion fencing on the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos

Typically, Kangaroo shooters who are killing Kangaroos for commercial gain do not like cluster or exclusion fencing. This type of fencing allows Australian wildlife (described as competition) to be herded against exclusion fence lines which they cannot cross and then these animals are then shot or run down where they are trapped.

“A western Queensland grazier has stopped the flow of Kangaroos onto his property with a wildlife exclusion fence”. ABC, August 2014

This type of exclusion fence killing is not commercial and eradicates Kangaroo populations. This in turn, has seen consultants to the industry trying to establish the idea that Kangaroos can be farmed, these are wild animals, and that farmers should allow Kangaroos to co-exist with cattle, sheep and goats. Then the Kangaroos can be killed for commercial gain. This idea does not appear to be gaining traction for the simple reason, given long held cultural attitudes, farmers typically do not want to share their land with wildlife. There are exceptions to this, but sadly not many.