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2023 Commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in Queensland

Life on land

"The language used by those promoting the industry “overpopulation” and claims Kangaroos are “everywhere” are designed to parrot Kangaroo industry talking points that give the public the impression Kangaroo numbers are unnaturally high". Tina Lawrence

Peter Hylands, Tina Lawrence, Andrea Hylands

November 21, 2022

This analysis looks at the 2022 population survey and estimates that form the 2023 population estimates and commercial quotas and places these in the recent historical context.

Analysis Queensland population estimates and 2023 quotas

“Drought continues to be the overriding factor affecting macropod numbers throughout much of the 'harvest' zones particularly in the central north and south. This is reflected in the reduced quotas in these regions for the 2023 harvest period”. Queensland Government

Population estimate from the 2022 survey for the three commercially exploited species is 16,267,200, a population increase of 3,307,800 or 25.5 per cent over the previous year. The commercial quota for 2023 is 2,210,400 or 13.6 per cent of estimated population. That is an increase in the commercial quota of 426,550 or 24 per cent over the previous year.

“Despite the ongoing drought conditions sufficient rainfall occurred in some parts of the 'harvest' zones over the last 12 months to produce feed for macropods, resulting in an increase in densities of some species in areas”. Queensland Government

Commercial Kangaroo shooting zones

From 2023 the shooting zones will be renamed to become:

  • no commercial exploitation zone (quota zero)
  • zone 1 (formerly western zone)
  • zone 2 (formerly north region of central zone)
  • zone 3 (formerly south region of central zone)
  • zone 4 (formerly east region of central zone)
  • zone 5 (formerly eastern zone)

Central shooting zone. Forest gone, topsoil gone, food and water gone. How humans have helped Kangaroo populations to boom!


"As at 15 February 2022, 64.7 per cent of Queensland was drought declared".
“Despite the widespread rainfall too many areas the majority of the Queensland harvest zones remain drought declared as of 15 February 2022. Queensland’s temperatures in 2021 were above average across the state with many areas throughout the year recording significantly greater than average temperatures in some months”. Queensland Government

Impact of cluster / exclusion fencing

Supported by government funding, cluster fences which now exclude or trap wildlife cover large areas in Queensland and these fences are now becoming far more common in other eastern states. The impact of these terrible fences on wildlife is devastating. Wildlife is excluded from water sources, is trapped inside the fencing when the fences are constructed and those animals inside the fences are then shot (sometimes from helicopters) and with no hope of escape, migration of wildlife is disrupted and wildlife suffers terribly when caught on / in these fences. And yes, Kangaroos are in the front line of this growing devastation.

The impact of these fences is speeding up the population decline of Kangaroos and other wildlife. Entrapment and capture of native animals in this way is illegal but nothing is done, to the contrary these practices and the use of cluster fences are encouraged by state governments.

Population trends

“Review of the DCCEEW data and the Queensland KMP Annual reports between 2010 and 2022 show ongoing substantial declines in not just Queensland Kangaroo populations of around 45 per cent in that period, corresponding to severe drought conditions. It should be noted that Kangaroo industry operations were suspended in a number of harvest zones in Queensland in 2019 and 2020 as a result of those declines. The language used by those promoting the industry “overpopulation” and claims Kangaroos are “everywhere” are designed to parrot Kangaroo industry talking points that give the public the impression Kangaroo numbers are unnaturally high, claims which are not supported by current scientific evidence or data in any of the states that operate commercial Kangaroo industry operations”. Tina Lawrence

Key findings Queensland 2022

Population estimate from the 2021 survey for the three commercially exploited species was 12,959,400, commercial quota for 2022 was 1,783,850 or 13.8 per cent of population.

High probability - Kangaroo populations in Queensland have been significantly depleted by a combination of exaggerated populations estimates, inflated quotas, intensive killing and climate change impacts.

In 2021 all 22 survey monitor blocks in Queensland were surveyed to provide the population estimate on which 2022 quotas were based. The population survey that set the quotas for the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in 2022, estimated the population of Queensland’s commercially exploited Kangaroo species at:

  • Red Kangaroo 4,595,155 (quota 837,150 – 18.2 per cent of estimated population)
  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo 6,625,574 (quota 734,750 – 11.1 percent); and
  • Wallaroo 1,738,721 (quota 211,950 – 12.2 per cent)

The total commercial quota for Queensland in 2022 was 1,783,850, in 2021 it was higher at 1,981,150.

Despite year after year of the actual take against quota not being met by a very wide margin, Queensland persists in issuing large commercial quotas for Kangaroo species that clearly do not exist in the numbers and in the places they claim. Adding further pressure on the animals that remain (and as their populations continue to decline), quotas, as a percentage of population, were higher in 2022 than they were in 2021. For example, the Wallaroo quota climbing from 8.9 per cent of the estimated population in 2021 to 12.2 per cent in 2022.

This is a clear indicator of propping up the quota.

The actual take against quota from returns submitted to 7 October 2022

Total actual take was 376,499 or 21 per cent of 2022 full year quota.

The total comprised Central Shooting Zone 300,620 out of a full year quota of 1,311,550. For the Eastern Shooting Zone 60,635 out of a full year quota of 387,100. For the Western Shooting Zone 15,244 out of a full year quota of 85,200.

“The 2022 'harvest' will be comprehensively reported on in the Queensland Commercial Macropod Management Program Annual Report 2022, due for release in March 2023”. Queensland Government

In the first 9 months of 2022, the killing for commercial gain of Wallaroos in the Eastern and Western Shooting Zones were way off target, achieving respectively, just 6 per cent and 3 per cent of the annual quota.  Given the relatively large numbers being killed to total population, the Red Kangaroo looks to me to be in very deep trouble, as are all three species.

Key findings Queensland 2021

Population estimate from the 2020 survey for the three commercially exploited species was 16,663,850, commercial quota for 2021 was 1,981,150 or 11.9 per cent of population. Quota realised was 601,164 or 30.3 per cent of quota for that year.

The population survey in 2020, that set the quotas for the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in 2021, estimated the population of Queensland’s commercially exploited Kangaroo species at:

  • Red Kangaroo 4,135,700 (quota 673,050 – 16.3 per cent) – no quota for Central South;
  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo 10,043,400 (quota 1,087,450 – 10.8 percent) – no quotas for Central South and Central North; and
  • Wallaroo 2,484,750 (quota 220,650 – 8.9 per cent) – no quota Central North, even though the trigger point to stop commercial shooting (population decline) has been reached in Central South there was still a quota of 8,100 Wallaroos in this zone.

In 2021 the actual take against quota was as follows:

Total number of Kangaroos killed for commercial purposes was 601,164 or 30.3 per cent of the full year quota. Comprising 263,243 RedKangaroos, 315,451 Eastern Grey Kangaroos and 22,470 Wallaroos.

Key findings Queensland 2020

Population estimate from the 2019 survey for the three commercially exploited species was 22,287,000. The commercial quota for 2020 was 2,825,150 or 12.7 per cent of total population. Quota realised was 514,144 or 18.2 per cent of quota for that year.

“In the 2020 harvest period, only 18.2 per cent of the commercial 'harvest' quota was utilised (they mean achieved), with the highest percentage of quota used being 77.9 per cent for Wallaroo in the central zone. The overall 'harvest' was male biased, with females comprising 21 per cent of the overall harvest”. Queensland Government

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 per cent 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.

Quotas never met because the Kangaroos do not exist

"If the old Aboriginal people were able to come back to this land, the land they once called sacred and named, there would be nothing left for them, no bush food, plant or animal, no shelter, waterholes drained or trampled." Peter Hylands

Populations have declined along with quotas, in 2020, 18.2 per cent of the quota was filled, in 2019, 24 per cent and in 2018 it was 26 per cent. 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 in which Kangaroo carcasses are stored (sometimes for lengthy periods) were being moved from Queensland to Victoria.

Serial declines of Queensland populations

“None of the three commercially exploited species has shown a consistent decline in abundance since 1992 (which would necessitate a reassessment of the commercial take and species conservation status”. Queensland Government 2021

The total Queensland population of the three commercially exploited species as given by Queensland and Commonwealth Governments is as follows:

  • 2021 – 12,959,400
  • 2020 – 16,663, 850
  • 2018 – 20,999,900
  • 2013 – 32,803,900
  • 2001 - 37,574,300

The population estimates for 2020 and 2021 show significant declines in two of the three species (the population estimates are typically far too high). For the species which are commercially exploited the situation was as follows:

  • Red Kangaroo – 2020 population estimate 4,135,700 / 2021 population estimate 4,595,150;
  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo – 2020 population estimate 10,043,400 / 2021 population estimate 6,625,550; and
  • Wallaroo – 2020 population estimate 2,484,750 / 2021 population estimate 1,738,700.

Ethics, governance and conservation

If you want to be really angry about what is happening to wildlife populations around the world, Queensland is a very good place to start. Apart from anything else, the so called humane killing of Kangaroos promoted by the Queensland Government, is in reality brutal, sometimes engaging young children in the extreme violence towards native animals, violence that is sometimes sexualised by adults, both male and female. This is not only awful for the animals who often die terrible deaths, but for the people engaged in the killing and the culture that has to live with it.

“The claim that the activity of killing Kangaroos for commercial purposes is ‘professional’ is not borne out by the extensive evidence of widespread use of inhumane practices in the Kangaroo industry. Repeated investigations (including RSPCA investigations in 1985 and 2000-2002, independent investigations into wounding rates in 2008-2009 and the Commonwealth Government’s own investigation of the use of inhumane practices within the Kangaroos industry between 2011 and 2013, details of which were published in a report in 2014 (McLeod, Sharp 2014)) into the slaughter practices employed in the Kangaroo industry, have demonstrated that even under observation there is widespread and routine non-compliance with the minimum animal welfare standards set out in the Code of Practice. These investigations found evidence of unacceptably high non head shot/wounding rates (in one study of up to 40 per cent), a consistent failure to address the welfare of the young at foot which were often left to die after their mothers were shot and the routine use of unacceptable methods of killing pouch young. There is no evidence that in the 35 years Codes of Practice have been in operation, there has been any verifiable improvement in welfare outcomes for adult Kangaroos or their dependent orphaned young”. Tina Lawrence

Other species caught up in the propaganda and carnage


In September 2022 the ABC made the claim that there were a growing number of people joining the commercial Kangaroo industry in Queensland.

“Review of the Queensland Kangaroo Management programs annual reports between 2010 and 2022 confirm the number of licensed Kangaroo shooters in Queensland has declined from 1,314 to 968 in that time.  The same trend can be seen in state government reporting on the Kangaroo industry in NSW, SA and WA”. Tina Lawrence


The ABC went on to claim that the Kangaroo industry was well regulated.

“There is no evidence that this claim is true. In Queensland, where this claim was made, review of the Queensland Annual Kangaroo Harvest reports from 2010 to 2020 confirms that in that period, there were extremely low levels of inspection and enforcement activity in relation to Kangaroo shooters. There were no inspections of Kangaroo shooters at all before 2013.  Between 2013 and 2020 the inspection rate was just 3.1 per cent of the active Kangaroo shooters in the state pa. Critically, there were no inspections at the point of kill to determine compliance with the Code of Practice and food safety standards.  The low levels of inspection and enforcement in the industry were also a matter of concern in evidence given to the NSW Inquiry into Kangaroos in 2021 and in earlier inquiries into the Kangaroo industry by the Senate in 1988 and the House of Representatives in 1998”. Tina Lawence

If it moves, shoot it


The ABC also claimed that the Kangaroo industry could not keep up with increasing demand.

“Again this is untrue. Demand for Kangaroo products, including meat has been declining since 2009 following the loss of the Russian Federation market that constituted 70 per cent of Kangaroo meat exports. This decline in demand has been extensively documented in NSW Kangaroo Management annual reports 2010 to 2021 and KMAP (NSW) Minutes of Meetings 2010 to 2021. As well, ABS data based on AHECC classifications note significant declines in the value of Kangaroo meat exports between 2014 and 2019 of 27 per cent to AUD 14.86 million. ABS data also confirmed that in 2019-2020, approximately $12.8 million worth of edible Kangaroo meat was exported to 15 countries by four export establishments”. Tina Lawrence

Recent history in Queensland

The species in Queensland exploited commercially are the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, the Red Kangaroo and the Wallaroo.

The Whiptail Wallaby was also a target of commercial exploitation in Queensland despite any understanding of population numbers and the impact of mass killing of the species for commercial gain. There appear to have been significant fluctuations in the numbers of animals being killed each year in a range of 3,300 in 1967 to 53,900 in 1979. The species is no longer killed for commercial gain.

Queensland is divided into these main commercial shooting zones plus subdivisions (Kangaroos) – until 2023 these were: Central East / Central North / CentralSouth / 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 per cent of the estimated population for each species killed for commercial purposes.

Since regionalisation of Queensland's commercial exploitation of Kangaroos was introduced in 2003, an estimate of Kangaroo population size in the eastern and western zones has been made. Since 2011 a correction factor of 1.85 has been applied to population estimates for the Wallaroo. Prior to 2011 a correction factor of 1.2 was applied.

Population surveys for Kangaroos in Queensland commenced in1980, 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 895,824 km2 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.

“Quotas up to 20 per cent of population estimates are considered sustainable”. Queensland Government

Damage Mitigation Permits (DMP) are also issued in Queensland and include commercially exploited Kangaroo species on the pretext that these animals ‘are causing, or may cause, damage or loss; or are threats to human health or wellbeing’ (funny if it was not so sad). The total number of commercially exploited Kangaroos allowed to be taken under these permits are limited to a maximum of two per cent of the estimated population for each species.

Damage mitigation permits

Since 2020, from the data available from the Queensland Government, this was the situation regarding additional deaths using mitigation permits for the three species currently subject to commercial exploitation in Queensland. The numbers in themselves are staggering but they also appear to show declining demand for the use of mitigation permits, a sign that Kangaroos may longer be present in some places.

  • 2020: Damage mitigation quota was 445,740, actual number of animals authorised to be killed by permit was 99,679;
  • 2021: Damage mitigation quota was 330,277, actual number of animals authorised to be killed by permit was 67,619; and
  • 2022 (to 6 September): Damage mitigation quota was 259,188, actual number of animals authorised to be killed by permit was 29,951.