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2023 Commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in Western Australia

Life on land

The Western Australian Government’s annual report on the commercial ‘harvest’ of Kangaroos in Western Australia in 2022 was published in April 2023. The Western Australian Government has also provided the number of Kangaroos subject to mitigation permits for this analysis.

Peter and Andrea Hylands

August 2, 2023

What is interesting here is that the population surveys conducted by the states on mainland Australia in 2022 (gives the 2023 quotas) all show significant and highly improbable increases in the populations (and as a result quotas) of the commercially exploited Kangaroo species. The exception to the rule in 2023 is Western Australia where the numbers show decline with every indicator nationwide suggesting they are correct in their assumption.

Tea wrapper 1900

2023 estimates

The population estimate for the commercially exploited species of Kangaroo in Western Australia for 2023 from which the commercial quota is derived is as follows:

The 2023 population estimate (derived from 2022 surveys) for the two commercially exploited Kangaroo species in Western Australia was 2,156,550 (falling from 2,399,190 in 2021), comprised 736,630 Red Kangaroos (falling from 1,219,645 in 2021) and 1,419,920 Western Grey Kangaroos (increasing from 1,179,545 in 2021).

2023 quota for both species was 328,470 (falling from 375,410 in 2021).

Discussing the detail of the estimates, the Western Australian Government states:

"Population estimates for 2022 (basis for 2023 quotas) indicated that Western Grey Kangaroos remained at relative low density in the SE Population Monitoring Zone (PMZ) at 0.37 individuals per km2. Aerial surveys were last undertaken in the SE PMZ in September 2021 and previously in 2017. The SE PMZ has experienced average rainfall and below average to extremely low pasture growth over the last 24 months. It is likely that higher quality habitat for Western Grey Kangaroos exists in the coastal South East Agricultural (SEA) Management Area of the SE PMZ supporting higher densities. Above average rainfall and extremely high pasture growth along coastal areas of the SEA Management Area over the last 24 months supports this assumption".

Suspensions 

"In accordance with the Management Plan for the Commercial Harvest of Kangaroos in Western Australia 2019-2023, Action 12 (DBCA 2019), the commercial harvest rate is to be suspended if aerial surveys indicate that the Western Grey Kangaroo population density within the SE PMZ or within Management Areas within the PMZ has fallen ≤0.80 individuals per km2. Therefore, harvest of Western Grey Kangaroos can only occur from within the SEA Kangaroo Management Area within the SE PMZ and there is to be no harvest of Western Grey Kangaroos in remainder of the SE PMZ in 2023".

2022 actuals

Red Kangaroo: Total killed for commercial gain was 19,660 out of a quota for the year of 207,340. That is 9.5 per cent of quota. 23.5 per cent of the actual take were female. The average carcass weight for male Kangaroos was 25.4 kilos and for females was 15.2 kilos. The average carcass weight of Red Kangaroos in the Northern shooting zone has fallen significantly over the last 50 years.

Western Grey Kangaroos: Total killed for commercial gain was 62,554 out of a quota for the year of 168,070. That is 37.2 per cent of quota. 35.4 per cent of the actual take were female. The average carcass weight for male Kangaroos was 29.5 kilos and for females was 17.7 kilos.

The Wester Australian Government describe climate conditions in Western Australia in 2022:

“Western Australia’s above average annual rainfall in 2022 was largely due to the second-wettest spring on record. The state-wide annual maximum and minimum temperatures were above average, but it was the coolest daytime temperatures since 2011. Early in January, an extreme to severe heatwave was observed in the Pilbara with temperatures climbing over 50 degrees at multiple sites”.

The old debate about whether the low actual take against quota is a demand or supply issue continues. We should remember that the major processor of Kangaroo carcasses in Western Australia closed its doors in 2016:

“VIP Pet Foods CEO David Grant said declining numbers of Kangaroos in WA coupled with an underutilisation of the company's processing plant in Perth were the driving factors in the decision. It's simply a financial decision, we have plenty of capacity in our Queensland facility and better access to Kangaroos so it makes sense to process it all in the one location. He said the company would now source mainly Eastern Grey Kangaroos from NSW, South Australia, Victoria and Far North Queensland”.

In its commercial harvest report for 2022 the Western Australian Government states:

“Limited demand for carcasses from processors continues to contribute to the significant reduction in active shooting of Kangaroos for commercial purposes. There has not been a significant increase in demand across the industry”.

Mitigation permits

It might be that the damage mitigation data, that is Kangaroos killed under non-commercial permits, tells a different story. The number of licences issued and the number of Kangaroos targeted by those licences is listed below:

  • 2020: 28 licences were issued for 3,519 Western Grey Kangaroos and 2,000 Red Kangaroos;
  • 2021: 20 licences were issued for 2,445 Western Grey Kangaroos and 25 Red Kangaroos; and
  • 2022: 10 licences were issued for 1,324 Western Grey Kangaroos and 450 Euros.

NOTE: For 2020, the licences were issued manually with no real mechanism for returns to be collected. These were issued for 1 year. From 2021, the licences were issued from the Western Australian Government’s online licensing portal, this means that return data will be collected. However, nearly all of these licenses were issued for 3 year terms, so no data has had to be entered to date.

Recent history of the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in Western Australia

The original commercial quota for 2022 was based on a population estimate of the two commercially exploited species of 2,399,190. The original commercial quota for the year was 375,410 (represents 17 per cent of estimated population of Red Kangaroos and 14 per cent of estimated population for Western Grey Kangaroos).

“In accordance with the Management Plan for the Commercial Harvest of Kangaroos in Western Australia 2019-2023, Action 12 (DBCA 2019), the commercial harvest rate is to be suspended if aerial surveys indicate that the Western Grey Kangaroo population density within the SE PMZ or within Management Areas within the PMZ has fallen ≤0.80 individuals per km2. The suspensions will remain in place until surveys, or populations estimates corrected for trends in rainfall, indicate that Kangaroo densities have increased above the 0.80 individuals per km2 density threshold. Therefore, harvest of Western Grey Kangaroos can only occur from within the SEA Kangaroo Management Area within the PMZ, and there is to be no harvest of Western Grey Kangaroos in remainder of the SE PMZ in 2022”. Western Australian Government

Brief background to the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in Western Australia

Two species of Kangaroo are currently killed for commercial gain in Western Australia, the Red Kangaroo and the Western Grey Kangaroo.

“Aerial surveys from fixed-wing aircraft are conducted to estimate the size of Kangaroo populations within each zone. Survey lines have been established at regular intervals across the harvest region and the same lines are surveyed during the same season in each survey period to allow comparison of results between years. No regular quantitative ground surveys are undertaken in Western Australia”. Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions

Early preoccupations for the Western Australian Government concerned railways, Kangaroos and ‘natives’. Extracts from the Western Australian Government Hansard follow:

“Repeal of license to kill Kangaroos bill. The Colonial Secretary, in accordance with notice, moved for leave to bring in a Bill to Repeal an Ordinance to Provide for the issue of Licenses to kill Kangaroos. He said this Bill had been introduced at the request of a number of settlers. Kangaroos and other wild animals had increased so greatly, that their destruction was absolutely necessary. The natives were not numerous enough to consume them, and besides they now lived more on flour which they procured from the European population, than on the Kangaroo and other animals. As this was an important Bill, he would propose the second reading for Wednesday, the 16th inst. The Bill was read a first time”. 6 December 1870
“The natives had so decreased that their destruction (Kangaroos) was necessary, as they ate up the natural grass from sheep and cattle. Mr. Monger said that it might suit Mr Padbury to have them destroyed, as there may not be many natives in his part of the country, but he could assure hon. members that to the eastward of York the natives lived upon them”. 20 December 1870 
“But he thought, now that such an impetus had been given to this particular industry, the colony should obtain some return from the large exportation of skins now going on. It must be remembered also that these persons who were going about destroying Kangaroos were a great nuisance to station-owners. Complaints were made that they were constantly destroying people's sheep, besides creating a nuisance by their practice of leaving the carcases of Kangaroos about in all directions, which, in hot weather, caused a most disagreeable stench.14 March 1888

2021 actuals

Population estimate 2,412,050.

Commercial quota 381,880 (represents 17 per cent of estimated population of Red Kangaroos and 15 per cent of estimated population for Western Grey Kangaroos).

2021 actuals to end October were: for the Western Grey Kangaroo a total of 46,835 had been shot for commercial purposes, 16,198 (35 per cent) were female at an average weight of 17.6 kilos (approximate gross value of females $13 each). For the Red Kangaroo a total of 14,919 were shot, 3,659 (25 per cent) were female with an average weight of 15.2 kilos (approximate gross value of females $11.40 each). In the first ten months of 2021, just 16 per cent of the quota was filled.

The full year results for 2021 became available to us in September 2022. In total, including both species, 85,613 Kangaroos were killed for commercial gain, that is just 22.5 percent of the quota. Yet again, the take against quota is low, this does not mean there are no shooters, there are plenty of them, it means there are no Kangaroos.

In 2021 the total number of Red Kangaroos killed for commercial purposes was 22,814 of which 28.2 per cent were female. 13,588 of these animals were from the South Eastern Zone. There was no commercial killing activity of Red Kangaroos in the South Western Zone. The average weight of males was 25 kilos and the average weight of females was15.4 kilos.

For the Western Grey Kangaroo, the total number of animals killed for commercial purposes was 62,799 of which 33.8 per cent were females. Joeys are not accounted for but some thousands will have been killed or would have starved to death, and that takes out the next generation. Of the animals killed, 51,449 were from the South Western Zone. There was no commercial killing activity of Western Grey Kangaroos in the Northern Zone. The average weight of males was 29.6 kilos and the average weight of females was 17.8 kilos.

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 was set at 17 per cent of the annual population estimate, for the Western Grey Kangaroo the quota was set at 15 percent. Since 2003 the number of Kangaroos killed commercially shows significant decline. There was no commercial harvest of Euros from 2003-2006 and from 2010-2015. There was 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.

2020 actuals

  • Population (estimate) 2,412,050. 
  • Commercial quota Red Kangaroo 217,360 / actual take 30,022 /13.8 per cent of quota taken / 25 per cent females.
  • Commercial quota Western Grey Kangaroo 271,770 / actual take 70,871 / 26.1 per cent of quota taken / 35 per cent females.

2019 actuals

  • Population (estimate) 3,090,605.
  • Commercial quota Red Kangaroo 310,370 / actual take 28,546 / 9.2 per cent of quota taken / 22 per cent females.
  • Commercial quota Western Grey Kangaroo 363,570 / actual take 59,926 / 16.5 per cent of quota taken / 27 per cent females.

2018 actuals

  • Population (estimate) 4,249,560.
  • Commercial quota Red Kangaroo 248,900 / actual take 19,044 / 7.6 per cent of quota taken / 22 per cent females.
  • Commercial quota Western Grey Kangaroo 340,540 / actual take 47,720 / 14 per cent of quota taken / 25 per cent females.

2017 actuals

  • Population (estimate) 3,734,775.
  • Commercial quota Red Kangaroo 185,000 / actual take 17,844 / 9.6 per cent of quota taken / 20 per cent females.
  • Commercial quota Western Grey Kangaroo 191,325 / actual take 50,993 / 26 per cent of quota taken / 20 per cent females.

2016 actuals

  • Population (estimate) 2,489,700.
  • Commercial quota Red Kangaroo 131,500 / actual take 22,236 /16.9 per cent of quota taken / 18 per cent females.
  • Commercial quota Western Grey Kangaroo 216,400 / actual take 68,985 / 31.9 per cent of quota taken / 33 per cent females.

Population estimates commercially exploited species in Western Australia 2001–2015

  • 2015   2,392,800
  • 2014   1,656,292
  • 2013   1,841,501
  • 2012   1,204,799
  • 2011   1,815,719
  • 2010   2,258,107
  • 2009   2,557,970
  • 2008   2,020,125
  • 2007   2,617,175
  • 2006   2,256,600
  • 2005   2,636,800
  • 2004   3,051,345
  • 2003   2,413,400
  • 2002   2,316,800
  • 2001   2,497,480

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

For decades the ABC, and Western Australia is no different, has broadcast poorly researched and extremely prejudicial material regarding Kangaroos. This continues despite the ABC being given the actual data. I would ask ABC journalists to think carefully about the damage they are doing, not only to Australia’s Macropod species, but to the standards we all expect from journalists in a publicly funded broadcaster. Examples follow.

ABC News October 2019: Land holders are calling for the' roo meat industry to ramp up. Kangaroo numbers in Western Australia have jumped dramatically in recent years, prompting calls for an expansion of the state's Kangaroo meat industry. Western Grey Kangaroo numbers have doubled since 2014 while the Red Kangaroo population has quadrupled.

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.

Claiming a population of 50 million commercially exploited Kangaroos species in 2021(which is false, as the official Australian Government figure for 2021 is 30.6 million – also significantly overstated), the ABC is yet again and cruelly promoting the further exploitation of Australian wildlife, while doing so, ignoring significant dangers to human health. This is what Australia's national broadcaster has to say headlining its articles Has Australia got too many Kangaroos?:

“Our Kangaroo population is booming and competing with resources with farmers, so should we be eating more of them” ABC Perth 14 October 2022.

After I (Peter Hylands) spoke to the ABC producers in Perth and gave them the actual Australian Government number for that year, they ignored the information I gave them and instead adjusted their article to the official number from the previous year. I guess having to report a 20 million drop was just more than they could bear. The article still stands uncorrected:

“Back in 2009 there were around 27 million Kangaroos in Australia and now it is estimated there are 42.7 million, according to the Commonwealth Government”.

Here is an extract of my correspondence with the producer:

“It appears that you have not corrected this article for a second time - it also needs an explanation that the ABC got the numbers wrong, not once, but twice. See my email of 22 October to both you and Damian. See table in attached document about yet an ABC QLD bit of nonsense. The Commonwealth Government number for 2021 was 30,671,768. This number itself is far too high and claims by the government that the numbers are higher are highly improbable given our detailed analysis of the situation”.

Concluding remarks

Too many females with young (and joeys are not accounted for) being killed and quotas too high to not seriously impact Kangaroo populations in Western Australia. I have serious concerns for the Red Kangaroo and Euro, things are not looking too bright for the Western Grey Kangaroo either.

What is interesting here is that the population surveys conducted by the states on mainland Australia in 2022 (gives the 2023 quotas) all show significant and highly improbable increases in the populations (and as a result quotas) of the commercially exploited Kangaroo species. The exception to the rule is Western Australia where the numbers show decline with every indicator nationwide suggesting they are correct in their assumption and this trend should be applied Australia wide. For the first time ever Victoria is claiming a higher population of Grey Kangaroos than Western Australia. That should set alarm bells ringing about the Victorian Government's claims.