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2024: Commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in New South Wales

Life on land

“Kangaroo shooters who are killing Kangaroos for profit do not like cluster fencing. This type of extensive fencing means Australian wildlife can be herded against these fences, which they cannot cross, where these animals are then shot or run down where they are trapped”.

Peter and Andrea Hylands

February 9, 2024

This is a quick summary of the situation for the commercially exploited species of Kangaroos in New South Wales. We will write this up in more detail once we understand what occurred in full year 2023. It appears that the population estimates continue to be hyper-inflated, which in turn drives up the quotas to such high levels that there is no possibility that quotas can be 'sustainable' as always claimed.

As an example of evolution, the Australian Continent, with its monotremes and marsupials, is just as extraordinary as the Galapagos Islands, which so excited Darwin’s imagination that he evolved the whole evolutionary thesis. Gerald Durrell, 1966

The population estimates and quotas for 2024 were published by the New South Wales Government on 18 December 2023. The only other state to publish quotas for 2024 so far is Queensland, information about which is also summarised in the Earth Section of the Nature Knowledge Channel.

  • Population estimate 9,634,900 down from 11,882,215 in the previous year.
  • 2024 Quota 1,484,072 down from 1,850,228 in 2023.

SUMMARY OF ACTUAL TAKE

Actual take against commercial quota (note quota differs each year, sometimes difference is substantial) (excludes death of joeys)

  • 2020 - 469,186 or 22 per cent
  • 2021 - 497,285 or 31 per cent - rise a function of a small quota for the year
  • 2022 - 402,719 or 24 per cent - small rise in quota from 2021
  • 2023 - 462,611 to 30/11/2023 or 25 per cent of quota

As a comparison, in 1997 in NSW the actual take was 897,937, in 1998 it was 940,789 animals - so in a range of roughly 900,000 to one million. So the take has fallen significantly as has percentage of take against quota.

Alternative Kangaroo facts

According to the NSW Government, Kangaroo populations increase if it rains, and they increase if it doesn’t rain, and drought makes populations decline, and rain makes populations decline. So governments say anything to support reported numbers going up or down, even if they have just said the opposite thing to what they had said a few weeks ago.

2024 commercial quota for Kangaroos in New South Wales

In New South Wales, four species of Kangaroo are exploited for commercial gain, these are the Red Kangaroo, the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, the Western Grey Kangaroo and the Wallaroo.

  • The total quota for the commercial exploitation in New South Wales in 2024 is 1,484,072 Kangaroos (down from 1,850,228 in 2023). There is also a maximum special quota of 144,523 (down from 178,233 in 2023) that may be made available in specific circumstances.
  • The population estimate of the four commercial species in 2023, from which the 2024 quota is derived, was 9,634,900 (down from 11,882,215 in the previous year).

Commercial shooting in New South Wales occurs across 15 shooting zones covering the entire state with the exception of the coastal strip.

Some recent history

  • 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, derived from the 2022 population survey, 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, the actual take against quota was 402,719 or 24 per cent. Female Kangaroos (excluding their joeys) killed for commercial gain accounted for 24 per cent of the total at 96,650 animals; and
  • In 2021 the quota was 1,598,761. The 2021 actual against quota for all Kangaroo species in New South Wales 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.

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 469,186.
  • 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).

Cost of surveys

‘Managing’ Kangaroos is a very expensive business, large scale public expenditures are made each year, in all states, to conduct Kangaroo population surveys to ensure a case can be made to turn Australia’s precious wildlife into pet food. The only problem is that the numbers appear to be wrong and uniformly overstated.

Here is the cost profile from just three shooting zones in New South Wales (2021) which now has 15 shooting zones.

Includes public service staff costs (based on 35 hour week and $80 / hour charge out rate), consulting fees, charter of helicopters / aircraft and other expenses.

  • Central Tablelands - $121,584
  • Northern Table Lands -$113,174
  • South East - $168,022
  • Total for the three zone regions - $402,780

In New South Wales as in other states, aerial surveys are used as an element in estimating Kangaroo populations. Surveys are conducted annually on the Western Plains (fixed-wing aircraft surveys) and triennially on the Tablelands (helicopter surveys).

Currently, the New South Wales shooting zones are:

  • Tibooburra
  • Broken Hill
  • Lower Darling
  • Cobar
  • Bourke
  • Narrabri
  • Armidale
  • Coonabarabran
  • Glen Innes
  • Upper Hunter
  • South-East
  • Griffith North
  • Griffith South
  • Central Tablelands North
  • Central Tablelands South

Surveys are just one element of total public costs in relation to this cruel trade. As a rough estimate the gross value of the wildlife trade in Kangaroos in New South Wales in 2022 was approximately ten million dollars. Costs to the public purse are likely to be very close to that number.

Gobbledygook

There is so much silly spin and contradictory nonsense speak when it comes to trying to justify the killing of native wildlife in Australia, we are adding a new section to some stories. Welcome to Gobbledygook. Here the Gobbledygook is in the numbers:

“The New South Wales Government did not support a number of the recommendations from the inquiry’s final report (diluted as it was) including review by the New South Wales Auditor General of the Kangaroo Management Plan, the introduction of video monitoring for Kangaroo populations, and the collection and publishing of data to monitor the number of joeys orphaned due to the slaughter”.

Totally sidestepping the detailed findings from the New South Wales Government’s inquiry Health and wellbeing of Kangaroos and other Macropods in New South Wales (2021) and in particular, the shocking findings relating to the Tibooburra shooting zone, according to the new quota report, in 2024 shooters will be allowed to kill more Grey Kangaroos for commercial gain in the Tibooburra zone than the government claimed existed there in 2022.

And if you thought that was silly, the New South Wales Government claims that Eastern Grey Kangaroo populations have increased thirtyfold in the Tibooburra zone between 2021 and 2023, increasing from 5,487 in 2021 to 171,055 in 2023, when the maximum increase possible was likely to be in the range of 1,000 to 1,200 animals in the period. So that would be, if you are not good at maths, say 6,500, not 171,055. By the way, nor have the Kangaroos moved from somewhere else and into this shooting zone.

How the commercial Kangaroo species in New South Wales are faring: Actual take against quota 2020-2022

These numbers tell a very bad story for each of the four species with actual take against quota falling as low as 11 per cent, a clear indication of the hyper-inflation of population estimates and quotas which are far too high. If the Kangaroos were there in the numbers claimed, the quotas would be met as demand for cheap meat for pet food production remains high.

In 2022 the actual take against quota was:

  • For the Eastern Grey Kangaroo 239,373 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 933,037, 25.6 per cent of the quota;
  • For the Western Grey Kangaroo 21,056 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 94,754,22 per cent of the quota;
  • For the Red Kangaroo 134,250 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 619,932, 21.6 per cent of the quota;
  • For the Wallaroo 8,040 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 44,484, 18 per cent of the quota.

In 2021 the actual take against quota was:

  • 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.

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).

State of confusion

For the public record, correspondence with the NSW Government in June 2023, following a letter detailing my concerns about the situation for Kangaroos in that state.

This is part of the response from the Director Compliance and Licensing Biodiversity and Conservation Division. Remember, this response follows after the extensive and extremely concerning findings of the NSW Kangaroo Inquiry, Health and wellbeing of kangaroos and other macropods in New South Wales in 2021.

Dear Mr Hylands
I refer to your emails of 17 May 2023 and 2 June 2023 to the Minister for Climate Change, Minister for Energy, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Heritage, the Hon Penny Sharpe MLC regarding the Commercial Kangaroo Management Program. Your emails were referred to the Department of Planning and Environment and I have been asked to reply.
Kangaroos are protected in NSW. It is an offence to harm, attempt to harm, or to buy or sell kangaroos for commercial purposes, without a licence. The Department of Planning and Environment administers these licences, which are only issued for damage mitigation or for the legal harvesting of kangaroos under the NSW Commercial Kangaroo Management Program.
The NSW Commercial Kangaroo Management Program is regulated in accordance with the Wildlife Trade Management Plan for the Commercial Harvest of Kangaroos in New South Wales 2022-26, approved under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 by the Australian Minister for the Environment on 20 December 2021.
The Wildlife Trade Management Plan establishes the operational and reporting requirements to ensure the commercial harvest program is both sustainable and humane.

My response in early November follows (The Commonwealth and NSW Environment Ministers have copies of the correspondence) to which there has been no reply.

I refer to your letter to me of 4 July 2023 in response to my emails of 17 May and 2 June 2023 to Minister Sharpe regarding the situation for Kangaroos in New South Wales (NSW), particularly their commercial exploitation and the use of harms permits. I attach a copy of your letter to me.

I apologise for the time it has taken for me to respond but you will understand that pro bono it is very time consuming and costly to respond in a considered manner.

I am afraid there has been a misunderstanding of the purpose of my emails which was to provide advice to the Minister in relation to what is occurring to Kangaroo species in NSW. I have a long held and deep understanding of what has and is occurring in relation to these animals in your state.

Health and wellbeing of Kangaroos and other Macropods in New South Wales

Having analysed in great detail the circumstances for Macropods Australia wide, conducting many field trips across the Australian Continent for just on half a century, we made a submission to the NSW Inquiry (pro bono) and joined the Inquiry online for its duration, as no doubt you would have done. It was very obvious from the first iteration of the Committee’s report that there was something very wrong with what you describe as Kangaroo Management in NSW.

Population estimates

It is very obvious from analysis of the data and associated field trips that the population estimates for commercially exploited species in NSW are wrong and vastly overstated. You will know from the Inquiry, the discussions around both the Tibooburra and Cobar shooting zones. Here is that information. These two examples are likely typical of the current circumstances for Kangaroos in other shooting zones in New South Wales and describe the high rates of unsustainable killing in 2018 and 2019 in particular. The population estimates for two of the western / central shooting zones in the state, for the Grey Kangaroos in the Tibooburra shooting zone, the government’s population estimate for 2016 for this species in this zone was 451,594, by 2020 the population estimate had fallen to 6,859 (the quota for that year in that zone for that species was 6,782, theoretically leaving just 77 Grey Kangaroos in the whole and sizeable shooting zone by year end). For the Red Kangaroo in the Cobar shooting zone the population estimate in 2016 was 437,129, by 2020 the population estimate was 102,480.

You should also know we conducted our own population survey over six days in January 2023 in the Broken Hill and Lower Darling shooting zones. The NSW Government claims a population of around 3 million Kangaroos (commercially exploited species in those two zones) on which the commercial quotas are based, over the period of the survey, covering extensive distances in both zones, we were able to find just one living Kangaroo. A similar story applies to other zones and parts of zones including the area around Parkes.

Here is more detail regarding the January survey. The 2023 New South Wales commercial Kangaroo quota report gives the population of Grey and Red Kangaroos in just two shooting zones, the Broken Hill shooting zone and the Lower Darling shooting zone, 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.

Management of wildlife data

Following the NSW Inquiry, one eventual outcome was that harms data was published, this publication occurred as a dump of data covering, in relation to Kangaroos (2017 to February 2023) 16,989 permits covering a maximum of Kangaroos to be harmed of 1,887,072. Shockingly in 2018 permits were issued to harm 887,993 Kangaroos in just that year. These numbers are additional to the commercial exploitation permits. We know this because one of our staff counted up and categorised the individual permits, not just for Kangaroos, but all native species. This information was sent to Minister Sharpe.

It is not possible for species that, despite the ‘scientific’ claims, are slow breeding to sustain this level of killing. That is why so many NSW landscapes are now devoid of Kangaroos.

I am giving the NSW Government the benefit of assuming that the data dump was made in good faith and this is how the NSW Government actually has the data stored. It is therefore impossible to suggest the situation is being managed in any sense of the word because the data is a complete mess. How this has been allowed to occur is just extraordinary and it is shameful.

Cruelty and killing of females and joeys and the national context

The commercial killing of Kangaroos is recognised internationally for its extreme cruelty and is expressed in concerns of numerous Parliaments in Europe, including the EU, and in Legislatures across the US, including Washington DC. I can tell you that a significant number of politicians in these countries do not believe what they are being told by Australia’s Government representatives regarding the Kangaroo situation and my concern is that what is an economically insignificant activity of selling Kangaroo body parts, causes a significant amount of reputational damage which is likely to shape perceptions more broadly.

As you know, joeys, despite the claims, which are false, of this being humane, are killed as required by commercial permits by bludgeoning to death or by decapitation, a process which is intensely cruel. Joeys are not counted in the official numbers but as the percentage take of female Kangaroos continues to increase, the numbers of joeys being killed is now very significant and has a severe impact on future populations. In Victoria in 2022 the ratio of female to joeys killed were, 1 joey was killed for every 1.2 females killed, so almost one to one.

The combined state government Kangaroo population estimates for mainland Australia in 2023 (2022 survey data) total 36,554,240 and as a result the commercial quota for Kangaroos in 2023 is 5,132,148. The increase in population over the previous year is estimated at 5,648,313 and the quota has increased by 739,631 over the previous year. We should remember that that the total actual commercial take achieved in 2022 was just over one million and the increase in quota for 2023 is not that far away from the entire take in 2022.

Given that the quotas are meant to be a sustainable cap and the commercial take is running at around 20 per cent of quota, this should set alarm bells ringing for all Australian Environment Ministers. Expect the actual take against quota in 2023 to be between 18 and 19 per cent. And that is an indicator that something is very wrong.

The analysis was updated on 6 June 2023 following the release of actual data for 2022 from Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia. I had estimated the full year actual commercial take for these three states, as it turned out these estimates were very close to actuals, the difference being 23,213 more animals killed for commercial gain than my previous estimate. For New South Wales an additional 27,719 Kangaroos were killed for commercial gain than previously forecast, bringing the total actual take in 2022 for Australia to 1,079,115. This number does not include Tasmania which is unknown and not accounted for in the Commonwealth Government data or state quotas.

Human rights abuses

I am particularly concerned about the human rights abuses being inflicted by commercial shooters on regional residents, this is occurring in NSW and in the other states where the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos occurs.

Minister Sharpe will be familiar with the detail of COPY REMOVED RE IN CAMERA TESTIMONIES AT THE NSW INQUIRY. This is one of several such examples and little has changed. The attitudes of those remunerated from the public purse in relation to these matters are enabling these kinds of unacceptable behaviours and the fact that they are still occurring is another aspect of this shameful conduct towards wildlife.

I hope you find this information of help in sorting out what has become a shameful and reprehensible mess in all its appalling dimensions.

Evolution of commercial Kangaroo shooting zones in New South Wales 2007-2026

As the actual commercial take against quota continues to decline all across the continent, the only way to make this grim trade viable is to keep expanding these shooting zones into new areas and adding new species to the commercial list. South Australia and New South Wales have expanded shooting zones and the whole state of Victoria was added in late 2019, divided into 7 new shooting zones, including a significant portion of Melbourne. South Australia has recently added new species.

In the mid 1990s the actual take against quota (quotas have remained similar over time) was around 3.3 million, this has dropped in the recent period to hover around 1.3 million despite endless attempts at expanding zones (and species). These figures exclude joeys and as Kangaroo populations have declined more and more females have been targetted. That means more and more dead joeys, which are not included in the data.

The graph shows percentage of quota achieved for all Australia (including Victoria (red line) and percentage decline in Victoria (green line). Actual take against quota has continued to decline despite adding new shooting zones, including all of Victoria, and adding new species.

As the commercial exploitation creeps into new areas these include more densely populated (human) regions and National and State Parks and other public lands as is the plan in South Australia and Victoria.

The maps describe the evolution of shooting zones in New South Wales. By 2022 only the coastal strip of New South Wales was a non commercial shooting zone.

2007-2011

2012-2016

2017-2021

2022-2026