this website uses cookies. by continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our cookies policy.
got it  X

2024: Commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in South Australia

Life on land

“When dealing with species, people always delude themselves as to numbers. ‘Oh, there are plenty of those’, is the usual phrase, simply because they happen to have seen a 150 specimens at a given moment.” Gerald Durrell, 1965

Peter and Andrea Hylands

December 29, 2023

Kangaroo silly season is here again and it does not get any sillier than in South Australia. I check for the commercial Kangaroo quota reports each day at this time of year. As these are controversial documents, the very bad habit is to publish them during the Christmas period. Only Queensland manages to avoid the malarkey as it always publishes its quotas many weeks earlier than the other states. So it appears that South Australia published its quota report for 2024 on 24 December 2023, which is when I found it. At the time of writing, only Western Australia is yet to publish its quotas.

The basics

Some basics first.

  • Population estimate 3,912,711 up from 3,833,889 in previous year.
  • 2024 Quota: Total commercial quota for South Australia in 2024 is 589,200, up from 576,300 in 2023.

Five species of Kangaroo and Wallaby are now killed commercially in South Australia, the Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroo, the Sooty Kangaroo from Kangaroo Island (distinct variant of Western Grey Kangaroo), the Kangaroo Island Tammar Wallaby, the Red Kangaroo and the Euro.

South Australia is divided into Kangaroo shooting zones, which have been extended. They are Western Pastoral, Eastern Pastoral, Western Agricultural, Eastern Agricultural and Southern Agricultural. Commercial exploitation is also occurring on public lands including parks. These main regions are divided into sub-regions.

"As of 1 January 2020, the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos is allowed across the entire state, excluding metropolitan Adelaide and the Alinytjara Wilurara region for cultural reasons". South Australian Government

In 2022 / 2023 the South Australian Government claimed significant increases in Kangaroo populations, despite dire environmental conditions, previous quotas not being met by a very long way and the rapidly rising share of females and their joeys being killed.

Everything about South Australia and its commercial exploitation of Kangaroos provides evidence of serial decline of Kangaroo populations in that state, while its government claims increases in populations which cannot be possible. For example, the South Australian Government’s 2023 Kangaroo commercial quota report gives the Tammar Wallaby’s population on Kangaroo Island as 384,671, which is an increase more than nine times the previous population estimate.

Shooting zones and the number of species subject to commercial exploitation have both been expanded in the recent period.

Quotas for 2024: Population estimates

I am not going to discuss survey methodology here but I will concentrate on population estimates.

  • Red Kangaroo: Estimated population is 2,019,168, an increase of 24 per cent from the previous year total of 1,626,425 and 33 per cent higher than the 20-year rolling average of 1,520,553 (2003-2022 data).
  • Western Grey Kangaroo (mainland): Estimated population (excluding Southern Agricultural harvest region) is 725,075, a 36 per cent decrease from the 2022 population estimate of 1,125,586 and 21 per cent below the 20-year rolling average of 923,560 (2003-2022 data). The population estimate for the Southern Agricultural shooting zone is 311,144, an increase of 11 per cent from the 2022 population estimate of 279,505.
  • Kangaroo Island Western Grey: Estimated population is 41,781 (no survey).
  • Euro: Estimated population is 430,872 an increase of 15 per cent from the 2022 estimate of 375,921 and 11 per cent below the 20-year rolling average of 485,529 (2003 -2022 data).
  • Tammar Wallaby: Estimated population 384,671 (no survey).
  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo: No population estimate given.

Tammar Wallaby on Kangaroo Island; Photo Thorsten Milse

Quotas for 2024: Quotas

  • Red Kangaroo: Quota 343,200, up from 313,800 in 2023 (9 per cent increase).
  • Western Grey Kangaroo: Quota 150,400, down from 200,200 in 2023 (25 per cent reduction).
  • Kangaroo Island Western Grey: Quota not given.
  • Euro: Quota 58,200, up from 29,300 in 2023 (99 percent increase).
  • Tammar Wallaby: Quota 19,200, same as previous year.
  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo: Quota 18,200, up from 13,800 in 2023 (32 per cent increase).

Total commercial quota for South Australia in 2024 is 589,200, up from 576,300.

Quota for 2022: What actually happened

The commercial quota for 2022 was 455,800, what actually occurred was that 100,896 Kangaroos were killed in South Australia that year for commercial gain, just 22 per cent of quota. For the Red Kangaroo it was 21 per cent of that species’ quota, with the largest number of animals actually killed for any species at 49,379 which was 49 per cent of all Kangaroos killed for commercial gain in South Australia in 2022.

Sooty Kangaroo: The distinctive Kangaroo Island Western Grey Kangaroo

Quota for 2023: What we know so far

To 31 October 2023, this is what the numbers tell us so far. From the full year quota of 576,300 just 87,174 Kangaroos (15 per cent of quota) had been killed for commercial gain. Government’s projected outcome for full year 2023 is that 18 per cent of quota will be met at 104,609 animals. These numbers exclude Special Land Management Quota (SLMQ) and exploitation under SLMQ which is a concern because of the opportunities for topping up the numbers by raiding public lands including state and national parks.

It should be noted that quotas not ever being met is a supply side problem (Kangaroos do not exist in numbers claimed) and not as often claimed, a lack of demand. Kangaroo meat is essentially cheap meat and as a result has been in high demand for pet food. Market conditions have generally been positive for the Kangaroo pet food trade until recent weeks when reports are coming in that abattoirs and farmers are shooting and disposing of sheep as prices are so poor that they are not worth processing. This would make sheep a much cheaper option for pet food processors and knackeries than Kangaroos which are worth in the range of $20-30 when delivered to the processor.

“Sheep worth between $100 and $150 this time last year are now selling for less than $5 per head, at a time when the price of lamb has dropped just 7 per cent at the supermarket”.

This horrible circumstance may impact demand for Kangaroo meat over the next few months. Adding new species and extensions to shooting zones (including all of Victoria) is a clear indicator that Australia is running out of viable Kangaroo populations that make commercial exploitation a viable proposition.

Even the signs get shot

Why don’t they just go and check?

This section provides extracts of correspondence between Peter Hylands and the Director Conservation and Wildlife, Department for Environment and Water, Government of South Australia in 2023, following earlier correspondence from Peter Hylands and the state’s Environment Minister. The Federal Government Environment Minister also has the correspondence.

The first three paragraphs (an extract) below are from the Director Conservation and Wildlife.

Thank you for your email dated 9 June 2023 to the Minister for Climate, Environment and Water regarding the commercial harvest of Kangaroos in South Australia. The Minister has asked me to respond on her behalf.
Kangaroo numbers fluctuate in response to rainfall, with periods of high rainfall stimulating food growth and increasing kangaroo populations. During periods of high population, kangaroos can have cause damage to pasture, crops, infrastructure and native vegetation. On DEW managed parks and reserves, kangaroo numbers may be controlled when populations are causing damage to conservation values of the park or reserve.
Under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (the Act), Kangaroos are protected species, and the Act acknowledges that there may be times when Kangaroo numbers need to be managed in order to protect conservation values of specific parks. The Act and associated regulations allow for the management of Kangaroos via non-commercial culling or the commercial Kangaroo harvest. Kangaroo management is undertaken on parks that have an approved Kangaroo management plan under DEW Kangaroo on reserves (population control) policy and procedure. Under this policy, evidence of Kangaroo damage to conservation values of the park must be identified and control of non-native herbivores must be included as an essential part of the management program. Once the plan has been approved, Kangaroos may be managed by either culling or via the commercial Kangaroo industry, similar to any other land manager.

This next section is correspondence from Peter Hylands to the Director Conservation and Wildlife and the state’s Environment Minister.

I want to thank you for your letter of 6 July and I apologise in the delay in responding. Your letter was in response to my email to the Deputy Premier of 9 June regarding the mass killing of Kangaroos and associated matters, including commercial exploitation of these animals on public lands.

I think there has been some misunderstanding. I am pointing out that there is something very wrong with population estimates for Macropod species which appear hyper-inflated and lead to ‘unsustainable’ quotas, which of course are never met. The maths are very simple and it is very obvious that the numbers are wrong. We are very interested to see what the estimates and quotas for 2024 will be.

We have been frequent visitors to South Australia for just on 50 years following our first encounters with Australia for business reasons. Those were the days of Don Dunstan, so we have come to know the State well, including what has happened to biodiversity (which is shocking), originally from frequent visits to the SA Museum and the purchasing of Natural History books published by the museum, some dating back to the 1920s.

To check out our concerns about the numbers we have conducted a number of surveys in the recent period. While we cannot be as comprehensive as state governments can, the results from the west of NSW, where after six days in the field we could only find one living Kangaroo, in an area where the NSW claimed a population of just on 3 million Kangaroos. And shockingly these were population estimates with accompanying quotas published after the NSW Kangaroo Inquiry where it became very clear just how wrong the NSW numbers were. Results in the west of Victoria and in Mallee Country (one week) were little better. In the last few weeks our team has looked at Kangaroo Island and the Eastern side of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia (just over a two week period). The outcome of these journeys were also grim.

As you can imagine we spend a great deal of time analysing the situation for wildlife in Australia because it is so very bad, as we do when responding to state and commonwealth government inquiries. We regard most of this work as a complete waste of time because little changes as a result of the considerable amount of work undertaken which we of course have to fund ourselves.

Why do we care about Kangaroos? The answer is that Kangaroos are a powerful indicator of the way we view the world and the standards we apply in governance, law and humanity. Kangaroos are an intrinsic part of Australian culture and society, as they have been for 65,000 years. Even post 1788, the colonists adopted them as a visual and cultural icon, today, their imagery is everywhere. Kangaroos belong, as they have belonged for millions of years, as part of this continent. Not exploding in population, but ever diminishing, Kangaroos deserve better and so do we all.

On the ground this translates into extreme cruelty, human rights abuses, misconduct of various types, disinformation and a rapid decline in wildlife populations. It is also very bad for the individuals who inflict gross acts of cruelty on these animals. The world sees it as it is plastered over the Internet.

I note your statement:

“South Australians are passionate about the welfare of our animals, from pets to wild species, and this review provides the ideal opportunity to provide their thoughts”.

Rather than sending me correspondence rebutting my concerns and defending the status quo, all states send out the same kind of letter, I am suggesting to the South Australian Government and to the Deputy Premier that it reviews all matters relating to the mass killing of Kangaroos, particularly their commercial exploitation. The place to start is a review of the population estimates and quotas, and not by the small group of individuals who dominate the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos across the continent, a group who endlessly try to defend what occurs and endlessly reference their own reports, some of which are decades old. The review should be undertaken by the SA Auditor and individuals who understand numbers and are completely removed from Kangaroo matters, in any sense at all.

I note the Greyhound and Native Bird Shooting Inquiries.

I hope we have made our position on these matters clear.