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As night is day

Life on land

“What to liken him to I could not tell, nothing certainly that I have seen at all resembled him” Joseph Banks, Endeavour River, June 1770

Peter and Andrea Hylands

May 21, 2023

I am firstly concerned by the extreme acts of cruelty being perpetrated on Australian wildlife, secondly, I am concerned about what is occurring to Australian species and the continual endangerment of these animals, as more and more Australian species edge towards the brink of extinction. There is a growing and third concern, which is the matter of human rights. These stories are heartbreaking, and how governments can inflict this cruelty on their citizens is beyond any understanding, certainly mine”.


The first recorded European description of an Australian marsupial appeared in the Dutch navigator Francisco Pelsaert’s account of the wreck of the Batavia, off the Western Australian coastline in 1629. It is likely that his description is of the Tammar Wallaby.

“Besides we found in these islands large numbers of a species of cats, which are very strange creatures; they are about the size of a hare, their head resembling that of a civetcat; the forepaws are very short, about the length of a finger, on which the animal has five small nails or fingers, resembling those of a monkey's forepaw. Its two hind legs, on the contrary, are upwards of half an ell in length (about half a metre), and it walks on these only, on the flat of the heavy part of the leg”.

Pelsaert's description was overlooked for nearly two centuries and was not known to Captain James Cook when he set off in 1769 on his first voyage in the Endeavour.

Mr Gore and his gun

On 24 June 1770, James Cook wrote in his journal:

“I saw myself this morning, a little way from the ship, one of the animals before spoke of, it was of a light mouse colour and the full size of a Grey Hound, and shaped in every respect like one, with a long tail, which it carried like a Grey Hound; in short, I should have taken it for a wild dog but for its walking or running, in which it jumped like a Hare or Deer….Mr. Gore, who went out this day with his gun, had the good fortune to kill one of the animals which had been so much the subject of our speculation…… This animal is called by the natives Kanguroo”.

With the publication of images of the Kangaroo, the amazing and much admired new animal had entered the European popular imagination. James Boswell, the biographer of Dr Samuel Johnson, recorded how during a trip to Scotland, Johnson (close to my heart because of my long association with Longman UK, his publisher) performed for his friends his own imitation of this extraordinary new animal. Boswell records:

“Dr Samuel Johnson stood erect, put out his hands like feelers, and, gathering up the tails of his huge brown coat so as to resemble the pouch of the animal, made two or three vigorous bounds across the room”.

Government House Sydney, 1830

Encyclopedic Histoire Naturelle

Because this was something so extraordinary, in Paris, Georges Buffon decided not to include the Kangaroo in his Encyclopedic Histoire Naturelle, then nearing completion. The Kangaroo proved difficult to insert into the Linnaean system of classification, and for a number of years, even while proving popular with the general public, the animal remained in a scientific limbo.

Industrial scale killing

The aggressive actions by all Australian Governments in enabling the large scale killing of wildlife continued despite the catastrophic fires of the 2019- 2020 summer, and despite a raft of other climate change impacts and all we hear about global extinctions.

Supporting these government activities were significant expenditures to market the acceptability of the killing, which also attempts to demean the Australian species being targeted. Kangaroos are in the frontline of the propaganda.

In 2020 the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment claimed the following:

“Kangaroo meat product is sustainably sourced in accordance with quotas which are scientifically set and regularly monitored. Around 3 percent of Australia’s 50 million Kangaroos are used for meat production each year; and Kangaroo meat is sourced from abundant and healthy free-ranging populations. When sourcing Kangaroo meat, skilled licenced operators follow government animal welfare regulations and strict quotas”.

In 2020 there were NOT 50 million Kangaroos in Australia and how Kangaroos are killed are no less than extreme acts of cruelty, including bashing young Kangaroos to death. So why the spin?

States: They all do it too

At the political level, Australian wildlife has few friends. Here is just a small sample. What was particularly shocking is that these things happened, either at the time of, or after the catastrophic fires of the 2019-2020 summer.

What has occurred in South Australia in the last few years, where Kangaroo populations are in deep trouble, is a disgrace. While we were all in COVID lockdowns, the South Australian Government informed me that the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos would continue because it was an essential service.  

In Queensland, a Labor government issued Kangaroo extermination licenses to graziers and enabled the construction of more and more cluster fencing, these fences erected with the assistance of public finances. Australian wildlife is killed at scale, trapped along these high and impassable fences.

In New South Wales, a Liberal National government, commenced a de-facto open season on Kangaroos in 2019 to "help the graziers combat drought”. Continuing so, even after the catastrophic fires.

After the catastrophic fires of the 2019-20 Summer and as the world donated to rescue and rehabilitate Australian wildlife, in New South Wales Kangaroos were being shot for pet food as they fled from the fires.  

From a New South Wales Government document at the time (note that in a display of very poor taste they were still expanding killing zones as the fires were burning):

“A special quota for 2021 has been calculated in accordance with the provisions of the plan and will potentially be available to minimise the number of Kangaroos culled under non- commercial licences. The special quota will be used only when the commercial quota for a particular Kangaroo management zone has been fully issued”. 
“New commercial shooting zones - No new zones have been added to the 2021 harvest area, two existing zones were recently expanded and changed. In 2020, the Griffith commercial harvest zone (Zone 11 and 12) was expanded to include the non-commercial zone surrounding Wagga Wagga. As this created an extra-large Griffith Zone, Griffith was split into Griffith North (Zone 17) and Griffith South (Zone 18) zones to manage quota and tag allocations. The expanded area was incorporated into the aerial survey in 2019 to establish population estimates, thresholds and to allocate quota. This is an addition of 24,480 km2 for commercial harvesting, supported by the New South Wales Government Drought Relief Package announced in 2018. The South East Tablelands zone (Zone 16) was expanded in January 2019. The addition of the Bombala Area included an approximate 2720 km2 available for commercial harvesting. Increasing the area for commercial harvesting by licensed, professional, qualified commercial Kangaroo harvesters is expected to reduce reliance by landholders on non- commercial damage mitigation licences. The total area added to the commercial harvest zones is 27,200 km2.”

In Victoria, commercial quotas were soon to increase amid silly claims of booming populations, and even as the fires were burning and wildlife rescue from public lands was being blocked, Kangaroos were being shot on mass, in those public parklands, state and national parks, that had escaped the worst of the fires.

The list of such things goes ever on. So there is something extremely odd about all this.