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Commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in Victoria 2023, the year so far

Life on land

“As a general rule the longer commercial exploitation of Kangaroos has occurred in a given place, the lower the actual take against quota”.

Peter Hylands

November 10, 2023

Quarter 2 and 3 Summary 2023 Reports for Victoria’s ‘Kangaroo Harvesting Program’ were finally published, after much chasing, in late October 2023. This is what they reveal.

The Q2 reports show that the commercial Kangaroos quota for the seven shooting zones in the period was 42,000 Grey Kangaroos, with carryover from Q1 this rose to 44,537 animals, 21,186 Kangaroos were killed with allocations being issued to 138 shooters (note some shooters were licenced to shoot In more than one shooting zone). Of the animals killed, 300 were reported as being Western Grey Kangaroos. In the period 21,516 were ‘stored’ for processors, of which 32 per cent were female. This suggest that around 5,000 dependant young were killed in the quarter and not accounted for.

The Q3 reports show that the commercial Kangaroos quota for the seven shooting zones in the period was 40,650 Grey Kangaroos, with carryover from Q1 this rose to 52,907 animals, 16,082 Kangaroos were killed with allocations being issued to 56 shooters, a steep decline over the previous period, (note some shooters were licenced to shoot In more than one shooting zone). Of the animals killed, 600 were reported as being Western Grey Kangaroos. In the period 15,757 were ‘stored’ for processors, of which 33.5 per cent were female. This suggest that around 4,400 dependant young were killed in the quarter and not accounted for. In the regional context, in Q3, 249 Kangaroos were killed for commercial gain in the Upper Wimmera shooting zone, just 600 in the Mallee shooting zone, rising to 6,350 in the more urbanised Central shooting zone which accounted for 39.5 per cent of total take.

The outcome for the first three quarters of 2023 show that out of the commercial quota of 126,100 Grey Kangaroos, the number actually killed was 61,905, that is 49.1 per cent of quota. The trend is a decline in the number of animals killed for each consecutive quarter, declining from 24,637 in Q1 to 16,082 in Q3.

It is probable that the male Kangaroos now being killed are smaller and younger, Victoria has no minimum weight for Kangaroos being killed for commercial gain (nor records the weights), and this is yet another indicator that this activity is a very long way from being sustainable.

Actual take against commercial quota (per cent)

Declines of actual take against commercial quota continue as we forecast they would.

As a general rule the longer commercial exploitation of Kangaroos has occurred in a given place, the lower the actual take against quota. For example South Australia has a very low take against quota as the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos has been both extensive and long term.

Victoria, which is a relative newcomer to this activity still has a higher actual take against quota, but the percentage take is falling and declines in take will increase rapidly in the next few years as Victoria cannot geographically expand into new shooting zones, as wherever Kangaroos exist in the state, these places have already been designated as a commercial shooting zone.

  • 2023 – 49 per cent (first three quarters);
  • 2022 – 57 per cent;
  • 2021 – 65 per cent (using original quota); and
  • 2020 – 80 per cent. (First full year of state wide commercial exploitation).

The population estimates for Kangaroo species in Victoria remain shockingly wrong, they are far too high, and this means these animals are being exterminated region by region. Nowhere in the state is safe for Kangaroos, and that includes State and National Parks in Victoria. The Red Kangaroo, despite Ministerial promises, is now at increasing risk of commercial exploitation.

Not listening has become an art, just repeat the same old thing and see if you can get away with it:

“Thank you for your copy of your email to the Minister for Agriculture, letting me know how important this issue is to you. The Kangaroo Harvest Management Plan guides the sustainable harvest of kangaroos in Victoria until the end of 2023, it is also revised yearly to ensure sustainability of the program. In June of this year the state government asked for KHMP review which received public consultation and feedback which will shape the KHMP into 2024. Over 700 submissions were received during this process”.  Victorian Government to Jane Gibb

Secrecy, jumbled thinking and virtue signalling

Getting confused, you are not alone?

After years of trying to get a straight answer from the Victorian Government on whether animals shot in state and national parks, specifically Kangaroos, were being used for meat (and commercially exploited).

“Victorian Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Mr Bourman said even volunteers undertaking ground shooting for Parks Victoria are only allowed to harvest the meat for personal use”.

A recent regional press article begins to reveal the truth. There is a very simple question here, does anyone check to see what actually happens to the Kangaroos killed in State and National Parks?

And now for some virtue signalling type marketing, the only problem here, given the statistics, is that Victoria is running out of Kangaroos.

“Victorian Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Jeff Bourman will put a motion to Parliament’s Upper House on Wednesday calling on the state government to support diverting culled deer, roos and goats to food charities, to be called ‘Hunters for the Hungry…… The proposal has the backing of the Australian Deer Association and Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, which is running a barbecue on the roof of the annex building at parliament this Thursday for politicians featuring Venison, Kangaroo, and Goat”. 15 November 2023

When we look at the vast extent of native wildlife killing in Victoria and the extreme cruelty associated with it, that the Victorian Government could actually allow Parks Victoria to conduct itself in the way it does, killing large numbers of protected native animals on public lands and allowing those carcasses to be taken for, one assumes pet food, and the same government can also allow protected native animals, in this case the Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroos, to be barbecued on the roof of the annex building of the Victorian Parliament is just extraordinary and describes the mentality and conduct that will likely allow almost one million protected native animals in 2023 to be killed by activities enabled and promoted by the Victorian Government.

Although they refuse to answer my question, and the Zoos Association confirms I am correct, it appears likely, that while raising funds from the public for the conservation of Australian species, the Victorian Zoos are themselves engaged in feeding protected  Australian species to other zoo animals.

Not confused? Well here is a recent headline from the Australian Guardian:

“Animals to be recognised as sentient beings under proposed Victorian cruelty laws”.
“The Victorian government will follow the Australian Capital Territory and could become the first Australian state to recognise that animals are sentient beings, under a draft overhaul of cruelty laws to be released in the coming weeks…… The government has also committed to reform of the Wildlife Act 1975 after the killing of hundreds of Wedge-tailed Eagles in East Gippsland and koala deaths in a timber plantation at Cape Bridgewater”.
“It had been “six years, two elections and five agriculture ministers” since the government announced the new laws and was hopeful their proposed bill will be strong enough to “protect all – not just some animals – from cruelty”. MP Georgie Purcell

At the same time as all this is going on, the Victorian Government and its Game Management Authority is advertising for the public to report ‘illegal hunting’ stating:

“Illegal hunting will not be tolerated as it is dangerous and can put people, livestock and wildlife at risk”.

So what don’t they like? Hunting at night for ‘game’ or using a spotlight to hunt game.

This year the Victorian Government has licensed 176 shooters, who turn up unannounced in the dead of night with their high powered rifles and spotlights to kill Kangaroos, increasingly in suburbia (Central shooting zone which includes numerous Melbourne suburbs and populous country towns) and increasingly close by where people live and conduct their businesses. To be caught up in this massacre and butchering of wildlife, unexpected as it always is, can only be described as terrifying

Clearly some animals are more sentient than others.

The Victorian Kangaroo ‘Harvest’ Management Plan 2024-2028

We became aware that the Commonwealth Government of Australia had circulated the Victorian Kangaroo Harvest Management Plan 2024-2028 for comment on 16 November 2023.

The ‘plan’ continues to make claims that fly in the face of any evidence provided to the Victorian Government. Nor does it consider the numerous submissions by the general public to the Victorian Government’s consultation on this matter. Nor did we receive the courtesy of an acknowledgement for our hard work.

“Over 700 submissions were received during this process”. Victorian Government

The new plan makes some major changes (highly predictable) which make monitoring of circumstances and comparisons with the past much more difficult. The ‘plan’ makes a number of claims which are not and cannot be correct. The first is its overarching goal:

“To provide for the sustainable and humane use of Grey Kangaroos in a way that is both sustainable and protects the welfare of all animals involved”.
“This goal aligns with the objects of the EPBC Act and is guided by the principles of ecologically sustainable development through conservation, and ecologically sustainable use of a natural resource, as defined in the Act. The key priorities of this Plan are to ensure sustainable Grey Kangaroo populations and that any killing of Kangaroos is humane to minimise pain or suffering”.

There are 8 aims:

  1. Ensure that commercial Kangaroo harvesting in Victoria is ecologically sustainable;
  2. Ensure that commercial Kangaroo harvesting in Victoria is conducted according to animal welfare standards;
  3. Ensure that commercial Kangaroo harvesting activities are effectively regulated;
  4. Effectively monitor and enforce compliance;
  5. Work with Traditional Owners to identify opportunities for involvement;
  6. Facilitate research and development;
  7. Maintain accountability and transparency; and
  8. Undertake program review and reporting.

We know the population estimates are far too high but still the Victorian Government persists:

“Ecological sustainability of Kangaroo harvesting is managed based on statewide Kangaroo population survey data, population modelling, sustainable harvest principles, and other available information about grey Kangaroo populations throughout their Victorian range. Management approaches for sustainability also include considerations regarding Harvest Zones, control of kangaroos through ATCWs on public and private land, animals killed by vehicle collisions (where data is available) and impacts of emergencies such as flooding and fire”.

Changes to shooting zones

“Harvest Zones for 2024 For the period of 1 January 2024 to 31 December 2024 the state is divided into 7 Harvest Zones. Harvest Zones are based on ecological units and, at the time of publishing, existing local government area (LGA) borders. Metropolitan (Central) Melbourne and areas with minimal or no Kangaroo populations such as French Island, are not included in shooting zones. Annual commercial quotas will be set for each Harvest Zone”.

New shooting zones will be introduced in 2025

Major changes aside from boundaries appear to be Melbourne suburbs out, State and National Parks and other public lands in.

These changes are a clear indicator that Kangaroos have been so depleted in some parts of existing shooting zones and that state parks, which should be a place of safety for protected Australian wildlife, are required to keep this ill-conceived activity alive. These changes also reflect the intent to move this gruesome and cruel conduct away from the public gaze.

There will be five (not seven) new shooting zones for 2025-2028 and Victoria will be divided into 5 shooting zones and one exclusion Zone. The Victorian Government states that:

“The new shooting zones are based on consideration of a number of factors including areas with minimal or no Kangaroo populations, Melbourne urban growth boundary, ecological units, approved levels of control under ATCW, take through the KHP, and at the time of publishing, existing local government area (LGA) borders. The majority of take in the previous Mallee Harvest Zone (Mildura) was undertaken on public land through the ATCW system, hence Mildura has been included in the Loddon Mallee Harvest Zone. If public land managers require access to the KHP, this will be provided for as a separate quota, but included within the total quota as direct replacement for ATCW numbers as described below (see Public land and separate quota section below). The Exclusion Zone is extended to include Melbourne Central Business District (CBD), outer suburbs and urban growth corridors, Port Phillip and Western Port Bays, Mornington Peninsula, the Dandenong’s, and the Western Grasslands”.

Commercial activity in State and National Parks and other public land. ‘Public land and separate quota’

When mass killing of wildlife occurs in State and National Parks in Victoria the gates are locked and the activity occurs during the night and out of the gaze of the general public. Since 2014, since the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos commenced in Victoria, then as a trial, we have predicted they would make a move on State and National Parks. This is a deeply shocking and unethical change. Note that they use the term public lands and do not mention State and National Parks.

“All Kangaroo control on public land currently occurs under ATCWs which are issued to the relevant public land manager. Public land managers can be required to produce a wildlife management plan that identifies the required scale of control to support an ATCW application. Under special circumstances, on the request of the relevant public land manager, harvesting may be authorised to occur on specified areas of public land.
Harvesting that occurs on specified public land will be provided for with a separate quota outside of the released commercial quota for each shooting zone, but still incorporated into the total quota for that year. Any harvesting that occurs on specified public land will directly replace control that would otherwise be undertaken under an ATCW. As the specified separate quota will still be factored into the total quota, harvesting on public land will not increase the total number of Grey Kangaroos approved for control. A wildlife management plan will be required before a separate quota allocation is given for harvesting purposes. Where the quota for harvesting of Grey Kangaroos on public land has been required, it will be outlined as a component of the total quota and included in the KHP Annual Report”.

That the Victorian Government allowed shooting with high powered rifles (and using silencers which adds another dimension of danger) and butchering of protected wildlife (dismemberment) in Melbourne’s suburbs was shocking and extremely dangerous.

In 2025 the most dangerous places to be, will be on public lands in Victoria. Typically the government shuts down (closes the gates) National and State Parks when it conducts mass killing of protected species in those parks. There will be many places in the state and in public places that exclusion is unlikely to occur.

We need to remember that in Victoria protected native species were a very long way from being safe in the parks where they should have safety.

We also need to remember that, despite spin from the politicians responsible to say there would be no impact, the impact of introducing a commercial trade in wildlife was a fivefold increase in the killing rate.