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Counting Kangaroos in Victoria: Update May 2021

Life on land

"Kangaroos now have no place of safety within the State of Victoria" Peter Hylands

Peter Hylands

October 30, 2022

The 2020 Kangaroo population survey in Victoria resulted in a count of 6,268 Grey Kangaroos and 102 Red Kangaroos, these were observed along the 3,234 km of transects. This count resulted in a population estimate 1,911,550 Grey Kangaroos, a population increase of more than 40 per cent.


This is an analysis of what happened in 2020 and was written in May 2021 as an update. It is added here as a concise historical record.

The first aerial and ground survey of Victoria’s Kangaroo population since the commercial industry in Victoria recommenced in 2014 was conducted in 2017, counting 2,630 Kangaroos. That survey estimated Victoria’s most likely Kangaroo population to be 1,442,000. Since that time the two subsequent surveys have differed in terms of their extent and location, making comparisons difficult.

It has always been my assertion that the 2021 Kangaroo population estimate for Victoria, with its 40 per cent population increase, is most likely a function of the change in the intensity (equipment and actions) and location in the process of counting these animals, and that as a result of these adjustments, there was no actual population increase.

Given that since the recommencement of the commercial trade in wildlife in Victoria in 2014, the Victorian Government had issued permits to approve the killing of 1,213,311 (excludes ATCWs for Red Kangaroos for 2020 and 2021, which they have continued to kill despite its removal from the commercial target list), a significant decline in the Kangaroo population has a far higher probability of being correct. 

Some aerial transects ‘that could not be flown safely in 2018’ were replaced in 2020, increasing the number of transects from 145 to150, comprising a total of 3,234 km, an increase from 3,182 kilometers in 2018 and the 79 transects of 1,600 kilometers undertaken in the initial survey in 2017.

The 2020 survey and estimates exclude local government areas that are entirely (or almost entirely) within highly urbanised parts of the Melbourne metropolitan area. The commercial exploiters of Kangaroos are now infiltrating Melbourne suburbs, including most recently Chirnside Park and the Mornington Peninsula.

Estimates also excluded thickly forested areas because of the unreliability of Kangaroo detection from the air in those areas but include public lands, including State and National Parks where the density of Kangaroos should be far higher.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Mornington Peninsula


Overall, 46,064 (approx. 80 per cent) of the total statewide commercial quota of 57,900 animals was achieved during 2020. My estimated value for the total trade (dressed meat) to shooters in the 2020 was $1,060,000. This week the government confirmed there were 86 licensed shooters in the state (80 in 2021) so that was an average value to shooters, before costs, of around $12,300.

In the Mallee shooting zone, 45 per cent of the quota was achieved, this fell to 18 per cent in the Gippsland shooting zone. The highest commercial kills against quotas were in the Upper and Lower Wimmera shooting zones at 92 and 95 per cent respectively. The Lower Wimmera shooting zone, in terms of the number of animals killed at 16,681 was the hotspot for commercial wildlife killing activities in 2020, hence the alarm of residents. In 2020, 65per cent of the Kangaroos killed for commercial purposes in Victoria were Eastern Grey Kangaroos, the balance Western Grey Kangaroos. The government figures show that one third of the total commercial kill was composed of female Kangaroos.

In 2020, in addition to this commercial trade in wildlife, permits were issued to kill 70,752 Grey Kangaroos in the state, 95 per cent of which were Eastern Grey Kangaroos. When all permit types, killing types are combined, the highest numbers of Kangaroos targeted were in the North East shooting zone at 31,385, the Central shooting zone at 30,586 and the Lower Wimmera at 30,112.


The pretence of ‘sustainability’ is shattered by the killing of too many Western Grey Kangaroos (or not knowing how many were killed), given their total population in the state, the high percentage of females being killed (plus their joeys), the recent revelations that no minimum size applies to the industry and that there are no restrictions on the industry operating on public lands in Victoria, including State and National Parks, although the government denied that was occurring at the time (but they would not rule it out in the future).

NOTE: The ongoing issues in relation to identification and actual recording of the numbers of Eastern and Western Greys actually killed, that is distinguishing the species, because reporting systems were deemed to be inadequate, has still not been resolved.

Aftermath of commercial exploitation

Very bad moves

  • Victoria’s commercial trade in wildlife (Kangaroos) has been declared a Developmental Wildlife Trade Operation (DWTO) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This allows Kangaroo products collected under this commercial wildlife killing activity, such as skins, to be exported overseas. The Developmental Wildlife Trade Operation runs for three-years. The new Victorian plan for the commercial trade in wildlife (Kangaroos) has been designed to align with this.
  • From 2021, Conditions of Authorisations for shooters in this commercial trade in wildlife activity (Kangaroos) allow carcasses to be taken to processors outside of Victoria provided that it is legal under that State or Territories legislation to import Kangaroos from Victoria for processing.