New South Wales: Licences to harm protected Australian species
Life on land
Your support will assist us to continue our research and content development, the greater our resources, the more we can do.
The more we have an accurate understanding of what is happening to nature, the more we can all do to protect what remains of our living planet.
This is also an opportunity for philanthropists to be part of an ongoing project that tells independent stories about the natural world, stories that will help us to better understand what is happening to species and places on our precious planet Earth.
Note: Creative Cowboy Films does NOT have tax deductible charity status.
Becoming a member of Creative cowboy films The Nature Knowledge Channel is a very real way you can help the precious natural world and support the work we do in creating knowledge about what is happening to it.
The Nature Knowledge Channel is a very real way you can help the precious natural world and support the work we do in creating knowledge about the natural world.
Annual membership of the Creative cowboy films - Nature Knowledge Channel gives you full access to content, stories and films, available on this website. Becoming a member of the Creative cowboy films - Nature Knowledge Channel is a very real way you can help the natural world and support our work in creating a greater understanding about what is happening to it.
A point of difference
Creative cowboy films is independent, is not funded by governments or industry, and is not influenced by their associated interest groups. For reasons of independent research and content development, Creative cowboy films does NOT have tax deductible charity status.
Life on land
Licenses to harm native animals, as the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) describes them, are licenses granted to landholders and others to kill protected Australian species. This class of permit is not a commercial permit. Commercial permits are separate and allow the exploitation of Australian species for commercial gain and are in addition to the findings discussed here. The NPWS describes the reason for issuing licenses to harm native animals thus:
“If protected native animals are shown to be a threat to human safety, damaging property and/or causing economic hardship, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) may grant a licence to the owner or occupier of a property, to harm (for example, cull or catch and release) the animals”.
Australian Governments seem enthusiastic about killing swallows, in this case the Welcome Swallow, and in the tables that follow, permits were issued to shoot (mostly shoot) more than 3,000 of them.
“Colonies of swallows nesting and roosting on buildings and other structures can become a nuisance. Large numbers of swallows can also generate a lot of noise, machinery, infrastructure and produce can become contaminated with faeces, and recreation areas, cars, roofs and other property can be fouled by faeces”.
In New South Wales, there are few cultural barriers to the killing of Australian wildlife.
“In the north of England, up until the 1960s, they believed that killing a swallow would lead to cows producing bloody milk or no milk at all”. BBC Wildlife
Miner’s right: Scaring - Broadcast of Swallow distress calls and shotgun / rifle noises, culling - by rat shot / rifle.
“Finding ways to solve the considerable nuisance being caused to the Hunter Valley coal mining industry by a small bird is the aim of a new research project that is seeking submissions from the local community”. Charles Sturt University
In the period from August 2017 to February 2023 the New South Wales Government issued 16,989 permits to kill 1,887,072 Kangaroos (6 species) and 2,552 permits to kill 204,646 Australian birds and mammals. Lethal control of Flying-foxes (not included in the numbers given previously) was ended in 2021. 2018 was a particularly bad year for Australian wildlife in New South Wales with killing occurring, at what can only be described as catastrophic scale.
“Rainfall to the end of September 2018 in NSW was the third lowest ever recorded at 190.9 mm. Rainfall to date (2018) across Australia is as poor as any period in the last 20 years. However, the extent of rainfall deficiencies is currently smaller than in previous droughts”. Australian Government, DAFF 2018
A climax of the killing occurred in 2018 and during drought conditions, a time when wildlife should be protected and assisted. The 2018 killing spree includes permits issued to kill 887,993 Kangaroos and Wallabies and 8,274 Emus. Remember this does not include commercial permits, which for Kangaroos in New South Wales in 2018 targeted an additional 2,253,914 animals excluding the special quota. That is a total of 3,141,907 Kangaroos in 2018 alone.
“Commercial Kangaroo harvesters, processors and animal activists have hit back at plans from the State Government to reduce the number of Kangaroos in drought-hit areas”. ABC,15 June 2018
In addition to the animals killed under this licence type, 1080 aerial poison bait drops, which are indiscriminate and lethal, often using Kangaroo meat as the vector, are used extensively across New South Wales. Illegal killing of Kangaroos continues and encouraged by general attitudes towards these animals.
Our investigations in the Australian State of Victoria showed that, despite its government claiming the opposite, that in 2021 just 2.6 per cent of all non-commercial permits issued to harm (in Victoria they are called ATCWs) were for non-lethal control. New South Wales is no different in this regard with most permits for most species issued for lethal control.
“Animals or animal parts taken under this licence must not be sold, swapped or traded by either the licensee or an associate”. Licences to harm Kangaroos NSW
“When it comes to killing Australian wildlife in New South Wales all bases are covered”. Peter Hylands
Different types of 'biodiversity conservation' licenses to control native animals in New South Wales include:
Landholder licences fall into a number of categories:
In New South Wales the NPWS requires licence holders to:
“The licensee must provide the issuing NPWS office with accurate and up to date records of all animals harmed under this licence within seven days of the expiry of this licence. Records may be provided by telephone or on the record sheet provided with this licence. Licence variations, extensions or new licences may not be granted unless record sheets have been provided”. Licences to harm Kangaroos NSW
We do not have the data for actual animals killed at this time but will request it.
As a general comment, given that the actual kill data is collected by NPWS, it should be published and importantly, in a form that enables both government and the public to have a detailed understanding of what has actually happened. All too often in these matters there will be excuses which include, the data is collected by regional managers and staff, we don’t have time to deal with the information and our computer software and systems can’t cope with this type of information and so on.
The very point of collecting the information is to understand and properly ‘manage’ what is occurring. Not to publish the information is indeed a sign of poor standards of governance that are all too often pervasive around wildlife killing actives in Australia. Confusion equals concealment and this digital incompetence is then used as an excuse not to answer questions, including under FOI.
The public register of harms is a list of permits issued. Using individual permit records - there are many thousands, we have added and sorted this list into species and time periods (years). This analysis is very revealing. NPWS describes the public register thus:
“The public register provides information about licences to control native animals administered since 25 August 2017, following commencement of the BC Act. This includes licences that have been granted, renewed, varied, suspended or cancelled since that time. The register is available as an Excel spreadsheet and is updated approximately every 3 months”.
“As part of the State Government drought package Mr Blair wants farmers to be able to manage the Kangaroo numbers in drought-hit areas. We're getting rid of the red tape, we want to make it easier for landholders to get that quota of roos, make it easier to access the tag through a change process, getting more shooters on properties and also increasing the commercial take”. ABC, 15 June 2018 (Note: Niall Blair, is a former Minister for Primary Industries in NSW)
Table 1 gives the number of licences to harm protected species, in this case Kangaroos, in New South Wales by species by year. There were 16,989 licences (six species) to harm 1,887,072 Kangaroos and Wallabies (table 2) during the period August 2017 to end February 2023. This is a shocking and irresponsible number, given the dire environmental circumstances and the high numbers of Kangaroos being killed for commercial gain during the period.
The decline in the number of permits to harm being issued since 2019 is an indicator that populations of Kangaroos have declined to such a point that permits are not being requested.
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, 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.
It is therefore extremely unlikely that populations of the commercially exploited species of Kangaroos in New South Wales has risen to 11,882,215 (up from the previous year when the population estimate was 10,913,343) as claimed by its government, following the 2022 Kangaroo survey. As a result, in 2023 quotas have risen yet again to 1,850,228 Kangaroos, with a maximum special quota of 178,233 that may be made available in specific circumstances. Quotas in 2022 were 1,692,207 and in 2021, 1,598,761. The number of Eastern Grey Kangaroos being targeted for extermination in New South Wales is unconscionable.
"At the moment New South Wales only uses 13 per cent of its quota for Kangaroos and that's just not enough — particularly in the times of drought, Mr Blair said”. ABC, 15 June 2018
That, Mr Blair, is because the Kangaroos are not there. Stating the obvious, here is a Kangaroo poem from Peter Hylands:
I saw a Kangaroo that wasn’t there
All I could do was stand and stare
These Kangaroos are everywhere
Or could it be it wasn’t there?
And now Kangaroos aren’t anywhere?
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.
“In six days of searching these shooting zones, at last and towards the end of our time there, we discovered one living Kangaroo. So, where there is an estimated population of just under 3 million Kangaroos, we counted just one living Kangaroo”.
Method of harm is shoot.
Table 3 gives the number of licences to harm protected species, in this Flying-foxes, in New South Wales by species by year. There were 16 licences (three species) to harm 534 Flying-foxes (table 4) during the period August 2017 to the end of 2020, from 1 July 2021 permits to harm these species were no longer issued. The numbers in the tables below will be much lower than what had occurred in relation to Flying-foxes in the years proceeding 2017 as populations collapse.
Method of harm not stated in the data sheets but I quote from earlier New South Wales Government documentation which answers that question (Standard operating procedure for the shooting of Flying-foxes, July 2015):
“Three species of Flying-fox occur in NSW: the Black Flying-fox (Pteropus alecto), the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), and the Little Red Flying-fox (Pteropus scapulatus). While all three species will forage in fruit crops, it is the Grey-headed and Black Flying-foxes that are most often implicated by farmers. The Grey-headed Flying-fox is listed as a vulnerable species on Schedule 2 of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, and as a Vulnerable Species under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Shooting of Flying-foxes as a crop protection measure must be undertaken in accordance with relevant State and Commonwealth legislation. A general licence, issued under section 120 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 to legally harm Black Flying- foxes, Grey-headed Flying-foxes and / or Little Red Flying-foxes must be obtained from the Office of Environment and Heritage before any shooting occurs”.
Table 5 gives the number of licences to harm protected species other than Kangaroos and Flying-foxes in New South Wales by species by year. There were 2,552 licences to harm 204,646 (table 6) targeting 58 Australian species during the period August 2017 to end February 2023.
Methods of killing, mainly shooting, also trap and euthanise and a category called other. Relatively few permits were issued for the NPWS catch and release option, species in this category included possum species and Ibis. Reptiles are typically relocated.
Licences to harm: A closer look at the treatment of birdlife and ranking of harm, the Little Corella tops the list at 51,512 for the period, followed by the Australian White Ibis at 38,588 and the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo at 25,378. The treatment of Emus is of extreme concern with the New South Wales Government targeting 11,817 birds.
Notes: One Little Red Flying-fox makes the list in 2021. I was personally staggered by the number of Emus targeted in 2018 at a staggering 8,274 in that one year alone, this mirrors the mass slaughter of Kangaroos in that year. Australia’s war on its Parrot species is clearly alive and well in New South Wales.