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Snapshot: Commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in New South Wales

Life on land

“At time of writing, four species of Macropod were commercially exploited in New South Wales. These are the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo, Red Kangaroo and Wallaroo. The commercial exploitation of Kangaroos commenced in New South Wales in the early 1970s”.

May 21, 2023

29 per cent of Kangaroos killed for commercial gain in NSW were female (144,212). These numbers do not include joeys killed in the process, estimated at an additional 54,000).

In 2021 the actual take against quota

  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo was 32.5 per cent, that is 321,550 animals instead of the intended kill of 988,660;
  • Western Grey Kangaroo was 28 per cent, that is 25,752animals instead of the intended kill of 90,765;
  • Red Kangaroo was 30 per cent, that is 142,108 animals instead of the intended kill of 474,852; and
  • Wallaroo was 18 per cent, that is 7,875 animals instead of the intended kill of 44,484.

The 2021 actual commercial kill for all Kangaroo species in NSW was 497,285 (31 per cent of heavily reduced quota), up from 469,186 in 2020, when 22 per cent of the quota was met. The actuals for 2022 are likely to prove very telling.

2020 and 2021 compared

The commercial quota for the four species in 2020 was 2,146,615 with a special quota of 212,376 (revised to 2,126,176) falling to 1,598,761 in 2021, with a special quota of 156,788 in 2021. In 2021 the quota represented 15.3 per cent of their estimated population of the four species in New South Wales of 10,452,526.

In 2020 the actual take against quota

  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo was 23 per cent, that is 329,235 animals instead of the intended kill of 1,408,964;
  • Western Grey Kangaroo was 14.5 per cent, that is 18,907 animals instead of the intended kill of 129,030;
  • Red Kangaroo was 20 per cent, that is 115,053 animals instead of the intended kill of 564,137; and
  • Wallaroo was 11 / 25 per cent, that is 5,991 animals instead of the intended kill of 44,484 (revised down to 24,045).

In 2020, 32 per cent of Kangaroos killed for commercial gain in NSW were female (150,139). These numbers do not include joeys killed in the process, estimated at an additional 55,000).

More places Kangaroos in New South Wales can be killed for commercial gain. An old trick, but not even the expansion of commercial shooting zones has helped much when it comes to bolstering the numbers.

“The commercial Kangaroo ‘management’ area was expanded in 2020 to take in the former Wagga Wagga non-commercial zone to provide landholders with additional options to manage kangaroo numbers. Expanding the Griffith Zone to include the new area increased it from 98,171 to 129,884 square kilometres. To achieve more refined management, this area was divided into the two new zones of Griffith North (65,758 square kilometres) and Griffith South (64,126 square kilometres)”. New South Wales Department of Planning, industry and Environment

Strange numbers and no consistent trend between states

In 2021 and at the same time as the claims that populations were exploding in Victoria (by 41 per cent from the previous year), the New South Wales Government advised its Kangaroo population had plummeted by 25.5 per cent. The New South Wales annual survey estimated there were 10.5 million animals in 2020, compared to 14 million in 2019. It is a significant collapse since a peak of 17 million was reported in 2016. The collapse due to over estimating populations in the first place (it eventually catches up with you), rates of shooting that are too high and include large numbers of females and their joeys, recreational shooting by weekend shooters, exclusion fences and climate impacts.

As in other states, New South Wales is divided into shooting zones. Also, like in other states, quotas for the commercial exploitation are not met, and by a very long way. The reason is that populations have declined so drastically that the Kangaroos do not exist in anywhere near the numbers the New South Wales Government claims.

The Tibooburra and Cobar shooting zones

Here are 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.

New South Wales Government Kangaroo Inquiry

For the New South Wales Government Inquiry into the Health and wellbeing of Kangaroos and other Macropods in New South Wales, submissions to the inquiry closed in late April 2021, hearings were held between June and August and the final report, with substantive omissions, was published in mid-October.

Something very wrong

Clearly something is very wrong and that is precisely what the committee for the New South Wales Government Inquiry into the Health and wellbeing of Kangaroos and other Macropods in New South Wales thought. It would have been very hard for them not to recognise what was going on.

For those listening to the inquiry or providing evidence the hearings were deeply shocking and revealed a grotesque lack of standards and governance as well as the constant suffering of residents in New South Wales impacted by the killing.

The shocking outcome to the inquiry

While the New South Wales Government should be commended for establishing the inquiry, what occurred in the final instance can only be described as shocking, the significant watering down of the draft report (by politicians from the Labor, Liberal and National Parties), removing critically important recommendations, and the subsequent signing off of the New South Wales Government’s Wildlife Trade Management Plan for the Commercial Harvest of Kangaroos in New South Wales 2022-26 (so criticised by the inquiry).

Environment Minister, Matt Kean, despite what he knew about the utter mess that Kangaroo ‘management’ in New South Wales was in, signed off the management plan, passing it to the Commonwealth Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, who also signed off on the plan on 22 December 2021.

“The Minister has made a decision to approve the NSW Plan with conditions relating to annual reporting on population surveys, harvest quotas, and monitoring and compliance of harvesters with their state licence requirements”.

We all spent so much time on preparing submissions based on solid evidence, only to be completely ignored.

Dissenting statements

What follows are comments and statements from committee chair, Cate Faehrmann MLC (Green).

  • The robustness of the science and population estimates behind setting quotas for how many Kangaroos may be harvested has been called into question through this inquiry. Without independent oversight and greater transparency, we cannot have confidence that the government's Kangaroo management program is not contributing to potentially devastating declines in some Kangaroo populations.
  • This inquiry has also heard troubling evidence of inhumane, disrespectful practices that are not acceptable to many in the community, including the treatment of joeys. There are several recommendations that, if acted upon, will increase the transparency around the deaths of joeys that are occurring in both the commercial and non-commercial industries.

In my selection of dissenting statements (removed from final report’s findings and recommendations) the chair says:

  • Overall, the committee is concerned that Kangaroo numbers are in serious decline in New South Wales, with mobs becoming marginalised and fragmented across the state's landscape. The committee believes that, notwithstanding the impact of drought on Kangaroo populations, land clearing and licensed killing for agricultural interests and the commercial harvesting industry are major factors in this decline.
  • That there is currently no humane method of killing macropods and their joeys for either commercial or non-commercial purposes.
  • That, as a matter of urgency, the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment introduce a moratorium on harvesting Wallaroos in the Northern Tablelands and Red Kangaroos in the Western Plains, until new population surveys are conducted. The survey methodology must be independently peer reviewed, and primary data (including photographic evidence) must be made available for public, independent scrutiny.

How nothing ever changes

Meanwhile, and away from the inquiry report, the New South Wales Government Department of Planning, Industry and Environment claims:

“No adverse long-term impacts on kangaroo populations have been identified after more than 45 years of harvesting under commercial management plans. This time frame has included several periods of severe drought”.

This statement can only be described as total nonsense.

The Commonwealth Government claims:

“The Minister (Sussan Ley) does not provide permission, norcan the Minister prevent the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos. Commercial exploitation of Kangaroos and Wallabies occurs under state management plans that require exploitation to be sustainable and humane. The revised Code ofPractice that was published in November 2020 after extensive consultation with the public, scientists, the Kangaroo industry and animal welfare experts including the RSPCA”.

After I complained to Matt Kean following his signing of the plan, I got the following response (extracts). Incredibly they are claiming an increase in Kangaroo populations once again, it is as if the inquiry had never happened:

“I refer to your email to the Treasurer, and Minister forEnergy and Environment, the Hon Matt Kean MP about the management of kangaroos in New South Wales. Your correspondence was referred to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and I have been asked to reply. In New South Wales, Kangaroos are protected under the Biodiversity ConservationAct 2016. It is an offence to harm, attempt to harm, or to buy or sell Kangaroos for commercial purposes, without a licence. Licences are only issued for damage mitigation, where non-lethal options are ineffective, or for the legal harvesting of Kangaroos for meat and skins under the commercial Kangaroo management program.
Kangaroo numbers fluctuate in accordance with availability of feed, principally ground cover vegetation, which is primarily determined by rainfall. To maintain sustainable Kangaroo populations, the commercial kangaroo harvest quotas and non-commercial culling limits are set after populations are surveyed each year. The best available scientific methods are used to design and conduct the surveys of Kangaroo populations, using both fixed-wing and helicopter surveys. Aerial surveys undertaken during the period June to September 2021, indicate a total of 10.9 million kangaroos inhabit the 15 kangaroo management zones of inland New South Wales (average density of 15.6 Kangaroos per square kilometre), an increase of 4.5 per cent compared to the survey results of 2020.
To ensure the humane treatment of Kangaroos, there are national commercial and non-commercial codes of practice for the humane shooting of Kangaroos. These codes set the criteria for humane shooting and are intended to ensure that shooting is carried out in a manner to minimise, to the fullest extent possible, pain, distress and suffering. The New South Wales commercial kangaroo management program is conducted in line with a WildlifeTrade Management Plan approved by the Australian Government Minister for theEnvironment according to the requirements of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. A new plan for 2022-2026 is currently being assessed (now approved) by the Australian Government, to take effect from 1 January 2022”.

An enjoyable response if you like fiction, if you like facts, well that is another matter.

I suggest you download the report, Inquiry into the Health and wellbeing of Kangaroos and other Macropods in New South Wales, from the government’s website, it makes for some shocking reading.

The story for 2022 so far

Early figures are now coming in for 2022 and they are shocking. They are for the first 9 months of 2022 and include shooter returns to 10 October.

The Kangaroo story, following the state's inquiry into these mattes, continues to unfold. Almost nothing has been done to stop the evident disaster now unfolding and that everyone knew about.

For all species for this period, 318,225 Kangaroo were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 1,692,207, 19 per cent of the quota.

For individual species in 2022; for the Eastern Grey Kangaroo 189,009 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 933,037, 20 per cent of the quota; for the Red Kangaroo 105,730 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 619,932, 17 per cent of the quota; for the Wallaroo 6,135 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 44,484, 14 per cent of the quota and for the Western Grey Kangaroo 17,351 were killed for commercial gain against a quota of 94,754, 18 per cent of the quota.

“The commercial Kangaroo ‘harvest’ quota is based on harvesting a proportion of the estimated population. Annual commercial harvest quotas are set at a proportion of the estimated Kangaroo populations. Quotas are generally set at 17 per cent of the estimated population for Red Kangaroos, and for Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Western Grey Kangaroos and Wallaroos, 15 percent of the estimated population”. New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment