Snapshot: The commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in Victoria
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Australia’s Kangaroo world is a dark one, a world of dodgy numbers, disinformation and propaganda, questionable animal health and human health standards, retribution and intimidation, denial of climate change impacts, extreme cruelty, questionable economic benefit and divisive impacts on regional communities.
In order to maintain the Kangaroo population estimates published by governments, new shooting zones and regions are added as others close because the Kangaroos are gone. In the case of South Australia, new species, as well as new shooting zones are added, as so-called quotas are never met, again and simply because the Kangaroos they are trying to kill do not exist.
In the case of Victoria, no further expansion is possible (unless in state and national parks) as the entire state, with very few exceptions which include inner Melbourne, is covered by the seven shooting zones.
A recent report commissioned by a Victorian politician on the impact of the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos (August 2022 Kyahl Anderson, University of Melbourne) on residents and business people in the state found that:
That the night-time killing is violent, and the aftermath gruesome, generating fear amongst women, families and the elderly.
“We are talking high powered rifles here, the Victorian regulations state, Kangaroos must only be shot with a calibre of ammunition that equals or is greater than 0.224 inches or 5.69 millimetres with a cartridge size of .222R, .223, .22/250 with a soft or hollowpoint projectile of 50 grains or more or 0.204 inches or 5.18 millimetres with a cartridge size of .204 Ruger with a soft or hollowpoint projectile of 40 grains or more. Frightening stuff”. Peter Hylands
Victoria is divided into seven shooting zones covering the state which even extend into Metropolitan Melbourne. These are places where Kangaroos can be brutally killed for commercial gain.
Currently, two species of Kangaroo are exploited commercially in Victoria, the Eastern Grey Kangaroo and the Western Grey Kangaroo. The Red Kangaroo was removed from the commercial list in Victoria in 2019 because of inflated population estimates.
The Kangaroo population estimates and population increases published by the Victorian Government appear to be diverging more and more from the likely actual populations of these animals in the state. Population increases, given the significant losses in the last three years, are at a biologically impossible rate.
Governance standards are described by the following responseto an FOI request:
“The department does not have any information management system for the recording, tracking or reporting its compliance monitoring and enforcement activities in relation to ATCW permits it issued in 2020 that would enable the department to provide the statistical information and records you have asked for. This is the case for all DELWP regions. The case management system (CMS) that the department uses to manage documents pertaining to the investigation of complaints/referrals/reports received by regional customer call centres or the region’s compliance email inbox regarding illegal wildlife activity, does not have the functionality to generate the statistics you seek either. In order to obtain the data sought, every entry in the CMS must be searched manually in order to identify whether the case relates to an ATCW.After that, the data pertaining to each specific element of your request would have to be manually tabulated from all the ATCW cases identified”. Department of Environment (DELWP) January 2022
“The repugnantly named Kangaroo Harvesting Program (KHP) began in Victoria on 1 October 2019 following the Kangaroo Pet Food Trial (KPFT) which commenced in 2014.
If the periods 2009-2013 and 2014-2018 are compared, the rate of killing roughly tripled from 259,288 to 747,659 animals. Sadly, having saved the Red Kangaroo from the pet food can in Victoria over concerns about vastly exaggerated population numbers, the high level of animals subject to the non-commercial ATCW permit in 2019 (10,073 animals) can only be described as malicious conduct”. Peter Hylands
Victorian Government authorised Kangaroo killing, commercial and non-commercial permits since 2010 (Eastern Grey and Western Grey Kangaroos and Red Kangaroos until 2019) (numbers in bold authorised under Labor Government):
Note: The Victorian Government's Department of Environment (DELWP) is trying to shift the majority of permits it issues to kill Kangaroos to commercial. Given that DELWP is issuing permits covering large numbers of Kangaroos in state and national parks this could also be a window for the commercial exploitation of supposedly protected wildlife in the only sanctuaries that remain.
“The actual take against quota numbers have now been published for the commercial trade in Victoria. Original commercial quota for 2021 was 95,680 Kangaroos, actual killed for commercial gain was 62,234. Of those killed 39,355 came from just two shooting zones (out of seven), namely Central and Lower Wimmera. Given the low numbers killed in other shooting zones and the inability to even meet modest quotas, this tells me that the commercial Kangaroo trade in Victoria has a very short shelf life. The actual number killed was composed of 19,405 Western Grey Kangaroos (if so, they will soon be extinct in Victoria) and 29,863 Eastern Grey Kangaroos (the number does not include joeys). Of the total number killed 21,594 were females. It also appears from the figures that a number of additional animals (probably joeys) were sent to the processor. Soon they will all be gone”. Peter Hylands
In 2021, the quota for commercial exploitation of Kangaroos was divided across the seven shooting zones as follows, the Mallee 1,110; Upper Wimmera 9,610; Lower Wimmera 25,850; Central 25,500; Otway 16,500;North-East 8,060 and Gippsland 9,050.
In 2021 the total quota for the annual slaughter of Kangaroos in Victoria, following claims of exploding populations (an increase of 41 percent following Victoria’s catastrophic bush fires and droughts) was191,200, which included the damage mitigation quota. The commercial quota share was 95,680, a number significantly higher than 2020, when 46,000 Kangaroos were killed for commercial gain (80 per cent of that year’s commercial quota).
Here are the quarterly actuals (with the proviso that theVictorian Government state that the figure for tagged carcasses is inconsistent with the quota consumed figure – I think this might be because the shooters are including unaccounted for joeys in the tagging for carcasses destined for pet food - this is because there is no minimum carcass weight in Victoria, which is very shocking):
From the quarterly analysis this is the story for 2021: The total number of Kangaroos killed in Victoria for commercial purposes was 61,732 (64 per cent of quota) (excluding joeys) against the original quota for the year of 95,680. Note numbers do not reconcile with the officially reported numbers which were slightly higher.
What is occurring is extremely concerning because the overall shortfall, because the Kangaroos do not exist in the numbers and places the Victorian Government claim, there is likely to be an all-out effort, in an attempt to make the numbers look more reasonable, to kill as many Kangaroos and in as many places as possible, as each year closes, even then they do not get the numbers in the quota. As a top-up measure, wildlife, supposedly safe on public lands, are at increasing and extreme risk of commercial exploitation in Victoria’s National and State Parks, that is, in order to justify the overstated population estimates and the resulting shortfall in actual take against quota.
“On a regional basis I fear for the people of the Lower Wimmera (2022 total government recommended kill all permits and quotas 41,050) and Central Victoria (2022 total government recommended kill all permits and quotas in the Central shooting zone is 65,050). I suspect that, in Central Victoria, the Labor Politicians are going to have a major problem on their hands. Killing and butchering animals with high powered rifles close by peoples’ houses and for hours during the night is cruel, dangerous and totally unacceptable in a modern society. The power placed in the hands of the shooters while completely disenfranchising property owners, is not only criminal, but also bizarre”. Peter Hylands to Victorian Environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio
As for quotas the general rule is that as the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos continues year after year, the gap between quota and actual take widens, many areas in Australia are now at around 15 per cent of actual take compared to quota. What that tells us loud and clear is that exaggerated population estimates lead to quotas that are far too high given actual populations, and that is what drives Kangaroo populations to regional extinctions (out of the 16 species in this family present in Victoria in the19th Century, seven are extinct and the majority of species that survive are in trouble).
Having failed to achieve the commercial quotas for 2021, the government yet again increase the commercial quota in 2022. There is little chance that the new quota will be met. The total commercial value to shooters (gross) of the 2022 take (assuming they shoot them all) is estimated at around $2.8 million, about $31,000 per shooter before costs. The costs to government of enabling and promoting the slaughter of Australian wildlife is far higher and the cost to the natural environment in Victoria and the people that live there is far greater still.
While the commercial quotas for Kangaroos in 2022 in Victoria were determined in November 2021, despite numerous attempts at getting the details, the information was finally released on 22 December 2021. This is now the practice because these numbers are controversial and releasing them during a festive and holiday period, when journalist are also on leave, describes just how abhorrent the conduct enabling the mass killing of wildlife in Victoria now is.
In 2022 the commercial quota for Kangaroos in Victoria has risen to 127,850, including damage mitigation permits, this number rises to 185,850. The claim is, there was no Kangaroo survey in late 2021, that Grey Kangaroo populations in Victoria are similar to that in 2021 (slightly less) at1,858,150 (2021 population estimate 1,911,550).
Total kill quotas for 2022 (damage mitigation permits and commercial exploitation combined) by Victorian shooting zone; Mallee 3,650 /Upper Wimmera 13,350 / Lower Wimmera 41,050 / Central 65,050 / Otway 23,600 / North-East 22,100 / Gippsland 17,050. Total targeted 185,850.
In 2022, the quota for commercial exploitation of Kangaroos is divided across the seven shooting zones as follows, the Mallee 1,050; Upper Wimmera 11,400; Lower Wimmera 30,550; Central 46,150 (near double previous year); Otway 20,650; North-East 4,950 and Gippsland 13,100. Total targeted 127,850.
Central Shooting Zone 2022
The Central Shooting Zone is now commercial killing hotspot in Victoria, bringing Kangaroo shooters ever closure to resident’s backyards.
In Victoria and for the period January to end June 2022, the commercial kill against quota was as follows. The gross value of this terrible trade for the period is estimated at $950,000. This comprised 39,919 Grey Kangaroos, of which 13,652 were female. The quota for the period was 63,925 Grey Kangaroos, therefore 62 per cent of the quota set to-date was met. The greatest concentration of commercial shooters to receive permit allocations in the period were in the Central Shooting Zone at 65 shooters, this compares with the vast Mallee Shooting Zone of just five shooters with commercial allocations.
We should note that some people are too frightened to have their names shown publicly.
“We live in a constant state of anxiety and depression. We run a yoga retreat in Dunkeld which attracts customers from around Australia and overseas. We don’t know when the shooter is coming, he comes for several hours during the night and often at around 2am. The shooting, with high powered rifles happens very close to our home and business and we have guests, it is incredibly loud and cuts through the still night air in a way that is hard to imagine and is very frightening, as are the spotlights shining on our house.When I try to stop the shooting, you can’t run a yoga retreat under these terrible circumstances, we are totally ignored. When we contact the Victorian Environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio at her office, we are told by staff that it is not their responsibility, yet their website says it is. So we get referred to another government office, this time in Ballarat, and the person answering the phone refuses to put me through and on it goes. What is being done to us, which will destroy our business, livelihoods and investments, is all because one man wants to shoot our beautiful Kangaroos. When he is done there will be nothing left except the heads and viscera of the animals we all love and for our guests to find”. Jane Gibb, Dunkeld, Lower Wimmera shooting zone, Victoria
“After the horrific killing and dismemberment of 21 Kangaroos on 30 November 2021, about a third to half the mob of Kangaroos that live in my valley, I am still very traumatised. Initially I was numb with shock and disbelief that such a thing could be sanctioned and carried out by humans. Since, I have been experiencing a mixture of anxiety, sadness, depression and sheer anger. My neighbours have already made the decision to sell up, and I am contemplating my future here. It feels like post-traumatic stress disorder. In the following day of the killing, I was checking for injured wildlife and orphan joeys, when I came across Kangaroo heads hacked off, paws and intestines, on the land where the killing took place. There is no knowing if heads were removed to cover that there had been no head shot, therefore questioning whether the animal was dead when it was hacked apart.” Resident, Wombat Forest, Central shooting zone, Victoria in note to Peter Hylands
The mass killing of Red Kangaroos is occurring in State and National Parks in Victoria and to such an extent that the species will become extinct (following seven other species in this family in the state) unless remedial action occurs quickly.
“For the largest of the Macropods, the Red Kangaroo, the neonate emerges after a short gestation period of 33 -34 days. The little animal makes its precarious journey to the pouch where it attaches itself to its mother’s teat (one of four). The young animal takes its first venture into the outside world at around 27 weeks, these are typically short excursions. The young Kangaroo will continue to suckle for another six months or so, making the time to weaning 14 to 18 months, depending on the species. The dependant relationship between mother and joey is lengthy and very close, and for the observer is one of the great joys of the natural world"
Some very troubling news from Central Victoria in September 2021 suggested that a local meat works wanted to open up a Kangaroo processing facility, that would, when fully operational, process 2,000 Kangaroos each week. That is 104,000 Kangaroos in one year. In 2021, the entire commercial trade in wildlife quota for Kangaroos in Victoria this year is 95,680. So just one of a number of Kangaroo meat processing plants in Victoria, plans to process more than the quota for the whole state. Even using the government’s inflated population numbers for the shire where the plant will be located, the entire commercial quota for that shire would be consumed in just over a week.The expectation would be that Kangaroo carcasses would be imported from elsewhere in Victoria and neighbouring states.
“Yes, I know about those joeys. At foot joeys were distressed and bounding aimlessly without their mothers. They couldn’t be caught, so they became increasingly distressed, bloated, and died tragic prolonged deaths. Primarily it was tragic for the young, orphaned joeys. I can’t even imagine. Of course, it was horrible for the humans who wanted to protect and save them but were unable to do anything to help them. The whole situation is immensely tragic” Dr Tamasin Ramsay, Parliament of Victoria
“The big male Kangaroos were the first to be killed and taken. Over the 12 years of commercial shooting here we have seen the struggle for survival that the younger Kangaroos endure and fall victim to in their hundreds. It's not only the milk dependant Joeys as we know, the two and three year old Kangaroos that are still reliant on protection and guidance”.
“It is fascinating that so many people swallow the spin about booming Kangaroo populations, a few minutes sitting quietly with a calculator would tell them a different story. Australia wide, this must be the world’s worst example, given its scale, of land-based wildlife exploitation”. Peter Hylands
In late July 2021, following a series of dog deaths in Victoria from Indospicine toxicity, caused by the consumption of raw meat that had been sold as pet food, the Victorian Government’s Agriculture Department has issued the following warning:
“On a precautionary basis, we are advising that dog owners should not feed fresh or frozen knackery meat, especially Kangaroo meat, sourced from the Gippsland area between 31 May and 3 July. If you have concerns consult your pet food provider to understand where the fresh meat came from and where it was sourced”.
The words Kangaroo meat were quickly deleted from the warning following instruction. Kangaroo meat was also added to the Victorian Government recommendations for dietary requirements for pre-school children in Victoria.
“When zoos are asking the public to donate to them because they care about Australian wildlife, little does the public suspect that zoos too are now complicit in the commercial exploitation of a growing number of Australian species. Kangaroos and Wallabies are in the frontline here. If zoo food and pet food were not a poorly enough thought through end for Australian wildlife, the Victorian Government knows no bounds to its creativity in destroying and exploiting wildlife, introducing Kangaroo meat for preschool children on its recommended lunch menu, and doing so in a time of a zoonotic pandemic. Given China’s and Russia’s well researched concerns about the health consequences of consuming Australia’s native wildlife, one would expect Victoria’s young people deserve something better”. Peter Hylands AWPC Presidents Report 2021
All creatures great and small
"At last count the RSPCA was promoting and selling around 45 pet food products containing Kangaroo meat or bones, including Kangaroo jerky, Kangaroo fillet, Kangaroo tendons and treat Kangaroo and vegies. It beggars belief that an animal welfare organisation can be part of one of the cruelest commercial trades in wild animals anywhere in the world".
After removing all its cruelty information in relation to Kangaroos from its website this is the RSPCA Victoria’s response (name of responder removed):
“In Victoria wildlife sits within DELWP, RSPCA Victoria deals mainly with domestic pets (cats, dogs, horses, small animals) and livestock in numbers of less than ten. Sorry we can’t assist you on this occasion”.
Species flourishing in Victoria in the 1Century and their current status. Many if they survive at all, are no longer present in Victoria.
Status of Kangaroo species and their relatives in Victoria
There is a growing concern internationally about the cruelty and scale of the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos. In Europe more than 100MEPs are now active in trying to stop the trade. I personally felt embarrassed by Australian Government’s attempts at disinformation during EU Agricultural trade negotiations during the Kangaroo session as everyone in the room that day knew that what they were being told was untrue.
“There is great concern among critics that management programs both for individual States and the Commonwealth are insensitive to the plight of Kangaroos during environmental stress periods as during the 1982-1984 drought. The perceived insensitivity at that time was an apparent inability or unwillingness to reduce the commercial ‘harvest’ of Kangaroos in what critics considered a timely manner during an environmental stress period. The critics argue that demands from the pastoral industry and the commercial Kangaroo industry superseded important Kangaroo management decisions. The present concern with insensitivity occurred because some important Kangaroo habitats experienced droughts during 1992 at a time when a record macropod ‘harvest’ quota of 5.2 million animals (including 4,942,000 Red and Grey Kangaroos) was established.” [Federal Register Volume 60, Number 46 (Thursday, March 9, 1995)] Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of Three Kangaroos From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
The Australian Government has worked hard on trying to influence US Governments to remove Kangaroo species from the US threatened species list. That removal has taken us to the dire circumstances now facing Kangaroos across the Australian Continent. The Red Kangaroo, Western Grey Kangaroo, and the Eastern Grey Kangaroo in mainland Australia were listed in the US on December 30, 1974 (39 FR 44990), as threatened species pursuant to the Act and the commercial importation of Kangaroos, their parts, and products were banned. A special rule to allow such importations into the United States after development of adequate State management plans accompanied the listing.
The tables have now turned again in the Kangaroo’s favour, with the Kangaroo Protection Act in California being monitored for breaches in California law as it is illegal to sell any part of a Kangaroo in California. Kangaroo Protections Acts have also been introduced to the Parliaments in New Jersey and Washington DC (Congress 02/08/2021). The Washington Bill would establish new federal crimes related to commercial activities involving Kangaroos and Kangaroo products. Specifically, the bill prohibits the import for commercial purposes, possession with intent to sell, or sale of a Kangaroo; and the introduction into interstate commerce; manufacture for introduction into interstate commerce; sale, trade, or advertisement in interstate commerce; or offer to sell, or transport or distribute in interstate commerce, any Kangaroo product. A violator is subject to civil and criminal penalties. Additionally, a Kangaroo or Kangaroo product used in a violation is subject to forfeiture.
The mass killing of Australian mammal species in Victoria’s State and National Parks and other public lands: unpleasant histories. Note - I am told by the Victorian Government that no commercial exploitation of wildlife has occurred in State and National Parks to date, but they do not rule it out. My view is that we rule it in.
“Warning do not drive on this surface - The pits caused a safety hazard as the soft oozing body fluids of a vast number of Kangaroos caused the surface of this site to be very boggy over the pits.
This is one of the death pits containing the carcasses of thousands of Kangaroos killed in the 1990 -1991 mass killing of Kangaroos. The park’s management have dug a death pit at one of the most obvious areas of natural regeneration and natural dune stabilisation in the park. Red Gum, BlackBox and Callitris Hop Bush were all actively regenerating at and near this site prior to the killings. This destroyed the natural regeneration that was occurring over the site. The pit caused soil damage from which this area will take many years to recover (the 1982 Kangaroo disposal pits are still compacted from the earthmoving equipment as no effort has been made to restore this area).
Digging these terrible disposal pits resulted in significant invasive threats including weeds, introduced by the earthmoving equipment that dug the pits and compacted the land and from the shooters vehicles.
These gruesome Kangaroo pits caused a health hazard, warning signs are here telling visitors not to drink or swim in the water as the oozing body fluids of thousands of dead Kangaroos have permeated through the sand into the Lake. The slimy fluid oozing to the surface above the pit is being washed into Lake Lockie. In times of flood these Kangaroo death pits will be underLake Lockie which connects into Lake Mournpall and Lake Hattah, where people swim and sometimes drink the water. The water from Lake Hattah is pumped to the Hattah township as its major water supply”.
The logic of the killing was senseless in precisely the way it remains today. There are far fewer animals today than there were 40 years ago when the mass killing of native mammals commenced on public lands in Victoria. Much is now an emptiness, a void, where once the energy of nature, in all its beauty, was there to see and to hear.
The Victorian Government is systematically destroying (and in the cruellest of ways) Australian mammal species that live in National and State Parks, the very last places of refuge. This type of government activism eradicated the Red Kangaroo from another park in the same region, the Wyperfeld National Park, in the 1980s. No one is held accountable and the killing continues in increasing secrecy. This behaviour is not dissimilar to what is occurring in Australia’s Capital Territory (ACT) and in reserves and nature parks and beyond. What we have discovered in the ACT defies any kind of logic, is intensely cruel and completely without justification.
The following piece of nonsense from a poster in the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park Information Centre
“If we can just keep the rabbits and the roos numbers down, it is quite possible that the recovery process could really keep going".
The preamble to this nonsense was yet more nonsense:
“While the Hattah lakes were made a sanctuary in 1915, it was not until 1953 that the grazing of sheep around them was stopped. It was obvious by then that their presence was causing damage to local flora. In 1960, the sanctuary was extended and the area became the Hattah Lakes National Park. Commercial use of the area gradually decreased, with cattle grazing phased out by the late 1960s. In the absence of competition, the numbers of rabbits and kangaroos proliferated dramatically, by 1992 the effect of the grazing on native flora were so destructive that there were very few ground covers or grasses left in large parts of the park”.
A recent and comprehensive visit to the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park (July 2022) to look for native mammal species revealed no Kangaroos at all and long grass which will become a fire hazard. Evidence has now emerged from the Victorian Government staff responsible for the killing that they could only find one Red Kangaroo and Six Grey Kangaroos in their latest Kangaroo survey in the National Park, once there were thousands. Comments from government staff were also astounding.
We will wait and see if they try to use cattle, sheep and goats to keep the grass down (as occurs in Canberra and New South Wales (the goats) when all the native animals on public land have been killed or lost in other ways. Absurdly, they call this conservation grazing or ecological grazing depending on the state or territory.
Yet again in Victoria, extreme climate change impacts, this time flooding, does little to curb the appetite for the Victorian Government’s mass slaughter of Australian wildlife.
“Wildlife Victoria volunteers attended a call outside Kyneton on Friday to rescue a small group of Kangaroos trapped in rising floodwaters. Rescuers were unable to reach the Kangaroos due to the dangerous conditions and only two Kangaroos were able to reach higher ground, with the rest, mostly females with young in their pouches, presumed drowned”. Midland Express, October 2022
From the Victorian Government
“The 2022 Kangaroo ‘Harvesting’ Program quota in Victoria has been updated as of October 2022. The quota is now set at a maximum of 118,980. This is spread across the seven shooting zones. The quota available in the North East and Lower Wimmera Shooting Zones has been reduced”. October 2022
Kyneton is in the Central Shooting Zone, the focus of the state's commercial exploitation of Kangaroos.