Victoria: Review of the Kangaroo ‘harvest management plan’
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Life on land
This is a note describing our research and analysis, its purpose, to leave Victorian Government Ministers and the Commonwealth Environment Minister in no doubt about the true circumstances of what is one of the most disreputable and cruel commercial exploitations of land based wildlife anywhere in the world.
Note: All the numbers used in the analysis below are published by and provided by the Australian Government and each state government in mainland Australia. Tasmania appears to escape scrutiny.
Victoria, as a recent addition to the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos, has been used to extend the life of a dying industry.
In 2022, the Central shooting zone became the Kangaroo killing hotspot, where 65,050 Eastern Grey Kangaroos were targeted in just this one zone. LGAs in the firing line in the Central shooting zone were Ballarat, Brimbank, Hepburn, Hume, Macedon Ranges, Melton, Mitchell, Moorabool, Mount Alexander, Murrindindi, Nillumbik, Whittlesea and Yarra Ranges.
In 2023, the Central shooting zone is an even greater target for the commercial Kangaroo trade than it was in 2022. The 2023 quota for the Central shooting zone is 82,050, which includes a commercial quota of 65,100, this compares to the Mallee shooting Zone in the North West of the state (rural type outback with once significant populations of Kangaroos) of a commercial quota of 1,550. The Victorian Government claims that the Kangaroo population in the Central shooting zone has increased by 161,600 giving a total population for that zone of 820,550.
This cannot be correct and appears to be significantly overstated.
The human population in the Central shooting zone in 2022 was 1,409,842, rising from 872,966 in 2000. The shooting zone includes the LGAs of Hume and Whittlesea which are among the fastest growing LGAs in Australia, near doubling their populations over the period. These are not the places in which high powered rifles with suppressors or silencers (normally illegal or recognised as dangerous) should be used to kill and butcher wildlife , traumatising residents in the process.
As Kangaroo populations across Australia continue to fall (despite the usual rise in the population estimates). Commercial shooting zone expansions, including the whole state of Victoria, have been added but have had little impact in slowing the decline of the commercial industry.
New species have also been added to the commercial list in South Australia and Tasmania is being used to ‘top up’ supply of Kangaroo and Wallaby products, with Wallaby carcasses from Tasmania being sent for processing on the NSW border and presumably being transported through Victoria.
National Parks, State Parks in Australia are under increasing threat of being used for the commercial exploitation of wildlife – now occurring in South Australia.
Commercial exploitation of Kangaroo species is moving from the outback to the backyard. Going after remaining Kangaroo populations through zone expansions means that the use of high powered rifles and, place of kill butchering, is increasingly occurring in close proximity to where people live and work, including the suburbs of Melbourne, now the most populous Australian city.
This is extremely distressing for residents and complaints are ignored.
Complaining can deliver very bad outcomes for complainants.
Since the announcement, now nearly ten years ago, that Victoria would recommence its failed commercially exploitation of Kangaroos, we have described in detail the impacts of what would occur. We were accurate in our assessments, informing responsible Ministers and senior public servants, and doing so on numerous occasions over the period.
"Instead of trying to manage Kangaroos, a very strange idea, the best thing the Victorian Government could do is to try and manage itself".
The only response has been pushbacks and denials and refusal to meet with us or respond to questions. This behaviour is directly the opposite that the government’s own standards require and is not dissimilar to the characteristics of spin, not listening and cruel behaviours directly responsible for the Robodebt saga.
Ethical and moral considerations aside, two of the most distressing aspect of this have been:
The Victorian Government can do a lot better than this and leadership is required to now properly investigate the matters covered here. A government inquiry into the commercial exploitation of wildlife and more generally the use of ATCWs is now required. The commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in Victoria must cease.
Similar issues regarding the over-estimation of population numbers apply in all states. Our analysis and detailed in location research indicate that Kangaroo population estimates for Victoria are exaggerated in a range of 2 to 3 times. These errors underpin toxic policies and devastating impacts for wildlife populations in the state.
Amid dire climatic conditions and the now industrial scale killing, the 2022 Kangaroo survey gave the population estimate of Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroos at 2,363,850 (a population increase of 24 per cent when compared to previous survey which had itself reported a 41 per cent increase), resulting in a quota for 2023 of 236,350 Kangaroos, made up of an ATCW quota of 69,600 and commercial quota of 166,750.
Changing patterns of share between shooting zones in Victoria, including increased targeting of Metropolitan Melbourne and the Central shooting zone, clearly demonstrate rapid decline of Kangaroo populations in some shooting zones. In Q4 2022, two shooting zones were suspended, these were the North East and the Lower Wimmera shooting zones (this is now confirmed in the full year report).
The total actual take of Grey Kangaroos in Victoria, including mitigation permits (known in Victoria as ATCWs) was 127,117 out of a quota of 185,850.
Because of serious flooding in the North of Victoria, particularly on the Murray system, what can only be described as a Kangaroo massacre occurred in the Mallee shooting zone in Q4 when mitigation permits were issued to kill large numbers of Kangaroos, their plight ignored until shooting became the only option. This pushed up the actual total kill number and included large numbers of Kangaroos that would otherwise have survived, further depleting the state’s Kangaroo population. In contrast and across the border in New South Wales, wildlife rescuers were able to rescue Kangaroos from the floods.
The commercial quota for Kangaroos in Victoria in Q1 was 42,100.
The actual number of Kangaroos killed for commercial gain in Victoria in the period was 24,637, just 58.5 per cent of the quota.
Females made up 32.5 per cent of the kill, leading to the cruel killing of 6,675 joeys (our estimate based on previous actuals nationally), thus taking out the next generations.
Two shooting zones out of seven, the Central Shooting Zone and the Lower Wimmera Shooting Zone, accounted for 66.7 per cent of the total kill. The Central Shooting Zone, in and proximate to the City of Melbourne, had the highest number of Kangaroos killed at 8,312, add to that number, an additional 2,250 joeys.
Just 476 Western Grey Kangaroos were killed in the first quarter of 2023, the balance were Eastern Grey Kangaroos, a species which has a wider distribution in Victoria.
The Victorian Government, in enabling and promoting the cruel exploitation of wildlife, is on the way to exterminating the Western Grey Kangaroo in the state in just the same way as the Red Kangaroo, which is still being killed in State and National Parks
Victorian Government authorised Kangaroo killing, commercial and non-commercial permits since 2010 (Eastern Grey and Western Grey Kangaroos - Red Kangaroos until 2019) (numbers of animals in bold authorised under Labor Government):
Since 2014, when the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos was introduced into Victoria, there have been four Victorian Government Kangaroo population surveys. The results were as follows:
Climate change impact in period – serious flooding.
Climate change impact in period – most serious wildfires known.
2017 survey (shorter transects)
In 2017 the Victorian Government issued permits to kill 2,187 more Red Kangaroos than their entire state population estimate for that year.
Numbers (Excludes Tasmania) - rounded
Kangaroos breed slowly, mature females producing just one joey each year (theoretically two) and death rates are now extremely high.
NOTE: the most recent increase in quota is not much less than the actual take against quota in the previous year (2022). These numbers tell us very clearly that Kangaroos have absolutely no protection in Australia.
NOTE: For the first time ever, Victoria has now reported more Kangaroos in their population estimate than Western Australia.
1,079,115 Kangaroos were killed for commercial gain in mainland Australia in 2022, numbers are declining as Kangaroo populations dwindle due to over exploitation, development and climate change.
The quotas and actuals for the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos and Wallabies for the period 1991 to 1994 are as follows:
For the years 1995 and 1996 the actual number of Kangaroos and Wallabies killed for commercial gain exceeded 3 million.
The serial decline of take when the 1994 and 2022 actuals are compared is evident with the 2022 actual take being just 31 per cent of that in 1994.
The damage done to Kangaroo populations across the Continent is further described by the fact that shooting zones have expanded significantly, including the addition of the whole state of Victoria, significant parts of South Australia with further extensions in NSW.
Even this expansion has failed to stop the decline in actual take.
2021-22 - $31,582,408 = USD 20,844,389
In 2022 Australia exported 1,792,510 kilos of Kangaroo meat at a total value FOB of Australian $10,448,354. Low number of exports describe the dominance of the pet food processing industry in the Kangaroo meat supply chain in Australia.
Commercial Kangaroo harvest quotas are never met. In 2021, Australia wide (excluding Tasmania), the commercial Kangaroo harvest quotas was 4,464,471 with a special quota of 198,988. The actual commercial take in 2021 was 30 per cent of the quota for that year at 1,344,369 animals.
South Australia had the highest share of females in the take at around 45 per cent. Large numbers of joeys are killed but not counted, destroying future generations.
In 2020, Australia wide (excluding Tasmania), the commercial Kangaroo harvest quotas was 6,032,595 with a special quota of 228,333. The actual commercial take in 2020 was 20 per cent of the quota for that year at 1,229,510 animals. South Australia had the highest share of females in the take at around 42 per cent.
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. Because the government's population estimates are far too high, the risk now for a given zone or species, is that quotas exceed the actual remaining populations.
When a new commercial shooting zone is added, the killing rate increases rapidly.
Victoria is an example where the killing rate has increased fivefold. This is not, and cannot be sustainable, as the dwindling take against quotas describe. As the actual take continues to decline, the share of females killed for commercial gain continues to increase. That in turn means more and more joeys die.
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.
There is a relationship between actual take against quota and population estimate by species, so say the actual take against quota is between 10 and 20 per cent of quota - ongoing, even this dwindling take against quota is only achieved by tricks like prey switching - adding new species to the commercial list; ie. South Australia adding new species, killing more and more females and zone extensions.
After significant zone extensions, New South Wales are already trying to creep into non-shooting zones (more populous coastal areas) and in Victoria, no zone extensions are possible as the whole state, minus a couple of very small bits, including the Melbourne CBD, is a shooting zone.
Victoria has no minimum size for Kangaroos that can be used commercially for pet food.
So for Victoria, any extension of the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos is National / State Parks and adding more species (yet again the Red Kangaroo is increasingly in danger). In 2022 the Victorian Government issued 9 permits to kill 2,030 Red Kangaroos, presumably most on public lands.
Victoria, unlike most other states, does not even have the option of reducing the weights of the Kangaroos that can be exploited.
In Tasmania it is now about going after tiny Pademelons (now extinct in Victoria) and secretive transition of permits to commercial for the fast vanishing Forester Kangaroo (the Forester will become extinct if things don’t change).
So it very much looks like all the states are running out of Kangaroos and the Victorian Government has backed itself into a corner, from which, it will find it impossible to extract itself.
In Victoria more shooters are travelling and killing Kangaroos for commercial gain and doing so in more than one shooting zone. Surveys target where remaining populations can be exploited. Quotas are by zone so there is nothing stopping shooters taking most of the remaining animals in a particular location in a zone as long as they have a permit for that zone and permission from the landholder. This reality is more and more evident when site inspections are made.
The commercial exploitation of Kangaroos has climate change consequences because the process of locating, killing, storing and cooling and processing Kangaroos is carbon intensive and yields a very high carbon cost per dollar value.
One of a number of reasons that this activity is disreputable can be described in the use of language so as to mislead the public into thinking that the mass killing of wildlife, in this case Kangaroos, is somehow for the public good.
DEECA is not in any sense protecting Kangaroos so why pretend they are?
There are numerous other examples of what can only be described as nonsense speak.
There were no suspensions of commercial shooter authorisations in the first quarter of 2023, even though they are shooting a very large number of females with evident joeys. To remind everyone, the Victorian licence authorisation, Conditions of Authorisation under section 28A of the Wildlife Act 1975, to hunt, take, destroy, possess, dispose of and sell Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Western Grey Kangaroos in accordance with the approved Victorian Kangaroo Harvest Management Plan 2021-2023, states very clearly that:
“Condition 7 - Kangaroos with obvious dependent young must not be shot”.
I have pointed this out to a series of revolving Victorian Government Ministers responsible for this behaviour and precisely nothing has been done about it.
No doubt, and in the current review of their ‘management plan’ they will be removing any reference to not shooting females with obvious dependent young in any supporting documentation.
In the nine or so years analysing the impact of the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in Victoria we have concluded that the senior individuals, particularly Ministers, in the Victorian Government operate on the basis of don’t ask and don’t know.
This has become particularly evident in relation to the growing number of human rights abuses relating to these matters, which are shocking.
Complaints and concerns and the terrible impact on peoples’ lives are ignored. Here is one among many.
“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 2023 quotas are extremely alarming given that remnant Kangaroo populations in Victoria are increasingly associated with human settlements, including suburbs in the City of Melbourne, and these are the places now being targeted by the shooters.
We have said over and over again that the use of high powered rifles in and around human settlements is very dangerous as well as being highly distressing to the people who live in these places.