EXPERT REACTION: Update to NSW Government's kangaroo culling guidelines

Embargoed until: Publicly released:
As part of the NSW Drought Strategy, the Government has announced there will be a new approach to kangaroo management strategies for farmers. This will allow farmers to apply for licences over the phone or via email to cull kangaroos, and more shooters will be available to operate on a property under the same licence. In addition, kangaroo carcasses will no longer need to be tagged and left in the paddock; landholders will be able to use the carcasses for a range of non-commercial purposes including as bait meat. There will also be increased limits on the number of kangaroos that can be culled based on property size.

Organisation/s: Australian Science Media Centre

Expert Reaction

These comments have been collated by the Science Media Centre to provide a variety of expert perspectives on this issue. Feel free to use these quotes in your stories. Views expressed are the personal opinions of the experts named. They do not represent the views of the SMC or any other organisation unless specifically stated.

Professor Michael Archer is from the PANGEA Research Center at the University of New South Wales

The flip side of this ‘problem’ — as we watch cattle and sheep struggling to survive, having to be nursemaided to survive by struggling graziers, we almost invariably see photos of kangaroos hopping healthily in the background.

Kangaroos use a fraction of the water (1.5 Liters/day vs 11 L for sheep and goats, and 80 for cattle) and food (1/3rd the volume of food/kg body weight that is needed by cattle and sheep) needed by introduced herbivores. They produce some of the healthiest meat humans can eat (no mad kangaroo disease). They don’t damage the land and are, overall, a valuable resource that should be part of the grazier’s total strategy for financial viability.

With more than 25 million years of adaptation to Australia’s challenging climate and changing environments, we should be valuing them as a sustainably harvestable resource that can restore environmental and economic resilience to rural/regional Australia.

The current proposition to just shoot them and leave the carcasses on the ground is not the answer. The answer is to restructure the way rural graziers use the natural resources of Australia rather than continuing to contribute to the land degradation associated with maintaining monocultures of introduced, less well-adapted species.

Last updated: 09 Aug 2018 3:41pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.

Dr George Wilson is an Honorary Professor at the Fenner School of Environment & Society

The kangaroo management program doesn't address the key issue.

Millions of kangaroos out there are dying of starvation at the moment because populations have been allowed to grow to unsustainable levels.

The only way to address the problem is to prevent population growth through the mechanism of a strong kangaroo industry. The industry is collapsing due to the misguided activities of animal preservationists. Their activities have led to real animal welfare problems on a vast scale and a huge waste of a valuable resource.

I outlined these matters in a paper at the Australian Veterinary Association in Brisbane earlier in the year.

Last updated: 09 Aug 2018 3:37pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.

Dr Derek Spielman is a Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Pathology at the University of Sydney

The assertion is patently incorrect that animal welfare standards and ecologically sustainable kangaroo populations will be maintained by allowing farmers to apply for licences over the phone or via email to cull kangaroos, have more shooters operate on properties under the same licence and allow carcasses to be left in the paddock untagged and by allowing landholders to use carcasses for a range of non-commercial purposes such as bait meat.

Yes, kangaroos might starve if the drought continues but no evidence to support the assertion that that is going to happen soon is provided. And being shot by non-professional shooters is much more likely to cause animal welfare problems than leaving them to fend for themselves, which kangaroos have been doing very successfully in arid Australia for hundreds of thousands of years without the need for human intervention.

Last updated: 09 Aug 2018 3:34pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.

Associate Professor Mike Letnic is from the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales

I am currently researching kangaroos' impacts on vegetation in western NSW. I am in agreement that kangaroos are in large numbers. It is important to note These numbers are a by-product of farming practice, namely the removal of kangaroos' chief predators, dingoes, and the provision of water, and in the eastern part of the state pasture.

However, from an ecological perspective, an increased cull that leaves carcasses where they are shot in paddocks could have negative effects on other wildlife by providing a carrion resource for predators, particularly introduced predators foxes and cats. During drought foxes and cats readily eat carrion, and this carrion could support high numbers of these predators and place increased pressure on native wildlife, and remaining livestock. A more sound strategy would be to remove carcasses.

Last updated: 09 Aug 2018 3:34pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Dr Arian Wallach is from the Centre for Compassionate Conservation at the University of Technology in Sydney

Farming in Australia can be hard. During a 2y period when my partner and I managed a large cattle station in northern SA, we experienced the extreme stress of prolonged hot and dry conditions. It is an experience I will never forget, and it continually informs my work as an ecologist.

The recent announcement to help farmers through drought, by making it easier to kill kangaroos and to use their meat to poison dingoes, is counterproductive, unethical, and has no basis in science.

Many Australian farmers are leading the way in wildlife-friendly farming, and are running successful businesses while protecting the wild animals on their lands, such as kangaroos and dingoes.

Wildlife-friendly farming is growing worldwide, driven both by forward-thinking farmers and by growing social demand that farmers treat wild animals with compassion and respect.

Promoting archaic methods of farming based on persecuting wild animals risks damaging the reputation of Australian farmers and reducing social support. The Australian society as a whole tends to empathise with the hardships farmers can face and favour supporting farmers through difficult times. To remain viable, like any other profession and industry, farming must operate within appropriate social norms. Instead of scapegoating wildlife for 200 years of unsustainable farming methods, the Australian government should support farmers transition to a 21st century approach. This includes: 

  • protecting dingoes who are Australia’s apex predator that benefit vegetation through their effects on wild herbivores; 
  • ending land clearing to promote the health of soils and perennial vegetation; and
  • ensuring stocking densities that the land can carry in the long term.
Last updated: 08 Aug 2018 5:11pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.
Christopher Johnson is a Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Tasmania

This is a worrying change.

Until now, New South Wales has operated a sustainable and evidence-based program of kangaroo harvest. This has been based on annual quotas, which are regularly revised as the kangaroo population fluctuates to ensure the harvest remains within biologically safe limits.

By allowing more kangaroos to be shot without clear evidence of rapid increase of the population, the NSW government runs the risk that too many kangaroos will be killed.

This could actually threaten the the future of the kangaroo harvest and the industry based on it. The kangaroo harvest has many critics who argue that quotas are not evidence-based and are not properly enforced. This change will make those criticisms appear to come true.

Last updated: 08 Aug 2018 5:06pm
Declared conflicts of interest:
None declared.

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