The New South Wales (NSW) commercial harvest of kangaroos breaches the federal EPBC Act and state Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.
In February 2020, independent chairperson of the Kangaroo Management Taskforce Geoff Wise stated in The Land that an estimated six million kangaroos died between 2016 and 2018 in NSW through drought and disease.
Numerous scientific studies came to the same conclusion: kangaroo populations decline by between 40% and 65% during drought.
Yet, NSW estimates for red kangaroos, grey kangaroos and wallaroos do not reflect declines associated with droughts. The NSW estimates were artificially high during years of drought due to a lack of surveys.
The Southern Tablelands wasn’t surveyed between 2016 and 2018. The quotas set for 2017, 2018 and 2019 were based on 2016 estimates for eastern grey kangaroos of 1,267,800 and wallaroos of 200,900, even though years of drought would have seen these populations decline by at least 40%.
Estimates for eastern grey kangaroos and wallaroos in the Northern Tablelands for 2019 were 1,133,600 and 160,300 respectively. Scientific research does not predict declines as low as 11% during drought. The estimates for the Northern Tablelands are seriously flawed.
Southeast NSW wasn’t surveyed between 2015 and 2018. The quotas set for 2016. 2017 and 2018 were based on 2015 estimates for eastern grey kangaroos of 1,284,300, even though kangaroo populations are known to experience declines of up to 65% during drought.
2018 estimates for eastern grey kangaroos in Southeast NSW were 1,721,400. It is scientifically impossible for kangaroo numbers to increase during drought. A minimum decline of 40% is expected. Estimates for Southeast NSW are seriously flawed.
There have been no estimates for eastern grey kangaroos in the Southeast NSW since 2018.
There have been no estimates for eastern grey kangaroos in the Central Tablelands since 2017, when estimates were 2,662,100. Scientific research proves that kangaroo populations decline by at least 40% during drought and up to 65%. Yet, no surveys were completed during drought in the Central Tablelands, keeping the estimates artificially high and stable.
Estimates for grey kangaroos in the Western Plains was 3,855,747 in 2017, 4,047,911 in 2018 and 4,182,684 in 2019. Once again, kangaroos in NSW defy scientific research and impossibly increase in numbers during drought – a time when kangaroos are known to cease breeding. Estimates for Western Plains are seriously flawed.
Even though Geoff Wise stated in The Land that an estimated six million kangaroos died between 2016 and 2018 in NSW through drought and disease, these declines are not evident in the NSW estimates accompanying the annual quota reports. The State of NSW and Office of Environment and Heritage are keeping kangaroo numbers high by not surveying harvest zones and using estimates that do not reflect kangaroo declines expected during drought, which is scientifically impossible. The only conclusion is that the State of NSW and Office of Environment and Heritage do not want contemporary and accurate estimates to reveal the true decline of kangaroos during drought.
Furthermore, the bushfires of 2019/2020 were unprecedented. As of 3 February 2020, the fire ground in NSW covered 5.4 million hectares (7% of the state), including 2.7 million hectares in national parks (37% of the NSW park system). Experts estimate that over one billion animals were killed during these bushfires.
Despite the loss of over one billion animals, the State of NSW and Office of Environment and Heritage have continued with the commercial harvest of kangaroos. At the beginning of 2020, contemporary surveys had not been completed for most harvest zones. The number of kangaroos in NSW was unknown. Bushfires further decimated these numbers – and still the number of kangaroos in NSW remains unknown. No doubt the number will be substantially lower than the 2020 quota estimates.
I’d like to draw your attention to the following scientific reports:
Kangaroo management options In the Murray-Darling Basin (Hacker et al, 2004) states:
(a) the reduction of kangaroos to very low densities (<5 kangaroos per km2) over large areas is neither commercially feasible, ecologically defensible, nor economically justified.
(b) although the critical minimum density is not clearly deﬁned, populations below 2/sq km would generally be considered at risk of extinction.
(c) strategies that produce average densities of less than 5/sq km would result in minimum densities less than 2/sq km and could be considered a threat to species conservation.
Harvest management in drought (Pople A.R., 2003) states:
A useful prediction from an age-structured model would be the threshold density, below which there is no harvesting, where harvest CV seems to increase steeply and mean harvest declines (Figs 17 and 18). This density is about 2 kangaroos km-2 for the interactive model.
The State of NSW and Office of Environment and Heritage have set quotas on kangaroo populations on the brink of extinction in breach of state and federal legislation. The kangaroo populations in question include: grey kangaroos in Tibooburra, red kangaroos in Griffith and Griffith North.
The State of NSW and Office of Environment and Heritage have set quotas on kangaroo populations at risk of extinction in breach of state and federal legislation. The kangaroo populations in question include: grey kangaroos in Broken Hill, red kangaroos in Narrabri, wallaroos in Armidale, wallaroos in Glen Innes and wallaroos in Upper Hunter.
The Upper Threshold and Lower Threshold intended to lower quotas to 10% or suspend the harvest are set too low, which means that kangaroos at risk of extinction and on the brink of extinction can still be harvested at quotas of 17%. The low thresholds are detrimental to regional kangaroo populations and the species in breach of state and federal legislation.
NSW needs to do ACCURATE annual surveys, at least during drought and after bushfires, to ensure that the commercial harvest of kangaroos is not detrimental to regional populations and the species. There needs to be an investigation into practices that enable the State of NSW and Office of Environment and Heritage to keep kangaroo numbers high during times of devasting population declines and why the State of NSW and Office of Environment and Heritage allows the commercial harvest of kangaroos at risk of extinction and on the brink of extinction. These practices must stop as they are detrimental to kangaroos in NSW and breach legislation. In the meantime, without sufficient data on current kangaroo numbers in NSW after drought and bushfires, the commercial and non-commercial harvest of kangaroos should be suspended for a minimum of three years to allow kangaroo populations to recover.
This article is compiled from reading of the NSW Kangaroo Management Program – Quota Reports for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, as well as the NSW Commercial Kangaroo Harvest Management Plan 2017 – 2021.