Sustainability of the kangaroo industry

Kangaroo Population

The kangaroo industry is widely regarded as an intelligent use of a sustainable resource and is supported by scientists, conservation groups and academics as being a benchmark for a natural resource use model. Through careful and thoughtful management the industry produces high quality meat and leather products for the global market by utilizing the super-abundant kangaroo population. The entire process is closely managed by the Australian Government and supported by conservation and environmental protection communities throughout Australia due to clear goals of sustainability and ecosystem preservation. The kangaroo industry is sustainable, humane and produces sensational products.

The kangaroo industry utilises a natural and superabundant resource. Kangaroo populations rise and fall with seasonal conditions, during extended droughts their numbers fall and invariably rise again when droughts break.  The graph below shows this pattern repeated over several decades. Interestingly, the trend line shows that populations have been consistently increasing over time.  

For decades each drought induced low has been higher than the last and the current population is considerable higher than the long term average. This is largely due to permanent sources of water put in place for livestock industries. 

Kangaroos are one of the most numerous large wild land mammals on earth. Outside of seasonal fluctuations (the troughs during the mid ‘80’s, 90’s and 2000’s are the result of droughts, the peak the result of good seasons), the kangaroo population has been steadily increasing over the past 25 years. The commercially harvested species of kangaroos are super-abundant and are listed as of ‘least concern” by the United Nations in terms of their conservation status.

With over 35 years of monitoring data across large areas and through a number of droughts and high rainfall years indicating no long-term decline in state-wide populations, there is now convincing empirical evidence that kangaroos have been harvested sustainably. 

Sustainability of the kangaroo industry

There are 48 species of macropods (kangaroos) in Australia. Of these only 4 can be commercially harvested. In addition 2 species of wallaby are harvested in Tasmania. The populations of kangaroos are estimated every year in each State by highly developed aerial survey techniques. Current populations stand around the 50 million mark. This means there are higher numbers of kangaroos in Australia than there are cattle.

For any kangaroo species to be harvested the conservation authority in the relevant State must have a detailed Management Plan approved by the Federal Department of Environment. These Plans must detail the annual population monitoring and quota setting controls, the controls over the take and they must be renewed every 5 years.
Each year after the population estimate is obtained, each Management Plan will set a maximum allowable take (quota) of typically between 10-15% of total population. The populations fluctuate depending on seasonal conditions, during droughts they can decline, or they can increase dramatically during good seasons as has been the case in recent years. The States Authority will then issue individually and sequentially numbered plastic lockable tags. These tags are designed to ensure that once properly applied any tampering with them will be perfectly obvious.
Each kangaroo taken by licensed harvesters must have such a tag fixed to it and the harvester and processor must report back to the Authorities on a monthly basis the details of the exact numbers off the tags they have used, where the tags were used and what species, sex and weight of animal they were attached to. The Authority monitors the release and use of tags to ensure the harvest in any one area does not exceed the quota.
Each year each State releases a full report on kangaroo management. Click on these links for the States: NSW and Queensland.

Sustainability of the kangaroo industry

Sustainable harvesting and ethical sourcing are key principles which underpin the kangaroo industry.

In order to purchase the tags issued by the Authorities an individual must be licensed as a kangaroo harvester. To do so they must undergo training delivered by government accredited agencies and approved by the Australian TAFE (Tertiary and Further Education) agency in the appropriate State. This training covers the regulatory controls and compliance requirements, the animal welfare controls and the hygiene controls each harvester must adhere to. They must then pass assessment in their knowledge and practices relating to these controls by two separate Government Departments. This will include assessment of their competency with their firearm. Then and only then will they be able to obtain the required licenses from the two Authorities concerned.
It is a condition of every kangaroo harvesters license that he adhere to the strict guidelines laid out in the Federal Government document,  Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes.  This specifies the minimum high caliber firearms which can be used, it requires that all animals be head shot and documents procedures for the humane dispatch of any pouch young (CNCM 1990).
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