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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

2003 Commercial Kangaroo harvest quotas

Background Information
Environment Australia, 2003


The Australian Government's role in kangaroo harvesting

While Australia's laws concerning wildlife trade are some of the most stringent in the world, they are not intended to obstruct the sustainable activities of legitimate organisations and individuals. Instead they have been designed to demonstrate that, when managed effectively, wildlife trade contributes to and is entirely compatible with the objectives of wildlife conservation.

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the Commonwealth has responsibility for providing for the protection of the environment, promoting ecologically sustainable development and the conservation of biodiversity.

Status of kangaroos in Australia

There are 55 species of kangaroos and wallabies in Australia today, only four of which will be commercially harvested in 2003. Before approving any management plans that allow for the commercial harvest and export of kangaroos or kangaroo products, the Commonwealth Government carefully considers factors such as kangaroo biology, population size and trends and conservation status of kangaroo species.  Management plans must demonstrate that they do not have a detrimental impact either on the harvested species or their ecosystems.

The commercially harvested species for 2003 are:

The Red kangaroo, Eastern grey kangaroo and Western grey kangaroo are the most abundant species and make up over 90% of the commercial harvest. Their combined population size has fluctuated between 15 to 57 million animals over the past 20 years, depending on seasonal conditions. In 2001 the estimated population of these species was 57 million animals. This estimate only includes the harvested areas of Australia and is considered to be very conservative. All the species that are subject to commercial harvesting are common and are not endangered species.

Commercial harvest of kangaroos

Products derived from kangaroos include meat for human consumption and skins for leather products. It is estimated that 70% of meat and 30% of skins are used domestically, with the remainder being exported to more than 25 countries.

Four States (NSW, Qld, SA, WA) are involved in the commercial harvest of kangaroos for export purposes.  Both the Commonwealth and State Governments have a role in the conservation of kangaroo populations, including ensuring that any commercial use of kangaroos is managed in an ecologically sustainable way. The States have further responsibilities in terms of regulating the kangaroo harvest and processing industry, while the Commonwealth controls the export of kangaroos and products derived from kangaroos through the approval of kangaroo management programs, setting of quotas and the granting of export permits.

Under the EPBC Act, the Commonwealth is required to approve the kangaroo management plans prepared by each State.  At present the four States that  harvest kangaroos commercially all have approved management plans.  Before they can be approved, kangaroo management plans must demonstrate that they do not have a detrimental impact either on the harvested species or their ecosystems.

The principal aim of these plans is to ensure the conservation of kangaroos over their entire range.  They describe how the activities of shooters and dealers are regulated, how the size of the population is monitored, the regulations and checks which detect illegal harvesting or over-harvesting and any other measures to ensure conservation of the species.  The plans also include an agreement that the Federal Minister for the Environment will approve quotas for each State on an annual basis.

Quota setting

Commercial quotas are set at a proportion of estimated populations, established by the individual States.  Survey methods vary between and within States depending on the geography of the survey site and are outlined in the State management plans.  Survey methods and frequency also vary between species.

Quotas are set on an annual basis.  Toward the end of every calendar year, each State provides the Commonwealth with a submission outlining their proposed kangaroo harvest quota for the following year. In preparing their submission, each State considers a range of factors. These generally include:

Environment Australia provides advice on the proposed quotas.

Once the quota has been approved, each State is required to provide Environment Australia with a quarterly report of numbers of kangaroos harvested.

Trends in annual quotas and harvest levels

Quotas are set as a proportion of the previous year's population and are a scientifically estimated sustained yield. Quotas represent an upper harvest limit independent of industry demand. Commercial harvest (cull) figures for a year rarely amount to the approved quota as these are directly linked to market demand, and the capacity of the industry to harvest the quota level.  In the last five years the numbers of kangaroos harvested have been on average 30-50% lower than the annual quotas, with proportions ranging from 35% to 80% for each State.

The 2003 commercial kangaroo harvest quota

The Minister for Environment and Heritage, the Hon Dr David Kemp MP, approved commercial kangaroo harvesting quotas for 2003 totalling around 6.55 million.  This is a decrease of 367 000 animals from the quota approved in 2002. 

The 2003 quota represents less than 15% (between 6% and 20%) of estimated populations of the four kangaroo species that are commercially harvested.  The scientific community and State management agencies consider that annual harvest levels in the order of 15% of the populations for grey kangaroos and wallaroos, and 20% of red kangaroo populations are sustainable. 

Eastern Australia is currently in the grips of a drought and because the primary driver of kangaroo populations is rainfall, kangaroo numbers in Eastern Australia are expected to decline as a result.  During the 22 years in which kangaroos have been harvested and monitored, kangaroo populations in Australia have recovered from the regular occurrence of drought.  For example, the drought of 1981-3 drove kangaroo populations in harvested areas down to almost half of the estimated pre drought population, from which they recovered to exceed pre-drought figures within seven years.  During the drought of the early 1990s in Queensland, kangaroo populations declined while being harvested at rates close to 20%.  These populations subsequently recovered following good rainfall.  Harvesting may depress populations further than if they were not harvested during drought, however historical data clearly demonstrates that this does not impact on the long-term population viability of kangaroo populations within the harvested areas of Australia.

The commercial kangaroo harvest industry in Australia is one of the world's best wild harvest operations because management goals are based firmly on principles of sustainability. 

Humane harvesting practices

Animal welfare considerations are a priority of the EPBC Act. The Act allows the Government to ensure proposals for the sustainable use of wildlife observe strict welfare requirements.

A Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos is in effect and was prepared cooperatively by all government wildlife authorities in Australia.  All harvesting States support the Code, and compliance with the Code is a license condition for commercial shooters in all States. The professional shooters involved are skilled and operate in accordance with the Code to ensure that the shooting of kangaroos is done in a humane manner.

Furthermore all States and Territories have legislation concerning animal welfare matters and are able to prosecute offenders.

Further information

For more information on Australia's wildlife protection measures, contact Environment Australia's Community Information Unit on:

Email: ciu@environment.gov.au
Phone: 0011 61 1800 803 772
Fax: 0011 61 2 6274 1970
Internet: www.ea.gov.au