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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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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.

2004 Commercial Kangaroo harvest quotas

Background Information
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004


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 Australian Government 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 2004. Before approving any management plans that allow for the commercial harvest and export of kangaroos or kangaroo products, the Australian 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 2004 are:

The Red kangaroo, Eastern grey kangaroo and Western grey kangaroo are the most abundant species and make up over 90 per cent of the commercial harvest. Their combined population size has fluctuated in the harvested areas of Australia between 15 and 50 million animals over the past 20 years, depending on seasonal conditions. In terms of the total population of kangaroos in Australia these estimates are 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 and animal consumption and skins for leather products. It is estimated that 70 per cent of meat and 30 per cent of skins are used domestically, with the remainder being exported to more than 25 countries.

Four States (NSW, Qld, SA and WA) are involved in the commercial harvest of kangaroos for export purposes. Both the Australian Government 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 additional responsibilities in terms of regulating the kangaroo harvest and processing industry, while the Australian Government 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 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Australian Government 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 provide that the Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage approves harvest quotas for each State each year.

Quota setting

Harvest 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.

Harvest quotas are set on an annual basis. Toward the end of every calendar year, each State provides the Australian Government 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:

Once the Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage has approved the quota, each State is required to report on the numbers of kangaroos harvested each year.

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 figures for a year rarely reach the approved quota. Within each year's quota the commercial harvest is based on both market demand, and the capacity of the industry to harvest the quota level. In the last five years the actual number of kangaroos harvested has been on average 30-50 per cent lower than the annual quotas.

The 2004 Commercial Kangaroo harvest quota

In December 2003, the Australian Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, approved commercial kangaroo harvesting quotas for 2004 totalling around 4.4 million. This is a decrease of 2.1 million animals from the quota approved in 2003. This decrease in quota is directly related to the drop in kangaroo populations associated with widespread drought in eastern Australia over recent years.

The 2004 quota represents about 16 per cent (between 14 per cent and 20 per cent) of estimated populations of the four kangaroo species that are commercially harvested. State management agencies, based on scientific evidence, consider that annual harvest levels in the order of 15 per cent of the populations for grey kangaroos and wallaroos, and 20 per cent of red kangaroo populations are sustainable.

Eastern Australia has undergone severe drought in recent years and, because the primary driver of kangaroo populations is rainfall, kangaroo numbers in eastern Australia have declined as a result. Populations of some species in NSW have declined by over 50 per cent between the 2002 and 2003 surveys, with lesser declines experienced in Queensland and South Australia. Western Australian populations have remained stable.

During the 22 years in which kangaroos have been harvested and monitored, kangaroo populations in Australia have demonstrated a strong capacity to recover 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. In response to the drought of the early 1990s in Queensland, kangaroo populations also went through a period of decline, before recovering following good rainfall. Throughout this period, kangaroos in Qld were harvested at rates close to 20 per cent, demonstrating that the harvest did not impede the kangaroos' natural ability to recover quickly following drought.

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 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 is also a consideration under the EPBC Act. The EPBC Act requires 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. This Code is subject to periodic revision to ensure it continues to deliver best practice welfare outcomes. Such a review is currently underway and a draft revised Code is expected in 2004.

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 the Department of Environment and Heritage Community Information Unit on:

Email: ciu@environment.gov.au
Phone: free-call 1800 803 772 (within Australia) or 0011 61 2 6274 1111
Fax: 0011 61 2 6274 1970
Internet: www.deh.gov.au


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