Commercial harvesting of Kangaroos in Australia

by Tony Pople and Gordon Grigg
Department of Zoology, The University of Queensland
for Environment Australia, August 1999
Chapters 10,11,12 and 13 and Appendix 1 provided by staff at Environment Australia



Reviews of the conservation status of the kangaroo species

The conservation status of Australian terrestrial vertebrate species has been the subject of several works in recent years.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) produced the Mammal Red Data Book (IUCN 1990) which listed 'known threatened mammals' under several categories including extinct, endangered, vulnerable, rare, indeterminate and out of danger. None of the kangaroo species subject to commercial exploitation in Australia were listed.

The Council of Nature Conservation Ministers recognised the need for an authoritative list of Australian endangered vertebrates and adopted an official list of endangered vertebrates in 1980. Since then there have been various updates of the list, and expansion to include threatened plants and invertebrate animals. The list, as amended in the early 1990’s, formed the basis for listing under the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act (1992). The Schedules to that Act are regularly reviewed by the Endangered Species Scientific Sub-Committee and the Endangered Species Advisory Committee, both of which contain significant non-government representation. These lists of threatened vertebrates, and the Schedules to the Endangered Species Act do not, and never have, included any of the species commercially utilised and subject to trade.

The most authoritative recent reviews of the status of Australian mammals, The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes (Maxwell et al. 1996), prepared for the Australian Marsupial and Monotreme Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, and Strahan (1995) provide the following status for those species subject to harvesting:

Species 1996 Action Plan %decline Strahan (1995)
Red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) LR(lc) increased Abundant
Eastern grey kangaroo (M. giganteus) LR(lc) increased Abundant
Western grey kangaroo (M. fuliginosus) LR(lc) <10 Abundant
Common wallaroo (M. robustus) LR(lc) increased Abundant
Whiptail wallaby (M. parryi) LR(lc) <10 Common

LR(lc) = Lower Risk (least concern) - A taxon is Lower Risk when it has been evaluated, and does not satisfy the criteria for any of the categories Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Taxa included in the Lower Risk category can be separated into three subcategories; conservation dependent, near threatened or least concern. Least Concern - Taxa do not qualify for Conservation Dependent or Near Threatened.

Lower Risk (least concern) is the lowest risk category available under the IUCN categorisation as used in the 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes.

As the above information suggests none of the species are considered as being adversely affected by harvesting such that they may become threatened or endangered.

United States government and non-government organisation positions on conservation status

The Australian Conservation Foundation through its Policy Statement No. 40 has adopted the status assigned by Strahan (1995):

Red kangaroo Abundant
Eastern grey kangaroo Abundant
Western grey kangaroo Abundant
Common wallaroo Abundant
Whiptail wallaby Common

World Wildlife Fund Australia Ltd (WWF), an international organisation of high repute devoted to conservation programs for endangered species, has produced a policy statement on kangaroos which discusses those species considered by WWF as endangered. None of the species commercially utilised and subject to trade are considered endangered.

A Greenpeace petition considered habitat degradation posed a serious conservation risk to those 'threatened species' (i.e. harvested species). However, improvements made to pastoral rangelands, including increased provision of stock waters and eradication of the dingo from extensive areas, have been of benefit to all large grazing herbivores including the harvested species of macropods.

In March 1995, red kangaroos and grey kangaroos, previously listed under the United States Endangered Species Act were delisted from that Act. The species are subject, for a period of five years, to annual reporting requirements to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on the status of the species. At the end of that period the USFWS may choose to relist, permanently delist or keep the species under review.

It is clear that authorities on the conservation status of these species are in general agreement. Indeed, there is now common ground in Australia between wildlife authorities, academics, conservation groups and some animal welfare groups that the species subject to commercial harvesting for export are neither endangered nor threatened.