A better way to manage the kangaroo population

Landholders need to turn professional in controlling kangaroo population numbers on their properties and regard the iconic Australian animals as assets rather than pests, suggests new research.

The paper, led by George Wilson from the Australian National University and published in Australian Zoologist, argues millions of kangaroos died and were wasted in 2018 – without good conservation or animal welfare outcomes.

Instead, there are significant benefits to landholders becoming professional kangaroo population control agents to avoid kangaroos becoming overabundant in droughts, say the authors. They also acknowledge that changing the status of kangaroos is a complex undertaking and begins with increasing the dollar value of kangaroos as well as investment in research and development.

More professional culling leads to benefits

Professor Wilson said landholders who wanted to take advantage of the kangaroos on their properties should be trained to become professional population control agents to improve kangaroo welfare, and to achieve better outcomes for the environment and conventional livestock.

“Landholders should take on this professional role and see kangaroos as assets, not pests,” said Wilson.

“It could even lead to fewer methane-producing livestock and more kangaroos producing low-emission meat. Higher value kangaroos would enhance sustainability and bring other benefits to both Indigenous and other landholders on whose properties they occur.”

“Considerable wastage”

Professor Wilson said non-commercial culling was increasing because landholders sought to stop kangaroos from competing with their conventional livestock.

“This form of killing leads to poor animal welfare outcomes and considerable wastage,” he said.

Professor Wilson said governments set harvesting quotas as a proportion of existing populations.

“An alternative would be to set population targets based on total grazing pressure that takes account of densities of other herbivores,” he said.

“It would reverse the situation where landholders are expected to carry an unstated number of animals that has no relationship to the carrying capacity of their properties, seasonal conditions or competing land uses.”

Dr Wilson co-authored the paper with Dr Melanie Edwards from Australian Wildlife Services.

This article was first published on Australia’s Science Channel, the original news platform of The Royal Institution of Australia.

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