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War on wildlife ramps up in NSW

war on wildlife

WHAT IS  IT with killing kangaroos to pay for the misfortunes of Australian graziers and croppers?

My colleague suggests it is a control thing, as in ‘can’t control the weather and drought but can control something larger and more visible than weeds’. That something, being a native grazer, has the impertinence to try and survive during drought by eating grass on someone’s private property. Almost the entire country is private property in modern Australia.

Stress relief maybe? Tradition? Certainly political cynicism and opportunism in the promoting of this idea. ‘Plague-proportion’ has become such a handy cliché that mention kangaroos and, without any sign of mental activity, it rolls off the tongue of country and city people alike.

The whole Australian numbers game with kangaroos, the ‘plague-proportion’ talk and official assertions serve to feed soothing narratives of ‘abundance’ that allow unhindered killing.

Editor-MT-small-image-Aug2018I keep hearing from all sorts of people that there is a plague of kangaroos ‘out west’ that need culling. That narrative has been stoked by the National Party Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair. But is that so?

The federal Greens to their credit have done some research that refutes this claim. The 2016 minutes of the NSW Kangaroo Advisory Panel acknowledge that supposed big increases in kangaroo numbers in the state’s western commercial shooting zones – like a 65% increase for 2013 – were actually a function of ‘correction factors’ and changed methodology.

The NSW government 2018 quota report for the commercial ‘harvest’ confirmed that numbers have actually been falling since 2013 for  Eastern Grey kangaroos. Numbers have dropped between 40–70 percent in various western shooting zones between 2016 and 2017.

Red kangaroo numbers also declined across all eight western zones in that time span with gathering drought. Meanwhile in 2017, government counts in central and southern tablelands showed biologically impossible 50% to 100% increases over the previous three years, also in gathering drought.

In every year there is fundamental problem with the counting methods undertaken by state governments in service of the commercial kangaroo industry. Flyover sampling estimates are applied to every square kilometre of a kangaroo zone regardless of what is on the ground like a village or a cotton crop or stony wasteland. You can get some big numbers that way.

Picking up the worst ideas

Whatever is driving the latest war on Australia’s national emblem (with assured death or lingering injury for thousands, families and mob structure destroyed, starving joeys that will not survive), an ideologically right-wing NSW government is following a destructive blueprint from the north – as it did with rolling back restraints on tree clearing – to help beleaguered farmers, so it says on both counts.

The results with tree clearing in the north were not good: cancelling out taxpayer-funded efforts to counter carbon emissions – like tree planting! – while destroying remaining native species’ habitat. Critics frequently cite the impact on remnant koala numbers clinging on in mostly private land. There is no reason to hope that the renewed onslaught on habitat and on the clusters of kangaroo mobs in NSW will turn out any better than it has in Queensland.

fenced off kangaroos
SOURCE: The Land

In March I visited Queensland and interviewed two kangaroo shooters, well one ex-shooter and one who would still like to make a living in the commercial trade. Their description of the freelance slaughter and the cluster fencing (an idea that has also migrated to northern NSW sheep grazing properties) and the effects on all wildlife up there is chilling. Seen on the right – Drought and farmer cluster fencing in western NSW, mass kangaroo deaths reported.

> You can read it in the special report – Us and Them: the end game?

Who knew kangaroo numbers ‘explode’ in drought

I was struck by an ABC drought relief story which highlighted how reporters and media outlets uncritically amplify claims in government press releases, or statements attributed to farmers and graziers as solid fact, without any other points of view.

“As a result of the drought,” states the article, “kangaroo numbers have soared, creating more problems for farmers.” The reporter then cuts to the National Party Deputy Premier of NSW and Member for Monaro, John Barilaro. He announces that the government is dealing with “the explosion in kangaroo numbers” by extending more culling privileges to farmers and extending the commercial “harvest” zones.

There is probably no nice way to say this. Reading about kangaroo numbers soaring as a result of the drought, I pondered:

What kind of dopey thinks a native grazing animal
reliant on rain-fed ground-cover, already subject to
wide-spread commercial hunting and harassment
across back-to-back private properties,
not only prospers in a drought but “ soars’ and
‘explodes’ in its population numbers
under such circumstances? ”

The historical records show that kangaroo populations plummet in droughts without human help, as one might expect. Unlike goats, pigs, dogs, cats and rabbits, kangaroos can have one baby a year just like most humans, sheep or cattle. Infant mortality is high even in good years and droughts kill all age groups.

As for extending commercial harvest zones, dear reader, we already have commercial harvest zones covering most of the state including most of the south-east. There are chillers outside Bungendore and Queanbeyan. No doubt on private properties in Braidwood, Goulburn and the Yass area too. I’ve been informed there is a small region outside Bombala that has not yet been included as a commercial zone. And guess in whose Monaro electorate that falls.

Safety in some human company

The relatively numerous kangaroos in the rural residential safe havens around the ACT or Queanbeyan would have built up with refugees from this commercial hunt and from grazier culling that happens already.  Expect to see more refugees as this latest war ramps up.

As in the Queensland story, the NSW government has plans to actively recruit ‘volunteers’ – weekend warriors with a gun license, to help the farmers kill kangaroos.

The question is: will the public, that actually is the guardian of the wildlife, keep giving these politicians and the graziers and recreational shooters who agree with them the social license to go on a slaughter spree familiar since colonial times? And what kind of reputational damage will Australian farmers as a sector, reap as a consequence?

Instead of scapegoating wildlife for 200 years
of unsustainable farming methods,
the Australian government should
support farmers transition to a 21st century approach.
Dr Arian Wallach, researcher at the UTS Centre for Compassionate Conservation.

> In this related commentary Wallach offers a different perspective based on her time working and researching in the bush.

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3 thoughts on “War on wildlife ramps up in NSW

  1. What about feeding and watering them like we do with non-native animals who are owned by farmers? Otherwise we will see the extinction of Kangaroos within Australia.

  2. Maria Taylor, are you for real ?
    Come and visit the far west of NSW, Tibooburra and Wilcannia, Menindee and Broken Hill, Pooncarie and Wentworth or even Fowler’s Gap Research Station and Scotia Sanctuary. There you will see Kangaroos dying of thirst and starvation due to the drought. There has been an insurgence in the roo population as the Kangaroos have migrated from previous drought areas into new areas where there was water and feed. Now they have reached the final frontier and the dams are dry and the grasslands are no longer so the Kangaroos just lie down and die. This is utterly heartbreaking and culling is a much kinder option. I find your article shallow and deprecating, really you need to get out of your office chair and offer help and not the sensational crap i have just read.

    1. You are aware that Drought like illness, disease, injury is known as Natural Selection Elaine?? Drought like any other natural event such as Floods, Bushfire, Disease, Illness even snake bite is an essential part of ensuring the genetically strongest of any species survives, & Drought isn’t species specific,so given you are advocating the slaughter of the Kangaroos during Drought who are indeed the genetically fittest survivors, why are you not advocating the slaughter of all other Indigenous Species who depend upon Kangaroos for their own survival given they too would be suffering?? You are aware of the role & importance of the Fittest & Strongest Kangaroos in Indigenous Culture especially during Drought,Elaine??
      Indeed we Indigenous People Farmed on Country for thousands of years in complete sustainability, with significantly more Kangaroos, & indeed Wildlife than exist today. If Farming was still done sustainably then there wouldn’t be the vast decimated landscapes we see across predominantly Western NSW,the destroyed Natural Water Sources & the destruction of Song Lines & Dreaming Tracks. Unfortunately for you Elaine you are blinded by Colonialism which is only to be expected by those who stand as Invaders upon this Stolen Land of which I,being an Indigenous Woman,Initiated Teacher of Traditional Knowledge of Kangaroo & Country am a Traditional Land Owner of.
      Kangaroos are naturally migratory animals & before the vast kilometres of Fencing went up across Country, not just Kangaroos but many herbivores including Wombats, Emu were able to travel FREELY to what used to be plentiful food sources, they were able to graze in peace upon this their Ancestral Home, thus regenerating Country as they had done for millions of years, now their Traditional Grazing Areas have either been bulldozed, destroyed by Unsustainable Farming & Introduced Hard Hoofed Environmentally destructive Livestock or Fenced off as the greedy & disconnected claim this Country as their own.
      You speak of Fowlers Gap, there has been very significant & extensive research done there over the years that indeed shows mixed grazing between Kangaroos & Livestock not only is more productive but results in a healthier ecosystem given that Kangaroos mitigate the destruction that Livestock cause to Country especially in soil erosion.
      You might want to take a look at that research & perhaps begin to learn a few facts about Kangaroo & Country, that we Indigenous People have known for thousands of years & that the Sustainable Farming Sector of whom I’ve educated over the years are only to aware of, especially given the increase productivity of mixed grazing,not to mention the extra tourism dollars that role in as the public flock to areas specifically to see Kangaroos.
      Tell me Elaine how is it that Livestock that outnumber Kangaroos by millions are able to receive supplementary feeds & the Unsustainable Farming Sector yet again receive more of taxpayers hard earned, yet the Kangaroos & Wildlife that have been forcibly displaced predominantly by the Unsustainable Farming Sector get no help, not one cent has been given to Wildlife Rescue Volunteers not one bucket of water donated to not just Kangaroos but any Wildlife suffering & your answer is not to ensure the survival of the genetically strongest of Kangaroos during Drought but to slaughter them,& you have the audacity to refer to Maria Taylor as shallow?? Tell me once the Kangaroos that are the strongest of the species have been gunned down, then what?
      What of the Song Lines & Dreaming Tracks that Kangaroos are essential in the regeneration of,what of the interconnectedness of Country is the core of Indigenous Culture?
      Elaine Dams are Artificial Watering Points monopolised for Livestock, they have destroyed Natural Waterways, & water holes that had existed for millions of years, we also know that the use of Urea in Dams is being used to poison Wildlife as they seek sustenance on what is now their devastated Ancestral Home.
      What’s kind about Artificial Selection which you are advocating? There are millions of people starving & suffering from man made events across the Planet yet I don’t see you advocating their slaughter or “culling” them Elaine.
      I also happen to know Maria Taylor & if you had any clue about her & her work you would see what an embarrassment you’ve made of yourself regarding getting your little comment about her getting out of her office chair.
      Clearly by the ignorance you’ve shown in regards to Kangaroos, Country & the disconnect you’ve shown its you who is indeed the shallow one.
      Perhaps it’s you who should educate yourself regarding Kangaroos & offer help in regards to supplementary food & water drops, & involving yourself in re-wilding of Country, thus providing natural Indigenous food plants to ensure not just the survival of Kangaroos but all Wildlife during harsh times, & most importantly help yourself by getting educated in regards to Indigenous Culture & Kangaroos, & indeed especially everyone can help by ensuring that more people are educated on Sustainable Farming, there are plenty of ways to help,to give back to Country rather than continue to take Elaine but all your advocating is yet more slaughter of a Sacred Totem Animal which is The Dreaming of Country, Kangaroo.
      Remember Elaine you are on the Ancestral Home of Kangaroo, not Vice versa so think for one moment how you would feel if you & your family were treated as Kangaroos have been since 1788.
      Aunty Ro Mudyin Godwin,
      Palawa Woman,
      Traditional Land Owner,
      Initiated Teacher.

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