An explosion in kangaroo numbers in drought-hit western Queensland has prompted local councils to join grazier calls for greater Government assistance to reduce populations.
Queensland Department of Environment estimates indicate that kangaroo numbers have increased by 45 per cent per year for the past three years, with numbers in Queensland where drought covers more than 60pc of the landscape now estimated to exceed 30 million head.
With populations in plague proportions, grazing country is coming under extreme pressure, leading to the starvation of kangaroos and livestock.
The Maranoa Regional Council centred around Roma has formally asked the Queensland Government to fund a major population reduction campaign by professional harvesters, and to apply an amnesty on the requirement for landholders to require damage mitigation permits to reduce kangaroo numbers.
Councils in South Western Queensland made similar requests to the Federal Government last month.
Maranoa Regional Council mayor Robert Loughnan said existing damage mitigation permits did not allow landholders to effectively reduce numbers.
“We’re looking for an amnesty because the kangaroos they’re allowed to shoot under a license, it is just not enough, they can shoot them in a day and then they have to reapply for another license,” he said.
“Kangaroos are in plague proportions because of the drought in the west, they have all converged.”
Many landholders were desperate for a solution to the problem and would be tempted to shoot kangaroos without the required licenses, but did not want to break the law.
“That is another mental fatigue on people, they get stressed if they know they’re breaking the law,” he said. “They are not law breakers and we’re just trying to help them.”
The RSPCA said that while it could not comment on the need for reducing kangaroo numbers in a given area, it was essential that reduction programs be carried out in accordance with national welfare codes where population control measures were justified.
“We do think that shooting should only be permitted in areas where the need to manage the kangaroo population has been adequately justified, i.e. where the specific situation has been assessed and there is a clear need for population control and as part of a fully regulated government supervised management program,” a spokesperson said.
“Where a decision has been made to reduce kangaroo populations, whether this is for damage mitigation purposes, commercial harvesting or where kangaroos are themselves the victims of drought or over-grazing, it is essential that this is only carried out by trained and competent shooters.”
The RSPCA said it also had concerns regarding the welfare of joeys during shooting operations.
“While the Code of Practice discourages shooters from shooting females carrying large pouch young when females with young at foot are shot, the young tend to disperse and it is unlikely that these joeys will survive unless they are fully independent of their mothers.
“When females with pouch young are shot and their joeys have to be killed, the methods available to shooters are limited and their relative humaneness is not fully known. While professional kangaroo shooters must receive training in shooting adult kangaroos and must pass a shooting competency test, they do not receive any training in how to kill joeys.
“Research is currently underway to determine the most humane method of killing small pouch young in cases where the mother has been shot and what factors should be taken into consideration when estimating the survival chances of young at foot.
“The RSPCA supports this research and hopes that the results are used to inform future more humane practices.”
Queensland environment minister Andrew Powell’s office did not respond to Beef Central’s questions about whether the department will consider the council's requests for greater assistance in dealing with kangaroo populations.
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