Experts from Australian universities are calling for a national kangaroo taskforce to reform how the wildlife is managed.
Eight researchers used a joint statement to push for a national overhaul of the strategies used to manage kangaroos and wallabies, which are prone to overpopulation.
Central to the reform would be a push to better manage the species rather than allowing them to starve or be culled.
George Wilson, a professor at the Australian National University, says hundreds of thousands of kangaroos are culled on private land each year to protect farming, while about six million likely died in Australia’s most recent drought.
The national taskforce would see the federal government, states and territories work with private landowners, agriculture and conservation bodies, and Indigenous communities on reform, according to the researchers.
The task force would unify state and territory plans under one system.
Wilson argues that a stronger kangaroo industry could bring economic benefits to regional and rural communities, with about 40 million kangaroos on private land but only a small proportion utilised effectively,
Private landowners bringing in professional shooters to put down the animals humanely, and meat and skins harvested instead of being left to rot, are central to the reforms the researchers are pushing for.
Wilson models that if kangaroo meat rose from about $20 a carcass to around $70-$80 or more, then a portion of the money could be fed back to the landowners. But the current price means the animals are viewed more as pests than assets.
“The shooters come to the property and take the kangaroos and the graziers just view this as pest removal,” Wilson said.
The researchers say maintaining stable numbers of kangaroos and preventing the subsequent “crashing” of populations is a key priority in order to prevent millions of inhumane deaths during droughts.
“It’s not only extremely distressing for the kangaroos that get bogged in limited water supplies during droughts, but it also has a huge mental health toll for the graziers,” he said.