The old saying, “you’ve got to be cruel to be kind”, rings true with kangaroos.
Just as poorly managed livestock damage the landscape, so do unmanaged kangaroos. They eat out grasslands to a point where they starve.
The latest population survey paints a stark picture when you delve into the figures on seasonal population decline.
For eastern and western grey kangaroos, the population decline due to the season was 38 and 42 per cent each. That’s more than 1.7 million eastern greys and just shy of 700,000 western greys that effectively starved.
For red kangaroos, the figure was 1.2m, or 19.4pc.
Dry seasons are always going to take a share of the population, but is it the most humane way? And if we could harvest more roos while the season was still reasonable, would there not be less that suffer starvation?
On a related matter, nowhere in these population estimates and management measures is there any consideration for how these big populations effect ecosystems.
What effect is this having on the biodiversity, ecosystem structures needed by other native animals, and soil stability?
Farmers are frustrated with how big mobs of roos quickly eat any green regrowth that might appear in paddocks that have been otherwise locked up to regenerate.
What is the point of trying to manage grasslands in such a fashion if only some of the grazing animals (sheep and cattle in particular) are controlled?
Red kangaroo year-on-year population observations show an overall increase through to 2017, at which point the population crashed by almost 20pc.
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However, at 9.76 roos per square kilometre, the population is still close to double that of 2009, despite the lemming-like drop-off.
Little progress has been made in the past few years on establishing markets and reliable supply chains.
The swings in population add to the difficulties in maintaining supply, as well as keeping shooters in the business.
However, the implications are much further reaching than whether roo shooters and a few abattoirs can turn a dollar. It crosses into welfare, sustainability, and farm management and profitability.
We need a better way to manage our kangaroos.