Spotlight on roos: Beloved Aussie icon under the gun

By Liam Pointing and Fabian Veron

World Kangaroo Day is held annually on the 24th of October to bring global awareness to the plight of the kangaroo.

The event is coordinated by Kangaroos Alive, a non-profit organisation set up set up by filmmakers Mick McIntyre and Kate Clere and kangaroo wildlife experts Diane Smith and Greg Keightley to facilitate the ethical treatment of kangaroos. McIntyre and Clere’s award-winning documentary Kangaroo: A Love-Hate story reveals that when dusk falls in the outback, kangaroos get shot.

To most Australians, the ‘roo is a magnificent and majestic treasured animal. Could it be that our beloved icon is being callously desecrated?

The kangaroo is facing threats on multiple fronts and the most controversial point of contention is government-sanctioned commercial culling. The practice is justified through the lens of ‘roos competing for feed with introduced livestock.

The Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia (KIAA) states that the $200 million industry has developed an “international benchmark for a sustainable and humane wildlife harvest”.

The KIAA sees itself as an “advocate for evidence-based policies” that enable “best practice and transparency” in an industry that employs 3000 people in the bush.

UTS THINKK Tank states “the kangaroo harvest in Australia is the largest commercial kill of terrestrial wildlife on earth”. The annual culling consists of three million adult kangaroos, with 855,000 joeys impacted.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry claims that the “kangaroo species designated for commercial culling are not endangered and are harvested humanely”.

Culling kangaroos has become a highly emotive subject, and the ever-evolving narrative is layered and complex.

Kangaroos are a protected species by law and shooting them is only allowed through “licenses to harm”. Legal protection of the kangaroo varies between jurisdictions and welfare standards and may be compromised through a lack of monitoring from regulatory agencies.

Kangaroo culling is mostly carried out in regional Australia and animal rights advocates infer that culling practices are not transparent and, therefore, inhumane practices are being carried out without any regulatory scrutiny.

Studies also indicate that the shooting regime has a 40 per cent wounding rate that causes injury and prolongs painful deaths.

The stark irony is that the kangaroo is celebrated as an animal of cultural significance for indigenous communities and contemporary Australia alike.

Yet, they are portrayed as a pest that needs to be managed to mitigate habitat damage and perceived as a direct competitor to introduced livestock. Our research indicates that there are ways where kangaroos and human needs may coexist.

A growing body of evidence suggests that kangaroos play an important role in maintaining “equilibrium between flora, fauna and all living beings” upon this ancient island continent, we call home. Can you envision a world where humans and kangaroos coexist?

Feature image: Red Kangaroos at Sturt National Park. Photos: PotMart186/CC/Wikimedia

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