By Steph McNicol
AN increase of kangaroo harvesting numbers across the state has sparked concern among Wildlife Victoria volunteers who fear some shooters are not meeting humane killing requirements.
Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas announced late last month the 2021 quota allocation for the Kangaroo Harvesting Program would increase to 95,680 kangaroos – an increase of 37,780 from last year.
The State Government is basing its decision to increase the cull quota on a 2020 survey, which estimates the current kangaroo population at almost two million across Victoria – an incease of almost 40 per cent compared to 2018.
The State Government’s Kangaroo Harvesting Program aims to help landholders reduce issues caused by kangaroos on-farm including crop destruction, competition with livestock and damage to property like fences.
The program uses carcasses for pet, and now human, consumption, and provides an income for trained harvesters.
About 25,500 of the expected kangaroos to be culled will be in central Victoria.
Harvesters have a duty of care to ensure that kangaroos and wallabies are killed in a manner that minimises pain, suffering and distress – harvester commitment is vital to ensure that established standards are implemented.
Wildlife rescue volunteer Glenn, who did not want his surname published, said the increase was a ‘slap in the face’ to all volunteers, who had no support from the government.
“Some of us are switching off and going into a shock period, and it’s overwhelming,” he said.
“A lot of [rescuers] are already struggling with rescues at the moment, and the phrase ‘slap in the face’ comes to mind, because it’s sort of the question of why they’re doing this hard work and they’re not getting paid.”
The volunteer also expressed concern regarding employed shooters’ abilities to properly kill kangaroos in a humane manner, as required by the National Code of Practise for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes.
“I am trained to kill them humanely, I can see why we’re seeing animals with their jaws shot off…to do that job you have to be brutal,” he said.
“If you kill a mother, you have to kill its joey too. [A joey] recently has been given to a wildlife carer because he couldn’t shoot it.
“There’s a course you have to pass as a shooter, but the test is done during the day when people are shooting them at night. It’s not reflecting the conditions at all.”
Glenn said while most shooters aimed for a head shot, he believes it was rare they were shooting the correct spot as stated in the code of practise.
In the assessment requirements for shooting accuracy testing, it is expected the shooters test during poor visibility conditions, their target be a 75-millimetre diameter circle and shootings be from 100 metres away.
Glenn said he regularly found kangaroos who had been shot in the head but not killed, and they were dying a slow death.
“The excuses made for this senseless violence for profit is misleading, incorrect and unjust. Most of the public would turn away from kangaroo products if they could see what really goes on to make a neatly packaged product,” he said.
But Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said the cull numbers should be increased and the changes were ‘sensible’.
“Allowing kangaroos to be harvested for human consumption is a sensible change, and one which I have advocated for years. Kangaroo is a lean meat that is rich in protein and environmentally sustainable,” Ms Ryan said.
“If the quota was distributed evenly across each local government area, it would mean less than 60 kangaroos in each local government area would be harvested each month.
“That is a ridiculous figure for shires like Bendigo, Campaspe, Strathbogie and Benalla. Lumping Heathcote into the same zone as Corryong – when Heathcote has the highest number of motor vehicle collisions with kangaroos of anywhere in Victoria – is ludicrous.”