Striking the right balance with impact-causing kangaroos

News article |

Many changes have occurred in the Australian landscape since European settlement, resulting in changes in the natural environment. Our landscape has been transformed into a mosaic of land uses, with an abundance of pasture and artificial watering points.
This has given rise to well documented challenges in managing introduced pest species, including feral goats and deer, but also resulted in the prevalence ‘impact-causing native animals’, including highly-abundant western grey kangaroos.

Many changes have occurred in the Australian landscape since European settlement, resulting in changes in the natural environment. Our landscape has been transformed into a mosaic of land uses, with an abundance of pasture and artificial watering points.

This has given rise to well documented challenges in managing introduced pest species, including feral goats and deer, but also resulted in the prevalence ‘impact-causing native animals’, including highly-abundant western grey kangaroos.

What are impact-causing native animals?

Impact-causing species can be defined as those that cause an impact on people, property, industry or the environment, warranting specific management or interventions. It is important to understand that an animal can be considered impact-causing in one region, and not impact-causing in another.

In the Hills and Fleurieu region, western grey kangaroos are one of the primary impact-causing native animals.

Why are western grey kangaroos considered impact-causing in the Hills and Fleurieu?

Western grey kangaroos have been increasing in abundance in the region for many years. According to the 2022 Quota Report for the Commercial Harvest of Kangaroos for SA, it is estimated there are over 47,000 western grey kangaroos in the Hills and Fleurieu region at an average density of 6.9 animals per square kilometre. In some areas this population density is much higher.

In many areas, grazing pressure impacts are more attributable to kangaroos than declared pest animals such as feral goats, deer and rabbits. Western grey kangaroos cost the agricultural industry millions of dollars each year and can pose a significant threat to biodiversity and landscape health. They can damage pasture and crops, prevent regeneration of native vegetation and impact our vulnerable ecosystems. The impacts of their high abundance is also causing increasing costs to conservation and threatened species recovery programs as tree guards and exclusion fencing are required to minimise impacts. The Hills and Fleurieu region is considered a biodiversity hotspot with the survival of many threatened species (including orchids, bandicoots and woodland birds) dependent on measured and strategic landscape management.

Like impacts caused by introduced pests, the cost is not only economic, with psychological despair a common symptom for those whose property or infrastructure is affected. Road safety issues caused by kangaroos is also a legitimate concern, with RAA data confirming that kangaroos account for 71% of vehicle collisions with animals in South Australia, resulting in over 6,000 claims between 2018 and 2021.

How is the board addressing the issue?

The board’s Regional Grazing Pressure Management program implements a strategic and coordinated approach to reducing grazing pressure across the Hills and Fleurieu region.

The program aims to reduce these impacts in key areas by controlling species which are declared pests under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019 (most commonly feral goats and deer), and by delivering coordinated management of western grey kangaroos in priority locations.

In partnership with the Department for Environment and Water’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWSSA), Green Adelaide, ForestrySA, SA Water, and private landholders, the program manages grazing pressure via specialist staff-led operations, and the use of contractors and volunteers to deliver targeted outcomes.

The board works with private landholders and partner organisations, following stringent safety measures and best-practice methods (National code of practice for the humane shooting of kangaroos and wallabies for non-commercial purposes and the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes) to help coordinate the management of western grey kangaroos within the region.

I’m a landholder, how can I get involved?

All species of kangaroo are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, meaning that it is illegal to kill or harm them without authority. The Department for Environment and Water (DEW) is responsible for regulations and policy setting under this Act.

Landholders have three options (or a combination thereof) to manage kangaroos:

Non-lethal methods - can include using fencing, deterrents, removing water points (permanently or temporarily), etc.

Commercial Harvest – where a kangaroo field processor (shooter) harvests kangaroos from a property in the commercial harvest zone and then sells carcasses to a kangaroo meat processor (for human consumption or pet food).

Permit to Destroy Wildlife – where DEW grants permission for the landholder or a nominee to shoot a specified number of kangaroos on a property. The carcasses may be utilised by the landholder, but cannot be sold or given away and must remain on the property, unless ‘personal use’ (yellow) tags have been purchased with the permit and are attached to the carcasses.

If you would like to know more about these options, please refer to the DEW kangaroo conservation and management webpage, or contact your local NPWSSA office or the Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board on 8391 7500.

What are the benefits of controlling western grey kangaroos?

Managing impact-causing native animals may result in a healthier local population of the species by ensuring these animals have access to adequate food and natural places to graze, and help reduce impacts on agriculture, vulnerable ecosystems and road safety.

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