Victoria’s government has been described as working to appease “bloody hungry bogans” following a decision to unexpectedly increase its commercial kangaroo shooting allowance by a third.
Outspoken wildlife rescuer Manfred Zabinskas said he’s been left feeling “dumbfounded” after the quota was raised to 127,850 animals in 2022, up from 95,680 in 2021.
Having dedicated his life to the protection of kangaroos, Mr Zabinskas has been critical of the “harvesting” program since the Andrews Labor Government’s decision to initiate it in October 2019.
Authorities say culling eastern grey and western grey kangaroos helps to “reduce issues” including competition with livestock, fence damage and crop destruction.
"Authorised harvesters take kangaroos in a sustainable manner at no cost to landholders," their website states.
While Victoria's government maintains sustainable kangaroo numbers are protected by the quota system, critics say the consequences of the new program needs further research.
“How they can expand the program before they’ve had time to consider how bad the impact has been is more than concerning,” Mr Zabinskas told Yahoo News Australia.
“They’re really going out of their way to attack one of our most iconic species."
Government explains how kangaroo kill quota was reached
While animal welfare advocates are furious at the development, the government say the issue has complexities beyond a simple increase in the harvest allocation number.
They maintain their quota was reached after an examination of their 2020 kangaroo population estimate as well as data relating to animals culled during that year.
Harvesting runs parallel with the Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW) system that allows landholders to shoot native species impacting their land.
While the harvesting quota has been increased, authorities say the overall number of kangaroos permitted to be killed this year has actually dropped from 191,200 in 2021, to 185,850 in 2022.
They say lower ATCW permits reflect a preference by farmers to engage professional harvesters instead.
Despite the overall drop in allowed culling, many animal welfare advocates have concerns about the entrenchment of a statewide commercial culling system, which they characterise as vastly different from individually issued ACTW permits.
Questions raised over government kangaroo estimates
Victoria's department of environment's research arm, the Arthur Rylah Institute, estimated there are 1.8 million kangaroos living in forested zones across its seven harvest zones.
“The best available science is used to set the KHP quota, with the risk of longer term impacts on kangaroo populations taken into account," a Victorian Government spokesperson said.
While authorities believe their own estimate is conservative, it has been disputed as too high by some wildlife advocates.
He said such a figure was impossible when the 2019 / 2020 Black Summer bushfires impacted more than 3 billion animals across Australia.
Kangaroo shooting conducted close to suburban homes
The quota decision comes amid reports of growing unrest around Melbourne’s fringes as shooters operate near suburban houses, culling kangaroos.
Wildlife Victoria CEO Lisa Palma told Yahoo News Australia the state government’s treatment of kangaroos is out of step with community expectations.
“Wildlife Victoria are receiving an escalating number of calls from the Victorian community who care deeply about our wildlife, and they are very distressed at the concept of our kangaroos being killed,” Ms Palma said.
“Alarmingly, many of the kangaroos killed under the kangaroo harvesting program are quite close to people’s homes.”
Wildlife CEO concerned about lack of shooter supervision
With wildlife carers volunteering their time raising orphaned kangaroos and healing sick and injured animals, Ms Palma sees commercial culls as a kick in the guts to carers.
“We spend a substantial amount of time undertaking often quite complex rescues,” she said.
“Our volunteers and vets are in the field almost daily helping kangaroos.”
Ms Palma said Wildlife Victoria are “incredibly concerned” that there is a lack of supervision to ensure compliance with welfare regulations when culls are undertaken.
“There appears to be limited to zero supervision of shooters operating in the middle of the night,” she said.
Concern about localised extinctions of kangaroos
Mr Zabinskas’s partner at Five Freedoms Animal Rescue, Helen Round, said with logging, climate change and disease already impacting kangaroo health, she fears that the quota increase could be devastating.
Despite kangaroos appearing abundant now, Ms Round argues this does not mean they are immune from localised extinctions as a result of over-harvesting.
She is concerned about a number of programs, including the state's annual duck season, which allow hunters to shoot native animals which would ordinarily be protected.
“Many of the animals that Australia has wiped out were once considered safe and abundant, and we have the worst record of mammalian extinction in the world," she said.
“The government is trying to appease blood hungry bogans and peddling this false sustainability message."
The author, Michael Dahlstrom, has previously volunteered as a native bird carer in NSW.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.