Kangaroos could be shot to extinction, a Victorian politician is warning after a damning new report slammed the state’s culling program.
A staggering list of concerns have been raised in independent analysis compiled by biostatistician Claire Galea, which was commissioned by wildlife groups.
Highlighting 10 key areas of concern, Ms Galea concluded that Victorian authorities used “insufficient data” to assess kangaroo populations in order to conclude how many could be safely shot.
Ms Galea, who gave evidence during last year’s NSW Parliamentary inquiry into the commercial kangaroo industry, has criticised Victoria’s modelling.
She has accused authorities of ignoring their own guidelines, citing one instance in which a full population estimate was produced after witnessing just 23 red kangaroos, well below the 80 recommended.
"The modelling they're using just cannot be applied to a number so small; it's just scientifically wrong," she told Yahoo News Australia.
"We have rules that we have to follow as statisticians to apply to models and I can't break them."
Ms Galea said another major concern was that Victoria applied data from other states and used expert opinion, rather than only using locally acquired figures.
"As a statistician, I have no confidence in their population estimates," she said.
"The data should have never been published, it's completely unreliable."
Report ‘misrepresents the science’ underpinning kangaroo cull, authorities claim
Amid criticism of the Kangaroo Harvest Program (KHP), introduced by the Andrews Labor Government in 2019, Victoria's environment department (DELWP) has hit back at the report.
“This report misrepresents the science underpinning the KHP and contains inaccurate information about the survey design, report results and findings,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
"To ensure the sustainability of our kangaroo populations, a number of methods are used to track kangaroo populations including aerial surveys where kangaroos are counted by observers from a helicopter across 3200 km of landscape every two years."
DELWP maintain the program can safely maintain healthy kangaroo populations and would be suspended if hunters shot close to their allowable take.
They added the total number the government is permitting to be killed in 2022 (185,850) is slightly lower than in 2021 (191,200).
"Victoria aims to keep the total number of kangaroos controlled to no more than 10 per cent of the population by applying strict quotas to the Authority to Control Wildlife permit system and KHP."
Victorian MP warns kangaroos could face extinction
Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick remains concerned about issues levelled in the report, telling Yahoo News Australia he has raised them with Victoria’s environment minister Lily D'Ambrosio.
Vowing to take the matter further, he plans to take the issue to parliament when it resumes in February.
“This new, independent report shows that the government's estimates of the number of kangaroos in Victoria are completely unreliable,” he said.
"Setting the kill quota based on the so-called science currently used by the government poses a great threat to our native kangaroos here in Victoria.
"We can't risk them being shot to extinction."
Government claims kangaroo numbers soaring despite millions of bushfire deaths
Criticism of government’s methods used to estimate kangaroos has been growing since the KHP began.
In 2021, months after the Black Summer bushfires killed approximately five million kangaroos across the country, the Victorian government announced their data showed numbers had actually increased 40 per cent in the state since 2018.
DELWP’s research arm, the Arthur Rylah Institute, estimate there are over 1.8 million eastern and western grey kangaroos in its seven harvest zones.
They maintain their estimate is conservative as it does not include heavily forested and urban areas of Victoria.
While some details of the design methods used to determine numbers remain unpublished in scientific literature, the department say they plan to rectify this in the near future, adding the modelling was independently reviewed by two experts.
Kangaroos disappearing from the landscape, wildlife group claims
The report was commissioned by long term critics of the KHP, the Australian Wildlife Shelters Coalition and Australian Wildlife Protection Council (AWPC), with support from International Kangaroo Protection Alliance.
AWPC president Peter Hylands told Yahoo News Australia the analysis was prepared following long term concerns about kangaroo culling in Victoria.
“It was so obvious that what was being sold to the public was completely wrong,” he said.
“Kangaroos are disappearing from our landscape, and that’s evident if you go looking in some of the places where they once were.
“In Dunkeld for example, where there were once mobs under the mountain, there’s now hardly a kangaroo to be seen.”
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