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What happens to joeys when female kangaroos are shot?

Article ID: 76
Last updated: 13 Mar, 2018
Revision: 5
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Much of the public concern about the shooting of kangaroos stems from the killing of females and the resultant death of their joeys. The Australian National Codes of Practice (Commercial and Non-commercial) for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies requires that if a shooter kills a female with pouch young, then they must kill the joey. Depending on the size of the joey this is usually done by decapitation or a blow to the head. Larger young may be killed by shooting. If the shooter does not kill them, it is highly likely that dependent young will die of starvation, exposure or predation.

The Code of Practice discourages shooters from shooting females carrying large pouch young. When females with young at foot are shot, the young tend to disperse and it is unlikely that these joeys will survive unless they are fully independent of their mothers. When females with pouch young are shot and their joeys have to be killed, the methods available to shooters are limited and their relative humaneness is not fully known. While commercial kangaroo shooters must receive training in shooting adult kangaroos and must pass a shooting competency test, they do not receive any training in how to kill joeys. A study has shown that current methods used to kill orphan joeys are relatively humane when carried out by skilled and experienced commercial shooters [1]. However, it is recommended that all shooters be trained. competency assessed and monitored to ensure all orphan joeys are killed humanely. Most shooters are unable to identify or catch at-foot orphan joeys who are likely to die from starvation, predation or exposure.

It may be that the only solution to totally avoid the potential of cruelty to pouch young is not to shoot females at all, indeed this is the adopted policy of major kangaroo processors. However, there is anecdotal evidence that male-only shooting policies have led to an increase in non-commercial shooting of females. Research is urgently needed to examine the potential effects of male-only shooting policies on commercially harvested kangaroo populations and on landholder perceptions and control activities.

Reference:

[1] McLeod SR and Sharp TM (2014) Improving the humaneness of commercial kangaroo harvesting. Final report for RIRDC Project No PRJ-004103. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra ACT. Available at: https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/13-116 

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