Due to a range of factors, including traditional farming practices, provision of man-made water sources, and land disturbance, in many areas of Australia kangaroo populations can reach very high densities. While major changes to the way in which we farm or manage our land are unlikely in the short-term, it is sometimes considered necessary to control these populations of kangaroos. For instance, control may be carried out in areas where resources are insufficient to sustain the local population, or where there is direct competition with other grazing animals on agricultural land (damage mitigation).
However, in most States or Territories, quotas are set for the commercial harvesting of kangaroos which no longer relate population reduction directly to damage mitigation. Kangaroo management plans treat kangaroos as a sustainable resource available for commercial use, rather than making a decision for control as a result of examining of their impact on the environment. Given the effects of drought and climate change, there is debate about the effect of the current sustainable use approach on future populations of commercially exploited species.
RSPCA Australia believes that the issue of whether kangaroos and wallabies should continue to be killed under a sustainable use policy should be reviewed by both federal and state/territory governments. Continuing research is needed to determine the impact of current culling practices on kangaroo populations and their environment.
RSPCA Australia believes that any measures taken to reduce kangaroo populations should first be proven to be necessary (through a proper consideration of the reasons for control). They must be conducted humanely and be under the direct supervision of the appropriate government authorities (as part of an approved kangaroo management program). Effective monitoring and auditing of such programs is vital to ensure that these conditions are met.
There are a number of aspects of the current management of kangaroos that do not conform to these conditions, such as:
- Large numbers of kangaroos are shot inhumanely every year, particularly under the non-commercial system.
- Each time a female kangaroo is shot her dependent joey is either killed by the shooter or will die as a result of predation, dehydration or starvation. The RSPCA has serious concerns about the suffering caused by shooting females with pouch young. A study has shown that there is an urgent need to develop a standard operating procedure for humanely killing orphan joeys and to train, assess and monitor shooters to ensure compliance .
- The process of setting quotas for killing kangaroos does not relate population reduction directly to damage mitigation. Kangaroo management plans are now treating kangaroos as a sustainable resource available for commercial use, rather than making a decision for control as a result of examining the welfare of kangaroos or their impact on the environment.
Until these issues have been properly addressed, questions remain about the humaneness of kangaroo shooting and the basis for current government policies on the management and killing of kangaroos.
 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://www.agrifutures.com.au/wp-content/uploads/publications/13-116.pdf