Kangaroo rise stirs pet-meat call
A booming WA kangaroo population is reducing crop and pasture productivity, sparking calls for a revival of the State’s pet meat industry.
Populations have risen almost 160 per cent in the past four years, and there are now 2.6 million more kangaroos in WA than there were in 2014, according to a paper delivered to State Parliament.
State Government aerial surveys estimate last year there were 2.4 million western grey kangaroos and 1.8 million red kangaroos — up from 1.2 million western greys and and 400,000 red kangaroos four years earlier.
There is a management plan for the commercial harvest of kangaroos in WA, but less than 8 cent of the State quota was harvested last year and less than 10 per cent in 2017, compared with 48 per cent in 2014.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Agricultural Region MLC Rick Mazza said the fast growth in populations coincided with a big local pet meat processor VIP Pet Foods, which had bought WA roos, sourcing meat from other States from 2016.
Previously, an estimated 300 shooters were selling up to 100,000 kangaroo carcasses a year to the Perth processing plant of VIP Pet Foods.
There are smaller processors still running in WA, but demand was down and prices paid to shooters had fallen. “There seems to be a missed opportunity here — meanwhile populations are reaching unsustainable numbers,” Mr Mazza said.
Kojonup farmer Digby Stretch, who is also vice-president of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, agreed a revival of the pet meat industry would help resolve the issue.
He estimated crop and pasture damage from kangaroos on his land would amount to “five figures” in dollar terms, or 5 per cent of the yields on paddocks most affected.
Mr Stretch said an Albany-based pet food company did shoot on his farm and could sell all it could kill and process as pet meat, but it was not enough to keep numbers down.
“We would need to be shooting about 50 or 60 a week to keep numbers down, but we don’t like shooting unless they can be used for meat,” he said.
The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions said it was not concerned about rising numbers. A spokeswoman said numbers naturally fluctuated and last year was a good season with plenty of food, resulting in the increase.
WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington said he expected the department could be greatly underestimating numbers and he called for a review of the auditing process.
He said if it the population reached unsustainable numbers, a Government-sanctioned cull would be needed.
Mr Mazza said he had concerns about more road accidents. AAMI Insurance data from March 2018 to February 2019 shows kangaroos make up 83 per cent of all animal car accidents in Australia with almost 8,000 kangaroo collisions in the recorded year.
Rising population levels of kangaroos have already cost WA taxpayers around $220,000 for the relocation and monitoring of western grey kangaroos from a housing development site in south Baldivis, with 60 dying or euthanised during the relocation effort.
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