Kangaroos could be commercially harvested on Kangaroo Island if a plan by the SA Government is approved.
The SA Government wants to tackle what it says is kangaroo overabundance across South Australia, including a pilot program to increase commercial kangaroo harvesting, as well a proposed expansion of the harvest zone.
A three-month pilot program to increase landholder participation in commercial kangaroo harvesting is expected to commence this month, managed by Livestock SA, as a drought response measure.
The Marshall Liberal Government has committed $25,000 to the pilot program, which will provide additional income opportunities for drought-affected farmers, as well as address the financial and environmental pressures associated with high kangaroo populations.
Up to 10 landholders, with an initial focus on the western Eyre Peninsula and Upper North regions, whose properties are being impacted by high kangaroo populations and are in commercial harvest zones, will be supported to become licensed kangaroo field processors.
The trial has been jointly developed by the Department of Environment and Water (DEW), Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), Livestock SA and Macro Meats.
The State Government is also proposing to update the SA Commercial Kangaroo Management Plan to expand the commercial kangaroo harvesting zone and increase the number of species that can be harvested.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said high kangaroo numbers are putting severe pressure on farmers and the environment.
"This is a great example of government and industry working together to assist farmers battling drought conditions and provide off-farm income opportunities" Mr Whetstone said.
"This pilot will identify landholders whose properties are not only experiencing drought conditions but also the impact of high kangaroo populations and the associated impacts on land and feed base.
"If the pilot is successful, the State Government plans to implement a broader program.
"During the three-month trial, annual permit fees and accreditation costs will also be waived to encourage landholders to get involved.
"The proposed changes will support primary producers, local government and the commercial kangaroo industry better manage overabundant kangaroos, and provide further opportunities to use kangaroos for meat or skin production."
Department for Environment and Water CEO John Schutz said the current kangaroo management plan was adopted in 2018, but high kangaroo numbers had prompted a review in order to better protect the environment, support kangaroo welfare, and the agricultural and commercial harvest industries.
"We are suggesting that the commercial harvest zone be expanded from South Australia's pastoral area to also cover Yorke Peninsula, Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula, Kangaroo Island and the South East," said Mr Schutz.
"We are also proposing to include more kangaroo species in the commercial harvest. We are looking at species which are not threatened and have increased in abundance and distribution during the past decade.
"Surveys will be conducted to determine population estimates for each species in each harvest sub-region so that quotas can be set before kangaroos are harvested. This will ensure that populations are managed sustainably.
"By better managing kangaroo overabundance across the state we will see improved outcomes for the environment as well as supporting kangaroo welfare."
Livestock SA president Joe Keynes said the group would co-ordinate engagement with the pilot program with interested landholders.
"This is a great proactive approach in enabling producers to ensure their operations remain viable while also up-skilling at the same time," said Mr Keynes.
"As part of this pilot program State Government funding will assist producers to obtain the required meat hygiene and food safety accreditation to ensure they meet the relevant standards for their field operations.
"Macro Meats will also provide mentoring to participating landholders along with information and demonstration sessions so they can undertake the mandatory training and establish their field processing operations. Meat produced during the trial will be purchased by Macro Meats."
Landholders interested in taking part in the trial should contact Livestock SA on 08 8297 2299 or email email@example.com
Members of the public are invited to read more about the proposed changes and to provide feedback on the updated South Australian Commercial Kangaroo Management Plan at: https://yoursay.sa.gov.au
Feedback closes on September 6.
Kangaroo Island reaction
Twelve volunteers came together on a wild windy day on June 8 at Point Morrison to help wildlife carers build a soft release area for rescued KI Kangaroos.
Organiser Kate Welz thanked the volunteers for their hard work, the girls brownies and soups that kept them warm.
Eco-Action KI plans to make a submission to the Government proposal.
Committee member Fraser Vickery is a qualified ecologist and former regional manager for KI for the state environment department.
He also served on the SA Kangaroo Management Committe for many years.
Mr Vickery said there were no official surveys or scientific evidence for kangaroo numbers below the current commercial zone in the State's north.
"We simply don't know the exact numbers," he said. "The populations also vary widely from one part of Kangaroo Island to another."
The extensive KI kangaroo and wallaby study completed in the early 90s found no demand for commercial harvesting of either KI kangaroos or wallabies.
There was a program of licenced shooting on KI but also extensive illegal shooting that the Department for Environment could not deal with due to a lack of resources, he said.
"The management (culling) of macropods (kangaroos) in SA is subject to the National Parks and Wildlife Act and Regulations and policy set by the State Kangaroo Management Committee but it is also subject to cruelty legislation (RSPCA Act) and the shooting of animals is strictly controlled in terms of licencing policy and also training and licencing of what are called 'field processors' (shooters)," he said.
"To allow untrained landholders to engage in 'commercial' culling of kangaroos without proper licencing, management and training would be a disaster in terms of cruelty to animals and the perceptions of visitors to KI.
"As I suggested - we need to know what the problem is first and we don't really have any idea of what numbers we are dealing with here on KI - populations of kangaroos and Tammar wallabies vary considerably across the Island and counts to estimate populations are difficult and therefore the results unacceptably variable.
"Many years ago (1994-5) we did investigate the commercial harvesting of kangaroos and wallabies here on KI but there was absolutely zero interest.
"We even had discussions with RM Williams but we were bluntly told that if you can't cut a pair of anything (boots, gloves) out of one skin (to match the pair) you can forget it.
"A Tammar wallaby produces about 1 kg of useable meat so it is totally impractical to process wallaby meat for human consumption - especially given the cost of investing in infrastructure set-up!
"By the way, only about 14 per cent of the State target for culling of macropods (reds, greys and euros) in the commercial zone was met this year and it has been declining every year for about 10 years.
"Processors can't get 'field processors' (shooters) - they all went mining! Also we lost international human consumption markets including, Russia and China recently."