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Forget sheep, count kangaroos

Protesters draw awareness to the kangaroo cull at Sydney's Town Hall. Photo: Supplied/Animal Justice Party

By ALLISON HORE

The Animal Justice party has launched a Summer Kangaroo Count project they hope will convince the NSW government to kill the kangaroo cull.

The citizen science initiative was launched by NSW Legislative Council member, Mark Pearson, in response to concerns about the sustainability of kangaroo populations. Beginning in December, the Summer Kangaroo Count has received over 400 responses so far.

The Animal Justice Party are asking people around Australia to record the number of dead and live kangaroos they spot around their homes or on the road, and fill in an online form with the information.

Mr. Pearson said despite the kangaroo being one of Australia’s most iconic animals, there is no accurate estimate of their population.

“The stark reality is, we have no idea how many kangaroos are left, and yet the NSW Government continues to allow the slaughter of kangaroos for products like meat and shoes,” Mr. Pearson said.

“With the government’s response to our concerns less than helpful, we are taking it upon ourselves to find out what’s happening, by getting as many ears and eyes on the ground as possible.”

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates over 3 billion animals were killed in the Black Summer bushfires in what they called one of the “worst wildlife disasters in modern history.” Kangaroos and wallabies accounted for 5 million of those animals which were killed.

The kangaroo count project is open for anyone, anywhere in Australia “whether they’re staying home or able to get out on the road.” Mr. Pearson hopes the information gathered by kangaroo counters will help convince NSW parliamentarians to consider the plight of the iconic marsupial.

“The aim of the project is to gather as much anecdotal evidence about kangaroo populations as possible, so we can take that to ministers in NSW Parliament and convince them once and for all that we have a problem on our hands that needs addressing now,” he said.

Kill the cull 

The Animal Justice party, along with other animal rights groups, are calling on a moratorium on the killing of kangaroos. They say the habitat destruction and loss of life during the bushfires leaves the nation’s kangaroo population vulnerable, and there’s no reason for the culling. More than 1,000 people have signed a petition in support.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) say the reason for culling kangaroos is “conservation”. They “work to ensure individual kangaroos are harvested in a humane way, and kangaroo populations remain ecologically sustainable”.

“The kangaroo management program works to maintain ecologically sustainable populations of certain kangaroo species,” the DPIE said.

According to the NSW Government’s estimates 2019 there are more than 14 million kangaroos and wallaroos across the state. The quota for kangaroo killings at the time was around 2 million, or approximately 15 percent of the total population. However, upon review the kill quota was dropped to 1.5 million in the 2020 population management plan.

The Summer Kangaroo Count survey can be found on Mark Pearson’s website and will be open until February 28th.

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