LANDHOLDERS plagued by overwhelming populations of kangaroos are being encouraged to participate in the commercial harvest of the pest to help reduce the grazing pressure, damage to the environment and cruel drought-related deaths.
SA Environment Minister David Speirs said the state government was working with the commercial industry and Livestock SA to develop alternative approaches for managing kangaroos, including increasing landholder participation in the commercial industry.
“Quotas are not a limiting factor on the number of kangaroos being harvested," he said. "In 2017, only 13 per cent of the quota was reached, which suggests commercial factors are a stronger influence on the amount harvested."
Mr Speirs stressed that landholders with high kangaroo numbers could apply for a ‘Permit to Destroy Wildlife’ under National Parks and Wildlife legislation, which allowed them to shoot and let lie kangaroos.
“There is no cost to the landholder to apply for a PDW and there is no requirement to affix a tag to the carcass," he said.
“The government have also partnered with Livestock SA and the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia to connect farmers to the FarmerASSIST program, which enables landowners to access skilled qualified shooters for the purpose of culling kangaroos."
But Macro Meats managing director Ray Borda encourages landholders to go one step further and consider becoming accredited with a kangaroo harvesting permit through the government.
We need landholders to realise that the accreditation process is not onerous, can be done online and takes only a few hours.
“My company is in desperate need of shooters,” he said.
"Our factory is only operational 3-4 days a week because we can’t get enough kangaroos, which is crazy.
“While landholders are out there shooting thousands of kangaroos and just leaving them lie - we can add value to that."
Mr Borda was pushing the government to reduce barriers, including the cost of the licence, to make it easier for landholders to become accredited shooters, and has suggested holding accreditation courses closer to interested communities.
"We need landholders to realise that the accreditation process is not onerous, can be done online and takes only a few hours," he said.
"Macro Meats also has a trainer who can also help farmers through the process.
"This can put money in their pockets, while reducing grazing pressures, help the environment and also improve our social licence, which is most important.
“Farmers don’t have to do it full-time, they can do it part-time or just for some extra cash.
“A part-time shooter, maybe 10 hours a week, could make up to $800, while full-time could make up to $4000.
"This isn't just about shooting animals for human consumption either. Even the poorer quality ones are worth something, whether it be pet food or value-adding products such as leather."
Upalinna Station owner Mija Reynolds, via Hawker, said her husband Matt had a 'shoot and lie' permit but it wasn't making even a small dent in numbers.
This is the worst conditions this region has faced in a long time, if ever.
"You get one and another quickly takes its place," she said.
“A relatively small amount of the quota gets used every year. It would be good to find a way to use a much bigger proportion of the annual quota.”
As to the Macro Meats harvesting accreditation push, Mrs Reynolds said if it helped to dispose of a higher number of kangaroos, they would be interested.
In the meantime, the couple has joined forces with a group of neighbouring pastoralists to apply for a government Smart Farm grant, which aims to help farmers adopt best practice natural resource management methods to increase productivity and profitability.
The group want to employ a full-time shooter.
“We applied in January, but haven’t heard back yet,” Mrs Reynolds said.
DROUGHT DEATHS A ‘HORRIBLE’ SIGHT
NORTH East pastoralists Matt and Mija Reynolds said kangaroos on their property were so desperate for water, they had learned to turn bore taps on to survive.
“We would normally have natural springs flowing on the property, but most of them have dried up, it’s not looking good,” Mrs Reynolds said.
“This is the worst conditions this region has faced in a long time, if ever.
“Kangaroos and goats are competing for the remaining feed and they are dying off because of the drought.
“It’s horrible having to watch so many die.”
The couple run 67,000-hectare Upalinna Station, next to Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges.
Mrs Reynolds said the eastern end of their property only received about 25 millimetres of rain for 2018, when the average is normally 225mm.
“While the home block closer to the mountains had about 246mm, compared with 523mm in 2017,” she said.
They have had to destock their Merino flock to a third and were hand-feeding rams because of the drought and lack of grazing.
“We’re about to start shearing in March and we are desperately hoping the season changes by then,” Mrs Reynolds said.
“Otherwise we’ll have to decide whether we destock further.”