Animal rights activists are passionate about preservation of the kangaroo, as indeed are other conservationists such as hunters. After all, no one wants to see the kangaroo go the way of the North American buffalo during the 19th Century.
The main points of divergence between animal rights activists and true conservationists, to me, is that animal activists (i) do not want to see the carcass used; (ii) don’t want anyone hunting an animal to enjoy themselves in the process; and (iii) tend to be heavy on anthromorphism (that is to say, they credit animals with having human characteristics).
Walt Disney and Skippy have much to answer for in this regard. Give a wild animal a human name, and bestow upon it a capacity to think in a human-like way, and a generation down the track children brought up this way start to advocate special immunity for that animal. It is a wonder that the Greens have not started trying to ban mouse traps so as not to hurt Mickey’s great-grandmice.
All around Australia, kangaroos are protected fauna. The description of what you may not do to protected fauna such as kangaroos varies from state to state, with such verbs as ‘harm’, ‘shoot’, ‘poison’, ‘capture’, ‘injure’, ‘kill’, ‘damage’, ‘harvest’, and ‘undertake activity detrimental to welfare’ commonly used.
Despite the variety of language, the effect of the protection afforded by the various pieces of legislation is similar.
CODE OF PRACTICE
Kangaroos and wallabies may only be shot subject to an appropriate licence, and that licence applies a Code of Practice that must be adhered to by the shooter.
Codes for the commercial and non-commercial shooting of kangaroos may be found on line at:
For the purpose of this paper I shall only address non-commercial shooting.
The required standard for large kangaroos, such as red, Eastern grey, Western grey, euro (wallaroo), agile wallaby and whiptail wallaby is that they be head shot out to a maximum range of 200 metres with projectile fired from a centrefire rifle that is at least as powerful as the following minimums: .204 Ruger firing a 40 grain projectile, .222 Rem, .223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, or larger.
Small wallabies such as the Bennets and Tasmanian pademelon must be head shot with a projectile fired from one of the following minimum chamberings at the maximum range nominated:
.22 LR firing a 32 gr hollow point or heavier projectile to 50 metres
.17 Rem (20 or 25 grain projectile) out to 100 m
.22 Hornet (45 grain projectile or 22 magnum to a maximum range of 80 metres
.222 Rem, .223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, or larger, out to 200 metres.
Only soft point or hollow point projectiles may be used.
Shotguns are permitted under limited circumstances in South Australia, although they may be used elsewhere for euthanasia, as may .17 HMR, .17 Rem, .22 LR, .22 WMR, .22 Hornet (see the code for projectile sizes).
See also the code for permitted euthanasia methods for pouch young or young at foot.
The code prohibits the use of semi automatic firearms or those firing sub-sonic ammunition.
All firearms used must be fitted with a telescopic sight and must be sighted in against an inanimate target before commencing each day’s or night’s shooting, and should be readjusted using an inanimate target throughout the day as often as required.
Anthromorphism, has, I believe also led to the Parks and Wildlife Service mandating head shooting for kangaroos.
Why does the standard call for a head shot to guarantee an immediate and painless death, when other animals are often treated in a less than humane manner by Parks and Wildlife? For example, animals receiving doses of none-to-selective poison often die slow lingering deaths.
While generally achievable, my concern with the brain shot standard is that it is a small target and, as such, offers a high margin for error. Misjudge the wind, or have it shift on you at the last moment, pull a shot, or shiver at the wrong moment on a cold night, and the kangaroo may suffer an awful, lingering death with a broken jaw.
Shooters have a moral, and legal, obligation to follow up all injured animals. However, a shooter may under some circumstances anticipate that he missed the animal completely, find himself in a position where it may not be feasible to follow up a wounded animal, or find himself in a position where the animal has eluded him. One example of this is to be found in my blog about trespassing.
Rather than rely on the ‘immediate, painless death’ provided by the brain shot that shall hopefully destroy the brain and central nervous system, I would have thought that, on balance, a heart-lung shot destroying either or both the respiratory and cardiovascular systems and resulting in few animals surviving longer than a few hops would be a more desirable target.
Having said that, if the rules allowed this, I think more powerful rounds should be mandated for chest shots.
Unfortunately, reason does not prevail here. Shoot a kangaroo with a heart-lung shot and you risk prosecution. There has been a case in Queensland where the application of a tag has enabled the tracking of a carcass of a body shot kangaroo that had been delivered to a dealer.
Cases that I have dealt with where people have been convicted of shooting wildlife have been dealt with quite harshly by the Court.
A client of mine, who was lawfully travelling on a national highway that passed through a National Park, witnessed a kangaroo being seriously injured by the vehicle in front, and stopped to euthanase it.
Despite the commission of the offence about 80km from the nearest town, where one would be likely to find ‘WIRES’ members, the city-based Magistrate lectured my client on why he had not called either ‘WIRES’ or Parks and Wildlife. He seemed unable to comprehend the patchy mobile coverage in the park and the likelihood that the animal would have escaped into the bush to die a slow lingering death.
My client received a fine of several hundred dollars (note imprisonment is a possible penalty for this offence) and, devastatingly, it resulted in the loss of his firearms licence.
Many years ago, I euthanased an injured kangaroo by the roadside. I note that I would not do it today.
One traditional way that kangaroo numbers were controlled from the early days of white settlement was by ‘roo drives’ .The drive owes its origins to the way birds are often hunted in the UK, the ‘guns’ stand by a marker and the beaters push (drive) the birds past. Traditionally a lunch or barbeque and drinks followed.
This was a popular form of hunting kangaroos amongst our pioneering squatters but is now effectively illegal. This is because, while the Code of Practice does not specifically address drives, the only circumstances under which one can shoot kangaroos is in accordance with the Code of Practice. This means that, other than in the limited circumstances where shotgun use is permitted, kangarooa must be head shot with a rifle – a difficult thing to achieve under drive conditions.
Secondly, in NSW, the Act prohibits the ‘pursuit ‘of kangaroos. Other states use such language as ‘harass and molest’, and this could lead to beaters being charged, with ‘the guns’ being accessories.
So, given the Code, it is easy to understand why the drive has gone the same way as the British fox hunt.
Farmers routinely complain about the issuance of inadequate tags. One farmer I know, who is literally being eaten out of house and home, applied for 1,500 tags and was issued 200.
It would be understandable if a few experiences like this led to some farmers self-regulating the kangaroo population on their properties because it is almost impossible for Parks and Wildlife to know that they have done so.
My recommendation to farmers is to work within the legal system. If issued inadequate tags, use the tags provided, and then apply for more. If Parks and Wildlife do not provide adequate tags, photograph numbers of kangaroos on your property, involve the local media, and politicise the matter.
A primary producer wishing to obtain tags needs to contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
As periodical revisions may be made to the Code, it is suggested that a shooter considering shooting kangaroos take steps to obtain the latest version when acquiring tags.