Farmers' kangaroo cull enrages conservationists : When the marsupials outnumber the humans there is trouble, writes Robert Milliken from Cobar, New South Wales

BATTLE LINES are being drawn between farmers and conservationists in Australia over what is believed to be the biggest population explosion among kangaroos the outback has seen. Kangaroos are bounding through Australia's farmlands in record numbers. Estimates put the latest national population figure at more than 20 million, 3 million more than the number of humans.

The kangaroo population has increased by more than 6 million in the past 10 years, despite controlled 'culling' by licensed shooters in the face of an international campaign to impose a ban on the export of kangaroo products from Australia.

Farmers are demanding more radical action to limit the marsupials. They complain that kangaroos are robbing their livestock of valuable water and pasture, destroying fences, eating crops and causing road accidents.

Neil Elder, a farmer near Cobar, on the western plains of New South Wales, has been overrun with four species of kangaroo: the Red Kangaroo, the Eastern Grey, the Western Grey and the Euro. Motorists are advised not to drive through the plains at night, when kangaroos emerge in hordes. Most locals drive with 'roo bars' fitted to their vehicles, giant steel frames which ensure the animal comes off second best in a collision at high speed.

'They're hardly an endangered species, as the conservationists claim in Europe and America,' said Mr Elder. 'There's a drought on here, but unless we do something about the 'roos the drought will never end.'

At the heart of the controversy is the kangaroo's status as Australia's national symbol. Attempts to set up commercial industries for kangaroo meat and leather have always run up against public opposition to the notion of eating the country's emblem.

Although its use in pet food is legal, only South Australia and the Northern Territory have sanctioned kangaroo meat being sold to humans in butchers and restaurants.

Ironically, the population explosion can be traced back to the farmers' forebears. When white settlers moved into the plains around Mr Elder's place in the 1830s, kangaroo numbers were relatively small. Aborigines hunted them for food, and kept their numbers in balance. The white settlers pushed the Aborigines from their lands, cleared trees and installed water holes, converting the plains into an environment which encouraged kangaroos to breed profusely.

They are now in such large numbers that Doug Osborne has been able to make a full-time living shooting kangaroos on the western plains for five years. He is a licensed shooter working within limits of a quota set by the government to regulate kangaroo numbers. Mr Osborne typically comes home at dawn with a nightly haul of 160 carcasses. He sells the hides to a dealer for dollars 6 ( pounds 2.20) each. They are then re- sold in Europe for 10 times this amount, where they are converted into football boots, leather coats, golf stick covers and high fashion garments. The meat is exported for human consumption mainly to Europe and Japan, where it is promoted as high quality game with fewer cholesterol-inducing fats than beef or lamb.

Farm lobby groups are now joining with scientists in an attempt to overcome Australia's psychological barrier against consuming the kangaroo. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the country's leading research centre, has launched a Kangaroo Project to promote the idea of kangaroo farming as an alternative to sheep.

John Stocker, the organisation's chief executive, said: 'We'll have to ask whether cloven- hooved animals such as cattle and sheep are really the most appropriate for the future. If we tackle it from the perspective of saying kangaroos are the most adaptable species to Australia's semi-arid regions, it means we're working with nature rather than against it.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee