Kangaroos and Domestic Livestock – A Comparison of Greenhouse gas Production

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By , November 11, 2008 2:44 pm

The Society for Conservation Biology in USA published a report by AWS on 5 August 2008, that describes how kangaroos could be utilised to help reduce Australia’s methane emissions. It proposes that eating more kangaroos in lieu of cattle and sheep will help slow climate change. Download

On 30 Sep 2008 the Garnaut Climate Change Review Final Report referred to the study in Chapter 22 and there was considerable media interest in follow up. Articles have appeared in New Scientist and National Geographic.

A popular version ‘Roo diet placed on the Greenhouse menu’ has been published by Australasian Science and can also be downloaded.We have also prepared an opinion piece on the ABC Web Site Eating kangaroos could reduce emissions. It had the opportunity to comment and respond.

The Sydney Morning Herald led the follow up in an article by James Woodford. Other considered journalism can be found by Matthew Warren from The Australian.

The study in Conservation Letters showed that on the rangelands where the kangaroo industry exists, an increase in the kangaroo population to 175 million with a 30 percent reduction in total cattle and sheep populations by 2020 would lower Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 3 percent, or 16 megatons.

Livestock produce large amounts of the greenhouse gas methane. Sheep and cattle constitute 11 percent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Kangaroos, however, produce relatively little methane because they are not ruminants.

In the press release that accompanied the report, Dr George Wilson was quoted as saying that “Increasing kangaroo numbers to produce the same amount of meat as cattle by 2020 would provide substantial conservation benefits.”

Methane has a warming potential over a 100-year time frame 21 times higher than that of CO2 and is a principal contributor to global warming. With a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere of 8 – 12 years compared to 100 years for CO2, reducing methane emissions is an attractive short-term target.

“Currently, farmers have few options to reduce the contribution that livestock make to greenhouse gas production. However, low-emission kangaroo meat will provide an option to avoid emissions permit fees and have a positive global impact.”

“Although we are proposing an increase in kangaroo numbers, from the current about 30 million and growth in the kangaroo harvesting industry, the net planned effect is for a lower grazing impact. This means there will be less damage from hard-hoofed livestock and maintenance of kangaroo and other wildlife habitat.

Trials are underway to test collaboration between farmers in the sustainable management of free-ranging species. (see below SWE trials) According to Dr Wilson “when landholders value a wildlife species populations increase and the conservation status of the species becomes more secure. This has been the case for similar iconic species such as springbok in South Africa, red deer in Scotland, and bison in USA.”

See full article at Conservation Letters web site and opportunity to download text.