Category: Sustainable Wildlife Enterprises

Estimating Kangaroo Populations – Maxent and GIS Modelling

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By , March 20, 2014 10:11 am

Red Distr dynamic landcoverThere are extensive kangaroo population surveys undertaken in Australia throughout the kangaroo harvesting commercial zones. Population estimates from these areas are used to set yearly harvesting quotas to ensure a sustainable kangaroo population and industry. However, there are extensive areas outside of the commercial zone with kangaroos that are not included in these population estimates. There hasn’t been a national population estimate of kangaroo numbers in Australia since 1987 (Caughley et al 1987). Australian Wildlife Services is undertaking a project that will aim to utilise known population densities in the commercial zone to extrapolate to the un-surveyed areas for the red kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo, western grey kangaroo. Extrapolation will be undertaken using ecologically based GIS modelling and Maximum Entropy Modeling (MAXENT – run through the Atlas of Living Australia’s Spatial Portal). Using climatic and physical environmental variables, Australian Wildlife Services is attempting to define why are kangaroos where they are and why some densities are greater than others. The aim is to produce a conservative population estimate of the three species in Australia.

Red Distr RainfallRed Distr npp



Science Under Siege – Published by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales

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By , January 7, 2013 3:07 pm

Science Under Siege CoverAustralian Wildlife Services has contributed to the recently published, thought provoking book ‘Science Under Siege’ published by The Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, November 2012.

The ‘Science Under Siege’ volume has many papers of interest regarding misuse or abuse of science in today’s society. Cooney et al. expose THINKK’s abuse of science in relation to kangaroo harvesting and Menna Jones exposes flaws in the way some ethics committees operate.

George Wilson and Jenny Smits contributed to the article “THINKK again: getting the facts straight on kangaroo harvesting and conservation” by R. Cooney, M. Archer, A. Baumber, P. Ampt, G. Wilson, J. Smits and G. Webb.  The article can be downloaded here:  THINKK again: getting the facts straight on kangaroo harvesting and conservation (1137 downloads) . The full publication, Science Under Siege, is available Open Access through the Royal Zoological Society of NSW, and the address for this is:

ABC Interview on Red Kangaroos on Angas Downs

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By , June 26, 2012 3:02 pm

Local NT ABC Radio reporter Caddie Brain interviews Dr George Wilson, Australian Wildlife Services about kangaroos on Angas Downs IPA… Click here  for the transcript and to listen to the story.

” The team from Angas Downs Station are working hard to increase red kangaroo numbers on the former pastoral property. Rangers are reinstalling water points, undertaking aerial surveying and developing the facilities to become a release site for recovering roos who have fallen on some back luck (fenced roo enclosure).

Dr Wilson says the roo enclosure will became an educational tool and tourist attraction.

“It’s amazing, there’s very few places in Australia where tourists can reliably see red kangaroos in the wild yet it’s our national emblem. But the display is only part of a broader land management strategy to increase numbers on the property.”

“Eventually, with the support of the local Indigenous community, we’ll develop a sustainable hunting regime. This property is here to blend their continuing traditional needs with science.”

Maranoa Kangaroo Harvesters and Growers Co-operative Meeting October 2010

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By , October 29, 2010 9:03 am

On Tuesday 26 October 2010, Australian Wildlife Services met with members and prospective members of the Maranoa Kangaroo Harvesters and Growers Co-operative (MKHGC) in Mitchell, QLD. The group included landholders running various operations, Landcare members, Roo harvesters, QLD game meat processors, Government and NRM body representatives and the media. Discussions were also held with reps of the University of Queensland, Gatton Campus. MKHGC is a ‘Sustainable Wildlife Enterprise’ (SWE). A SWE is a commercial business based on conservation through sustainable use and collaborating across boundaries. It seeks to generate incentives for landholders, harvesters, meat processors and tourism businesses including financial incentives, improved land management and resilience, improved soil health, biodiversity values, carbon and biodiversity credits and market opportunities. By better management and training, quality assurances and product tracing, landholders and harvestors collaborate to produce a higher value product and increase margins for coop members, thus placing a value on the kangaroo (often seen as a pest) and management of ecosytems to support them. There are also signficant carbon market incentives for coop landholders. Opportunities and directions were discussed at the meeting.

Download the SWE summary for more information: Sustainable Wildlife Enterprises Summary (1303 downloads)

The SWE model can be applied Australia wide. Other regions interested in are encouraged to contact Australian Wildlife Services.

Is current Indigenous hunting sustainable?

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By , August 16, 2010 4:08 pm

Despite the importance placed on it by Indigenous people, land and wildlife management is a minor component of current Australian Government resource allocation for addressing Indigenous need.  Readdressing this situation is urgent because Indigenous wildlife use and hunting in Australia, as it currently practiced, is often unsustainable. Our investigations which have been published in the CSIRO journal – Wildlife Research, examine the opportunity for greater science support for traditional Aboriginal practice. They are summarised in an Opinion Editorial on ‘Sciencealert‘ and in story by Australian Geographic

In Australia, wildlife managers could be more engaged in supporting Indigenous Australians in activities such as surveying populations and estimating sustainable yields, improving harvesting techniques that reduce waste and are humane, identifying refuge areas, maximising habitat diversity, controlling weeds and feral animals, and exchanging information across regions. The opportunity and need is large. The Indigenous estate is already more than 20% of the Australian land mass and expanding. Indigenous ownership and responsibility for coastal and marine wildlife resources includes vast areas of intact ecosystems.

Western science can support Indigenous passion for caring for the land. It can draw on traditional Indigenous practice and, through reciprocal learning; help reinstate Indigenous law and culture in communities. In Australia and throughout the world, hunting and gathering remain important elements of Indigenous culture and connection with the land and sea. Indigenous people say they want increased bush tucker and game from their country to supplement their diet. They want security for totemic species so as to maintain culture. Doing so will deliver both important environmental and social outcomes.

Using kangaroos adaptations to produce low-emission meat

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By , July 15, 2010 9:52 am

Kangaroos are adapted to Australia’s variable climate and are abundant in rangelands where cattle and sheep are raised. However landholders rarely benefit from kangaroos on their lands or play a role in their management. An exception is a Cooperative of graziers in Queensland, established in 2009 with Landcare support.

The Cooperative seeks to increase the value of kangaroo products and to address kangaroos’ free ranging behaviour by enabling collaboration in their management across properties. Cooperative members are following trends throughout the world, where the value of native species is available to landholders and the result is wider conservation and biodiversity benefits.

Methane from cattle and sheep is 11% of Australia’s total GHG. Kangaroos, on the other hand, produce negligible amounts of methane. Farmers have few options to reduce livestock GHG emissions.  An article in New Tork Times of 13 July 2010 described how researchers are trying to make cattle digestion more like kangaroos. It is not working however and the alternative of making greater use of kangaroos themseves to produce low emission meat  is one of the objectives of the Cooperative.

On the rangelands where kangaroo harvesting currently occurs, reducing cattle and sheep populations and increasing the kangaroo population to 175 million would produce the same amount of meat, and lower Australia’s GHG by 16 megatonnes, or 3% of Australia’s emissions. The potential carbon savings and biodiversity benefits could also be sold on in the carbon markets – voluntary or compliance, or reduce penalties when a price is placed on carbon emissions. See full paper in Conservation Letters and at this link for details of the analysis.

The Cooperative is developing the mechanisms and processes which could allow these options to be taken up. While a broadscale changeover from beef and sheep to kangaroos on the rangelands is unlikely, even in the long term, greater use of kangaroos is an option that warrants further investigation as means of landholders reducing emission and adapting to climate change.

Notwithstanding the potential benefits and the enthusiasm of catchment management agencies for the Cooperative, the project is languishing for lack of further funding support, including a re-estimation of the methane production by kangaroos.

When livestock are included in Australia’s carbon pricing mechanisms, the costs of kangaroo emissions will be significantly cheaper than those for cattle and sheep, perhaps providing the incentive for farmers to switch to kangaroos.

Kangaroos and Greenhouse gases (1103 downloads)

Potential investors in the Cooperative are invited to contact AWS to discuss the opportunity.

Camels and Greenhouse Gases

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By , February 8, 2010 10:21 am

A story on the front page of  The Australian on 8 February referred to AWS. It discusses methane emissions from camels and cars and follows a request by John Cobb MP to the Parliamentary Library to do an estimate. The Australian journalist sought comment from Sen Wong’s office and was presented with a much lower figure.  The journalist then asked AWS  for an independent estimate.

AWS makes the point that the issue is much more complicated than a simple comparison of cars and camels and that calculations contain many doubtful assumptions, including extrapolating the diet of domestic camels to wild camels.  Advocates of  ‘direct action’ using greenhouse gas reduction as a justification, need to consider the emissions produced by control. (This may be where the discrepancy between Sen Wong’s office and the Library comes in)

Detailed planning and consideration has been under way for some time in regard to the camel management. Advocates of ‘direct action’ need, at the very least to consider

  • dialogue and agreement with landholders, noting that most of the camels are on Aboriginal land
  • a long-term strategy that would address the return of camels which will result from an inability to remove them all
  • the ecological consequences of leaving large numbers of carcasses in the landscape – assuming direct action means helicopter gunships
  • the presentational problems which aerial shooting presents – (even though it can be done relatively humanely)
  • a market based solution, for example subsidised camel capture, mobile abattoirs, including  through Indigenous owned businesses?

In addition more research is needed on GHG gas emissions from animals not under the Kyoto protocol. DAFF and MLA are spending $28m on projects to make cattle more like kangaroos, including introducing kangaroo gut microorganisms into cattle. A modest investment in kangaroos (and camels) would seem to be a complementary investment worth the risk.

Methane emissions from animals

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By , January 14, 2010 12:13 pm

An article in The Australian recently revisted AWS  interest in the potential of kangaroos as producers of low emission meat compart to other species. It contained a table with an incorrect legend that had been inserted by a sub-editor.  The correct table and legend follows:

Emissions from animals

Animal No. Animals 1999 Enteric methane (CH4 Gg/yr) Enteric methane
(CO2e Gg/yr)
Enteric methane/head
(CO2e tonnes/animal/yr)
1999 Data from Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Only domesticated animals counted, average of State values
Dairy cattle 3141200 339.74 7134.54 2.27
Beef – pasture 23291900 1739.90 36537.90 1.57
Beef – feedlot 558100 41.69 875.49 1.57
Buffalo 8600 0.47 9.87 1.15
Sheep 116800400 773.08 16234.68 0.14
Goats 201700 1.01 21.21 0.11
Cattle and Llamas 1500 0.07 1.47 0.98
Horses 220300 3.96 83.16 0.38
Donkeys/mules 200 0.00 0.00 0.00
Pigs 2626600 2.88 60.48 0.02
Poultry 88694800 0.00 0.00 0.00
Deer 3200 0.03 0.63 0.20
Ostriches/emus 147900 1.58 33.18 0.22
Other 126700 0.63 13.23 0.10
2005 Data from National Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Only domesticated animals were counted, average of State values
Dairy cattle 3058554 347.73 7302.26 2.39
Beef 23224139 1847.23 38791.80 1.67
Beef – feedlot 1318089 101.61 2133.86 1.62
Sheep 101124878 681.45 14310.48 0.14
Goats 461491 2.31 48.46 0.11
Horses 221043 3.98 83.55 0.38
Deer 59469 0.64 13.36 0.22
Buffalo 6207 0.34 7.17 1.16
Donkeys/Mules 289 0.00 0.06 0.21
Emus/Ostriches 73788 0.37 7.75 0.11
Alpacas 2066 0.02 0.43 0.21
Camels 1846 0.08 1.78 0.97
Poultry 78187040 0.00 0.00 0.00
Pigs 2537859 3.69 77.43 0.03


Kangaroos 34000000[1] 0.003[2]

[1] The average number of kangaroos from 2001 to 2006) in the selected commercial kangaroo harvest area (Department of the Environment 2007).

[2] Kempton, T.J., Murray R.M., Leng R.A. (1976) Methane production and digestibility measurements in the grey kangaroos and sheep. Aust J Biol Sci 29, 209–214.

Kangaroo farming and the carbon economy

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By , January 11, 2010 5:05 pm

AWS is working with a Kangaroo Management Cooperative of pastoralists and kangaroo harvesters in central Queensland.  We are examining if lower dependence on cattle as meat producers can reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. Lowering total grazing pressure will also reduce water consumption and can drought proof properties.

Ruminant livestock produce the GHG methane and so contribute to global warming and biodiversity reduction. Methane from the foregut of cattle and sheep constitutes 11% of Australia’s total GHG. Kangaroos, on the other hand, are non-ruminant forestomach fermenters that produce negligible amounts of methane.

AWS is considering offsets generated from emissions sources in Australia not counted toward Australia’s Kyoto Protocol target, where they meet eligibility criteria and use a methodology that has been approved under the National Carbon Offset Standard. The Standard is intended to ensure that consumers have confidence in the voluntary carbon offset market and the integrity of the carbon offset and carbon neutral products they purchase.

Income from carbon offsetting such emissions has the potential to improve financial viability of pastoral enterprises and ensure greater resilience in face of recurring droughts. It could establish alternative income streams. Plant growth of both trees, shrubs and native C4 grasses once lower stocking rates are established will sequester carbon in forest, rangeland vegetation and soil. Reducing grazing pressure will lead to reduced soil degradation, an increase in water quality and an increase in habitats and wildlife corridors. Biodiversity will increase, both in species abundance and the number of individuals in populations, particularly in highly important riparian environments.

AWS has prepared a Project Information Note as part of our analysis and development of the offset project for presentation to the carbon market.  Our objective is a robust and transparent audit model that provides confidence. Independent audit validates the eligibility and robustness of offset project methodologies, and the amount of emissions reductions offset projects achieve. More details on kangaroos, cattle and opportunities are also in the AWS paper on our publications page.

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. 

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.