Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 33 
The Numbers Game
Photo: Ray Drew
It’s time – under the sceptical eye of one of Canberra’s Eastern Greys, to remind us of the living creatures at issue here – that we looked at some figures. I’ve been reluctant to introduce them, since figures can be so – what terms to use here? – unreliable? Political? ‘subject to the desires and manipulations of those who prepare them’?. As I indicated in the very first post, the federal government’s Department of Environment and Energy, based upon reports submitted by the various state governments involved, draws up annually, state by state, a set of ‘cull’ quotas for each of the major ’roo species in that state (in New South Wales, for example, the species are the Red Kangaroo, the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, the Western Grey Kangaroo, and the Wallaroo), and, when the information becomes available, publishes, as the ‘harvest’, the number of victims reported to it.
A few things to note here already. The figures may be the figures, but how have they been arrived at? No one has counted all the kangaroos in Australia – no one could – and so the population figures, of course, are estimates. And what are the formulae through which those estimates have been arrived? To sketch only one of the possible problems with these estimates, we are told that aerial counts – but again these are estimates – of kangaroos in selected areas where culling is proposed have been used to provide base units for the calculation, but might not this, by definition, be tricky? If we can assume that areas where culling is proposed are areas where there is a perceived surplus of kangaroos, then might not the use of such areas to estimate the number of kangaroos in areas where culling is not such a priority produce inflated – indeed perhaps grossly inflated – population estimates? The figures may be the figures, that is to suggest, but then again they may not be.
And then there are terms chosen as descriptors for those figures. ‘Cull’, for example. To ‘cull’ is, by definition, to remove the weak, the sick, the disabled and deformed – those who in effect may be weakening the gene-pool, in such a manner as may contribute to the survival of a species. But the ‘culling’ of kangaroos as currently and characteristically conducted – the male-only shooting policy which, given the kangaroo mob’s fundamental defence policy (the ‘boss’ male standing ground while the others escape), means that the strongest genes are always the first removed – is surely achieving the opposite effect. So, although this killing may be called culling, culling it is not. And ‘harvest’ – so preferable a term to ‘slaughter’ – as if we were dealing with a crop that was annually renewable. Firstly, we are not dealing with grain, or potatoes; secondly, ‘harvest’ suggests a sustainability which is gravely in doubt. What ‘harvest’ destroys the very root-stock it is harvesting?
But enough, for now. You can find the Department of Environment and Energy’s tables for 2010-2016 here.
The inadequate table below attempts only a brief summary:
National Macropod Population, Quota and Harvest Totals
I have already suggested a few problems to bear in mind as you cast your eyes over these tables. I will suggest a few more in an upcoming post.