California Forum

Another View: Kangaroos are in trouble and Californians can help

Ray Mjadwesch is writing his thesis on the history and management of kangaroos in Australia.
Ray Mjadwesch is writing his thesis on the history and management of kangaroos in Australia.

Right now, California’s government is being lobbied to repeal a decades-old ban on kangaroo parts. My government is telling your government that kangaroos are plentiful pests, and that the industry is well-regulated and sustainable (“On the trail of kangaroo legislation”; Insight, Dan Morain, June 11).

This could be the greatest wildlife swindle in scientific history.

Australia has the world’s worst mammal extinction rate; one-third of global mammal extinctions in the last 400 years occurred in Australia. Ninety million kangaroos and their joeys were killed by the commercial kangaroo killing industry between 1975 and 2011, with millions more shot every year since.

In 2011, I reviewed government data finding that kangaroos are in serious long-term decline in New South Wales. I submitted exhaustive scientific evidence detailing critical errors in government population surveys, flaws in the harvest model, systematic inflation of kangaroo numbers and over-allocation of quotas. Government population estimates since then show increases that are biologically impossible, ensuring that millions of kangaroos continue to be shot annually from ever-shrinking populations. It’s an industrial-scale slaughter of an international icon.

My concerns were dismissed as activism, despite my expertise in flora and fauna survey and wildlife management. No one has attempted to answer my questions.

Our national coat of arms and one-dollar coin bear their image, but in Australia kangaroos have been mythologized as a nuisance. Australians have been subjected to a strategic, long-running and industry-driven PR campaign that has been generally accepted: that shooting and eating kangaroo is good for us and good for the environment. The notion of a kangaroo population surplus is firmly embedded.

Instead of decline, our unquestioning media report “plagues.” Our cooks recommend recipes. The kangaroo industry uses the Australian government to lobby California lawmakers to remove impediments to the kangaroo trade. Meanwhile, adidas has dropped kangaroo leather from its soccer shoes out of concern for animal welfare and Russia refuses our kangaroo meat for food safety reasons.

Gov. Jerry Brown is among those being lobbied. He may prove the roos’ strongest ally. In 2007, when the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the state’s kangaroo trade ban, then-Attorney General Brown likened the kangaroo trade to the ivory trade, and stated: “When you create a market for certain animal skins, then you encourage people to kill that animal species.”

True words, Gov. Brown.

Ray Mjadwesch, a consulting ecologist, is writing his thesis on the history and management of kangaroos in Australia. Read more at www.kangaroosatrisk.net.

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