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Western Gray Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Western Gray Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus)

Population Status

Population estimates

  • Population trend: increasing (Burbidge et al. 2016)
    • Regional declines may be due to decreased rainfall, caused by land clearing for agriculture (Dawson 2013)
  • Considered locally common through much of its range (Eldridge and Coulson 2015)
  • In 2017, an estimated 4.8 million individuals (Macropod quotas and harvest for commercial harvest areas... 2018)
    • Only surveyed areas of New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia
  • Five distinct genetic clusters across its range (Neaves et al. 2009)
    • Lower genetic diversity on Kangaroo Island, likely due to overhunting by Europeans in the 19th century
  • Range has expanded in recent decades, as humans adapt land for development, agriculture, and livestock (Eldridge and Coulson 2015)
    • Expanding into mainland South Australia and eastward within New South Wales (Burbidge et al. 2016)
    • Possibly due to increased presence of water for livestock and/or changes in rangeland vegetation (Dawson 2013)
  • Well protected by federal legislation (Burbidge et al. 2016)
  • Occurs in many protected areas (Burbidge et al. 2016)
  • Western gray kangaroo occurs at lower densities than the eastern gray and red kangaroos (Dawson 2013)
  • Total number of kangaroos in the pre-colonial era estimated to have been between 100 and 200 million (Simons 2013)

 

Commercial hunting

  • Commercially hunted in parts of New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia under nationally approved management plans (Eldridge and Coulson 2015; Burbidge et al. 2016)
    • Commercial take does not cover the western gray kangaroo’s entire range; as of 2017, not taken commercially in Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, or the Northern Territory (Scroogie et al., 2017) or Kangaroo Island (see below)
    • Only permitted within specified Commercial Harvest Management Regions (Western Pastoral, Eastern Pastoral, Western Agricultural and Eastern Agricultural) (Peter Mawson, personal communication, 2017)
  • “Annual harvest quotas are set as a percentage (typically 10-20%) of the most recent estimates of population size…in large management areas”; varies among regions (Pople et al. 2007)
    • Annual quotas usually not met (Simons 2013)
    • An estimated 3 million animals found in commercial harvest area boundaries in 2009 (Dawson 2013)
  • Large populations outside the commercial harvest areas (Dawson 2013)
  • Acceptable numbers of kangaroos occur in most rangelands; generally, damage to agriculture is limited, although can be locally severe in very dry times (Dawson 2013)
  • With a proper license, kangaroos may be shot to prevent damage to crops or pasture (Burbidge et al. 2016) or as mitigation (Scroogie et al. 2017)
  • Perceived as being overabundant in some areas; periodic harvesting carried out (Eldridge and Coulson 2015)
    • Criteria for effective, publicly acceptable cull programs (from Mawson et al. 2016)
      • Consultations with community members far in advance (>12 mo) to the hunts
      • Enforcement of animal welfare standards with wildlife officers and other independent parties onsite during culls
      • Safety protections for participants, local residents, and non-target animals
      • Paying incentives to commercial harvesters to keep costs low
    • Macropus fuliginosus fuliginosus (Kangaroo Island subspecies) not hunted commercially, but with proper licenses, is subject to culling hunting after causing damage to the environment, agriculture or property (Peter Mawson, personal communication, 2017)

 

Kangaroo products and industries

  • Kangaroo products include meat and skin for leather (industries about equal in value) (Dawson 2013)
    • About 40% of the meat harvested is for human consumption; quality regulated by Australian Commonwealth legislation
    • Majority of skins are exported
  • Items sold in tourism markets (Staker 2006; Simons 2013)
    • Handbags, briefcases, belts made from kangaroo leather
    • Forearms/paws sold as souvenirs/back-scratchers
    • Purses and bottle openers made from kangaroo scrotums
  • Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia
  • Also see "History" in Cultural History

 

Conservation Status

IUCN

  • Least Concern (2015 assessment) (Burbidge et al. 2016)
    • Categorized as Least Concern due to the species’ wide distribution, presumed large population, and occurrence in a number of protected areas; populations not thought to be in decline
  • Previous assessments
    • 2008: Least Concern
    • 1996: Lower risk/least concern

CITES

  • Not listed

Australia’s national and state governments

Other designations

  •  

Threats to Survival

No major threats (Eldridge and Coulson 2015, except as noted)

  • Habitat loss due to urbanization and intensive agriculture
    • Late 1800s to early 1980s: native heathlands and woodlands in southwest Australia cleared for agriculture (Arnold et al. 1995)
  • Human activities have benefited gray kangaroos in some areas:
    • Forest/woodland clearing
    • Improved pasturelands
    • Provisioning of water for livestock
    • Suppression of predators

Management Actions

Note: This is only a sampling of management actions. Each state has its own management plan. Other management practices are used, depending on the location and management issue (Sarah Garnick, personal communication, 2017).

Commercial hunting

  • Laws in New South Wales (but not Queensland) restricts shooting kangaroos only for their skins; meat must also be used (Dawson 2013)

Government protections and scientific study

Community engagement and science-informed policy

  • THINKK: efforts to bridge science, policy, animal welfare advocates, and communities

Expansion of Territory

Two western grey kangaroos

The western gray kangaroo's range has expanded in recent decades, as humans adapt land for development, agriculture, and livestock.

Image credit: © Marc Russo at Flickr. All rights reserved. Used with permission from the artist.

Image location: Perth, Western Australia

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