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Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus)

Population Status

Population estimates

  • 2017: approximately 5.8 million individuals (State of Queensland 2018)
  • In 1981, this species was most abundant of all kangaroos (Dawson 1995)
    • 8.4 million estimated

Commercial harvest quotas

  • Number of red kangaroos killed under commercial harvest quotas in Australia (Commonwealth of Australia 2007):
    • 1984: 605,630
    • 1990: 1,249,724
    • 2000: 1,173,242

Conservation Status

IUCN Status

  • Least Concern (2015 assessment) (Ellis et al. 2016)
    • Wide distribution
    • Abundant
    • Management plans in place; populations managed by government biologists
    • Occurs in several protected areas
    • Lack of major threats
    • Stable population
  • For management (Pople & Grigg 1998)
    • Sustainable harvests for meat and skins allowed (Kelly 2005)
      • In New South Wales, managed under Kangaroo Management Program of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999
      • 60-70% of kangaroos harvested are for pet meat
      • Skin harvests operate only in Queensland
    • Outside harvest areas, kangaroos can be culled under pest destruction permits
  • Australian Mammal Society recommendations (AMS 2011)
    • Against "the implementation of measures to bring about significant further reductions in kangaroo numbers in the sheep rangelands"
    • Advocates more carefully executed, long-term research to examine ecological and economic effects of kangaroo reductions

CITES Status

  • Not listed (UNEP 2019)

U.S. Endangered Species Act

  • Previously listed as "Threatened" in 1974
    • U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service listed red kangaroo, preventing the importation of skins (USFWS 2011)
  • 1995: USFWS delisted red kangaroos and once again allowed its skins to be imported into the U.S. (Nowak 1999)

Threats to Survival

  • Dingo predation
    • Limits kangaroo abundance in areas where dingos are not controlled (Ellis et al. 2008)
  • Humans' lack of knowledge of arid land ecosystems and good land use practices (Dawson 1995)
  • Urbanization, especially road building, adversely impacts kangaroos (Ramp 2010)
    • Kangaroos attracted to roadside habitats; local extinctions may result
    • Red kangaroos are more susceptible than greys to being hit by a vehicle
      • Red kangaroos tend to take flight at the first sign of danger
      • Grey kangaroos more often simply remain vigilant while in cover
    • Various solutions proposed for reducing fatalities:
      • Repellent sounds generated by vehicles–but studies suggest these are not effective
      • Physical structures to block kangaroos from roads in kangaroo hotspots
      • Wildlife warning reflectors widely used are not effective

Stable Populations

two red kangaroos

Red kangaroos are commercially harvested in Australia.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Commonwealth of Australia (2007)
Dawson (1995)
Ellis et al. (2008)
FWS (2011)
Hacker & McLeod (2003)
Kelly (2005)
Nowak (1999)
Pople et al. (2007)
Pople & Grigg (1998)
Ramp (2010)

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