Carnage on the nation’s highways

EACH morning reveals a sickening trail of freshly killed animals, mainly kangaroos, along the major roads of outback Australia.
Nanjing Night Net

Populations of roos and feral goats are out of control in some of Australia’s most fragile rangeland country and urgent measures are needed to check their numbers.

Four species of large roos – reds, eastern and western greys and wallaroos – are now commercially harvested in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia where total numbers were officially estimated at 34.3 million in 2011.

This figure may be rubbery, being based on aerial surveys and computer modelling, but clearly indicates that current roo management and harvesting programs are failing, particularly in Queensland (with an estimated 20 million roos in 2011) and NSW (almost 10 million-plus roos).

Take a drive at night between Bollon and Cunnamulla in south-west Queensland or from Wilcannia to Cobar in western NSW and by journey’s end you will be a nervous wreck from braking to avoid collisions with a seemingly endless parade of roos hopping across your path.

Morning reveals crows and wedge-tailed eagles feasting on a convenient breakfast of new road kill of mostly roos along with smaller numbers of feral goats, wild pigs and cattle.

It’s now not unusual to see groups of five and six wedge-tails hoeing into a roo carcass on roads across outback Queensland, and they too are becoming victims of passing traffic.

Daytime driving also brings dramas because large parts of far western NSW, south west Queensland and other regions such as WA’s semi-arid Gascoyne (which sits just below the Pilbara) are infested with wild goats along with plenty of emus.

Kangaroos compete with sheep and cattle for the best grasses while goats eat pretty much everything. Little wonder the great mass of country we call the outback is becoming more and more degraded and less productive for agriculture.

Pastoralists would have little or no chance of successfully arguing Australia needs to slash kangaroo numbers (along with feral goats, pigs, donkeys, camels etc) to improve the ecological health of our iconic rangelands.

They would be immediately told by inner-city coffee sippers to get rid of their sheep and cattle and run roos instead. Or just get rid of their sheep and cattle altogether (which produce meat the overwhelming majority of people want to eat, unlike kangaroo meat).

The next academic who spruiks the potential of roos as farm animals producing large volumes of high-value meat for human consumption should be told to show the rest of us how it can be done.

High roo and feral goat populations also make destocking in times of drought difficult for individual pastoralists.

If they destock and their neighbours don’t, many of the local roos, goats, pigs etc will migrate to their property looking for better tucker.

Perhaps more groups of pastoralists need to band together and invest in fencing to provide a vermin-proof border around their properties to lock out further invasions of unwanted animals and then set about completely getting rid of pests such as foxes, cats and pigs and reducing roo and emu numbers to more manageable levels inside the fence’s perimeter.

The writer has just driven around Australia – 14,000 kilometres in four weeks – on a route which included Birdsville, Boulia, Mt Isa, Katherine, Kununurra, Broome, Port Headland, Geraldton, Merredin, the Nullabor plain, Port Augusta, Broken Hill and Cobar.

Kangaroos are a problem in large parts of regional Australia.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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