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Kangaroo shooters hang up their guns under the pressures of drought, flood and Queensland legislation

By Eric Barker, Tom Major and Maddelin McCosker, Thursday February 13, 2020 - 14:52 EDT
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Chiller boxes used to store kangaroo carcases before being sent to processors remain empty one year on from the floods. - ABC

A combination of devastating floods and years of drought has forced many outback Queensland kangaroo shooters to leave the industry.

No harvesting has occurred in the McKinlay Shire, in the state's north-west, since early 2019, and some shooters have taken jobs in construction or transport industries to support their families.

Chiller boxes outside the town stand empty and unused due to which and drastically reduced kangaroo numbers.

"The [kangaroo] population has been decimated. A few come and go but there's no breeder females left here," said fourth-generation harvester Adrian Sollitt.

"Seventy to 75 per cent were killed with pneumonia after the last four days of the heavy wind and rain, they were still dying after the floods."

The 35-year veteran of the sector said it would take some time to restore numbers of red and eastern grey kangaroos in the north-west.

"I'm sure given time and a decent wet season, with no heavy floods, everything regenerates and regrows," he said.

"It's just a waiting game."

Shooting through

Liam Gribble worked part-time as a harvester for 10 years in the central-west town of Barcaldine, but recently decided to sell his equipment and focus on his work as a diesel mechanic.

"It has been one of the worst droughts in many years and it's been a very tough period. Not only for people in this area, even in New South Wales," Mr Gribble said.

"I've got mates down there who are shooters and they're struggling at the moment too."

He said a recent decision by the Queensland Government was the final nail in the coffin.

"You might not get many greys, but the ones that you do get cover your fuel, or cover your bullets, or your tags for the night," he said.

"So you are spending more hours of a night driving around trying to find more numbers which are dwindling out this way."

In response, a spokesman for the Queensland Department of Environment and Science said the decision was made in compliance with its Wildlife Trade Management Plan (WTMP).

"Failure to produce and comply with such a plan would severely damage the Queensland industry which is largely export focused," the spokesman said.

"The populations of all commercially-harvested macropods will be reassessed in 2020 and new quotas set for the 2021 harvest period."

Economies hit

Mr Sollitt said the livelihoods of four shooters who supplied for his business had been put on hold.

"We've had to take alternative jobs and go truck driving, machine operating, whatever you can do," he said.

He had been driving machines for earthmoving contractor Rob Johnson, repairing severely eroded roads in the shire.

Mr Johnson said government funding in the wake of the floods was a lifeline for his business and the kangaroo harvesters in town.

"That helped them out because they lost their livelihood too," he said.

"If we never had the work we would probably be on the dole.

"After what has been a big setback we have [instead] kicked a goal."

However, Mr Johnson said the work was finite.

"We've got that for another 12 months then we don't know what we're up to," he said.

Compounding the pain for shooters, the price of kangaroo meat per carcase has shot up to $1.10 a kilogram in recent weeks, something Mr Sollitt said was unheard of previously.

"It all boils down to supply and demand. They put the price up and expect everyone is going to shoot more," he said.

"At the moment this is the worst I've ever seen. The demand is there for it but the product's not available."


© ABC 2020

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