Large mobs of big reds could be as lucrative as the big game of Africa, say the promoters of The Kangaroo Trail, a guide which aims to make watching the national symbol in the wild a flagship of Australian tourism.
They argue the rangelands of western NSW, with a mix of private and public game reserves, would generate more income from tourism than sheep and cattle grazing or kangaroo harvesting – if wild kangaroos were properly promoted.
The guide, being launched at State Parliament today, lists the best places in Australia to see kangaroos. When it comes to the big red, “you will find no bigger individuals anywhere than Sturt National Park [in the north-west corner of NSW]”, it says. “When times are good, here is Australia’s version of the Serengeti.”
David Croft, a kangaroo expert with the University of NSW, argues Sturt could become as exciting a destination for tourists as the game reserves of southern Africa if dingoes were also allowed to thrive in the park “to provide the drama of predation”.
In a paper, Rangeland Kangaroos: A World-Class Wildlife Experience, Dr Croft writes: “The red, grey and hill kangaroos combined number over 20 million [in good years] and thus are one of the world’s largest remaining populations of large wild terrestrial mammals. Yet many an outback tourist will lament that of the few kangaroos he/she saw, the majority were road kills.
“Culling for pest mitigation, harvesting for consumption and free-range ‘farming’ of the arid-zone kangaroos are promoted and debated as means to sustain or partially replace pastoralism in the rangelands. Lost in this debate is any appreciation of large mobs of kangaroos as one of the great wildlife experiences that the Australian outback has to offer domestic and international tourists.
“I question whether the focus on killing kangaroos … has turned us away from realising their tourist potential because it undervalues the intrinsic qualities of the kangaroo as a living, behaving, biological entity.
“In southern Africa, game viewing is much more valuable than game … or cattle/sheep farming.”
The Kangaroo Trail has been developed by the Australian Wildlife Protection Council, which opposes kangaroo harvesting. There is a website, www.rootourism.com.au, and the venture has been funded by Voiceless, the animal rights group.
In NSW, 429,156 red kangaroos are allowed to be shot this year, based on a 2007 population estimate of 2,524,448.