Eating Skippy ‘could save the planet’

It might not seem the obvious solution to climate change but Australian wildlife experts are urging their countrymen to "throw another kangaroo on the barbie".

Australian Wildlife Services (AWS) said switching from eating beef and lamb to eating kangaroo could result in a massive drop in methane emissions.

Sheep and cattle are responsible for 11% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions but kangaroos, which are not ruminants, produce relatively little methane.

According to the AWS study in the journal Conservation Letters, an increase in the kangaroo population to 175m with a 30% reduction in total cattle and sheep populations by 2020 would lower annual GHG emissions by 3%.

“Increasing kangaroo numbers to produce the same amount of meat as cattle by 2020 would provide substantial conservation benefits,” said Dr George Wilson, a co-author of the study.

“Currently, farmers have few options to reduce the contribution that livestock make to greenhouse gas production.

“However, low-emission kangaroo meat will provide an option to avoid emissions permit fees and have a positive global impact.”

He added that a decrease in sheep and cattle farming would also cause less damage to native wildlife habitats.

However, the AWS acknowledged that large cultural and social adjustments – as well as new investment – would be necessary to make the change.

They have already started trials to test how effectively farmers can manage free-ranging species such as kangaroos.

Dr Wilson said: “When landholders value a wildlife species, populations increase and the conservation status of the species becomes more secure.

“This has been the case for similar iconic species such as springbok in South Africa, red deer in Scotland, and bison in the USA.”

Kangaroo protection groups in Australia have reacted angrily to the report.

The Australian Society for Kangaroos, the Wildlife Protection Association of Australia, the Kangaroo Protection Coalition and Kangaroo Defenders called for a moratorium on the killing of kangaroos, claiming they are being pushed to the brink of extinction in some parts of the country.

Kate Martin

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