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Byron Shire
November 27, 2022

Interview: Talking Kangaroo

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Director of Kangaroo-Mick McIntyre. Showing at the Brunswick Picture House. ©Hopping Pictures

Kate McIntyre Clere and her husband Mick have made a groundbreaking documentary unpacking the national paradigm on the kangaroo.

Kate spoke with The Echo about the film.

What was the biggest disparity you found when it came to feelings around the kangaroo?

We set out to make a film about kangaroos and uncovered just how divided the response in Australia is to this native species. We were shocked to learn that killing kangaroos was the largest terrestrial wildlife kill on the planet. We think that most Australians do not know this fact. Most Australians do not know that kangaroos are killed and eviscerated in the bush and carried on the backs of open trucks through the dusty track for hours until refrigeration. Most Australians do not know how cruelly the baby joeys are treated. We certainly did not. Most Australians do not know that there is a push to expand the export of kangaroo meat into new areas including China. We believe most Australians will be shocked to hear how their beloved national emblem is being sold for pet food, sausages and soccer boots. There is very little open discussion in mainstream media of the populations, hygiene or cruelty surrounding this Australian wildlife.

I have always struggled to understand how a native animal can be a pest. What did you uncover in regard to this attitude?

From our research for the film we found right from the get go of white settlement that kangaroos were considered a pest to landowners wanting to shape the land into the more European style of farming they were used to. Today we will remove kangaroos from farms, golf courses, land developments and basically any time we want to use the land for something else. Scientists told us that although the kangaroos are supposed to be protected by national wildlife legislation there are many exclusions that facilitate the shooting of kangaroos. We learnt in making Kangaroo that many Australians do not want to share this land with this wildlife.

Is there a risk that they could become endangered?
When interviewing scientists for the movie we learnt that kangaroos are incredibly slow growing and have very low fecundity and high juvenile mortality – and the industrial-scale shooting doesn’t stop. The basic maths and methodology being used by government to count kangaroos is flawed. Most Australians do not understand that the published ‘population estimates’ are not the actual count data. The scientists we interviewed have examined and mapped the actual survey count data and the take data, and are very concerned that those are suggesting local and regional extinction and decline.

Scientists are working on co-existence methods with farmers to encourage sharing the landscape. Is there a need for a solution, a change of ideology, some robust science and public discourse from a place of interest and concern? Definitely.

Do attitudes change the farther you go out west? Is it around competition for grazing land? How could farmers work more co-operatively?
Farmers interviewed in the film do not all have the same responses. Some believe killing kangaroos on their property has not helped at all in the annual income from their land and have stopped this practice, and apparently there is quite a bit of science confirming this. We found there were so many misconceptions around kangaroos across Australia that go uncorrected. They can’t breed more quickly after drought. The science shows kangaroos don’t compete for feed with livestock except during drought when all animals are starving. Also that the ongoing presence of kangaroos is dependent on habitat and not water.

How would you like to see things change for the kangaroo?

What message did you want your film to communicate?
We want Australians to be interested in the treatment and future of the kangaroos. We would like this film to initiate a robust transparent national conversation that brings together all concerned scientists, Indigenous people, landowners, politicians, animal activists, and citizens, and give the kangaroo the respect it deserves as our national icon that has lived on this continent for 25 million years.

Kangaroo screens at the Brunswick Picture House on Wed 21st and Sun 25th march.

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  1. It is as nutty to promote the eating of this national animal’s meat as it would be to promote the eating of eagle flesh here in the US. I thought that by now, surely, white Australians would have learned more respect for the land, the animals, and so on. Obviously, I was very wrong. Best luck with your documentary & I send prayers it makes a big, positive difference quickly. Mitakuye oiasin – All (are) my relatives.


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