• Open Access

Native wildlife on rangelands to minimize methane and produce lower-emission meat: kangaroos versus livestock


Dr. George Wilson, 51 Stonehaven Crescent, CANBERRA, ACT, Australia, 2600. Tel: +61 2 6281 2160; fax: +61 2 6285 1885. E-mail: george.wilson@awt.com.au


Ruminant livestock produce the greenhouse gas methane and so contribute to global warming and biodiversity reduction. Methane from the foregut of cattle and sheep constitutes 11% of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Kangaroos, on the other hand, are nonruminant forestomach fermenters that produce negligible amounts of methane. We quantified the GHG savings Australia could make if livestock were reduced on the rangelands where kangaroo harvesting occurs and kangaroo numbers increased to 175 million to produce same amount of meat. Removing 7 million cattle and 36 million sheep by 2020 would lower Australia's GHG emissions by 16 megatonnes, or 3% of Australia's annual emissions. However, the change will require large cultural and social adjustments and reinvestment. Trials are underway based on international experiences of managing free-ranging species. They are enabling collaboration between farmers, and if they also show benefits to sustainability, rural productivity, and conservation of biodiversity, they could be expanded to incorporate change on the scale of this article. Farmers have few options to reduce the contribution that livestock make to GHG production. Using kangaroos to produce low-emission meat is an option for the Australian rangelands which would avoid permit fees under Australia's Emissions Trading Scheme, and could even have global application.