August 20, 2018
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Australia relaxes kangaroo culling laws as severe drought continues

Sydney, Australia, Aug 10 (efe-epa).- Even as Australia continued to reel Friday under the effects of a severe drought, the government allowed farmers in the state of New South Wales to cull kangaroos encroaching their land.

The government had announced on Wednesday that the entire state of NSW was affected by the ongoing drought.

"Kangaroos around local food and water sources are putting significant pressure on farms - we must start to turn that around as soon as possible," NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said earlier this week.

The measure aims to make it easier for farmers to obtain temporary licenses to cull kangaroos.

The drought in the middle of winter is one of the worst in recent decades and affects eastern and southeastern Australia, all of NSW and close to 60 percent of neighboring Queensland.

Benjamin Henley, an expert on climate and water resources at the University of Melbourne, told EFE that although the current drought was severe, its duration so far was less than the Millennium drought that had affected southern Australia between 2007-2009.

For weeks, heartbreaking images of desperate farmers, large expanses of water-starved land and ailing livestock have been circulating online.

"Australia should be ashamed. We worry about 2 percent of sheep dying on boats going overseas, because you seen a video of it, but what about the 90 percent dying in the paddock," said Australian farmer Andrew Curro in a message that went viral on social media.

The federal and the NSW government have already earmarked a total of over AU$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) to help ease the effects of the drought.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 655,621 cattle were culled in June, 7.8 percent more than the same month last year, along with 2,079,675 lambs and 869,660 sheep, an increase of 12.2 percent and 39.3 percent respectively, over the same period in 2017, on account of the drought.

The price of fodder has more than doubled to AU$400 per tonne, while alternative food for livestock are being sought and import of hay is being considered.

According to Henley, natural climate variability is likely to have played an important role in the drought although he says the data needs to be analyzed to determine if the drought is linked to climate change.

By Rocio Otoya

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