Australia relaxed rules about shooting kangaroos in New South Wales (NSW) Wednesday as the state was declared “100% in drought” after months of little or no rain.
Less than 10 millimeters of rain fell in the state in July, the fifth-driest on record, putting further pressure on dwindling food supplies for cattle that can no longer graze on parched land.
“This is tough, there isn’t a person in the state that isn’t hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities,” Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said in a statement.
Large numbers of kangaroos have been competing with cattle for food and water, a situation Blair said must be turned around “as soon as possible.”
“Many farmers are taking livestock off their paddocks, only to then see kangaroos move in and take whatever is left – this is the last thing any farmer needs at the moment,” Blair said.
The new rules will increase culling quotas and more shooters to operate under a single license, a government press release states.
Australia has long dealt with harsh, dry conditions, especially inland, away from coastal areas popular with tourists. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said earlier this week conditions were so bad that the country had to accept it was a “land of drought and flooding rains.”
The drought may be Australia’s worst in 400 years, according to a recent University of Melbourne study, which reconstructed 800 years of seasonal patterns.
The drought has hit farmers particularly hard, with crop, water, and fodder shortages putting their livelihoods at risk. Unable to feed their livestock, many have been forced to sell or slaughter stock, sending the cattle industry into a decline that could take years to recover.
Others have had to bulldoze orchards or lose their farms, leaving entire families without income, according to Australian media.
There has also been a growing national conversation about the mental health toll that the drought has had on farmers. Young farmers under 35 are especially vulnerable to stress and negative effects of droughts, researchers at the University of Newcastle said in a recent study.
Turnbull addressed those concerns on Monday, announcing relief measures for farmers including extra money for mental health support services. Eligible households will able to apply for two payments of A$12,000 ($9,000) to help them get through the drought.
Separately, the state government announced a $500 million emergency relief package last Monday, raising the state’s total drought support to more than A$1 billion.
Though Australia has long suffered from spells of drought, other parts of the world are currently experiencing extreme weather which experts say is evidence of the Earth’s changing climate.
Heatwaves swept across Europe in July, leaving some farmers suffering drought conditions. The German Agriculture Minister warned of diminishing livestock feed, and the European Commission announced measures last Thursday to help farmers cope.
Countries worldwide are dealing with their own climate catastrophes. Japan and Korea are suffering heatwaves and wildfires have blazed across California and Sweden.
In a report released Monday, scientists warned that if global temperatures rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, a domino effect will kick in leading to “hothouse” conditions and much higher sea levels.
Global average temperatures are around 1°C higher than in the pre-industrial age, and rising at 0.17°C per decade, scientists say.