The Effect of Drought on Kangaroo Populations

Kangaroos (Macropus rufus, M. fuliginosus, and M. giganteus) declined by about 40% across more than a million square kilometers of inland eastern Australia during a drought between April 1982 and March 1983. Most of the deaths occurred within 4 summer months over which kangaroos declined at an instantaneous rate of r = -0.135 on a monthly basis. The rate of decline showed no correlation with the density of kangaroos. We suggest that such droughts and the consequent mortality and reduced fecundity are intrinsic to the ecology of kangaroos, that these occur locally almost every year and regionally about every 10 years, and that they counterbalance to some extent the rapid increase in numbers between the droughts.

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