March 16, 2008

Protesters Vow to Stop Culling of 400 Kangaroos

Scores of protesters assembled at the gate of a disused naval communications station in the Australian capital of Canberra Saturday to prevent the government from slaughtering 400 eastern gray kangaroos.

The government claims the animals are to blame for destroying the grassy habitat of rare insects and lizards.

The Australian Defense Department said it will not shoot the animals, citing public safety concerns, but will instead fire tranquilizer darts before administering lethal injections to the kangaroos.

International animal rights activists and many Australians are outraged at the plan to cull the country's much-loved national symbol to protect insects and lizards.  

"We are all determined to see that the kangaroos are not killed," said Pat O'Brien, the protest's leader and president of the Wildlife Protection Association of Australia.

"There is a lot of anger in a lot of people about this. We will stand in between the kangaroo and the darts if necessary," he told Associated Press.

Among O'Brien's patrons is the family of the late "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin.

Australian officials in the Defense Department would not say when the cull would begin, but O'Brien said rumors indicate it would move forward within days.

The culling plan is a scaled-back version of a previous proposal last year to eliminate about half of the 6,000 kangaroos at two military sites in Canberra.

Scientists emphasize that the kangaroos are plentiful, and are destroying the native habitat of threatened species such as the perunga grasshopper, grassland earless dragon, striped legless lizard and golden sun moth.

The native grassland, which is vital for some insect species, is now rare in Australia.   In some areas of the country, it can only be found in old cemeteries where livestock never grazed.  The grassy habitat was originally established with imported grass seeds from Britain as European settlers built Australia's cattle and sheep industries.  


On the Net:

Australian Defense Department

Wildlife Protection Association of Australia

Associated Press