I live with kangaroos

Have you ever lived with kangaroos? You know those funny-looking animals with big feet, big ears, and even bigger chests? You may know them as ‘boxing kangaroos.’ I know them as my neighbour.

Recently, my family made a move from metropolitan Sydney, that beautiful, harbour-side city so many of you know as the city that hosted the best Olympic Games ever. The closest I ever came to seeing a kangaroo was the one that landed on my plate in the Parliamentary Dining Room one day when I was invited to be the guest of a colleague of mine. Yes, it’s true – we eat one of the animals that appears on our Coat of Arms – scary, but true.

Now I live in a place called Hope Island, on the northern outskirts of that tourist Mecca, the Gold Coast, where it’s “beautiful one day, perfect the next.” When I wrote this, it was the middle of winter and the weather was like a New York summer – sunny, and about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s roughly 27 degrees Celsius).

I walked out onto the front lawn at home and what should I have seen across the road but two Eastern Grey Kangaroos, standing haughtily and looking sternly back at me. A car pulled up across the way. Out came the driver with what looked to me like a camera that a professional cameraman would own. He adjusted the lens to get the resolution just right and – click, click, click – took numerous pictures of the kangaroos to take home to his wife and kids.

click, click, click, went the camera

A little further on and there stood a woman, high atop the hill, standing still, with her dog in toe. She, too, had a camera just like that of the man before her. The kangaroos, you see, are ‘cute.’ When I mentioned their presence near my new home, a friend of mine said; ‘Did you feed them?’ Although I feel perfectly safe, kangaroos being herbivores and all, I still feel better off keeping my distance. In all honesty, it’s my dog I’m most concerned for. I keep her as far away as possible.

get your dog too close to our Coat of Arms 

and one will end up the poorer

There are reports about dogs mauling kangaroos, kangaroos drowning dogs in a dam, and so on, but very little definitive evidence other than to say that get your best friend too close to our Coat of Arms and one will end up the poorer. From the material I’ve read, it appears best to keep a safe distance.

Some of you are probably saying; ‘wow, how cool, living so close to kangaroos – that’d be awesome.’ Well, here’s a little fact about the Eastern Grey Kangaroo (yes, there are different types, over forty, in fact) – it can grow to six feet and can weigh over sixty kilograms. They can jump up to nine metres in one bound and reach speeds of nearly thirty miles an hour. They can go without water so long as they have grass available and they are unable to move backwards, only forwards – straight on to my front lawn.

Save them or kill them? Cull them or keep them?

It seems Australians are divided in our opinion of kangaroos. Save them or kill them? Cull them or keep them? You’ll see all views expressed. Some argue that we should not be encouraged to eat kangaroo meat as it can cause disease to spread, like e-coli and salmonella. Others argue we need a concerted culling program as kangaroos are a pest and breed quickly. Still others debate this point, saying female kangaroos are only able to reproduce one joey per year. However, it has been said that, so long as conditions are right, the female kangaroo can remain pregnant in perpetuity.

Whilst numbers are hard to come by, it has been reported that the Australian continent could house as many as twenty-five million kangaroos. That’s as many kangaroos as people. If this were so, it would lend weight to the argument a culling program is essential, to reduce competition with livestock for food and water. However, they are just as often harvested for their meat. There has even been a ‘culling’ program implemented within the confines of a five-star resort, Sanctuary Cove, a block or two from where I live on the Gold Coast. This has led to outrage from the local residents and ecology groups. As stated in the Gold Coast Bulletin last year;

Wildlife management service Endeavour Veterinary Ecology refused to carry out the cull, saying it was “unethical” when other options were available.

Managing director and wildlife veterinarian Dr Jon Hanger said the kangaroo population had exploded after the resort failed to maintain its reproduction suppressant program.

They refer to it as a ‘commercial slaughter’

Animals Australia suggests kangaroos are culled in great numbers for profit. They refer to it as a “commercial slaughter.” They don’t agree with the view that kangaroos are a pest, and believe there is insufficient data on actual numbers. Yet the University of New South Wales disagrees, suggesting that we should eat fewer sheep and cows and more kangaroos and feral animals, even including “insects” in the mix.

Mind you, it’s not all serious disagreement. A cycling website, http://www.lavelocita.cc/opinion-page/is-it-time-to-register-kangaroos, posted this about a cyclist who inadvertently had the experience of a kangaroo jumping (nee, hopping) out in front of him whilst minding his own business on a quiet stretch of country road.

This arrogant kangaroo came out of nowhere and just ploughed into the side of me. Those things are dangerous. They’re basically bowling balls on springs.

The cyclist goes on to suggest kangaroos be “registered.”  I don’t like his chances. Perhaps a light for night-vision would assist.

Until then, I’ll satisfy myself with staying a safe distance from those lumbering beasts, safe in the knowledge they are not harmful to humans. I might even take the odd picture myself for friends overseas, and I’ll certainly be keeping a close watch on my choc lab, who is very undeservedly described as a “predator.” If only the people writing that knew her!

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