There’s now two kangaroos for every human in Australia – so ecologists are proposing the country gets a taste for its favourite animal. Is it a leap too far?
Back when I was a kid, I used to race home from my Canberra primary school in time to catch my favourite TV show, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. Skippy was an eastern grey roo who lived with the Hammond family in the fictional Waratah national park near Sydney. But Skippy was no ordinary roo. He was smart. Really smart. In short, he was the Australian equivalent of Lassie: an animal hero who helped save visitors to the park from natural hazards, and sometimes even solved crimes. What’s that, Skip? There’s a bushfire? A little boy has fallen down a ravine? Some bank robbers are trying to escape? Lead the way.
Fast forward 30 years and the lovable, cuddly marsupials are massing in plague proportions. New government data shows there are almost 50m of them in Australia; compare this with the human population of 24 million. Driven by overpopulation to starvation, the roos have adapted to survive. They compete with domestic livestock for food and water, damage crops and destroy farm fences. Some roos have even threatened humans and dogs on bushwalks. In 2009, a roo jumped into a family home in suburban Canberra, smashing through a window, landing on a bed, gouging holes in furniture and smearing blood over the walls.