The Heat Is Online

Drought Drives Thirsty Kangaroos into Australian Cities

Dilemma Over Drought-Stricken Kangaroos, July 16, 2004

Australian environmentalists are threatening to act as human shields to stop shooters from culling kangaroos, which have reached pest proportions in the national capital as a severe drought hits surrounding areas.

The Canberra city government wants to shoot 1,000 of the marsupials, which they've said become increasingly aggressive as drought forces the normally shy animals closer to human settlement

Authorities have received reports of attacks on dogs and at least one human, while locals complain the kangaroos are using up the city's water supply by congregating around its main dam and eating food set aside for sheep.

Government-commissioned kangaroo hunters have already killed about 150 of the animals but stopped Wednesday when the government ordered the cull temporarily suspended because of protests by animal rights activists.

Animal Liberation spokeswoman Simone Gray said members of her organization were prepared to put themselves between the kangaroos and the shooters' rifles.

"They are hoping their presence will be enough to stop the shooting going on," she said. "Obviously the government wouldn't want people killed."

Gray said fencing should protect important areas like dams so kangaroos could not get to them.

The cull is scheduled to resume Friday.

Australia's Department of Environment and Heritage sets an annual commercial kangaroo cull quota of about 6.5 million animals.

Government estimates dating to 1999 put the population of the three main kangaroo species  the red, eastern gray and western gray kangaroos  at about 30 million.