Canberra, Australia’s capital, has a problem – too many kangaroos.
The nation’s emblematic animals have been known to collide with cars, bounce on the roof of Parliament House and to come in through bedroom windows.
Authorities have tried giving them vasectomies and oral contraceptives, to no avail.
Trucking them to new and distant pastures is too expensive so now city leaders are proposing a cull.
But many people are aghast at the idea of their best-known marsupial being shot en masse in the national capital.
A government survey found that more than 80% of Canberra residents think the wild kangaroos should stay.
On the other hand, in a different survey, 17% of drivers in the district reported having collided with a kangaroo at least once.
Canberra’s latest man-vs-roo horror story concerns a confused beast, standing about 5ft 9in on its powerful hind legs, which last month bounded through a closed bedroom window onto a bed where a couple huddled with their nine-year-old daughter, then hopped into their 10-year-old son’s bedroom.
The animal was wrestled out of the house by the father, Beat Ettlin, and headed for the hills, leaving claw marks on a bed and a trail of blood from broken glass.
Maxine Cooper, environment commissioner for the government of the Australian Capital Territory, said humans aren’t the only ones at risk – the kangaroos are destroying the grassy native habitat of endangered species such as a six-inch-long lizard known as the earless dragon.
But “compare that to anything furry with big eyes – the human emotions generally respond to furriness and big eyes,” Ms Cooper said.
In fact, culls are nothing new. Barry Stuart, who runs a kangaroo abattoir 220 miles north of Canberra, shoots more than 25 on most nights with a license from the government.
“You don’t like to destroy them, but when the time comes, you’ve got to do it. They’re a beautiful b..... animal,” said Mr Stuart, 60.
But a cull in the capital is likely to be a different matter.
Last year, during the killing of about 400 kangaroos that had eaten themselves close to starvation on fenced military land in Canberra, the protests were so heated that the killers, using stun gun and lethal injections, had to work behind screens.
This time the opposition will be no less vigorous, warned Pat O’Brien, president of the Wildlife Protection Association of Australia, whose patrons are the family of the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin.
Mr O’Brien insisted that, earless dragons notwithstanding, Canberra’s kangaroos pose no environmental problems.
“It’s disgraceful that people want to shoot our national symbol,” Mr O’Brien said. “The days when wildlife is managed with a gun should be long past.”