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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 05:58 GMT 06:58 UK
Australia takes aim at kangaroos
Kangaroo
Australia culls thousands of 'roos each year

The cull of thousands of kangaroos has begun on an army camp in southern Australia, to stop them terrorising residents of nearby communities.

Boxing Kangaroos
Each hunter is expected to kill 100 kangaroos a day
The marsupials have been allowed to breed unchecked inside the secure borders of the Puckapunyal military base in Victoria for several years.

The area hasn't been able to sustain the explosion in the 'roo population and the animals have been escaping in their thousands and have invaded nearby farms and villages in search of food and water.

It is estimated between 80,000 and 100,000 kangaroos are living in the military training area.

Starving

The Australian Defence Department says the population is now way beyond what is sustainable and that many animals are starving to death.

It has obtained a permit to kill 15,000 of the marsupials, which are a national symbol of Australia.

An army spokeswoman has confirmed that professional marksmen have been given the go-ahead to begin the cull on 42,000-hectares of land used for artillery practice and tank training.

Culling teams will also include safety officers and inspectors from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to ensure the eradication programme is conducted humanely.

The slaughter could take up to two weeks to complete.

So far, the military has contracted 10 hunters to carry out the cull. Each would be expected to kill up to 100 kangaroos a day.

Activists' threat

Animal rights campaigners have threatened to stand between the marksmen and the animals.

One activist, Rheya Linden, said she hoped a management plan could be put in place to protect the kangaroos but said she was not confident of stopping the cull.

Other campaigners claim the slaughter has more to do with money than animal welfare.

They say it is part of a plan to establish the commercial killing of kangaroos on the Puckapunyal base.

These are allegations denied by the army, but a senior official did say its position over commercial culling could change in the future.

Elsewhere in Australia the trade in kangaroo meat is a multi-million dollar industry, with exports to Europe and Japan, where the lean meat is extremely popular.

See also:

21 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
22 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
03 Dec 98 | Science/Nature
21 Dec 98 | Science/Nature
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