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Thursday, December 17, 1998 Published at 12:03 GMT


World: Asia-Pacific

Police get tough on 'Quokka Soccer'

Nine quokkas were killed earlier this month

By David Grossman in Australia

The authorities in Western Australia have promised to clamp down on a brutal 'game' that involves kicking to death wild animals.

The unfortunate creatures are quokkas, a small grey-brown cousin of the Kangaroo. They are found on Rottnest Island, just off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia.


[ image:  ]
With no natural predators the animals are docile and friendly. When faced with danger instead of running away they simply roll themselves into a ball and wait for the trouble to go away.

Unfortunately this makes them easy pray for what the locals call 'Quokka Soccer'.

The culprits are usually students who swarm to Rottnest during the long Australian summer holidays. Senior Wildlife Officer Doug Cochran says many students regard quokka soccer as a traditional way of celebrating the end of term:

"It's just this hangover from the bad old days when people would go through high school and university and think that it's a joke go out and kick a defenceless animal to death. They think it's a rite of passage."

The authorities have decided to get tough after one particularly bloody day on Rottnest earlier this month when nine quokkas were killed.

Police Sergeant Merv Lockhart says the attacks are a regular occurrence during the school holidays:


[ image: Discovered in 1696 by Willem de Vlamingh who described it as 'a kind of rat as big as a common cat']
Discovered in 1696 by Willem de Vlamingh who described it as 'a kind of rat as big as a common cat'
"These people wouldn't go around kicking their family pet and really that's what the quokkas are on Rottnest they're the family pets of Rottnest."

The quokkas already enjoy protection under conservation legislation. But the law is difficult to enforce since witnesses are often reluctant to testify.

But this year one 18 year old was allegedly stupid enough to kill a quokka right in front of a policeman. A youth was arrested and appears in court next Tuesday.

If convicted he faces a fine of up to A$10,000 - about 4,000. Sergeant Lockhart says this should serve as a caution to others:

"He deserves to cop the penalty that goes along with it," he warns, "You just don_t come to the Island and kick quokkas."



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