Kangaroos: Pests or national icons we should treasure?

THE Victorian Farmers Federation says Bendigo’s kangaroo population is “huge” and agrees with Tony Abbott’s calls to cull kangaroos in problem areas.

Vice-president Peter Tuohey said Wednesday that there needed to be a state program in place to control kangaroo populations.

“Once upon a time the environment kept kangaroo populations down but that’s not the case now with the abundance of food and water available,” he said.

“There are huge numbers of kangaroos right around the Bendigo region.

They damage fences, they run into cars and they knock down crops.”

Mr Tuohey said kangaroos were especially dangerous to motorists.

“They don’t believe in road rules … they seem to like jumping in front of cars,” he said.

But Australian Society for Kangaroos vice-president Fiona Corke said arguments about the need to cull kangaroos were nothing more than “propaganda”.

“Here again is another misguided comment from our Prime Minister,” she said.

“This propaganda is perpetuated by people who make money off killing these animals,” she said.

“Kangaroos are a protected species by law.

“They are iconic and our country’s emblem … people are not thinking it through when they say they’re a menace or a pest.”

She said culling kangaroos would not prevent road accidents, and the onus ought to be on motorists to drive slowly in areas with many kangaroos.

“A lot more people are moving to regional areas but driving like they’re in the city,” she said.

Their comments come after Tony Abbott said Monday on a trip to Broken Hill in NSW that the number of feral animals in outback Australia was spiralling.

“I don’t have an instant solution, but plainly, if we’ve got feral animals we need to deal with them, and if that means shooting them, let’s shoot them,” he said.

"We feel sentimental about kangaroos as well, but when they're in very large numbers, they need to be culled and we should be prepared to do that.”

In the 2010-11 financial year Heathcote and Bendigo had the highest rate of animal-related motor accidents in Victoria, according to the RACV.

About 80 per cent of those accidents consisted of people hitting kangaroos.

The DFAT website states that “kangaroo populations have increased dramatically since European settlement” but Ms Corke said the populations have decreased since 2001.

The Department of Environment and Primary Industries was not immediately available for comment.

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