From: Reuters
Published May 20, 2008 09:00 AM

Protesters fail to disrupt Australia kangaroo cull

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Protesters failed on Tuesday to stop the controversial cull of hundreds of kangaroos on a military base near the Australian capital, Canberra, which animal rights activists had branded as "barbaric".

Two protesters who broke through security and police lines in a bid to free kangaroos penned inside a screened enclosure reached the wrong animals, with vets tranquillizing and killing almost 400 kangaroos in a separate area, the military said.

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"The actions of these protesters stressed a small number of kangaroos that had been capture-darted," said defense spokesman Brigadier Andrew Nikolic.

Authorities said the 400 eastern grey kangaroos, which feature on Australia's coat of arms, threatened other endangered local species through overgrazing.

A total of 600 kangaroos lived on the 200-hectare (495-acre) military communications base on the outskirts of Canberra, and the military said they would all have starved had not 400 of them been darted and killed with barbiturates.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith denied the cull would damage Australia's overseas reputation as local newspapers carried cartoons of the coat of arms on the parliament peppered with bullet holes where the kangaroo usually sits.

"Culls have occurred in the past in Australia. They may well occur in the future, and the scientific and public policy assessment will stand and fall on its merits," Smith said.

Up to 4 million wild kangaroos are culled each year in Australia from a total population of 50 million to control population and prevent overbreeding.

Animal activists have written to former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and his recently divorced wife Heather Mills asking them to fund a A$750,000 ($714,000) relocation of the animals ruled out by the government as too expensive.

"(Mills) said that she will donate all the money from her divorce proceedings to animal welfare groups," Animal Liberation NSW spokeswoman Angie Stephenson told local media.

In March McCartney appeared on a Web site set up by the British animal welfare group Viva! to condemn the cull and protect the kangaroos from "shameful massacre".

In 2004 there was an international outcry over the shooting of 900 kangaroos at a dam supplying water to Canberra. The animals were causing erosion problems through grazing.

($1=A$1.05)

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