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Passion around the kangaroo

Despite high-profile protests by wildlife advocates, the Australian government raised the quota for kangaroo shooting this year, setting it at 6.9 million animals. The Australian kangaroo meat and leather industry is booming, recently earning $ 128 million a year.

Australia has always had a difficult relationship with its marsupial shrine. She, along with the ostrich Amy, flaunts on the arms of the country, entire generations of children grew up in 1960 and 1970 on the television series about Skippy, like the series Lassie, familiar to Russian viewers. The Australians themselves call themselves “Wallaby”, just like not the largest kangaroos (as New Zealanders call themselves “Kiwi”).

But farmers consider them pests and complain that they eat sheep and poison crops. And drivers in rural areas are forced to stop with sunset on the sidelines before dawn, so as not to run into the swift symbols of the state.

The most surprising thing is that over the past ten years, Australians began to consume marsupial meat for food after the Australian states in the early 1990s lifted the corresponding ban one after another. But there is still no mass sale of kangaroo meat in supermarkets: many Australians are hampered by the idea of ​​eating a Skippy steak (just imagine an American ordering in a Lassie restaurant with blood or well-done!) But the famous chefs are extolling lean kanguryatin with the aroma of real game. There is even talk of raising these animals on meat farms.

Meanwhile, the first European immigrants perceived the kangaroo primarily as a game, as the main source of meat. The authorities of the settlements hired hunters and obliged the criminals sent to Australia to shoot the kangaroo in order to provide the population with food. Farmers shot them as competitors for their sheep. A sporting kangaroo hunt such as the British fox hunt flourished.

And, of course, from time immemorial Aborigines who settled on the continent 40-60 thousand years ago hunted kangaroos. The meat, of course, went into food, clothes, blankets and a container for water were made from skins, and needles were made from bone. Hunted with boomerangs, batons, spears. In Australia there are about 500 Aboriginal tribes, each with its own language, culture, and hunting methods.

And 4000 years ago, new immigrants followed the natives – wild dingo dogs. For today’s farmers, this is the enemy that destroys their pets. For a kangaroo, this is the enemy eating them, especially where there are few rabbits. The last dingoes clearly prefer kangaroos. And no wonder: it’s much easier to catch a rabbit.

By the way, the correctness of the government assessment of the kangaroo population can be doubted, says David Croft, an expert on these marsupials from the University of New South Wells. Aerial observations have a large approximation, and in fact, a herd can number 60, and only 20 million heads – too much variation to make really scientific decisions on controlling the total population.

This control is the main rationale for authorized shooting. Meanwhile, Croft points out, there is evidence that the shooting only leads to … an increase in livestock. Hunters prefer larger animals, that is, males. Strange as it may seem, a change in the herd’s proportion in favor of the females greatly changes their intimate addictions, as a result of which more cubs appear during the general grinding of animals.

… The moon was in the third quarter, and when it ascended, a light breeze began, from which waves began to spread over the grass as high as half-human in height. “The conditions are far from ideal,” grumbled a professional kangaroo hunter, father of three children, David Burke. Too bright the moon and the rustling of grass made the animals more timid. But despite grunts, by four in the morning, Burke shot 28 kangaroos and a wild boar, earning more than $ 300 a night. Kangaroos are taken by weight – 12 cents per pound.

Even Burke, who shoots up to 500 kangaroos annually, has doubts about current quotas. There were fewer than 20 years ago when he began the hunt, but, says Burke, the animals became smaller. “And I would like to hunt them in five and ten years.”

Wildlife advocates have no doubt, but fierce objections. In Britain, they have banned the sale of kangaroos in supermarkets and are fighting for a ban on clothes and shoes made of kangaroo leather (sports shoes are especially popular).

“It’s a cruel, disgusting industry,” Maryland Wilson, one of Australia’s most stubborn defenders, says indignantly. “A kangaroo is a sacred animal. It is a symbol of Australia. But it is a symbol stained with blood.”

Due to constant attacks, the kangaroo industry tries not to attract special attention and constantly emphasizes that the shooting is carried out by humane methods. Animals are allowed to be killed only by a headshot. As a result, only professional hunters with a special license can shoot. But the struggle around him does not subside.

By the name “I do not understand”

When Europeans first saw these amazing animals, they asked the natives what it was. One of them replied: “Kangaroo,” which in the language of the local tribe meant “I do not understand.” Members of the expedition of Captain Cook, in turn, did not know the native language and decided that this is the name of the jumping creature.

A member of the James Cook expedition, Sir Joseph Banks, wrote in his diary: “We saw few animals and few of those we saw were able to catch the largest. The locals call them“ kangaroos. ”They are different from European (and indeed any) animals that I heard about or I read. (…) The largest of those who shot, weighed 84 pounds (that is, about 40 kg: 1 pound = 453.6 grams. – Approx. EP). They are easy to distinguish from all other mammals because they run, or rather jump on the hind limbs, and the front ones bent close to the chest. and moving so quickly that my hound could not keep up with them. ”

Large kangaroos reach speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour and easily overcome obstacles 3 meters high. Jump length at high speed – from 9 to 13.5 meters, almost flying! In total there are more than 40 species – from the smallest to those that are higher than human growth. They feed mainly on grass and, although they do not have a hump, they can, like camels, not drink for several months. During the day, they rest somewhere in the shade, and graze in the evening and at night, when it gets cooler.

Australians living in the bush often keep kangaroos as pets, like cats. Orphans usually become orphaned kangaroos, whose mother, for example, got under the car, crossing the road. If kittens in English-speaking countries are often called Toms and Pussy, then for our smaller jumping brothers, the usual name is Joey, which in Australian means “kangaroo.” A male kangaroo is a boomer (boomer is something like “jumping at full speed”), and a female is a flyer (flyer is a flyer).

The family that sheltered the joey is trying to create such conditions when the cub is more likely and easier to learn in the new environment. First of all, they usually sew a bag, reminiscent of Joey’s bag of his mother. Then they select a place that is protected from the weather and at a sufficient distance from the fireplace, where they fix a large dense bag, make a slot in it, like in a mother’s kangaroo bag, and put the joey there along with a bottle of warm milk. So it is possible to save many kangaroos. Soon they themselves dive into a new bag, as if they were their mother.

When they grow up, kangaroos greet their owners not even with cat’s, but with dog’s joy, jumping and hugging them with their front paws. Well, when they grow up completely, they will not be renamed to Boomers or Flyers: they live with the nickname Joey.

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