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Old January 19th, 2003, 08:26 PM
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Almost 15,000 kangaroos to be shot in Australia

Almost 15,000 kangaroos to be shot in Australia

Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia - Shooters gathered Monday to begin killing as many as 15,000 kangaroos on grasslands within an army base in southern Australia, after the population exploded and the animals began starving.

The Defence Department hired nine shooters to reduce the kangaroo population on the 44,515-hectare Puckapunayl army base in the southern state of Victoria, spokesman Brian Humphreys said.

"Shooting will start in another day or so," he said.

Inspectors from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will have access to the base to make sure the cull is conducted humanely. The animals will be shot in the head, and their carcasses buried in mass graves on the base.

The operation will take three months and cost about $577,500 Cdn.

The base's kangaroo population jumped to more than 80,000 - from about 45,000 in 1999 - after the removal of sheep flocks from the area. Grass, fodder for kangaroos, grew unchecked by grazing sheep and prompted the increased kangaroo population.

Ecologists recommended the cull after hundreds of kangaroos began starving and tangling themselves in wire fences as they sought new pastures.

Animal welfare activists have said they were prepared to stand between shooters and kangaroos if they believe the animals are being killed without reason.

Spokeswoman Rheya Linden of the group Animal Active said only sick kangaroos should be shot, while healthy ones should be fed and released.

Several protesters were evicted from the base Sunday when they broke through a fence and attempted to feed bales of hay to some of the kangaroos.

Australia exports kangaroo meat and uses it to make pet food.

There are more than 60 species of kangaroo in Australia. While it is impossible to determine the exact numbers, the population of the four most common species is thought to be more than 50 million.
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