NATURE: ‘Kangaroo Mob’

If you have fond memories of Winnie the Pooh, then you’ll probably think kangaroos as cute. Out in America, don’t you think it’s adorable when little bunnies are out in the early morning, nibbling at the lawns in parks and schools? However, in the cities of Australia, kangaroos can be a problem as outlined by the PBS’ “NATURE: Kangaroo Mob.” To control the national animal, in Canberra, the top spot for kangaroo road kills, culling is the government’s controversial solution.

Because of the drought, kangaroos are coming down from the mountains and taking over the lawns. First one, then a few more and then more join them until there is a “mob” bouncing up and down the suburbs, in the parks and in the lawns of private homes. Sometimes, the kangaroos break into houses.

Originally, they were shy, but the drought, we are told “changed everything.” If you look at the kangaroos posing for pictures, it doesn’t look like there is really a drought–at least on the lawns of Canberra suburbia. And the kangaroos, unlike rabbits, don’t always run. They sometimes stay to box with the humans. Humans are not likely to win.

In the documentary, it’s even odd when they talk about kangaroos hitting cars. The incident (re-enacted) that we see, is really a car hitting a kangaroo. It’s not like the kangaroo is charging the car. The kangaroos pre-date cars and it’s really progress that has made them a nuisance and the tendency to build without them in mind (examined in the underpass planning). Yet this might make for smarter kangaroos.

The research team looks at a dominant (alpha) male, named Blackspot. Then there’s a female, Madge, with two joeys (one too young to leave her pouch). The culling of the population means, shooting the adults through the head and decapitating the joeys. Nothing so gory as that latter is shown, but if you’re still emotionally scarred from watching “Bambi,” this is far worse.

The population problem, as you can expect, is man-made. Land has been cleared. Houses have taken over some of the land. People have killed the main predator of the kangaroos, the dingo. The professional hunters who perform the cull, use bright lights and the males are literally caught staring into the light.

One point that isn’t covered is the drought might be partially or totally the result of over-use of water. Australia, like Southern California, isn’t a place where vast lawns naturally occur. Water is a finite resource. More water for lawns, means less for the local native flora and fauna.

We also get to visit a rehab center for kangaroos where we see injured animals and orphans. The animals are seen to be friendly enough although not totally tame. Patience and understanding, is that what a kangaroo mob needs?

What we come to understand is that as more people take up more land, there is less and less room for kangaroos and the current number of kangaroos, even if it stays the same, will become the number of overpopulation. Less space means less kangaroos can be maintained. Is the solution really population control of the kangaroos?

“Kangaroo Mob” premieres on PBS today, 11 January 2012, 8 p.m. Check local listings.  For the schedule, to the the PBS Nature website.

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