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Kangaroos - The 100 Days Project: Day 10 [91]

The Kangaroos are Getting Smaller

Photo credit: Ray Drew

The kangaroos are getting smaller. The cruel ways in which unwanted joeys are slaughtered by the shooter/hunter/killers – their heads tramped into the ground, or bashed against the roo-bars of the 4-wheel drives (etc.) – have led to bans, in the kangaroo ‘industry’, upon the shooting of females and a consequent ‘male only’ killing policy. And of course the larger bucks – the ‘boss’ males – have been the first to go. This is in part simply because they are more desirable (carry more meat) and easier targets, but also in part because the ‘boss’ male is the principal protector of the group. When some intruder or disturbance unsettles the mob – a fox, a human or a vehicle, say – the boss will stand his ground (in effect making himself the target) while the rest of the mob (females, joeys, younger males) head out of danger.

This ‘male only’ policy, ensuring as it does that the boss males are the first to be killed, affects the social structure of the mob. It is the boss male who, having proven himself through victory over challengers, earns himself the ‘right’ to impregnate the females. Ironically this also means that he effectually puts a lid on the sexual urgings of younger males. People who have had the opportunity of watching them sufficiently have spoken of a boss male’s chasing off and even punishing younger males who have sexually harassed a female: teaching them, as it were, a kind of sexual propriety. With the boss male killed, however, unless a contender can step immediately and powerfully into the vacuum, these sexual urges are not kept in check and the propriety not observed. The result is not only that more joeys are born, but also that the mob becomes a more violent place. There is also, arguably, a weakening of the gene pool, as more than the proven fittest get to contribute to it.

Graziers tend not to like the ‘male only’ policy, as it is seen as increasing, rather than decreasing, the number of kangaroos they have to contend with. Hunters don’t like it because (a) it makes it harder to fill their quota, and (b) it wrong-foots them so often: how can you be sure, shooting from such distances, at night, with only split-seconds to aim and fire, that every ’roo you are killing is a male?

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