Spring 2004
It Shouldn’t Need To Be Repeated Yet Again……



Gerry Nagel

But apparently it does!

A newspaper item describes the attack on a seven year old boy in Western Australia by an adult kangaroo buck.    The boy was attacked for half an hour before help could reach him and survived only because he fell over out of reach of the kangaroo’s hind legs.

The buck kangaroo had been hand reared and released into the wild.

Imprinting is surely a simple enough principle to understand – stories about it date back to our childhood nursery rhymes of the ugly duckling.    It is the principle that leads us to purchase cockatoos at an age when they still hand rearing. (These days this practice is illegal Ed.).

Imprinting of hand reared young causes zoos to go to extraordinary lengths to educate their orphan offspring.

If you handrear a joey, it will almost certainly come to recognise humans as one of its own kind.    The chances are that it will still behave as a kangaroo and will associate with others of its own kind in normal instinctive ways.

It does not mean that the kangaroo will not breed with its own kind.

It does mean, almost inevitably, that it will regard humans as other kangaroos and will react instinctively toward them as it would toward other kangaroos.    In the animal world, rape and murder are normal healthy instinctive pursuits.

If you rear a kangaroo buck, you must have it castrated.

At least if you castrate the buck while he is still a young joey, some of his natural urges will not occur.

This applies equally whether the animal is to be kept as a family pet or reared for release to the wild. (Note: in S.A. it is illegal to release hand raised fauna back to the wild without written permission from our wildlife authorities.  Ed.)

Every effort should be made to minimise the likelihood of imprinting if the animal is to be released, and particularly if it is a species which is to be left entire for breeding use in a zoo.

The whole matter unfortunately raises issues which we should face.

How many kangaroos saved from infant death equate with the traumatisation or even death of a seven year old boy.    Should just anyone be allowed to raise a joey and perhaps release a time bomb into the environment?    How many of the lovingly reared kangaroos are subsequently released into environments where even the hardened native has difficulty clinging to life?

 Many people who keep or rear fauna accept that with this activity goes the responsibility of educating others.   Still, it must be disturbing for all of us that in spite of all the wildlife books, societies and conferences, there remain people, (even amongst our own members perhaps) who do not take the risks seriously.

It should not need to be repeated again that a male kangaroo joey must be castrated if it is to be hand reared, otherwise there is the grave risk that should it be imprinted to regard humans as fellow kangaroos, it will one day probably rape, mutilate or kill someone!

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Baby Squirrel Glider
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