Challenges for Urban Kangaroos
Enhanced Video Resource

This video resource from Nature: Kangaroo Mob explores the challenges that many kangaroos encounter in urban environments including: negative media attention, fences, cars, and domestic dogs.

Discussion Questions:

  • Explain why kangaroos are attracted to the urban areas of Canberra.
  • Should Canberra residents be required to install wildlife-friendly fencing alternatives?  Defend your answer.
  • Is there any benefit to culling in areas that are hot spots for vehicle collisions?  Why or why not?
  • In this segment, Canberra is described as the “number one killing zone for kangaroos.” Discuss what this statement means.
  • What questions should journalists ask when researching kangaroo incidents to ensure that all critical elements of a story are included?

Background Essay:

Under normal circumstances, kangaroos are very shy creatures that tend to avoid contact with humans, but the drought in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has changed everything. The eastern gray kangaroo has migrated into urban areas where there is an abundance of food sources. Unfortunately, urban living poses its challenges: kangaroos can become ensnared in fences, chased and scared by dogs, or struck and killed by cars.

Further exasperating the situation is the ongoing media attention that has cast kangaroos in a negative light through overly dramatic stories of home invasions and attacks by “kick boxing ninja kangaroos.” The reality is that kangaroos that stray into residential areas often become lost, trapped, or are frightened by dogs or cars. These critical elements of news stories are often overlooked. An urban kangaroo’s primary objective is to find sustenance, not to attack humans or damage property.

Eastern gray kangaroos are natural foragers that prefer short, green pastures. Canberra’s plentiful urban parks and golf courses prove to be especially welcoming to these mammals.  Fences, however, pose a hazard. As development progresses, people tend to divide their land with fences and therefore create obstacles for kangaroos to navigate over and around while seeking grassland. When a kangaroo is ensnared in a fence, it is in danger of being attacked by a predator or suffering an injury. Common fence related Injuries include: ischemic injury, neurological injuries, hip dislocation, fractures, tendon injuries, and general soft tissue wounds. Research suggests that kangaroos freed from wire fence entanglements should be attended to by a veterinarian to ensure that they are not injured. Despite recent media attention and protests, government officials will not mandate wildlife-friendly fencing alternatives to replace wire fencing, which is a hazard to many forms of wildlife.

Canberra is known as the number one killing zone for kangaroos because each year, thousands of kangaroos lose their lives in collisions with cars on busy roads. These accidents can cause both human and animal injuries, along with property damage costing more than one million dollars.  Although kangaroos use their ears to pinpoint sounds and determine direction and distance of cars, any road with cars traveling 80 km/hour (approximately 50 mi /hour) that has a grassy area presents a danger. Most of these accidents happened between dusk and dawn, when kangaroos tend to be searching for food; during colder months, when there is a shortage of food; or on the weekends, when there are more cars on the roads. As a result, “kangaroo crossing” signs are common along roadsides in Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, two out of every five Australian households own a dog. Domestic dogs pose a substantial threat for kangaroos, especially pouch young and joeys. The barking of a dog can set a kangaroo into a panic. When threatened, a kangaroo mob will disperse in multiple directions to confuse the dog. If pursued, a doe will throw her pouch young at the dog in a frenzy to escape. Young joeys are in particular danger because they cannot move as fast as the rest of the mob and can easily be caught by a dog.

Land development has not halted the expansion of the kangaroo population. As of 2010, it is estimated there are over 11.4 million kangaroos across all of Australia. Despite culls and urban dangers, these kangaroos remain an abundant feature of Canberra.

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National Science Education Standards

Grades 5-8:

Content Standard C: Life Science

Fundamental concepts and principles that underlie this standard include:

  • Regulation and Behavior
    • All organisms must be able to obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain stable internal conditions while living in a constantly changing external environment.
    • An organism’s behavior evolves through adaptation to its environment. How a species moves, obtains food, reproduces, and responds to danger are based in the species’ evolutionary history.
  • Diversity And Adaptations of Organisms
    • Extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are insufficient to allow its survival. Fossils indicate that many organisms that lived long ago are extinct. Extinction of species is common; most of the species that have lived on the earth no longer exist.

Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Fundamental concepts and principles that underlie this standard include:

  • Risks and Benefits
    • Risk analysis considers the type of hazard and estimates the number of people that might be exposed and the number likely to suffer consequences. The results are used to determine the options for reducing or eliminating risks.
    • Individuals can use a systematic approach to thinking critically about risks and benefits. Examples include applying probability estimates to risks and comparing them to estimated personal and social benefits.

Grades 9-12:

Content Standard C: Life Science

Fundamental concepts and principles that underlie this standard include:

  • The Interdependence of Organisms
    • Organisms both cooperate and compete in ecosystems. The interrelationships and interdependencies of these organisms may generate ecosystems that are stable for hundreds or thousands of years.
    • Living organisms have the capacity to produce populations of infinite size, but environments and resources are finite. This fundamental tension has profound effects on the interactions between organisms.
    • Human beings live within the world’s ecosystems. Increasingly, humans modify ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption. Human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, atmospheric changes, and other factors is threatening current global stability, and if not addressed, ecosystems will be irreversibly affected.
  • The Behavior of Organisms
    • Like other aspects of an organism’s biology, behaviors have evolved through natural selection. Behaviors often have an adaptive logic when viewed in terms of evolutionary principles.

Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Fundamental concepts and principles that underlie this standard include:

  • Natural and Human-Induced Hazards
    • Human activities can enhance potential for hazards. Acquisition of resources, urban growth, and waste disposal can accelerate rates of natural change.
    • Natural and human-induced hazards present the need for humans to assess potential danger and risk. Many changes in the environment designed by humans bring benefits to society, as well as cause risks. Students should understand the costs and trade-offs of various hazards—ranging from those with minor risk to a few people to major catastrophes with major risk to many people. The scale of events and the accuracy with which scientists and engineers can (and cannot) predict events are important considerations.

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