A zookeeper in Australia finds himself under public scrutiny after a video of him punching a wild kangaroo in the face becomes viral on the internet.
Greig Tonkins, 34, was reportedly out hunting pigs with his dog and friends in New South Wales back in June when he suddenly comes across a large kangaroo. The animal had somehow grabbed hold of his hunting dog and refused to let it go.
In the video, Tonkins rushed to toward the two animals to help break up the hold. The kangaroo did release his captive but then focused its attention on the zookeeper. The next scene caused quite an outrage among animal rights activists and internet users alike.
After walking up to the large marsupial, Tonkins proceeded to throw a punch at the animal, which landed on its face. The blow staggered the kangaroo a bit, but it still kept its focused on the man.
Tonkins' friends can be heard on the video telling him to "let it go" and just leave the kangaroo alone. He did so and walked away from the animal while calling on his dogs to go back to their vehicle with him.
The kangaroo kept its guard up in case Tonkins decided to strike it again but then turned around and hopped back into the wild.
Protecting His Dog
According to Tonkins, he just wanted to scare off the wild kangaroo to give his dog a chance to get away. However, he took a swing at the animal even though it had already released his pet.
Marco Festa-Bianchet, a biologist at the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada, said that Tonkins was very lucky, as he could have been killed during the encounter.
While kangaroos aren't exactly the talented boxers they are typically portrayed in cartoons and movies, they can still offer a good fight using their powerful hind legs and sharp claws, Festa-Bianchet explained.
He said that Tonkins could have been disemboweled if the kangaroo decided to use its legs to fight him with.
The zookeeper could have also lost an eye if the animal chose to gouge it out from his face, which the marsupials are known to do.
Festa-Bianchet said the kangaroo in the video appeared to be a large male, standing at about 6 feet and weighing at 170 pounds. He said that it could be somewhere between 9 to 15 years old, well within the prime years of a kangaroo's lifespan.
Male kangaroos are known to get into violent tussles in the wild over who gets to mate with females. While these fights sometimes end with the death of one of the combatants, it is not uncommon to see a male yield to the other when it knows that it is beaten.
Violating Animal Rights
Tonkins told reporters that he was just trying to save his dog, but many commenters on social media disagreed with his actions during the encounter with the kangaroo.
One Twitter user pointed out that Tonkins should not have punched the kangaroo, as the animal didn't know that what it was doing was wrong.
Another user said the zookeeper should hope that PETA wouldn't see the video of him attacking the kangaroo.
A commenter on Facebook said that kangaroos are not typically antagonistic to other animals. He said that Tonkins' hunting dogs must have been harassing the marsupial, forcing it to defend itself.
Meanwhile, other social media users found the encounter hilarious, comparing it to a main event boxing match.
In a statement, Taronga Western Plains Zoo said that Tonkins is indeed a member of its staff. While his employment is not in any jeopardy, the zoo is already looking into the incident with the wild kangaroo.