Being hand-fed by humans is leading kangaroos to view them as a food source.
Being hand-fed by humans is leading kangaroos to view them as a food source.

By Kirsty Davis, produced for online by Natalie Brown.

An attack from a kangaroo has left a tourist with 17 stitches on the New South Wales Central Coast.

Wanting a photo with the marsupial, the tourist was left with more than he bargained for.

Taronga Zoo senior park ranger Michelle Tantini says this kind of behaviour is likely occurring because the animals are constantly being hand-fed, meaning everyone near them is a potential food source.

“They would normally spar each other over food,” says Tantini.

“In terms of competing, the alpha male or female may get more of the food sources, so basically what’s happening is when people are feeding kangaroos or any wildlife, the wildlife becomes dependent on that as a food source.”

Tantini says the aggressive behaviour is not species-related, and we should treat all kangaroos as a potential danger, as they no longer consider humans a threat.

“It comes down to males – they are obviously going to be more territorial; they’re also much larger and stronger, so they can be a little bit more aggressive at times,” she says, adding that kangaroos have every right to grab and compete for food if they see it, because it’s what they are used to.

Australian Reptile Park’s head mammal keeper Dean Reid agrees, explaining that hand-feeding is harmful to the animals.

“When they get fed things like bread, seeds, and things like that, it actually gets stuck in their teeth and can rot, which then brings in a bacteria, known as lumpy jaw,” says Reid.
“And there’s no coming back from that, and they usually die a horrible death.”

Currumbin Zoo keeper Sarah Eccleston says people should work hard to ensure the animal sticks to its natural diet.

“Kangaroos in the wild will eat grasses, and leaves and things like that, so a really natural, very strictly herbivorous diet.”

Eccleston urges people who want to see the mammal up close and personal to go zoos and wildlife sanctuaries, instead of seeking them out in their native habitat.

“Wild kangaroos are going to be encouraged if people are offering them food, and that’s not at all something we recommend,” she says.

“They can be a very dangerous animal, and not an animal that should be approached.

“All wild animals can be nasty if they’re put in a situation where they feel threatened or they’re being encouraged to eat a food that they shouldn’t be eating.”