This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.
Tourists flock to nature parks all over Australia to get up close and personal with the country's national animal, the kangaroo. But things have taken a violent turn in the town of Lake Macquarie, about two hours from Sydney, where mobs of carrot-addicted kangaroos are clashing with tourists on a daily basis. According to experts, carrots are like chocolate bars for kangaroos.
“There are people getting kicked and scratched at least every day,” said Shane Lewis, who operates a shuttle to and from the unlikely tourist hotspot outside Lake Macquarie's Morisset Hospital. According to the ABC, “travel blogs promise ‘adorable wild kangaroos’ [outside the hospital] that are ‘tame enough to get close to and take photos with.’”
But the kangaroos aren’t happy when visitors dangle carrots in front of them, attempting to get the perfect selfie. Despite multiple warning signs to not feed them though, the tourists keep coming.
“The kangaroos see at least 2,000 tourists a week and they don’t need 2,000 carrots or bananas and bread, chips, and biscuits,” Lewis said.
He recalled the story of one woman who needed 17 stitches in her face “from her eye to her chin,” and a man who had his stomach gashed open by a kangaroo after it smelled the McDonalds he had eaten before entering the site.
The park outside Morisset Hospital is advertised on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services website as a popular picnic area. But the service begs guests not to approach or feed the marsupials “as they are wild animals and can become aggressive.”
However, trip planning websites hail the conservation area as one of the best spots in NSW to get up close and personal with the animals. One review on TripAdvisor in 2016 says that the “kangaroos are not violent” and “will eat the carrots directly from you” if you “don’t act like crazy near them.”
Recently, attacks have gotten so bad that local MP Greg Piper addressed the matter in state parliament, and posted a warning video online.
Piper doesn't think tourists should be stopped from visiting the kangaroos though, and is instead calling for more rangers and better signs, in multiple languages, throughout the park. It might be worth including that unlike feeding, say, ducks, a six-foot tall, carrot-addicted kangaroo would have no trouble knocking you out for an easy meal.
Kangaroo danger is by no means limited to Lake Macquarie, though. Between August and October 2017, there were 38 kangaroo-related calls to ambulance services in New South Wales. One 80-year-old man who fed the kangaroos in his backyard jam and cream toast every morning, called 000 [the Australian equivalent of 911] after one got "in a bad mood” and pushed him over.
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