Australia is no stranger to brutal killings; think Snowtown or the work of backpacker murderer Ivan Milat. But there's now a new player in town who is targeting kangaroos. Thirteen kangaroo corpses have been found in the north east section of the Melbourne metropolitan area since the beginning of the month, while two survivors have been euthanized. All were shot with a crossbow.
The spree came to light on February 8, when an injured kangaroo was spotted in Westerfolds Park, Templestowe, with a bright orange arrow through its head. Then, on February 14, Wildlife Victoria volunteers looking for the injured animal discovered another kangaroo, this one shot through its neck. Its injuries were deemed too severe for it to survive, and both it and its joey were euthanized by vets on the scene.
On Friday February 20, Warrandyte carwash employee George Vattakuzhy found six small kangaroos in some trash cans. He thought it was a one-off incident and didn't notify police, but then on Tuesday he discovered five more kangaroos dumped in two of his trash cans, along with a discarded arrow. The police were called in—but less than 24 hours later, another headless kangaroo body was found dumped by the side of the road in nearby Wonga Park.
Police believe the slayings could be linked. Sergeant Stewart Henderson, from Warrandyte police station, told the radio station 3AW that the incidents looked suspicious. "It appears something untoward is going on. Somebody is taking it upon themselves to make a private cull," he said.
Samantha O'Brien, who works at Warrandyte carwash, told VICE that they were currently reviewing their CCTV footage so they could hand over any images of suspects to the police.
The current theory, according to police, is that the killings may be by someone venting frustration over the local community's rejection of a controlled kangaroo kill. Sergeant Henderson explained to 3AW that a cull had been suggested to control the booming population, but local groups had opposed it. "They want proper culls and other parties are saying no," he said.
Despite this, Kate Masson, the CEO of Wildlife Victoria, told VICE she hadn't heard of anyone calling for a cull. "Certainly none have been made to us. The Westerfold park area has had kangaroos in it for a long long time and they're pretty well contained," she said. "They don't often wander out of the park area because they have everything they need there."
According to Masson, the kangaroo originally seen with the arrow in its head has likely succumbed to infection. And while she admits that Wildlife Victoria's volunteers are already overloaded with nearly 200 calls a day, she's determined to find whoever's responsible. "We're sure somebody has seen something," she said. "There's a lot of kangaroos that have been put through a lot of misery. We just need someone to speak up so we can catch these people."
Other wildlife societies were unable to shed any light on the circumstance or reasons behind the spree. Local bow maker Adam Moss was shocked to learn about the killings, and told VICE he didn't think his customers were responsible. "I'm a vegan and if any of my bows are used for hunting, I immediately void the warranty," he said.
If found, anyone surreptitiously killing kangaroos will face stiff penalties. Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, any death or disablement can result in fines of up $72,624 or up to two years imprisonment. And don't think authorities aren't serious about enforcing it. In 2009, Thomastown man Justin Stavropoulos was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for killing two kangaroos, one of which he ate.
Anyone with information should phone Wildlife Victoria on 1300 094 535 or at wildlifevictoria.org.au