You may have heard the story of Greig Tonkins; the man who punched a kangaroo in the face to save his dog from the animal’s stranglehold.
The quintessentially Australian tale went viral yesterday, and the world weighed in on Tonkins’ mission to save Max the dog, with many dubbing it animal abuse.
But while many of us have tried to explain Tonkins’ actions, now, we’ve heard from wildlife experts who can reveal the reasoning behind the kangaroo’s behaviour.
Dr Mark Eldrige, a kangaroo expert from the Australian Museum, said:
This was a really interesting scenario. When kangaroos fight they do tend to wrestle and kick, but they would normally view dogs and dingoes as predators and flee from them.
But in this case, maybe the dog surprised the roo and got too close. And in turn, the kangaroo defended itself instead of running away, and did so by getting the dog in a headlock.
The kangaroo didn’t seem to be biting the dog, I think he was pretty confused. Maybe the kangaroo was just having a hold of the dog and didn’t know what to do next, because normally it would use his legs to kick in a fight.
Detailing the behavioural habits of kangaroos, Dr Eldridge said, ‘Male kangaroos will try scratch and wrestle before sometimes putting an opponent in a headlock. It’s a tactic when bucks fight.’
The kangaroo’s strength wold usually be enough to seriously injure the dog but, thankfully, Max was wearing armour that may have protected his neck from the full force of the kangaroo’s upper body.
Eldridge added that Tonkins was also incredibly lucky to escape the incident unscathed. In a further unusual turn of events, the kangaroo chose to flee the scene rather than respond with an attack on Tonkins.
Dr Eldridge explained:
Male kangaroos have very big forearms and are very strong.
The man was very lucky he didn’t get kicked. Before kangaroos fight, they usually size each other up. If one doesn’t back down, they will get into an aggressive encounter.
I think the kangaroo was still in the sizing up stage when he was hit with the punch, and so the man was lucky the roo decided to call it quits instead of using his leg which cause a lot of damage.
The incident captured on the video, which has gone viral, has outraged many animal rights activists. Tonkins, an employee of Taronga Western Plains Zoo has since gone to ground.
Amid calls for Tonkins to lose his job and face punishment for what some are calling animal abuse, Taronga Conservation Society said that while Tonkins will keep his job they do not condone his actions towards the animal.
Tonkins will have to undergo further training to prevent an incident like this reoccurring.