Dressed in black and overcome with grief, animal rights supporters gathered in the Australian capital yesterday to mourn 800 kangaroos slaughtered to protect the city's dwindling water supply.
About 40 activists, some of whom risked their lives to disrupt a cull of kangaroos around the Googong Dam near Canberra, laid flowers and messages at the foot of a peach-coloured floral tribute shaped like a kangaroo in the city center.
The Australian Capital Territory government finished the three-week cull of the marsupials this week, which it said was needed to stop the kangaroos eating surrounding vegetation and causing the dusty, parched soil to erode into the dam and taint the water supply.
The Googong Dam cull started just a week after Canberra's 320,000 people were warned to stay away from aggressive kangaroos after the animals attacked one woman and killed a pet dog.
Millions of the iconic animals, which appear on the country's coat of arms, are starving in the worst drought in a century and some have moved into urban areas in search of food and water.
"We want to vow never to let this happen again and just to remember all those animals that have died," Animal Liberation spokeswoman Simone Gray said before breaking down in tears.
"We don't want governments going out there blasting away. They are acting like cowboys," she said.
More than 6 million kangaroos are commercially harvested around Australia each year out of a conservatively estimated population of more than 57 million. ACT government data shows about 1,000 of the animals are killed on the territory's roads every year.
"We don't believe there is a kangaroo population problem. We believe the problem is with landowners in that area that really do not want to share their land with kangaroos," Gray said.
Commercial shooters, with government-issued permits, shot the 800 kangaroos at the Googong Dam at night, when the animals are most active. The carcasses were processed for pet food.
Eastern Grey kangaroos can grow 1.7m tall and weigh 70kg.