IMAGE: Kangaroos
Mark Graham  /  AP
These kangaroos are among the 400 that are to be culled near Canberra, Australia.
updated 5/16/2008 4:43:17 PM ET 2008-05-16T20:43:17

Defense authorities outraged animal rights campaigners Friday by reviving plans to kill 400 kangaroos that are causing environmental damage on the outskirts of Australia's capital.

The Defense Department abandoned the plan in March in the face of an international outcry and decided to truck the kangaroos from the abandoned military site in suburban Canberra to remote forest land.

But defense spokesman Brigadier Andrew Nikolic said Friday that transporting the marsupials was too expensive at $3.3 million — $8,200 per animal.

"Defense therefore has no option but to undertake a cull," Nikolic said.

The issue has split Australians over the merits of killing their beloved national symbol to protect rare lizards and insects that share their grassy habitat.

Wildlife Protection Association of Australia president Pat O'Brien said he and scores of other protesters were determined to prevent contractors from killing any kangaroos among the 600 that are overgrazing on rare native grassland.

"We're absolutely disgusted by what's happening and we'll be in there to protect the kangaroos if there's any attempt to kill them," said O'Brien.

Nikolic said the killing will begin within weeks but did not specify exactly when.

Because of the suburban environment, contractors plan to use tranquilizer darts to catch the kangaroos, then kill them with lethal injections.

Scientists point out that eastern gray kangaroos are abundant and are destroying the native grassland habitat of threatened species such as the grassland earless dragon, striped legless lizard, golden sun moth and perunga grasshopper.

European settlers built Australia's cattle and sheep industries on grass seed imported from Britain, and native grassland, which is imperative for some species, is now rare. In some parts of Australia, it can only be found in old cemeteries where livestock never grazed.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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