msnbc.com news services
updated 7/16/2004 4:03:21 PM ET 2004-07-16T20:03:21

Australian animal activists warned on Friday that they were willing to risk their lives to stop the culling of up to 1,000 kangaroos in the national capital of Canberra.

The Canberra government on Sunday began shooting kangaroos around the Googong Dam to stop them from eating surrounding vegetation, leaving the dusty, parched soil eroding into the dam and tainting dwindling water supplies. Some 3,000 kangaroos graze in the area.

But government officials suspended the shooting on Wednesday for a two-day reprieve so that they could meet activists trying to disrupt the cull and persuade them that the operation was in the best interests of the drought-stricken animals.

The talks, however, failed to reach an agreement and the government announced the cull would resume soon.

Aim to finish by month's end
“We will be resuming our program. We are not giving details as to when and where, and we are looking to complete it by the end of July,” government spokesman David Miles told Reuters.

“(The activists) only objective was to stop the cull and any alternatives they put to us were either impractical or failed to solve the problems of soil erosion or any of the other issues we have got.”

Miles said the cull had to be kept in perspective, with the federal government allowing 3.3 million of the common Eastern Gray kangaroos to be shot for meat and leather by commercial shooters nationwide last year.

The activists said their actions would continue and they would do everything they could to stop the cull. They have held protests in the Googong Dam area at night, when the cull takes place.

“If the ... government decides to start shooting tonight then we will again enter Googong Dam and risk our lives to stop kangaroos and joeys from being killed,” Pat O’Brien, president of the Wildlife Protection Association, said in a statement.

Joeys are baby kangaroos.

100 killed so far
Commercial shooters, with a government-issued permit, began the cull Sunday at night, when kangaroos are most active, and have already killed around 100 kangaroos with the carcasses likely to be processed for pet food.

The cull at Googong Dam comes a week after the city’s 320,000 people were warned to stay away from aggressive kangaroos, suffering in the nation’s worst drought in a century, after the marsupials attacked one woman and killed a pet dog.

Eastern Grey kangaroos, which can grow 5' 6" tall and weigh up to 155 pounds, have started moving out of the parched bush into inner Canberra suburbs during the day to look for grass and water.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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