When a kangaroo grabbed Greig Tonkins’ dog in a stranglehold, Tonkins rushed to his dog’s rescue.
That may have earned him loyalty from his dog but Tonkins’ actions, caught on video, have angered animal rights groups.
The zoo keeper at Taronga Western Plains Zoo has been subjected to online calls for his resignation by PETA after a video was filmed of the Australian man going after the kangaroo.
The zoo, based in Dubbo, in central west New South Wales, employs Tonkins as an elephant keeper. The zoo says it has also received support for Tonkins as well as calls for his removal.
The video shows Tonkins jumping from a white vehicle towards the kangaroo, which is holding the dog by the chest and neck. As Tonkins approaches, the kangaroo releases the dog
After the dog escapes from the kangaroo Tonkins shapes up in a conventional boxing stance, throwing a right-cross that appears to leave the kangaroo stunned. The commentary says he did so “to save himself”, suggesting the man could otherwise have been the “next victim”.
The Humane Society International Australia said Tonkins should have been shown the door by the zoo.
“It is very disturbing of someone of this character has a position there they would have no trouble filling it with someone who respects animals,” Verna Simpson, a director at the animal welfare organisation, told Guardian Australia.
The campaign coordinator of People for the Ethnical Treatment of Animals, Claire Fryer, told Australian Regional Media that “punching a kangaroos in the face is neither brave nor funny”, but was in fact illegal.
The zoo says it won’t fire Tonkins, despite the zoo’s opposition to using dogs to hunt, as Tonkins was doing.
Best practice animal welfare and the protection of Australian wildlife are of the utmost importance to Taronga. Taronga strongly opposes the striking of animals and does not support the practice of using dogs to hunt, as this can result in negative welfare for both species. We support the Guidelines outlined by the Department of Environment and Heritage in the event of confrontation with a kangaroo.
The zoo defended the man saying he was an experienced zoo keeper and has always followed Taronga’s best practice approach to animal care and welfare.