'Kangaroo puncher' zookeeper to keep his job despite backlash

Taronga Zoo, the employer of a man who was filmed punching a kangaroo in the face, has confirmed they will stand by the zookeeper following calls for him to be sacked.

Elephant zookeeper Greig Tonkins was filmed defending his dog while on a boar hunting trip with mates in central NSW.

The trip was a dying wish for his friend Kailem Barwick, who died of cancer last week.

Mr Tonkins was filmed rushing to rescue his dog after a kangaroo had placed it in a headlock.

He intervened by punched the roo in the face during a brief stand off.

In a statement on Tuesday, Taronga zoo said they did not condone the striking of animals under any circumstances.

Taronga Zoo has confirmed it will continue to employ Mr Tonkins.
Taronga Zoo has confirmed it will continue to employ Mr Tonkins.

They described Mr Tonkins as “a passionate” zookeeper and a valued member of staff for more than six years.

“We continue to counsel him as this event and the subsequent media attention unfolds,” the zoo said.

“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.”

The zoo said Mr Tonkins had always followed Taronga’s best practice approach to animal care and welfare and his job was not on the line as a result of the video.

“We confirm that there is no suggestion of Mr Tonkins’ employment at Taronga Western Plains Zoo ending as a result of this event.”

“However, the highest standards of animal welfare and care are a core value of Taronga and one that we expect our staff to uphold in all their interactions with wildlife and we continue to work with Mr Tonkins on his conduct in regards to this incident.”

Targona’s stance received a mixed reaction on Tuesday afternoon with many taking fire at the zoo’s decision.

The zoo's response received a mixed reaction on Tuesday. Photo: 7 News.
The zoo's response received a mixed reaction on Tuesday. Photo: 7 News.

“He's still employed? Makes our decision to go to your zoo a whole lot easier, we'll go to a rescue farm instead,” Nadine Doolan wrote on the zoo’s Facebook.

“Taronga zoo, you are defending the indefensible. No animal lover would have been in that position in the first place. I would have thought that a love of animals and a compassionate disposition would have been high up on your list of 'must have' qualities in your staff. The actions and weekend activities of this employee is wrong, wrong, WRONG!” Susan Buckland wrote.

However others supported Targona Zoo’s decision to continue to employ Mr Tonkins.

“I think it's disgusting that you're investigating and could fire that guy for protecting his dog,” Amy Fitzgerald wrote.

“Can't believe the guy who stood up to the roo to save his dog might lose his job. I think both animals ended up going home healthy, best outcome ever,” Kylie Vanzetti added.

The friend of Mr Tonkins who released the video told media the animal was not harmed during the clash and that he had not punched the creature hard.