Tourism Australia slammed over new mascot: 'Our most abused wildlife'

Tourism Australia has unveiled the new star of its latest global campaign – but just hours after its release, the ad has already been met with fiery backlash.

Ruby the kangaroo, an animated character voiced by Aussie actress Rose Byrne, will lead the next instalment of the ‘There’s Nothing Like Australia’ campaign, which is set to be launched next week.

A short animation of Ruby inviting viewers to ‘come and say g’day’ to Australia was launched overnight on billboards in Japan, Singapore, London and New York.

But at home in Australia, intense criticism has erupted online over the choice of mascot and reignited the debate over the treatment of kangaroos.

Ruby the kangaroo stands in front of Uluru in a new ad for Tourism Australia
Ruby the kangaroo has been revealed as the new mascot of Tourism Australia's upcoming campaign. Source: Tourism Australia

‘Ruby worth $15 for pet food’

The Victorian Kangaroo Alliance lashed out at Tourism Australia over the campaign, telling Yahoo News Australia there's another side to Ruby that the world should know about.

"We are struck by the irony that Ruby the Roo is being celebrated as our tourism mascot when, in reality, kangaroos are our most abused wildlife and the victims of the world's largest wildlife trade," a spokesperson said.

"If Ruby were real, the colonial mindset would see her as a pest and she would likely be shot. Her body would be sold for around a dollar a kilo and her joey bashed to death or left to starve.

"This is the grim reality we wish the world would understand when they see Ruby the Roo."

Others on social media shared the same sentiment, painting a disturbing picture of the reality for the iconic animal.

“WTF. Australian government allows largest land based slaughter of native animals "kangaroos" in the world... and now it's using a kangaroo as a tourism ambassador,” a Twitter user added.

“It's absolutely mind boggling!” he continued. “It's going to be embarrassing when people ask ‘so where are all the kangaroos’?”

Another pointed out that Ruby would be worth about $15 as pet food if she were real, while someone else accused the government of “cashing in” on kangaroos, saying a more accurate campaign would show “a gun pointed at Ruby’s head”.

Campaign works its magic among many

Despite the backlash, the campaign also served its purpose in making many viewers keen to visit Australia.

“G'Day from Kentucky USA! I can't wait to come back to this magical place again!” an American man wrote.

“Why is Australia so beautiful,” another said.

“Bucket list to get a pic like this of me, hubby and kids,” a future traveller added.

Kangaroo a ‘globally recognised’ icon

Tourism Australia’s Chief Marketing Officer Susan Coghill said the kangaroo was an “adorable” Australian icon that is “globally recognised”.

“The use of an animated character in Ruby was a deliberate move that aims to cut through the clutter of destination marketing internationally, and it is backed by research,” she said.

“In Australia, we’re so lucky to have a globally recognisable and adorable icon in the kangaroo and to bring that to life through CGI animation creates a uniquely Australian Brand Ambassador in Ruby, who translates across both English and non-English speaking countries.”

The campaign will officially launch on October 19.

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