WARNING - DISTRESSING CONTENT: Coming across kangaroos which had been shot to death was bad enough but it was what a Queensland woman saw next that left her “horrified”.
It was Monday morning and wildlife carer Kim Palmer was driving along a dirt road through public land, collecting leaves to feed the 23 kangaroo joeys she has in care.
A flock of crows dispersed into the sky as they approached an area colloquially known as Union Hole in Muttaburra, 1,224 km north west of Brisbane, in outback Queensland.
Lying on the ground in plain sight were two dead female red kangaroos.
She was saddened to see one of them had a leg hacked off, but when she spotted “two little legs sticking out of a pouch” she felt “sick in the guts”.
“It was a bit of a strange spot where the kangaroos were,” she said.
“The first thing I noticed was that they both had head shots at different angles.
“Then I saw that there were two little legs sticking out of the pouch of one of them.”
The joey appeared lifeless, so Ms Palmer moved on to pouch check the second body, but then her son called back to her.
“It’s moving, it’s alive,” she heard him say.
Under the kangaroo shooter’s code of practice, if a shooter kills a female with joey, they must euthanise it to avoid it suffering a drawn out death.
“All target female kangaroos and wallabies, including injured and sick animals, must be thoroughly examined for pouch young,” the guide states.
“If a pouch young or young at foot is present, euthanasia must be carried out.”
The guide also advises against killing females with pouch young except in exceptional circumstances.
Alleged breaches of the code are investigated by state authorities unless the alleged breach involves overseas export, in which case authority falls to the federal department of environment.
‘So sorry sweetheart’: Second chance at life
Concerned that the abandoned joey may have already been injured by the fleeing crows, Ms Palmer was quick to act.
Her son continued to film as his mother cradled the kangaroo’s pouch above the festering hole where her leg had been, and slowly eased the joey out into the daylight.
“So sorry sweetheart,” Ms Palmer can be heard saying.
The bright pink juvenile clucked and squawked, kicking its bruised legs.
Part of its tail had been eaten away, but remarkably nothing was broken.
“Okay, if you’re going to shoot one and take the meat, but why kill three and just leave the carcasses there?” she said.
“Why remove the hip and leg and leave the little joey in the pouch to die a horrifically slow painful death?”
“I just can’t understand it.”
After the joey was wrapped up and safe in Ms Palmer’s arms, they established that the another of the dead kangaroos should have had a joey but it was missing.
Her son took off cross country in search of it.
Less than a kilometre away across the dusty plane, he found another dead female kangaroo, this one shot through the chest.
“She also had a live little pinky joey in her pouch, but unfortunately it was only 11 grams, so totally unviable,” Ms Palmer said.
“Our big concern was how many there are out there that we can’t find.”
The joey is now in care and doing well, but Ms Palmer’s fear is that it may one day face the same fate as its mother upon release.
“To rock up and find that on your morning drive, it’s not nice,” she said.
“My main focus now is making sure this little fellow gets what he needs, and becomes big and strong, and is able to be released.
“That’s the other thing, as carers you spend all that time, effort, money, and all the rest of it in raising these little buggers, for what?
“You’ve got to release them. Is there a chance something like that could happen to him?”
Authorities call for public help as investigation begins
Ms Palmer said she has reported the incident to both the Department of Environment and Science (DES) and local police.
DES confirmed it has received a report about deceased kangaroos in Muttaburra and a joey that was found at the site.
“DES wildlife officers will carry out detailed inspections to determine whether offences have been committed against Queensland’s nature conservation laws,” a DES spokesperson said.
“DES will also investigate whether the deaths were due to a person or people hunting kangaroos without the relevant permit.
“Anyone who has evidence regarding this incident is asked to call DES on 1300 130 372 so that appropriate wildlife officers can investigate further and identify anyone involved.
“Sick or injured native wildlife (in Queensland) should be reported to the RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625).”
After reporting the incident, Ms Palmer’s son found another female kangaroo on Tuesday afternoon on the other side of town.
The animal appeared to have been shot in the chest, and then broken her leg - but she was still alive.
She was judged to be unable to recover and promptly euthanised to avoid ongoing suffering.
Ms Palmer said were indications the kangaroo was carrying a joey, but despite a thorough search they were unable to locate it.
Local police in Aramac and the Queensland RSPCA have been contacted for comment.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.