Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Aussie minister floored by kangaroo

Shane Rattenbury show his scars after his encounter with a kangaroo while he was out jogging (AP)
Shane Rattenbury came off second best in a collision with a kangaroo

An Australian politician taking his morning jog in the capital Canberra has come off second best after crossing a kangaroo.

Shane Rattenbury was only seconds away from a collision as he pounded the pavement when he saw the eastern grey kangaroo at the end of a hedge grazing on a front lawn.

Mr Rattenbury says the 4ft 7in (1.4-metre) kangaroo knocked him to the ground, the claws of its powerful hind legs drawing blood with two scratches to his left leg. His right leg was painfully bruised by the fall.

Mr Rattenbury is a minister in the Australian Capital Territory government, which administers the city of Canberra. "We both got a nasty fright, and of course when kangaroos are startled, they lash out," 41-year-old Mr Rattenbury said. "As the kangaroo sought to escape, it landed on me, and its claws dug into my leg," he added.

Moments later, a passer-by noticed he was injured and drove him home. His mother heard of her son's plight on a radio news bulletin and took him to a hospital, where a nurse cleaned his wounds and gave him a tetanus shot. "The nurse who treated me had treated someone before who had been scratched by a kangaroo and ended up with a very bad infection," he said. "So she was quite keen to give it a good clean-out."

He limped into the ACT parliament a few minutes before the session began and more than three hours after his painful brush with nature. He was bemused that many people seemed more concerned about the kangaroo's welfare than his. "I can assure people that the kangaroo is fine," he said. "It was last seen hopping off into the distance quite comfortably."

Kangaroos are among Australia's most loved native species. A kangaroo and an emu feature on the nation's coat of arms. But kangaroos are so numerous around Canberra that the ACT government maintains a controversial culling program to contain them.

Mr Rattenbury, who is a member of the Greens party, said he accepts the scientific evidence that kangaroo numbers have to be controlled around Canberra. This close encounter did not change that. "Without a predator, kangaroos have increased their abundance and have a detrimental impact on the rest of the ecosystem," he said. "The Greens have not opposed that cull."

"I really enjoy seeing kangaroos and we're very lucky in Canberra to have them as part of our neighbourhoods, but I usually prefer to keep them at a bit more of a distance than this," he said.

Kangaroos rarely harm people, although in 2009 one jumped through a bedroom window of a Canberra home late at night and terrorised a family before a householder wrestled it out the front door.

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