Kangaroos attacking carrot-bearing tourists spark warnings

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A kangaroo Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Think twice before hugging for a selfie

People have been warned not to feed kangaroos at a tourist spot in Australia following a string of attacks by the animals.

Each week thousands of people visit the grounds of a hospital in Morisset, New South Wales, to see the wild kangaroos.

But some tourists have been kicked, scratched and left with serious cuts by the hungry marsupials, whose favourite snack is carrots.

Local MP Greg Piper says urgent action is needed to educate tourists.

“While kangaroos are cute, they are also capable of inflicting injury,” Mr Piper told the BBC.

He says the problem has escalated over the past few years following a jump in the number of visitors.

“Social media has changed everything,” Mr Piper says.

Instagram, Facebook and blogs posting advice on where to get the perfect “Roo selfie” travel fast.

Mr Piper believes around 3,000 people are coming each week to Morisset.

“It’s a spot where you’re guaranteed to see kangaroos, so it’s understandable that people come,” he says.

“And I don’t want to blame the tourists – it’s really a matter of educating them better.”

Feeding frenzy

The tourists themselves are not the problem, it’s the fact many want to feed the animals – and that’s a bad idea.

WARNING: Graphic images of injuries below

For one thing it’s not good for the kangaroos. They are grazing animals, and being fed by thousands of tourists each week changes their natural behaviour.

They come to expect and eventually demand food. That’s when they can become a danger to humans.

“People don’t understand they are wild animals and have to be treated as such,” warns Mr Piper.

One of the visitors who was attacked was Anita Bielaszka. And like many other tourists she says she was entirely unaware of the potential dangers.

“We didn’t know that we shouldn’t feed them,” she told the BBC. “Everyone does so we thought it’s ok to do it.

“One of the big kangaroos attacked me and everyone get scared. People took their kids and ran away.”

Ms Bielaszka escaped with a nasty scar on her leg.

But pictures supplied by Mr Piper of some of the injuries from recent months leave little doubt that a kangaroo can do a lot of damage.

Image copyright Shane Lewis

“A male kangaroo can disembowel someone,” says Mr Piper. “They don’t set out to do it, but that’s the nature of how they fight: they kick with their big hind legs.”

But people shouldn’t be frightened away.

Coming close to them is usually safe – even petting a kangaroo can be OK, provided it approaches first.

But Mr Piper says it’s wise to steer clear of the big male kangaroos.

“The males ones are tall and very powerfully built to the top. They basically look like they work out.”

Respect the diet

Most importantly, don’t feed the kangaroos – and certainly don’t feed them processed food.

Even vegetables are not right for the animals, and in Morisset, it’s carrots that most tourists seem to be bringing.

What might be seem like a healthy snack for humans is not necessarily a good lunch for a kangaroo.

Carrots are high in sugar and can cause deadly diseases in the animals.

Mr Piper wants better education for tourists, including more signs in multiple languages, to provide for their safety and the health of the kangaroos.

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