Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Headless kangaroo bodies confound council

Mystery surrounds the grisly discovery of decapitated kangaroos on Melbourne's northern outskirts.

The headless remains of the kangaroos have been found at Yarrambat Park golf club and further afield at Research and Hurstbridge.

Nillumbik Shire council spokeswoman Deb Ganderton said yesterday the council had received 15 separate reports of decapitated kangaroos over the past two weeks. Twelve were at the golf course, the other three alongside roads. So far council officials had not seen any carcasses and had been unable to find out how the kangaroos died — or why just their heads were taken, she said.

By the time the ranger arrived on the scene, well-meaning people usually had removed the carcasses, she said. Anyway, most of them were decomposed or burnt, hampering investigations.

Some of the sightings were made in daytime and while the council had a caretaker living at the golf course, no disturbance or unusual activity had been heard at night, she said.

At Research a body was found in the street, while others were found in a built-up area in Hurstbridge. "It is very strange," Ms Ganderton said.

The council has ruled out attacks by another animals. "What kind of animals would take a head?" Ms Ganderton said. "We've no idea who is doing it or why."

If the council could get hold of the evidence in the form of the remains of one of the kangaroos, it would take it to the RSPCA and have it forensically examined. "We're happy to do our part," she said. "We're very interested in getting to the bottom of this. It would be very distressing to have cruelty to animals happening in Nillumbik," she said.

The Yarrambat Club golf course is home to between 300 and 400 kangaroos at any one time, while kangaroos also abound in the surrounding Yarrambat Park area.

The council is working with Help For Wildlife, Parks Victoria, Victoria Police and the Department of Sustainability and Environment in protecting wildlife in its area.

Ray Lloyd, a spokesman for the RSPCA said: "We're very much aware of the problem and we're working with Nillumbik shire council."

The RSPCA's senior inspector, Catherine Smith, said: "With the numbers involved, this is getting out of control. It is one thing to see a dead kangaroo by the side of the road, it is another thing to see one that's been decapitated."

She said one possibility was that the kangaroos might been shot by a high-powered weapon, which could blow off an animal's head.

But there have been no reports of gun shots near where any of the dead kangaroos have been found.

Ms Smith said anyone who killed kangaroos without a licence could be prosecuted under the Wildlife Act or Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which each have maximum penalties of $12,000 and 12 months' imprisonment.

Anyone with information can call the council day or night on 9433 3111 or the RSPCA on 9224 2222.


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