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Food Shortages Force Kangaroos Onto the Streets of Australia’s Capital City

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The inner residential areas of Canberra, usually districts overtaken by politicians and university students, have this week morphed into foraging grounds for thousands of starving kangaroos.

Much to the surprise of local residents, mobs of kangaroos have been driven to the city’s gardens, roadsides, and sports fields by food scarcity caused by an overly dry and harsh winter.

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"Canberra is experiencing a perfect storm of hardship for its kangaroos," Australian Capital Territory Parks and Conservation Service Director Daniel Iglesias told CNN. "New records have been set in Canberra for very cold, frosty nights this winter. This, coupled with very dry conditions with very little rain at all in June and July, means there is very little food for kangaroos." 

"Sports ovals, suburban yards, schoolyards, and roadsides are the few places offering any green grass at all in Canberra at the moment and they act as magnets for kangaroos."

The influx of kangaroos near busy pedestrian areas means the animals are currently at a heightened risk of being hit by cars, as their feeding times coincide with residents traveling to and from work.

"The short winter days means people are commuting to work at dawn and home at dusk, bringing motorists and kangaroos together in a potentially deadly way for kangaroos," Iglesias said. "Wildlife rangers are reporting record numbers of roadkill with Canberra on target to record its highest ever tally of 'roos reported killed by collisions with cars."

Canberra qualifies as Australia’s ‘kangaroo capital’ due to the city's exorbitant number of Eastern Grey Kangaroos. The ACT's Department of Environment believe the territories nature reserves hold up to 700 kangaroos per square kilometre, one of the greatest densities in Australia. Across the nation there are almost 50 million kangaroos — double the human population.

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Culling is permitted throughout Australia to maintain kangaroo populations levels in order to minimise the mammals destruction of threatened flora, fauna, and ecosystems. 

"ACT does not have a commercial kangaroo industry," ACT environment minister Mick Gentlemen stated. "Small-scale culling is conducted in the ACT to protect the environment from overgrazing which can threaten other native flora and fauna, including threatened species. This culling is undertaken according to a strict national code of practice."

ACT is the only jurisdiction nationwide to restrict culling to a season between March and July to minimise the prospect of orphaned joeys.

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The link between food scarcity and extreme weather caused by climate change was explored in an international study published in the Nature Climate Change Journal in February. The report revealed the increase of droughts, floods, and fires due to global warming is affecting animals at a far greater rate than anticipated.

Out of 873 studied mammals, almost half showed negative responses to climate change, whilst 23% of 1,273 examinded bird species exhibited negative responses.

"We need to communicate the impacts of climate change to the wider public and we need to ensure key decision makers know significant change needs to happen now to stop species going extinct,” James Watson from the University of Queensland's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences said in a press release. "Climate change is not a future threat anymore."