Jump in kangaroo population to be tackled by contraceptive pill

Australia's kangaroo population has risen sharply in recent years, resulting in the marsupials causing 70 per cent of animal-related car accidents.

Now scientists appear to have found a way to stop kangaroos from procreating - by feeding them the contraceptive pill.

Researchers at Newcastle University in New South Wales will soon begin lacing bait with a species-specific contraceptive in and around Australia's capital, Canberra, where the local eastern grey kangaroo population has begun encroaching on human habitats looking for food.

The scheme has been welcomed by animal rights groups who have campaigned against widespread culling of kangaroos, which are usually shot dead by marksmen and farmers. "It's definitely a lot better than shooting kangaroos," said Simone Gray, a spokeswoman for Animal Liberation. "In our nation's capital, it certainly isn't appropriate to kill our national symbol."

Local authorities in Canberra began funding research for a kangaroo pill after a decision to cull up to 800 kangaroos in 2004 caused widespread protests.

Australia has an estimated 57 million kangaroos - three for every human - and farmers maintain that their population must be controlled to protect their crops and scarce water resources.

Dan Fletcher, an ecologist working on the contraceptive, warned yesterday that the acidic content of kangaroos' stomachs could prove a stumbling block. "You have to have some way of having your drugs taken up before, or without, getting broken down [in the stomach],"hesaid. "Another challenge is getting a sufficient proportion of kangaroos to eat the bait."

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