Eating kangaroos can save them from extinction, claims Aussie biologist

Canberra, October 18 : A biologist has said that despite climate change threatening Australia’s iconic kangaroos, the people of the country should not stop themselves from eating the marsupial’s meat, as monitoring their decline could help save them from extinction.

According to a report by ABC News, Dr Euan Ritchie, of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, made the statement.

Ritchie, from the School of Marine and Tropical Biology, said that a rise in average temperatures in northern Australia of just 2 degree Celsius could reduce suitable habitat for kangaroo populations by as much as 50 percent.

His findings follow a recent call by economist, Professor Ross Garnaut, of the Australian National University, that Australians help fight climate change by swapping their beef-eating habits for a taste of kangaroo meat.

Ritchie said that his findings should not deter people from kangaroo steaks and may even help the animal survive.

“The species of kangaroo currently being harvested are very well monitored,” he said. “So, it means we will pick up differences in range and population very quickly and will be in a position to respond to that,” he added.

According to the study, the kangaroo species under greatest threat is the antilopine wallaroo.

Ritchie said that it is more vulnerable because it has a very defined range across the tropical savannas of far northern Australia from Cape York in Queensland across to the Kimberleys of Western Australia.

Using climate change computer modelling, Ritchie and co-author Elizabeth Bolitho, also of James Cook University, found the 2 degree Celsius temperature increase, predicted by 2030, would shrink the antilopine’s range by 89 percent.

A 6 degree Celsius increase, the upper end of temperature increase predictions to 2070, may lead to their extinction if they are unable to adapt to the arid environment which results.

But, Ritchie said that the main threat of climate change is not on the kangaroo itself, but on the habitat that sustains its populations.

Among the impacts that will affect their geographic range are increased prevalence of fires and changes to vegetation and the availability of water.

However, the news is not all bad.

By contrast to the antilopine, Ritchie said that the eastern gray kangaroo is in a strong position to weather climate changes because of its predominance in the cooler eastern seaboard of Australia.

Also, the red kangaroo and common wallaroo are better adapted to sustain hotter climates. (ANI)