Taronga Western Plains Zoo releases statement after employee punches kangaroo in the face

Dog 'Max' tries to escape the kangaroo's grip. Photo: Facebook / Greg Bloom
Dog 'Max' tries to escape the kangaroo's grip. Photo: Facebook / Greg Bloom

TARONGA Western Plains Zoo have issued a statement following the release of a video showing one of their employees punching a kangaroo in the face on a rural property near Condobolin. 

A video of zoo keeper Greig Tonkins has gone viral on social media after he was filmed on a hunting trip in June punching a kangaroo following an attempt to free his dog from its hold. 

Mr Tonkins was one of the men on the hunting trip which had been organised for Kailem Barwick, who lost his battle with sarcoma on December 2. Mr Barwick loved hunting and had a dream to catch a ‘one tonner’ [100 kilogram] boar.

The video was part of a DVD made of the hunting trip and put together for Mr Barwick. Matthew Amor, who was also on the trip, said the punch was ‘a memory and part of the trip and gave us a great laugh after’. 

The zoo released a statement following calls of concern for Mr Tonkins as well as enquiries regarding the zoo’s position on the events. 

A spokesperson said they could confirm there was ‘no suggestion of Mr Tonkins’ employment at Taronga Western Plains Zoo ending as a result of this event.’ 

“Best practice animal welfare and the protection of Australian wildlife are of the utmost importance to Taronga. Taronga strongly opposes the striking of animals and does not support the practice of using dogs to hunt, as this can result in negative welfare for both species.

“We support the Guidelines outlined by the Department of Environment and Heritage in the event of confrontation with a kangaroo.”

“Mr Tonkins is an experienced Zoo keeper and during his six years at Taronga Western Plains Zoo has always followed Taronga’s best practice approach to animal care and welfare.”

The spokesperson said the zoo would continue to work with Mr Tonkins on his conduct in regards to the incident. 

Videographer Greg Bloom said Mr Tonkins “felt no malice to the kangaroo but had to step in and fix a bad situation before it got worse".

The video shows Mr Tonkins racing to help his pet dog Max, who was held in a head lock by the large kangaroo.