Man Who Punched Kangaroo to Save His Dog Risked His Life

“…IT’S been dubbed the most Aussie video you’ll ever see — a man dressed in a flanno squaring off with a big roo in the rugged Australian bush. Overnight, the footage of zookeeper Greig Tonkins went viral after the kangaroo put his hunting dog Max in a vicious headlock. But while the world has been caught up in the #Straya of the toe-to-toe, there’s much more to the story than meets the eye. “This hunting trip was put together for a sick young man called Kailem who passed away from cancer last week,” said Mathew Amor, who organized the hunting trip in June when the incident occurred. Mr Amor told news.com.au he decided to organize a small group of friends, including Kailem and Greig Tonkins, to go on the boar hunting trip at his property in Condobolin, New South Wales, after hearing about Kailem’s deteriorating condition. “Basically Kailem wanted to catch a boar,” Mr Amor said. “And so a few of us got together to take him out, and another mate filmed more than an hour of video to put together as a DVD for Kailem and his family of the trip.” The DVD included the minute of footage that has since gone viral.

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“My mate has a good government job, so he’s gone pretty quiet on this,” Mr Amor laughed. “We were driving along, the dogs are loose. They are trained to smell pig’s blood, and picked up a scent. “The dogs went past 20 kangaroos, which they are trained not to touch. “Anyway, this big buck got a hold of my friend’s dog. It just grabbed him.” It’s been confirmed that Mr Tonkins is a zookeeper at Taronga’s Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. “Taronga Western Plains Zoo can confirm that Greig Tonkins is an employee at Taronga Western Plains Zoo,” a spokesperson for the zoo said in a statement. “Good animal welfare and the protection of Australian wildlife are of the utmost importance to Taronga…Mr Amor said while he hadn’t seen anything like it before, a few older hunter’s had witnessed kangaroos behave in a similar way out in the wild before. “He [hunter] went in to save the dog but when the roo turned towards him, he stood his ground as well until all the dogs were safe,” Mr Amor said. “The dog Max was fine, just startled because the kangaroo had a hold of him.” Mr Amor said the dog got away unscathed thanks to a chest plate, which usually protects them from boar tusks. But as for the kangaroo? “My mate only stunned it,” Mr Amor said. “His hand was OK, he didn’t hit it very hard at all. “It was funny because the guy who did it is the most placid bloke. We laughed at him for chucking such a sh*t punch.”

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Kailem and Matt, before they went off for the hunting trip

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Mr Amor said Kailem, who passed away last week, would be loving all the attention his trip was receiving. “Kailem would be looking down from up there [heaven] and laughing because it was the highlight of the trip,” Mr Amor said. Kailem passed away last week at Dubbo Base Hospital, just days after marrying his girlfriend Brandi-Lee. His journey and support has been documented via a GoFundMe page, and will be laid to rest on Thursday.

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“…The guy’s very lucky because he could have been killed,” says Marco Festa-Bianchet, a National Geographic explorer who studies kangaroos and who is a biologist at Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec. Contrary to popular belief, kangaroos don’t normally try to box, or punch, each other, says Festa-Bianchet. Instead, they prefer to balance on their strong tails and kick with their powerful back legs. “If the kangaroo had done that to the guy it could have disemboweled him,” says Festa-Bianchet. Another technique kangaroos sometimes use is to try to claw their opponents’ eyes out, which also could have left Tonkins seriously injured. The kangaroo is clearly a large male, Festa-Bianchet says. It stands roughly 6 feet tall and may weigh as much as 170 pounds. An animal like that could be 9 to 15 years old and is in the prime of its life. Male kangaroos often battle each other in the wild over access to breeding females, sometimes to the point of death. Usually, however, a male will yield to the stronger challenger, often showing subservience by grooming or making a coughing sound. “I’m sure the punch hurt,” says Festa-Bianchet. “You can tell the kangaroo is like, ‘Whoa what was that?’ That’s not what another kangaroo would do and a human does not give the right signals. It kind of looks funny but it really was a dangerous situation.”

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