Australia’s beloved kangaroos are now controversial pests

They’re the nation’s hopping icons. They also destroy crops and cause car accidents. Is killing them the solution?

Red kangaroos thrive in arid grasslands like these in Sturt National Park. Australia is home to 25 million people and an estimated 50 million kangaroos, which some Aussies call “plague proportions.”


A mother kangaroo and her joey hop across Main Street to graze on a scruff of grass growing near a gas pump.

It’s a cool spring evening in White Cliffs, a quirky opal-mining town in New South Wales. Locals live like hobbits here, in ventilated holes. Thousands of mine shafts pock the parched earth. But the two eastern gray kangaroos are the oddest sight around.

“I’ve never seen them in town like this,” says George Wilson, a professorial ecologist who’s been studying kangaroos for five decades. “I wonder if they’re someone’s pets.”

Read This Next

Ötzi the Iceman: What we know 30 years after his discovery
Sanctuary gives hope to chimps, rescuers
Golden hour dazzles at these 10 national parks

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet