Government official calls for Australians to take care of native animals

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Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove (R) stands with China's President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan, as she holds a wombat in the grounds of Government House in Canberra November 17, 2014. Xi is on a three-day official visit to Australia. Reuters/David Gray

Amid debates about whether or not kangaroos, wombats and koalas belong in the nation’s living rooms, a government official urged Australians to take care of native animals at home. Keeping animals as pets is said to be an act of patriotism.

Gregory Andrews, a government official who works on preventing extinctions of Australia animals, said residents should be allowed to have some native animals at home instead of keeping invasive species like dogs, rabbits and cats. He believes it would be “patriotic” for Australians to take in animals that “define who we are as a nation”.

“I can’t think of anything more patriotic than choosing to own an Australian animal,” Andrews told the Australian newspaper. He noted that if people can spend money on a designer poodle, it means they would also have the ability to keep an endangered orange-bellied parrot. That way, families can help in the conservation of these species.

But Andrews’ recent remarks were slammed by animal right groups that believe kangaroos will “trash” houses. Some who oppose the proposal are those who have experienced keeping such creatures at homes.

These include Richard Woodman and his wife Kerstin Schweth. The couple, who lives in a small town of Robertson, opposes the commissioner’s proposal. “They might be cute and cuddly when they’re little but they will trash your house once they grow up,” Woodman told the Telegraph.

Woodman and Schweth currently have a wombat, a tiny eastern grey kangaroo and a kangaroo-like wallaroo in their home. The couple has been allowed to take care of these species because they are authorised carers for injured and orphaned animals.

But they do not plan to keep these animals at home forever. Woodman and Schweth will reportedly return these orphaned creatures to the wild when they are rehabilitated.

Woodman points that these types of species need significantly more care than cats and dogs. “A wombat will tear the chair off a wooden table or tear through a flyscreen. A kangaroo could attack you if they became dependent on human feedings and then it’s not given,” he explained.

Schweth maintained that native animals do not belong to the living room, but in the wild. She said they are like children who require a lot of attention as they pee and poop on everything. Currently, several states in the Land Down Under allow different native birds, reptiles and amphibians to be kept domestically, though a licence is required in some cases.

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