Australian politician knocked down by kangaroo

CANBERRA, Australia

Shane Rattenbury, a minister in the Australian Capital Territory government, which administers the city of Canberra, said he was running on a sidewalk in inner-suburban Ainslie and was only seconds away from a collision before he saw the eastern gray kangaroo at the end of a hedge grazing on a front lawn.

"We both got a nasty fright, and of course when kangaroos are startled, they lash out," the 41-year-old said.

"As the kangaroo sought to escape, it landed on me, and its claws dug into my leg," he added.

Rattenbury said the 1.4-meter (4-foot-7) kangaroo knocked him to the concrete sidewalk, the claws of its powerful hind legs drawing blood with two scratches to his left leg. His right leg was painfully bruised by the sidewalk.

Moments later, a passer-by noticed Rattenbury was injured and drove him home. His mother heard of her son's plight on a radio news bulletin and took him to a hospital, where a nurse cleaned his wounds and gave him a tetanus shot.

"The nurse who treated me had treated someone before who had been scratched by a kangaroo and ended up with a very bad infection," Rattenbury said. "So she was quite keen to give it a good clean-out."

Rattenbury limped into the ACT parliament a few minutes before Thursday's session began and more than three hours after his painful brush with nature.

He was bemused that many people seemed more concerned about the kangaroo's welfare than his.

"I can assure people that the kangaroo is fine," he said. "It was last seen hopping off into the distance quite comfortably."

Kangaroos are among Australia's most loved native species. A kangaroo and an emu feature on the nation's coat of arms. But kangaroos are so numerous around Canberra that the ACT government maintains a controversial culling program to contain them.

Rattenbury, who is a member of the environmentally focused Greens party, said he accepts the scientific evidence that kangaroo numbers have to be controlled around Canberra. Thursday's close encounter did not change that.

"Without a predator, kangaroos have increased their abundance and have a detrimental impact on the rest of the ecosystem," he said. "The Greens have not opposed that cull."

"I really enjoy seeing kangaroos and we're very lucky in Canberra to have them as part of our neighborhoods, but I usually prefer to keep them at a bit more of a distance than this," he said.

Kangaroos rarely harm people, although in 2009 one jumped through a bedroom window of a Canberra home late at night and terrorized a family before a householder wrestled it out the front door.

Wildlife veterinarian Karen Vickers said more kangaroos were likely to venture deeper into Canberra suburbs in search of watered lawns to feed in the drier months ahead and that people should be wary.

"It sounds like they startled each other and Shane came off worse," Vickers told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "They're really not out to get us."

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