Science News

Jumping Gives Kangaroos The Jitters

Sun, 11th Dec 2005

Part of the show Animal Communication, Sexual Signalling and Emotions

Kangaroos can be a real pest to Australian farmers as they damage crops by hopping all over them. It's a big problem when you realise there's three kangaroos to every human in Australia. Until now, the best roo deterrent has been the use of artificial high-pitched squealing noises. But these don't work very well, and the animals get used to them quickly and start to ignore the sounds. Helena Bender at the University of Melbourne has found another sound that the kangaroos fear - their own feet. When roos are afraid or sense danger, they beat their feet on the ground. Bender recorded the noises, then played them back. She found that the thumping kept the roos away more effectively than the high-pitched noises, and the animals also didn't get accustomed to it. As well as damaging crops, many kangaroos die every year on the roads, causing serious accidents. So this new scaring tactic could help to keep farmers, motorists and kangaroos happy.

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