A Hunter Wildlife Rescue volunteer believes a tourist fed soap to a kangaroo at Morisset Hospital on the weekend, but says the incident is the tip of the iceberg of the “dangerous” interactions she has witnessed between tourists and the population of marsupials at the functioning psychiatric hospital.
“I’ve seen people climb onto their backs, try to take joeys out of their pouch and feed them absolute garbage,” Ann Morgan said.
Ms Morgan was making her regular visit to the hospital last Sunday when someone approached her saying a tourist had been feeding a kangaroo soap.
“So I went down to the back of the paddock to have a look, and she pointed out to me a kangaroo.”
She said the kangaroo was eating a banana but had “bubbles on her face”. She could not see anyone with soap. There was “a couple of hundred” people in the paddock at the time.
“I don’t have visual evidence, but I’ve seen too much not to believe it,” Ms Morgan said.
She said “every week” she saw people injured at the paddock because they had come too close to the animals. She says she has to tell people not to feed and touch the animals every time she is called out to the hospital even though there are warning signs in multiple languages.
A pharmacist said people come into the Morisset chemist she works at “once a month” seeking treatment for wounds inflicted by the roos. She said in summer and spring that increases to once a fortnight.
“They mainly come in with scratches on their neck, hands, arms, stomachs, backs and shoulders,” Rachel Nauluvula said. “One guy I sent to the doctor for stitches but that was the worst one.”
Tourists have been coming in with scratches from the hospital’s kangaroos ever since she began working at the Priceline pharmacy in Morisset mall seven years ago, she said.
“It has gotten a bit worse in the last three or fours years. More tourists are coming and they don’t know how to behave around the kangaroos. The people who come in are not locals.”
Newcastle’s Jayne Cvetanoski, who described herself as an “animal advocate” and runs a Facebook page called ‘Better Protection for Morisset Psychiatric Hospital Kangaroos’, said she was prompted to document events at the hospital because she believed the kangaroos had become more aggressive.
“What made me start the campaign was earlier this year, in February, I started to notice the change in the kangaroos.
“In the wild kangaroos won’t come near you, but out there, they are hungry, they crave what’s being brought in.”
She said she had removed a plastic bread bag from the top of a kangaroo’s head at her own personal risk.
“I got it off his head because he could have died,” she said.
The hospital announced on Tuesday that it would be closing the grounds to tourists.