Kangaroo puncher keeps zoo job despite animal rights group complaints

The kangaroo appeared stunned by the punch (YouTube / ViralHog)
The kangaroo appeared stunned by the punch (YouTube / ViralHog)

An Australian man caught on camera punching a kangaroo in the face has been criticised for his actions, after it was revealed he is a zookeeper.

Greig 'Goo' Tonkins became an internet star after the clip came to light, which shows him rescuing his dog Max from a kangaroo's headlock by firing a brutal right hook at its snout.

The footage was filmed in Euabalong, New South Wales back in June during a boar-hunting trip for a friend with terminal cancer who has since died.

After the video was shared around the world, animal rights groups condemned Mr Tonkins' actions.

They're calling for him to lose his job as an elephant keeper at Western Plains Zoo in New South Wales.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told Australian Regional Media that Mr Tonkins should not be "made out to be a national hero", but rather prosecuted.

"Punching a kangaroo in the face is neither brave nor funny," the group said.

Mr Tonkins also drew derision from the Humane Society International Australia, who said their efforts to rescue circus elephants in India is undermined if "we can't even look after our own species here".

"It is very disturbing of someone of this character has a position [at Western Plains Zoo]. They would have no trouble filling it with someone who respects animals," they said.

The zoo disagrees, however, and says Mr Tonkins' job is safe.

"Mr Tonkins is an experienced zookeeper and during his six years at Taronga Western Plains Zoo has always followed Taronga's best practice approach to animal care and welfare," said a zoo spokesperson.

"We continue to work with Mr Tonkins on his conduct in regards to this incident."

Matthew Amor, a friend of Mr Tonkins' who also attended the hunting trip, said their deceased mate "would be looking down from up there [heaven] and laughing" at the media furore.

"It was funny because [Mr Tonkins] is the most placid bloke. We laughed at him for chucking such a s**t punch," Mr Amor told news.com.au.