Kangaroos Could Be the Answer to Global Warming, Australian Scientists Believe

by Gopalan on Aug 10 2008 10:49 AM

Forsake beef and mutton. Opt for kangaroo meat, you will be doing a great service to the globe. You will be fighting global warming, say Australian researchers.

The methane gas produced by sheep and cows through belching and flatulence is more potent than carbon dioxide in the damage it can cause to the environment.

"Fourteen percent of emissions from all sources in Australia is from enteric methane from cattle and sheep," said Athol Klieve, a senior research scientist with the Queensland state government.

"And if you look at another country such as New Zealand, which has got a much higher agricultural base, they're actually up around 50 percent," he said.

Many greenhouse gases occur naturally, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Others such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) result exclusively from human industrial processes. Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by the burning of solid waste, wood and wood products, and fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal). 

Ntrous oxide emissions occur during various agricultural and industrial processes, and when solid waste or fossil fuels are burned. 

Methane is emitted when organic waste decomposes, whether in landfills or in connection with livestock farming.  Methane emissions also occur during the production and transport of fossil fuels.

These gases allow sunlight to enter the atmosphere freely. When sunlight strikes the Earth’s surface, some of it is reflected back towards space as infrared radiation (heat). Greenhouse gases absorb this infrared radiation, trap the heat in the atmosphere and reemit the waves downward causing the temperature of the earth to go up.

And this is called the "greenhouse effect," because of a similar effect produced by the glass panes of a greenhouse, where plants are grown under controlled conditions.

Global warming is a fallout of the greenhouse effect, and hence controlling greenhouse gas emissions is a major task before the scientific community.

Australian researchers believe kangaroos, their national animal, could come in handy. For kangaroo flatulence contains no methane and scientists want to transfer that bacteria to cattle and sheep.

Kangaroos produce virtually no methane because their digestive systems are different.  

Scientists say the bacteria found in kangaroo’s stomachs makes the digestive process much more efficient and could potentially save millions of dollars in feed costs for farmers.

"Not only would they not produce the methane, they would actually get something like 10 to 15 percent more energy out of the feed they are eating," said Klieve.

Even farmers who laugh at the idea of environmentally friendly kangaroo farts say that's nothing to joke about, particularly given the devastating drought Australia is suffering periodically.

Dr George Wilson, of the Australian Wildlife Services, urges farming them.

He also points out that kangaroo meat tastes better, “…excellent, not unlike venison - only a different flavour."

The country already produces 30 million kangaroos farmed by landholders in the outback.

But Dr Wilson is keen to see that population dramatically increased to produce the same amount of kangaroo meat as that currently produced by conventional livestock.