A man has been filmed repeatedly punching a helpless kangaroo in the face while his friend laughs hysterically in the background.
The marsupial appears to raise a paw in a failed attempt to defend itself at one point, while a later snippet shows the man holding the animal’s limp head in one hand as he batters it with the other.
Those involved are believed to be from New South Wales, where police told local media they are investigating the footage.
Unconfirmed reports on social media suggest the culprits initially hit the animal with their car, breaking its back.
New South Wales had the highest rate of animal collisions in the country in 2018, insurance company NRMA’s data showed. Nearly 90 per cent of claims were attributed to kangaroos.
The footage emerged amid a global outpouring of grief over the heavy losses suffered by Australia’s wildlife during a devastating bushfire season.
Experts estimate up to a billion creatures have been killed in the relentless infernos, which have razed an area the size of Bulgaria, leaving 29 people dead and destroying some 2,500 homes.
The brutal attack on the kangaroo drew instant fury on social media, with many rushing to identify the culprits.
The reaction was in notable contrast with that to viral footage in 2016 showing a man slapping a kangaroo which appeared to have his dog in a headlock – the ethics of which has fuelled internet debates for years.
A biologist and kangaroo expert later told National Geographic that the man, who was dubbed a hero by many, was lucky to have escaped the encounter with his life.
Contrary to popular belief, kangaroos don't typically punch each other, preferring to balance on their tails and kick with their powerful legs, Marco Festa-Bianchet told the magazine, adding: “If the kangaroo had done that to the guy it could have disembowelled him.”