CBS Local — Many people would likely point to the kangaroo as the most recognizable symbol of Australia. Officials in Australia are now making a very odd request regarding the country’s national animal: please eat more of them.

According to local reports, kangaroos have seen their population boom over the last decade. The number of marsupials on the continent has jumped from 27 million in 2010 to nearly 45 million in 2016. The hopping inhabitants now outnumber humans in Australia by 24 million — or by a two-to-one margin.

Officials are now worried that the next drought in the country will cause a massive ecological disaster as millions of the grazing animals could starve and die. “They’re just devouring anything we’ve got grass wise, they’re starting to cause erosion along fences. Any of the grass country is just being pulled up by the roots,” farmer Garry Hannigan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Professor David Paton of the University of Adelaide says Australians need to begin culling the animals and eating more of their meat.

“It’s not the kangaroos’ fault they’re overabundant, it’s probably we’ve just been too reluctant to take a stick to them, remove them out of the system sooner, to actually prevent the damage being caused,” Paton said.

Kangaroo carcasses are used for their hides and leather which are regularly exported. The low-fat, marsupial meat reportedly sees much less demand because of the continuing stigma about eating Australia’s native creature.

“After all, it’s our national emblem,” an Australian resident told reporters.

Kangaroos are a protected species in the country however, since there are so many, they are widely regarded as pests by local governments and allowed to be hunted under a strict quota system.

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