An Australian man who rescued his pet dog from a large kangaroo's headlock is a zookeeper and "family man" who was reportedly on a hunting trip with a dying friend when the incident happened (video below).
Global attention has been fixed on Greig Tonkins, 34, ever since a video of him punching a large marsupial to protect his dog, Max, went viral on social media, the Daily Mail reports.
Tonkins, an elephant keeper at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, New South Wales, was on a wild pig hunt with a group of friends in June when his dog's neck was caught in a headlock by a large kangaroo. A video of him rescuing his dog from the kangaroo by single-punching the marsupial went viral after it was posted to Facebook.
A wild animal handler standing more than 6.5 feet tall, Tonkins was of the same approximate height a the large marsupial, as revealed in the video footage seen by millions.
A representative for the zoo where Tonkins works stated they are mulling "appropriate action" against him.
"Good animal welfare and the protection of Australian wildlife are of the utmost importance to Taronga," said the spokesperson. "We are working with Mr. Tonkins to understand the exact circumstances of the event and will consider any appropriate action."
Tonkin reportedly attended the hunting trip to help his cancer-stricken friend, Kailem Barwick, catch a "tonner" -- a wild boar that generally weighs more than 220 pounds.
“This hunting trip was put together for a sick young man called Kailem who passed away from cancer last week,” said Mathew Amor, organizer of the hunting trip, News.com.au reports.
“Basically Kailem wanted to catch a boar. So a few of us got together to take him out and another mate filmed more than an hour of video to put together as a DVD for Kailem and his family.”
Amor said Barwick would have been highly amused by all the social media attention.
He passed away in early December, days after marrying his girlfriend, Brandi-Lee.
“Kailem would be looking down from up there and laughing because it was the highlight of the trip,” he said.
In light of public criticism of what happened, another man, who was on the trip, defended Tonkins' actions, clarifying the single punch that struck the marsupial was only thrown to protect the pet and prevent the kangaroo from harming anyone else.
"The dog wanted no part of it, all it was trying to do was escape from the 'roo and that's why he stepped in," the man said.
"There's people on social media saying, 'I know men like that, I bet they killed it afterwards,' but that's just ridiculous," he added. "He only threw the punch to redirect the animal and afterwards there were a few nervous and relieved laughs, and then we just went on with getting Kailem a tonner."
The hunting trip was a successful one -- the group managed to kill a "tonner."