A Queensland photographer has captured a heartbreaking scene of mourning in the wild, in which a male kangaroo cradles his dead mate as a joey looks on.Or so it seemed.
'Mourning' kangaroo photo raises questions
Evan Switzer's photos of a male kangaroo 'grieving' his dead mate have gone viral, but an Australia Museum research scientist says the kangaroo was trying to mate.
The photographer, Evan Switzer was walking his dog in bushland at River Heads, south of Hervey Bay, on Monday afternoon, when he came across the three kangaroos, one of which had recently died.
He watched on as the male repeatedly attempted to stand his mate up, only to have her fall to the ground, a scene he described as "truly amazing".
"I noticed the male standing over the female tying to pick her up," Mr Switzer said.
"She did fall out of his arms, he would try and stand her up and she slipped through and hit the ground."
The retiree said the male circled his dead mate, making seemingly distressed noises that stopped when he tried to pick her up.
"I came home and got the camera and went back down and got in nice and close," he said.
"He kept trying to stand her up, and the little joey was looking on, the male laid down and gave her a nudge and was clawing at her, trying to wake her."
Mr Switzer said that, while the buck chased away other kangaroos, he did not appear to mind his presence.
At one point when the male and the joey left the female's body, he said he went over to check her, feeling that her body was still warm, an indication her death was very recent.
He said it was not immediately clear what had caused her to die.
"He kept on going back to try and lift her up, making this distressed sort of noise," he said.
"It was a sad sort of feeling, you understand the loss.
"If they mate for life, I don't know, but having a joey there with the buck, it sort of seemed like one little family.
"Losing the mum was obviously devastating, the buck was pretty distressed."
Mr Switzer, a retired member of the Australian Army, said he watched as the scene continued for an hour.
"He was still doing it when I left, near 5pm," he said.
At the prompting of a friend, Mr Switzer posted the pictures to the Fraser Coast Chronicle Facebook page on Monday night.
A story the newspaper published was quickly seized upon by media across the globe and Mr Switzer has fielded calls from across the United Kingdom and Europe, the United States, as well as across Australia and New Zealand.
He said the level of attention the photos drew had been hugely unexpected.
"I got the first call from London at 3.40 this morning, I stopped to have some breakfast and am making my way through the calls to return," he laughed.
"I expected some feedback from the Chronicle's Facebook page but that was about it."