(CNN)A video which shows an off-duty Australian policeman stoning a wombat and gloating over its apparent death has caused an outcry, with a petition for the protection of the native animals gaining thousands of signatures.
Outrage over video of Australian police officer stoning wombat
In the video posted on Wednesday by Australia's Wombat Awareness Organisation on its Facebook page, the man is filmed running alongside a car and throwing stones at the animal repeatedly until it receives a knock-out blow to its head.
In the ensuing celebrations, one of his friends gloats: "You killed him, bro."
"First bloke to ever see kill a wombat on foot bruv with a rock," they add.
South Australia Police have managed to identify the man in the video and will be investigating the incident, they said in a statement.
"I viewed the video this morning and immediately instigated an investigation into this incident. I find the actions portrayed in the footage to be totally abhorrent and unacceptable," police commissioner Grant Stevens said Thursday. "I am aware of the community outrage regarding this matter."
He added his reassurances that the actions displayed in the video do not match the behaviors he expects from his his employees and that other staff members had found the footage "detestable."
A Change.org petition was started after the video surfaced and has so far been signed by over 80,000 people.
Brigitte Stevens, who founded the Wombat Awareness Organisation in 2006, received the footage from an Aboriginal family and decided to post it on her charity's Facebook page.
In the past, Stevens said, "I've actually gone to the appropriate authorities and not released it. But then it just gets swept under the carpet, and I'm sick of it because this should not be happening."
"My personal belief is that no wombat should be killed and especially under these circumstances," she told CNN.
Although indigenous people can legally hunt wombats under the Native Title Act -- and the police officer is part of an indigenous community -- Stevens has been told by some Aboriginal leaders that it contravenes tradition.
She said: "I've had a lot of (Aboriginal) elders saying that the video cannot be considered a traditional hunt -- they are not respecting Aboriginal law and Mother Earth."
The issue is divisive, as other Aboriginal people have been in touch with her to say that the men in the video were just trying to feed their families.
Wombats are not only threatened by hunting. Farmers are known to bury them alive by filling their burrows with stones and a prolonged drought in Australia has left them eating dirt and not their usual diet of grass.