SYDNEY - Australian animal welfare charity RSPCA is investigating a video showing a man killing a wounded kangaroo by repeatedly cutting its throat. The smartphone clip went viral on social media with many users outraged over the perceived cruelty. There is also speculation the incident could have been a mercy killing to put the wounded animal out of its misery.

Australian law provides for a maximum of five years in prison if the prosecution can prove malicious intent.

The short video clip, thought to have been filmed in New South Wales and posted on Chinese social media, starts with a kangaroo lying on a hillside with an injured leg.

The animal is then approached by a man with large hunting knife. The kangaroo kicks several times so the man eventually approaches it from behind.

Holding its tail and stepping on its back to prevent it from moving, he then repeatedly cuts its throat until the kangaroo stops moving.

The people filming are heard laughing in the background.

The video was brought to the attention of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in New South Wales who have confirmed to the BBC they are investigating the case.

Animal cruelty can be treated under two different legal frameworks in New South Wales, RSPCA spokeswoman Stefania Kubowicz told the BBC:

“We get a lot of alerts like this that come via social media,” Ms Kubowicz said.

“If people spot such things online, they can get in touch with us as was the case with this video.”

Should people come across an injured animal like the kangaroo in the video, they are urged to call the RSPCA, Wildlife Rescue or the police so that the animal can either be rescued or put down.