Visitors, new residents love Skippy and all our unique wildlife. Do we?
A RECENTLY-ARRIVED Australian resident and writer, Elle Hunt, wrote a compelling article in January expressing how people from around the world love and value Australian wildlife.
The horror of our wildlife’s suffering in the recent bushfires, was the immediate impetus for her story. But it raises good questions for Australians.
In the Bush Capital, Canberra, the authorities have waged a decade-long killing program against ‘Skippy’ under various excuses. In Victoria and South Australia, kangaroo pest and killing narratives are pushing the benefits of the commercial skin and meat trade. Exploiting native wildlife for export trades has long been a policy of the federal government.
Is it not in our interests, (economic and moral) to start respecting and valuing our unique wildlife as our international visitors do?
Here is an excerpt from Elle’s story posted in The Guardian.
Their bodies lie piled up by the side of the road, barely visible through the ochre haze: dozens, maybe hundreds of kangaroos that tried to outrun the flames and perished, in their droves, in the attempt. The scene, filmed from a car on the way to Batlow, New South Wales, resembles a battlefield after a bungled campaign: wildlife versus wildfire, and the victor is abundantly clear.
Australia is burning. At least 23 people have died since October and with much of the continent still ablaze, despite the fact bushfire season is not expected to peak until February, that number is likely to climb. The scale of the devastation — entire towns wiped out, thousands sheltering on the beach to await military evacuation by sea — is hard to overestimate.
But to the rest of the world looking on in horror, among the most ghastly images are those showing the toll on Australia’s native wildlife. A kangaroo, backlit by flames. A dead joey, charred and still clinging to the fence that it ran up against. Battered koalas, battling serious burns — these are the faces put forward in appeals, poster critters of a nation gripped by emergency.
The power of these images speaks to the hold of Australian wildlife on our collective imagination. If you know nothing else about Australia — if you wouldn’t know Ramsay Street without the street sign — you know Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. Same with a koala, platypus, dingo, echidna, kookaburra, wombat, possum, emu, saltwater croc — take your pick.
Even if a visit to Australia is just an “if we win the Lotto” entry on your bucket list, its fauna is instantly recognisable, symbolic of a wild and ancient continent truly unlike any other on Earth. But one of the many ways in which Australia is special is that if you do go there, you’ll actually see these species.
Elle Hunt The world loves kangaroos and koalas. Now we are watching them die in droves. The Guardian, 7 January 2020.
As of March 2020 this article had over 2,000 shares and 259 comments.
IMAGE: Tourists flock to wildlife parks to feed our native animals. (Valeriia Miller, Pexels)