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Wednesday, January 08, 2003
 
Feral animals

The Flinders Ranges are hills in Central Eastern South Australia. (Got that?) The scenery is magnificent - reminiscent, slightly, of The Grand Canyon. During my brief visit, I managed to see a few rock wallabies - not a musical act, but a threatened species of animal.

The rock wallabies live in mountainous areas. They hide under rocks to get away from the heat of the day. Their diet and habitat is very similar to that of goats and it is the feral goat that competes with and threatens these shy creatures. The problem of feral (i.e. escaped domestic animals breeding in the wild) creatures is a large one but the recent campaign to exterminate wild goats seems to have been successful and the wallabies are on their way back.

There are also very many feral camels - a recent estimate put it as high as ten thousand. One would have thought that the rabbit problem would have rung a few bells, earlier.

Cats are another big nuisance. They terrorise and kill the rather dozy Koala. I had heard how cats grow much bigger in the wild and I had first hand experience, not very long ago.

I was driving along a remote, wooded road when, ahead of me, a large cat came out of the undergrowth and started to behave most strangely. I stopped the car and watched from a distance. The cat was jumping up in the air, doing somersaults and chasing its tail. Have you ever seen a fully-grown cat do that? I'm sure you've seen a kitten do it.

Then, I realised that this enormous creature must have been a kitten. When fully grown, it would have been as big as a dog, a Labrador, say. No wonder the poor koala is at bay.

A notable feature

Coming down from the Flinders Ranges, I came to the small township of Hawker (pop. 590). Needing to go to the toilet, I kept my eye out for the township's facilities. There was the sign to it and there was the building: smart, new, brick-built, with beautiful weather-struck pointing. Needless to say, the facility was graffiti-free and very welcoming. How is it, one might ask, that such a small township could manage to provide such excellent facilities?

All but the smallest Australian hamlet has a comfort station. I passed another small place (Terrowie, pop. 150), soon afterwards and that was appropriately equipped, although I did not investigate the place in detail. It is one of the great certainties about life in Australia: that you can find a toilet whenever you need one, wherever you are. Occasionally, they are not very seemly but to be able to home in, as necessary, when out and about, is one of my personal joys.

In discussing this subsequently with Melburnians, it was suggested that a competition for the smallest Australian hamlet with a public loo might be appropriate. The current ‘winner’, I suggest, is Balladonia, WA, population 10.



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