Disappearing Natives

I sometimes try to imagine the original inhabitants of this area on my little patch of ground: whether it was important to them, what they did here. This was once their land, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Aboriginal person in this area. Many were massacred by the first white settlers, either with guns or, most wickedly, after eating damper made using flour deliberately laced with arsenic.

We have lost so much by losing these people. They understood this land, its plants and animals and seasons. What would Australia have been like if white people had chosen to respect and build ties with the Aboriginal people? Most probably there would not now be over 50 species of animal extinct. And counting. The beloved koala is endangered. It has no where to live, its habitat sacrificed to new housing developments. As the forested land near us is owned by the water board and therefore not for development, many koalas are relocated here after being rescued. Some have been orphaned after their mothers were killed on the road. Here they have space to live, but are still at risk of attack by the wild dogs that no one has yet been able to eradicate. These are domestic dogs that have been dumped in the bush by owners who no longer want them and have then bred with the native dingo. They are cunning and elusive. A few pet dogs have been taken by wild dogs along our road.

I sometimes hear koalas growling at night out in the bush. At first I thought I was hearing wild pigs, another feral animal that roams this area. It would be a rather terrifying sound to someone sleeping out in the bush at night and who didn’t know what it was. The neighbours actually spotted one in a tree on their property recently. In almost nine years, we’ve seen just one.

At least there are plenty of wallabies. Early in the morning and in the late afternoon you hear them crashing through the bush. If they’re moving you can see them; when they stop, they melt into the surroundings. Sadly, I hit one one afternoon coming home. It sprang out of the bush at the side of the road a split second before I hit it. I didn’t even have time to hit the breaks. I pulled over and went back to see if it was dead. Mercifully it was, but here was a beautiful creature that I was responsible for killing.
As I was driving home late at night a couple of weeks ago, a bandicoot ran out onto the road between me and the car in front. It ran to the middle, then back then forward again, its nocturnal eyes confused by the headlights. I tried to slow down and hoped that it would get across the road before I hit it. I thought maybe I’d just missed it, but felt a bump under the back wheel. Another little creature dead.

Every day you see possums, snakes, goannas, lizards and birds that have been killed on the roads. I once saw a duck that had been hit. Strangely it was sitting upright, but covered in blood, and its partner duck kept circling it and nudging it. Our (fairly recent) ancestors having eliminated the native human inhabitants, it’s as though we are now, albeit unintentionally, gradually eliminating the native animals.

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