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Australian Environmental Issues

Blue-tongue
A true-blue battler

Box jellyfish
How to avoid the stings and what to do if stung

Crocodile
So you wrestle crocs...

Dingo
Unfairly judged in killing off the thylacine?

Echidna
The wise little gnomes of Australia

Emu
Victors of the great Emu war

Flies
Shaping everything from how Australians speak to how they salute

Funnel Web spider
Yyou'll never leave your ugg boots outside

Kangaroo
Most herbivores don't grow a spine until they are the size of an elephant. Not so the roo.

Snakes
Kill less people than cows

Shark attack Australia
How to ensure you don't go by the name of Bob

Tasmanian Devil
The solution to mainland extinctions?

Tasmanian Tiger
A sad tale

Wombat
Keg of muscle

Quoll
The mainland's largest marsupial carnevore

Mythical creatures
Yowies and dropbears; some say they are myths but those who are not afraid to talk have shared their stories

 

 

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Emu

 

The Roo

The world's most courageous herbivore

Most herbivores don't develop a backbone until they are the size of a hippo or elephant. They won’t leave the safety of the group nor stand their ground to the predators that want to eat them. This makes them easy pickings for prides of lions and packs of wolves. It also results in them being herded towards abattoirs by humans.

The kangaroo is very different. When a mob is scared by a predator/s, roos will scatter in different directions so there is no chance to herd them into an ambush or kill on mass. Generally the big males will try to engage the predator in order to led it away from the females and joeys. Its ability to hop gives it a big agility and speed advantage over terrain characterised by tussocks, rocky terrain or bush littered with fallen timber. If worst comes to worst and an animal like a dog follows its scent, it will try to find a body of water to jump into. Once in the water, the roo has an advantage over the predator. If the water is not too deep, it can stand up and use its arms to push the predators head under water to drown it. Even if the water is deep, kangaroos are strong swimmers and can still drown dogs.

Roo tackles pig dog and squares up to box a pig hunter

Roo stands ground to drown dogs

 

Kangaroo behaviour has shaped the the evolution of predators. Specifically, Australia has not had a large pack non-human predator in the last million years. The now extinct marsupial lion was an ambush predator that probably hunted like a leopard. The thylacine was primarily a solitary hunter. Even the dingo that came to Australia 4,000 years ago evolved to be more solitary in its hunting behaviour relative to wolves - with the exception of its hunting with humans.

It probably also influenced human behaviour. Australia is the only inhabited continent that did not develop endemic agriculture societies. One reason is that the dominant herbivore was not suited to animal husbandry as animals like cows and sheep were in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. Additionally, Australia had no high-yield agricultural crop like corn, rice or wheat like South America, North America, Asia and Europe. Potentially, humans could have selectively bred one, or imported one from Asia, if they didn’t have to worry about roos jumping fences to eat their crops. Even elephants would have been easier to defend against.

When Kangaroos aren't escaping predators or raiding crops, they lead a peaceful life. They are particularly adaptable creatures that can withstand tough conditions. In times of draught, they cope by digging 'wells' up to three or four feet deep. These wells may also become a water source for other animals in the area.

Roos live quite harmoniously with the land. Unlike sheep and cows, the kangaroo doesn't eat grass to its roots, thereby ensuring it can survive to sustain it another day. This feeding trait, combined with its padded feet, would make the kangaroo a very environmentally friendly animal to farm if they didn't have the ability to jump fences and would herd..

To protect their livelihood, farmers have no choice but to shoot raiding parties of roos. If not killed instantly, the behaviour of a wounded roo is particularly distressing. Rather than wait patiently to die, they pull themselves forward with their arms - never giving up until they are dead.

It is understandable that Kangaroos are so keen to survive when one considers that at any one time they may have three children depending upon them. Its children may include:

  1. One semi-adult discovering life outside the pouch, learning to eat grass, but still feeding off the mother;
  2. An infant curiously watching what goes on from the safety of the mother's pouch;
  3. One embryo the size of a thumbnail awaiting signals to be born.
With so many children depending on her, the mother needs a man she can depend on and true to form, the father Kangaroo doesn't let her down. When danger is sensed, the lady will crouch down in the bushes in relative safety. Meanwhile, the male will assume a position of prominence in the hope a predator will spot him, and then chase him. If pursued, the male Kangaroo will do his best to lead the assailant away from his family. If he survives, he will return at a later time to again watch over his lady and children.

Species of roo

There are 47 different varieties of Kangaroo. The largest six are referred to as roos while the rest are called Wallabies. The largest is the Red Kangaroo at a height of 1.8m and a weight of 90kg. It can clear nine meters in a single jump, has been known to jump over a nine foot high fence and has a top speed of 74 kilometres an hour. The smallest is the Monjon which grows to 35cm and weighs 1.4kg. One species, the Purple-neck Rock Wallaby [Petrogale Purpureicollis] secretes a dye that transforms its face and neck into colours ranging from light pink to bright purple.

 

 

Invasive ferals

Carp

Carp and Trout
A tale of two ferals

New hope for Cane Toads
The many unknown predators of the toad

Rabbits
A fence almost 2,000 km long to keep rabbits out of WA? Sounds like a great idea! If it doesn't work, we'll build another one!

The Willow
How a change in its status from asset to weed led to fish kills with blackwater and blue-green algae outbreaks

To bait dingos?
Should the health of the ecosystem be considered or just the kennel club registration?

Koala control
What to do about the "koala plague" on Kangaroo Island

Cat
Apex predator in Australia. Confined to urban areas in America.

Environmental values

Environmental problems
How money and ideology shapes environmental "science."

Bushfire
Australia's Stockholm Syndrome with gum trees.

The Kangaroo industry
Should we eat skippy?

Climate change in Australia
Australia was once covered in rainforest. Could it be again?

Sustainability
The dark side of sustainable environmental policies

Native pets
Why no pet wombats?

 

 

       

Australian environmental science is defined by an ideology that is not unlike a prison warden. There, the scientists are not seeing themselves as part of the ecosystem, but as masters over it; protecting the rights of the species that they say have rights and killing those that they say do not…but inevitably killing both.

"It was always seen as desirable to remove or cull the introduced species. We also need to ask whether it was possible to do so, how it should be done, whether it could have unintended consequences and what it would cost? I don't think anyone really asked those questions." Physicist John Reid - 2012