Some people aren’t at home with animals, especially wildlife, but I think this is mostly from unfamiliarity and fear. When you’re about it a lot, you tend to appreciate the vulnerability.
As a child, the main types of wildlife I was subjected to, in their natural surroundings, were brown and black snakes, and kangaroos. I loved the roos, watching them in the paddocks, despite them being cursed by the farmers to eating all the plants.
Living on a tropical island in North Queensland for a few years left me frequently exposed to green tree snakes and pythons, neither of which are life threatening. The tree snakes wound their way up through the forest trees in all sorts of angles. I always found them graceful. Walking island paths with friends late at night, it was not unusual to have to wait for a python to finish crossing the road in front of us, and not being able to see either end. I grew to love them, though it still always breaks my heart to see them confined as pets.
Nearby on the mainland, a buddy and I were chased one day by a enormous goanna as we unknowingly ventured too near her dwelling. A good reminder that most of us share this Earth.
In the Northern Territory, there was no swimming at the McArthur River near Borroloola because of crocs. It is wild country up there. One of my tasks at a nearby hotel, which was more like a bush camp, and a rough one at that, was to eliminate the green tree frogs from the cistern of the bathrooms daily. After doing this once and viewing them all back the next day, I realised what a futile effort it was, Port St Lucie Animal Removal, so left them in peace. They just hung with their webbed feet when the water was flushed down to the loo.
Whales were also plentiful during the perfect season. It was understandably beautiful.
While living up in the Gold Coast hinterlands, there were kookaburras landing on the veranda every day, as well as peacocks roaming freely in the bush down the back.
Backing onto Cooper Park in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, my delights were the golden orb spiders, with webs so strong you could lift them to go under, and the lizards. I love watching lizards.
Among the most prolific homes for wildlife though was from the bush in Northern NSW. Here we had a bat come in for a while then left. Koalas were so abundant you could walk out the back door and search up in the trees, with a great probability of seeing one, or standing on the front veranda and carrying a photo of one not far away. Not all Aussies get such close contact with them in their natural surroundings. However while it was quite amazing and romantic to be able to have koalas living so nearby, there is nothing quiet or gentle in their lovemaking.
This house also had a surplus of lizards and snakes. After being there for over a year and imagining there was a snake in a small alcove near the door, I came to finally meet this monster one morning as I was heading off to work. Down she slid onto the veranda and was huge, majestically so. We arrived to see her often after that.
One of my favorite swimming areas is a river about half an hour from Tamworth. This place has literally saved me a couple of times, during the darkest periods of my life. The platypus is a shy and gentle river swimmer but since I was frequently out there alone, if sitting by the lender writing, I managed to watch them a couple of times at close range. I felt quite special for such a present.
Sadly a lot of people only see wildlife in zoos or as road kill, where kangaroos, wallabies or wombats have ventured onto the roads and been struck by a vehicle. My uncle once had a wombat. She was called Wendy the wombat. As an adult Wendy took herself off to reside in the nearby bush. But returned a couple of years later to say hello with her whole family, then toddled off back to the bush. What a beautiful thing.
This morning while driving up to the nearby village, I was saddened to find a dead wallaby beside the road and the body of her babe that had been thrown out of its pouch, while still an embryo really, no fur nonetheless covering its small body.
I do see a lot of live wallabies here too though mercifully. They are sweet little animals.
Last week while on the phone being interviewed for a vegan magazine, I watched a red-belly black snake slither past me, just a few metres away. They are rather gentle, the red-bellies, though still not to be trifled with due to their venom.
Possums are about here too, as they are in several places. I love the cheeky things.
Lizards hang out in sunlight on the rickety bridge across the creek and hide underneath whenever we drive over it.
One of the most effective documentaries I have ever seen is called Earthlings and is available online. It’s incredibly confronting as it seems at man’s dependence on the animal world for food, clothing, entertainment and research. Yet despite the tragic reality of what you will see, it’s also a beautiful film in its own way in that it reminds us all of the beauty of animals and of their right to live on the Earth too. I strongly recommend this documentary to anyone.
We share the Earth with each of these creatures. It’s their home too. Wildlife isn’t to be feared, but respected.
When I look out the window here at a wallaby on the driveway, frogs on the window and lizards down on the bridge, I am in great company.
Yes, I am blessed. We all are.