That’s me practicing my interview technique with a youth contingent from the Perth hills.
This morning I met Scott Jones, part owner of Planet Video and volunteer wildlife carer, in Mt. Lawley. We went to his house first of all, to pick up an injured Wattle Bird he’s been caring for in an aviary in his back garden. Then we drove east to Martin under the hot December sun, with the little Wattlebird sitting in a darkened cage on my lap. We were headed to the Darling Range Wildlife Shelter, a centre for the care and rehabilitation of injured wildlife. Scott volunteers his time here every Saturday afternoon and had offered to show me around the place. The shelter is a collection of low khaki buildings, aviaries and pens sitting against a background of native vegetation at the feet of the Darling Ranges (directly east from South Fremantle, just north of Armadale). Western Australia has plenty of two ton lumps of metal hurtling along sealed surfaces at high speed. The state also has plenty of animals unacquainted with the intricacies of road safety practices. In sum we have many injured animals needing care and human attention. The state Department of Environment and Conservation does provide a wildlife care hotline (ring it if you ever look and find a joey alive in the pouch of a dead female kangaroo lying on the side of the road), but generally the Department’s level of funding means that it must channel its money into the conservation of endangered animal species. Volunteers take up the slack. At places like the one I was visiting, such people do rewarding things like feeding helpless and swaddled joeys bottles of milk.
I and Scott walked around the shelter. We walked through a series of large, grassy pens in which progressively older kangaroos were hanging out and doing some healing. The first bunch of motely youngsters stood scratching their chests in endearingly unsteady style, sprawling lazily on their backs, or having a quick tussle in the shade. When I approached one young grey came up to me immediately, wanting to interact. This curious young dude was happy to be picked up. Holding the little, gangly life in my arms I couldn’t help but smile at the way he tried to burrow closer.
I’m accustomed to kangaroos being extremely fearful of human presence, perhaps a result of being hunted for many millennia and only the most-wary-of-humans surviving to pass on their genes. Being surrounded by year old joeys, unsteady, big-eyed, and very friendly, was gratifying. The wall dividing the species was down. While these little guys just wanted to suck on your finger (some personalities admittedly being bolder than others), the red kangaroos in the next area we visited were even older and more boisterous. Red kangaroos are naturally more bold and rowdy than grey kangaroos. Two or three of these youngsters came up to me, heads up and nuzzled a strap on my camera. Then one of them decided to grapple my leg, and have a bit of a playful wrestle. It’s a bit like when you play with a dog, except that it isn’t a dog you’re knocking around with, it’s an ancient Australian marsupial lifeform. Cool eh? Lucky these reds are still half my size and can’t win too many points against me.
I asked Scott Jones about his thoughts on the commercial harvesting of red and grey kangaroos in Australia for meat and skins. Some of our discussion will be broadcast soon on RTR FM in Perth. Soon I’ll also be talking with Michael Archer, author of the book Going Native, about this same subject. They have very different opinions on the topic. Surrounded by affable little joeys I thought it was an interesting context in which to do such an interview. More about this later.
Marsupium means pouch in Latin. Hanging in a pouch, or a bag, is where these little marsupials are most relaxed in their first few months of life.
Kangaroos on the radio 30 December. In the meantime, thanks Scott. You’re doing a great job.