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Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 84 [17]

A Beginning and an End

Photo: Stella Reid, Wildhaven Wildlife Shelter

My friend and I were discussing the pathological hatred so many seem to have toward kangaroos, this horrid war against them. He said he thought its origins might have been as early as white settlers’ first attempts to grow vegetables, in this place where the seasons were backward and even the plants did not behave as they should, finding that their first radishes, their first wheat shoots, their first shoots of corn, their first inchling tomato plants, had been razed by roos.


‘Might have been’, I said, ‘the very first seeds. But the hatred, I think, began with the arrival of ‘stock’, and the coming of the wool industry – the vision, during droughts of the mid-nineteenth-century, of kangaroos surviving where other creatures couldn’t, eating whatever grass was left.’


‘And being able to eat other things the sheep couldn’t…’


‘Yes, and moving on, as if deliberately mocking the settlers’ misfortune.’


‘Poor season after poor season, drought after drought …’


‘Yes, a burning resentment, accumulating. It was the roos who drank the dam dry, the roos who ate the paddock down.’


‘Scapegoats, as you’ve have said, for human ineptitude. But once it’s pathological it doesn’t need its origins, does it? There’s almost a disconnect.  Argue rationally about the origins, point out the paradoxes, and it’s as if you’ve been put on mute – they can’t hear you – or your first words were enough to get their backs up, call forth the old, learned vituperation, which acts as a sound-barrier anyway… ’


‘The disconnect runs deep. Impose the wrong mindset on the landscape and you’ll have a kind of permanent argument with it. The indigenous didn’t have a pathological hatred of macropods, far from it. It’s something we Westerners brought with us.’


‘Like a plague…’


‘Yup, like a plague.’



The conversation ranges all over the place, but eventually settles on the mysterious disease announced a couple of months ago, that has supposedly killed two or three million roos. The strangeness of such an announcement, from a government so determined to open up new markets for kangaroo meat.


‘Flesh,’ I interject. ‘I prefer to call it flesh. “Meat” sounds like an acknowledgement that it’s intended for consumption in the first place, elides the fact that it’s the dead flesh of a recently-living creature.’


‘Yes, you’re right. Call it “meat” often enough and people will start to assume that that is what it is, what it’s intended to be.’


‘But as to why they announced that in the first place, and settling aside the possibility that it was a hoax in the first place, “fake news”, I admit to being a bit baffled. If anything’s going to put off a potential new market it’s talk of a mysterious disease that’s just killed millions.’


‘It’s to cover the fact that they’ve over-hunted, and that the estimated population figures they’ve been coming up with are gross exaggerations, a runaway algorithm. The deposits to chiller boxes are way down, the number of hunters is way down, the hunters are having to go further and further and hunt much longer to get anything like the numbers of roos they used to, the average weight and size of the roos they shoot is smaller and smaller. When I go out west, as I have to do every month or so, I hardly see a roo.’


‘And yet they’re supposedly in plague proportions.’


‘A creaky old phrase, wheeled out whenever someone wants to justify killing something. Just last week I read that corellas were in plague proportions, on a football ground!’


‘A localised plague…’


‘Yes, caused by the fact that the football ground was rife with onion weed: corellas love onion weed. If roos are in plague proportions on someone’s paddock it probably means that a couple of dozen have come because there’s some grass there, in a tough season; they might have come from miles around.’


‘Which means that for miles around the landscape is empty of roos.’


‘Bingo,’ says my friend (whom I may have invented).


‘So what do you think, about that “mysterious disease”. Has the government shot itself in the foot?’


‘You’d have to think they’re smarter than that – or at least that they have a reason, whether  it’s a smart one or not.’




‘They’re playing a long game. They know they’ve over-hunted the roos, maybe even suspect that if they continue they’ll be looking at a population collapse. So in effect they’re prepared to accept a moratorium. Ten years, fifteen, twenty, to let the population recover.’


‘Then go at it all again, more carefully. A time-bomb. I don’t know what to think.’


‘A lot can happen, in ten or fifteen or twenty years. The nation could come to its senses. It might not tolerate a kangaroo industry at all.’


‘And that pathological hatred will die down? How is that going to happen?’


‘Who knows? Maybe some mysterious disease will get to it’

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