Kangaroos – The 100 Days Project: Day 67 
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
More disturbing news from the far west of New South Wales. First millions of kangaroos supposedly succumbing to a mysterious disease (report of December 28th in The Australian; see posts/days 36, 42 and 47) and now, scarcely five weeks later, another ‘mass dying event’, announced in The Land on February 1st: drought, and thousands of kangaroos succumbing to starvation. Hard, from a kangaroo perspective, not to think of the region as the Badlands.
Extreme climatic events can and do come on quite quickly, and the whole of Australia has experienced repeated heat-waves this summer. Record temperatures have been recorded in numerous parts of the country. The ground-cover around Broken Hill, Menindee, Tibooburra (etc.) is meagre at the best of times. So, even given the strange suddenness of this particular event, there’s no reason to doubt that kangaroos are suffering. But, as we have seen in a few cases just in the two months this 100 Days project has been running, it might still pay to look at this report a little more closely, particularly since its bottom line seems to be that these kangaroos would not be suffering now had far more of them been ‘humanely’ shot, for profit, while there was still grass on the land, and that the fault for these painful deaths that graziers are supposedly finding hard to watch lies in poor, restrictive and wasteful ‘kangaroo management strategies’ on the part of the government. But, though I may well come back to it in a later post, it’s not that bottom line I want to talk about here.
Significantly – and although for copyright reasons I can’t reproduce them here – the story in The Land contains several photographs showing distressed kangaroos leaping back and forth along a high, presumably roo-proof fence, as if desperate to get to the other side. To a lay person it would appear that the kangaroos have been trapped by this fence.
Why are the kangaroos on this side of the kangaroo-proof fence, and why are they trying to get to the other? Presumably because the grass on this side of the fence has been eaten down so low that it can no longer sustain them, and they are hoping, desperately, that there might be better grazing on the other side. Presumably, too, they are in a paddock of some kind. Paddocks in this part of the country can be huge. And presumably that paddock was stocked with either sheep or cattle, but they, just as presumably, would have been moved on – the paddock would have been de-stocked – when the grass gave out. If so the ‘stock’ have been ‘fortunate’ to have been moved on, so as not to become, like the kangaroos, victims of the drought, though one must concede – with a drought anticipated – one of the places they might have been move on to was an abattoir.
Leaving the ’roos. Who cannot be herded.
One might then ask, why are the kangaroos still there? And how have they come to be there in the first place? It sounds as if it’s unlikely that they might have come there in the interim, i.e. after the ‘stock’ were moved away, for the grass. Have they been there all along? As I’ve said, paddocks in this region can be huge. Is this paddock, perhaps, part of their range? One scenario is that, nomadic creatures in the sense that they would normally move away in search of better forage, they have been trapped there by, say, the erection of new fencing. In good seasons – and this area has had a number of good seasons in recent years – this would not necessarily be a problem, although one must concede that in good seasons the number of kangaroos is likely to steadily increase, so that when a bad season comes along – let’s say with little or no rain, and record-high temperatures – the resultant suffering, if the kangaroos can’t go anywhere else, is going to be the more severe.
Could the kangaroos go somewhere else? Could they, if it’s the fences of this particular paddock that are the problem, have been allowed, by the landholder, into a different paddock? But then they might have eaten grass needed by his/her remaining 'stock'.
In my wild imagination – land of dreams! – I see a high gate in the roo-proof fence in these photographs, through which these panicked roos might be allowed to pass, into a large holding yard, in the fence of which there is a further gate which – this lock-pattern to keep dingoes out – can be opened after the first gate has been closed, so that the kangaroos can do as they have always done when grass becomes scarce in any one area, i.e. go looking for better grazing. But then the chances are that on the other side of the kangaroo-proof fence there is a property owned by some other landholder keen to protect (keep kangaroos from) what grass he/she has, and that freedom of movement – this kind of freedom, in any case – may not be an option.
So. Trapped. And in my darker imagination it’s a scenario being played out all over the region. A drought that is in part created – and its strange suddenness – by circumstance, by which you might read ‘the practices of the humans who live upon it’.
This continent, once the ancient home of nomadic tribes, both human and non-human, now chartered, owned…