Some people are not at home with animals, especially wildlife, but I believe that this is mostly out of unfamiliarity and fear. When you’re about it a lot, you tend to appreciate the exposure.
As a young 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 for eating all the crops.
Living on a tropical island in North Queensland for a few years left me regularly exposed to green tree snakes and pythons, neither of which can be life threatening. The tree snakes wound their way up through the forest trees at all kinds of angles. I found them graceful. The pythons were enormous. Walking island paths with friends late at night, it was not unusual to have to await a python to finish crossing the road in front of us, and being unable to see either end. I grew to love them, even 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 huge goanna as we unknowingly ventured too close to her home. A good reminder that most of us share this Earth.
In the Northern Territory, there was no swimming in the McArthur River near Borroloola because of crocs. It’s wild country up there. One of my tasks at a nearby hotel, which was really more like a bush camp, and a rough one at that, was to remove the green tree frogs from the cistern of the bathrooms every day. After doing this once and seeing them all back the following day, I realised what a futile effort it was, so left them in peace. They simply hung on with their webbed feet when the water was flushed down to the loo.
Perth attracted its sunsets over the Indian Ocean and with that, dolphins galore. Whales were plentiful during the right season. It was understandably beautiful.
While living up in the Gold Coast hinterlands, there were kookaburras landing on the veranda each day, in addition to 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 enjoy watching lizards.
Among the most prolific homes for wildlife though was from the bush in Northern NSW. Koalas were so abundant that you could walk out the back door and search up in the trees, with a good probability of seeing one, or standing on the front veranda and carrying a photo of one not far away. However while it was quite beautiful and intimate to be able to have koalas living so nearby, there is nothing quiet or gentle about their lovemaking. What a racket they make.
This home also had a surplus of lizards and snakes. After being there for over a year and imagining there was a snake in a little alcove near the door, I came to finally meet this monster one morning as I was heading off to work. Down she slid on the veranda and was enormous, majestically so. We arrived to see her often then.
One of my favourite swimming spots is a river about 30 minutes from Tamworth. This place has 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 often out there alone, I managed to watch them a couple of times at close range. I felt quite special for such a gift.
Sadly lots of people only see wildlife in zoos or as road kill, where kangaroos, wallabies or wombats have ventured onto the roads and been hit by a vehicle. Wombats do not stand a chance really, as they slowly waddle across. My uncle once had a wombat. She was known as Wendy the wombat. As an adult Wendy took herself off to live in the nearby bush. But returned a few years later to say hello with her entire family, then toddled off back to the bush. What a gorgeous 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 was thrown out of its pouch, while still an embryo actually, no fur yet covering its little body.
I do see a lot of live wallabies here too though thankfully. 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, only a few metres away. They are quite gentle, the red-bellies, though still not to be trifled with because of their venom.
I’ve written more about possums in my article ‘Furry Friends’. I love the cheeky things.
Green frogs leave their droppings on my veranda some nights and as I write this, two baby ones are on the window.
Lizards hang out in the sun on the rickety bridge across the creek and hide underneath whenever we drive it over.
Among the most effective documentaries I’ve ever seen is called Earthlings and is available online. It is incredibly confronting as it seems at man’s dependence on the animal world for food, clothes, entertainment and research. Yet despite the tragic reality of what you may view, it is also a gorgeous film in its own way since 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 these creatures. It’s their home too. Wildlife is not to be feared, but respected.
When I look out the window here in a wallaby on the drive, frogs on the window and lizards down on the bridge, I’m in great company.
Yes, I am blessed. All of us are.