THIS WINTER REALLY knocked the old ones. A relentlessly wet and cold winter in the range country surrounding the national capital. We hadn’t experienced weather like this in a decade. Most recently we were battling drought and then fires as elsewhere in Eastern Australia.
We share the land here with the kangaroos and wallabies, possums, birds, lizards, native woodlands species of a wide variety. A great delight to us humans to co-exist peacefully. Particularly in these locked away, worrying times with plague stalking the country. They are our friends and comfort here.
But the winter was hard. I wondered how the birds were surviving, somewhere on a branch or, if they were lucky, better off in a hollow. Pretty well, as far as I saw from habituated returnees who had adopted us.
I was told not to worry about the kangaroos I saw from the window hunched against the cold driving rain, backs bent and heads bowed. Their kind had survived for thousands of years in all weather conditions. Yes but, what about these individuals in this winter and the threat of pneumonia that does afflict them?
The first bad news came on a Monday morning from a friend and neighbour who had been scanning the neighbourhood facebook chat site (hub). ‘Blondie’ had been found dead.
Blondie, possibly third generation female white kangaroo who lived with the residents of the next door rural residential street, was a local icon, who attracted love and attention whenever she was featured publicly. Her mother, also white, was named ‘Blondie’ by the then owner of my neighouring property, 20 years ago. Every long-term resident on the street knew and looked out for the succession of white kangaroos whose offspring were the normal grey brown colours, except during a few years, the one white outlier. Often they grazed on the road verge. As far as anyone knows, now there are no more whites.
When this aged Blondie died a few weeks ago, the outpouring of human love and memory on the facebook hub was truly moving.
Over at our place, my ‘Old Mum’ who died in the same week, was not a neighbourhood icon, just a friend to us, the matriarch of our local mob. Close to the house had become a resting place and nursery. The main image of this story is of Old Mum and her last joey. (MAIN IMAGE: Andrea Hylands)
She had taught several generations — her daughter, and her granddaughter (my favourite Sweetie) plus other mothers with joeys and her son who refused to move out, big baby Huey — that our property was a safe haven. A place without danger (particularly with no dogs on the place) where you could reliably get a supplementary feed of hay in bad times like the recent drought and now in the relentless wet times. This was a help to keep up the energy to resist the elements. In the hardest times the big boys came in too.
I saw her last hunched against the rain on our front lawn, her last joey, whom we had named Jojo, hunched beside her facing the other direction. I still regret that I did not right then offer her a distracting, warming treat of her favourite kibble instead of a bit of hay.
They both disappeared thereafter. This itself was not so unusual. Our home mob moves around, grazing at different sites between us and the near neighbours, never set-grazing one area. True conservationists.
I had started to worry about them when the bad news came. Old Mum had collapsed at my downhill neighbours’ place. New residents, who had not yet learned all the native animals and their places and patterns on our hill, kindly called a wildlife rescue organisation.
The home mob and Jojo were gathered around Old Mum. A volunteer came in, immediately had Old Mum euthanased (shot) and took Jojo. The volunteer was able to catch this healthy joey because he was so tame and habituated thanks to his mother.
Sad at the double loss, we argued unsuccessfully for returning Jojo to his secure place and aunties in the mob. Here was an involuntary removal to institutional care, seemingly not yet trusting in co-existence, animal communities or the goodwill of neighbours. What happens around the time of his ‘release’ may still be negotiated.
Back here, we have been offered closer bonds in the bird community. A couple of Rosellas. One in particular whistles from the branches and then hops around, interacting from the ground and from nearby furniture. Hello yourself! A treat is OK too. They seem to have survived the storms so far. We keep fingers crossed.
There is comfort too in the frequent appearance of a different joey to talk to, about the same size as the lost one, who has been appearing on the lawn with her mother who has another in the pouch. Sweetie and her mum seem to be well and I talk to them too. (It’s easy to see that macropods, maybe birds too, recognise us by voice more than appearance).
Yes, life goes on, but we won’t forget. Rest in peace our dearly departed kangaroo mothers, Blondie and Old Mum, and thank you for the trust and friendship.
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