Saturday, September 30, 2006

The latest threat to wildlife

A strange thing happened this morning. I woke up before sunrise and these cows (shown here after the event, looking like they're still in shock)...

...seemed to be fighting. Some were prancing around and pushing each other, and all were making a really loud noise, setting off answering bellows from other cows in neighbouring paddocks.

Then from the middle of the jostling herd appeared a small animal, close to the ground, furry, not moving much. The cows made way for it to depart, but then followed and nudged at it with their noses, and it looked like one of them even kicked it. I couldn't see what the little creature was, though - a dog? a cat? a very fat fox?

Just as I was preparing to run out and save it, it made a movement like that of a rabbit. Huh? There are lots of rabbits around here, but this one looked quite incredibly big, and slow, and I've never seen cows look twice at them, let alone congregate around one.

Then suddenly the "rabbit" found its feet and raced away in ungainly fashion - under the fence, across the lawn and... umm, what? ... straight up a tree!

Are you putting two and two together here? Rabbits do not climb trees. And they don't run in ungainly fashion, either. Here are the marks the climbing creature left on the bark as it clawed its way up the trunk of this camphor laurel tree:

And here is the thing seen from a distance - a great distance, because that tree is big. Look for a dark shape in the middle of the shot:

And now, finally, as close as I could get and it's still a crappy shot, sorry. Click on it for a larger version. I hope you can see a grey furry face looking to the left, its left ear seen at top-right of its head:

A koala! In a camphor laurel tree!** After it was practically mauled by a herd of cows!


If the poor thing was heading towards the eucalypts nearby (shown in the background of that vegie garden/rain photo the other day) it's nearly home free. There are no dangers between where it is and where it needs to go, so it can probably relax until sundown. I'm guessing it'll be relaxing there anyway, wherever it was headed (koalas sleep a lot) but let's hope it doesn't have to retrace its steps across the cows' paddock, which is what it will have to do if it's trying to get to eucalypts on other properties. Cross-country travel is probably always difficult for koalas, threatened by cars, dogs, cats, and foxes. But who knew they also have to worry about cows??

**As far as I know, koalas only live in and eat the leaves of eucalypts. A camphor laurel would be foreign territory.