Cashbook and Claypan
Birdsville or Bust
East From Oodna
Alive in the Dead Heart
B-line for Birdsville
Animal Pests Bearing Down on the Simpson Desert
Camels the Most Adaptable of Pests
"Early Australian settlers simply released unwanted domestic animals into the bush believing that they would die of starvation or be eaten by aborigines. Most survived and adapted to the country. Feral cats, dogs, cattle, buffalo, horses, goats, camels, donkeys, pigs and deer are in abundance."Generally, all but the camels steer clear of the Simpson. RSPCA Australia President Hugh J Wirth AM, is resolute in encouraging Australians to exercise greater concern for reasons other than cruelty to animals. In his paper "Animal Welfare in Australia" he warns,
"Hard-hoofed animals do massive damage to the fragile soils of the arid zones. Feral animals such as pigs are highly dangerous to both humans and other animals."
Donkeys a Menace at Dalhousie Springs
In particular, donkeys and horses graze heavily on certain plant species favoured by other animals, accentuating the growth of the less-palatable plants left, which in turn affects the balance of the available food remaining and its ability to support significant indigenous animal populations. Introduced out of the saddlebags of the cameldrivers, noxious weeds such as ruby dock came into the centre of Australia and further provided shelter and comfort for many of the other animal pests that are now out of control. Illustrative of the frustrations of Australians in going feral on pests is the plaintive cry : "I gave the mouse a hole, and she is become my heir." - anon.
Thommo Cares For His Captive Brumby Foal
Station girl Mrs A.M. Duncan-Kemp grew up on Mooraberrie, in her words a "pocket handkerchief" cattle and sheep property in the southwest corner of Queensland and less than 100km due north of Haddon Corner. Writing in her book "Our Channel Country" (Angus & Robertson 1961) she delights in describing the approach of brumbies thus :
"... a lovely, urgent, barbaric sound. Louder, louder it came straight for the water ... the drumming of the hooves came towards us from somewhere behind the far slope. Out of the mist of the urgent drumming there was thrown up a clear, loud neigh, a sound that floated like a silver trumpet-call far over range and flat. A mob of forty wild horses racing light-footed as if they had never known walking, the rythym of their speed moving in waves across their shining flanks, charged over the crest and made for the waterhole."
Poor Prospects For the Australian Outback
And it is not only the recent human arrivals wreaking destruction on our wide, brown land. Australia's native pests have a unenviable record of eating bare the countryside, as attributed to the rats of Birdsville by Mona Henry in her account of life as a Channel Country nursing sister "From the City to the Sandhills of Birdsville" (CopyRight Publishing Brisbane 1994) :
"What havoc they wrought during their stay! What devastation they left in their wake! The channels of the Diamantina, once covered with lush, green herbage, were bare, even the roots of the hardy drought-resisting plants being destroyed. The rat plague was partially responsible for the heavy stock losses during the drought which followed their departure."The feral cat, which lives off other animals and birds, has drastically decimated native fauna in the Australian bush and a commonplace sight at night in many a tree is the glowing eyes of thirty or forty cats. The paucity of human resources and the general lack of concern combined with the huge area occupied by feral animals is a virtual guarantee that the current degradation of the land, the environment and human and animal life will continue unchecked in Australia.
Oldtimer's Camel Team on the Finke
Seasoned commercial expeditioners are scornful of these camel cowboys and are becoming vocal in their demands for a code of ethics that could rein in their activities and are calling for hefty fines for offenders. Legitimate operators are concerned that recent publicity given to camel racing will attract more fools trying to buy camels and reflect unfairly upon their own responsible and well-prepared enterprises.
Brumbies Prosper on Outback Cattle Stations
So wrote A.B.(Banjo) Paterson, renowned author of "The Man from Snowy River" over a hundred years ago. Today, he might reflect and change his opinion. While the "places" may still be few in number, those places that have them have no shortage of brumbies. Another surviving icon of the Australian outback that attracts the admiration of half the population and yet drives the other half to distraction, is the dingo - vilified on the one hand and deified on the other. Scientists have recently made the remarkable discovery that dingos keep foxes and cats under control and thus save the native animals that have no trouble subsisting with dingos. Eric Rolls writes (SMH 25/9/94):
"Davenport Downs on the Diamantina River in western Queensland is the last area in Australia where there are thousands of bilbies. It is a huge cattle-fattening run. The owners have never bred cattle there. So, since there are no calves to be killed by dingos, the company managers have never killed them. Certainly dingos eat bilbies but they cannot go down burrows after them like foxes and cats. Dingos keep foxes and cats out, both by eating them and threatening them."
Victorian Paddock Where Rabbits Were First Released
A short twenty years later, the Raglass Bros found the blanket had reached Coopers Creek and by 1886 a vermin fence was first constructed between South Australia and Queensland in the hope it might keep the rabbit plague out of Queensland. The fence became heavily sanded over and was rebuilt again and again until it was finally realised that the costly structure merely maintained an equal number of rabbits on either side of it.
Surprisingly, the dingo was little help in reducing the rabbit numbers for they quickly discovered rabbit pelts were not digestible, indeed many less-prudent dingos perished after satisfying their hunger on vulnerable rabbits. Although the farming community is generally anti-dingo due to regular stock losses, a great many Australians do not classify the dingo as an introduced pest at all, even though its presence on this continent for 10,000 years has been relatively recent. If encouraged to do so, the dingo certainly would curtail the population of feral goats, pigs, foxes and cats without affecting too much its fellow-native emu and kangaroo numbers.
||Try the "with Malice a'Forecourt?" link and read what they did|
|Alive in the
||Thommo's Desert Report||The BeeGees Page|
|Coles Express Picks On a Pensioner||The Kid From Towra Point|
|Bulldozing a Desert||Trans National Causeway|
|Signwriter for the Simpson||The Long Haul|
|Simpson Desert Birdlife||French Line Circa 1979|
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