Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The yellow footed rock wallaby

has been saved from the brink of extinction. 
I rarely know much about these things. I just look at the animal and think how sad it would be to lose it. I never expect to play a practical part in their survival.
There is however a piece in this morning's paper about the animals and how they have been saved. It does not mention one of the chief people responsible for their survival - the woman who was once our local vet. She is still missed by many of us.
Peg, as we called her, lived a couple of streets away. She had a large property, something she needed because she kept many native animals on it. They were animals that were, for one reason or another, unable to be returned to their natural place in the wild. She cared for them as if they were her children. She also educated children (and many adults) about their care.
Middle Cat and I knew her well. Our cats went to visit on occasion but we also wandered in and out with greens we had grown for the animals and fruit for both Peg and the animals. We would help with the feeding and the cleaning. We took overseas visitors to meet her because we knew she would give time to answer their questions. When my Chinese goddaughter came to visit, aged 8, Peg stood there and patiently answered every question. She let her hold the animals that were able to be held and encouraged her to feed almonds to the kangaroos and fruit to the possum. It was the highlight of my goddaughter's visit. Something she still talks about now she is training to be a doctor.
But it was the little yellow footed rock wallabies that I still remember. They arrived one day in a little group. I went up with a load of spinach for the animals and Peg said, "Come and have a look at these." 
There they were in a special enclosure Peg had made for them with help from the couple who came in each day. It was as natural as she could make it.
"The zoo has sent them over to me."
She didn't need to say any more. The zoo would only have asked her to look after them if they thought she had more chance than they did of saving them.
If animals have those sort of emotions they did not look happy. They looked - frightened? 
It took Peg months of careful observing, of cautious feeding, of making sure visitors did not get at all close. She monitored their health and kept meticulous records. On several occasions she told me, "Come with me and don't talk - just move slowly. Hold this..."
Then, one afternoon, she said with hope in her voice, "I think we might have a mother in there."
There were more weeks of anxious waiting. Peg wasn't excited, just hopeful. 
I took up more greens one day and Peg looked me up and down and said, "Come. I need some help - quietly."
We went into the enclosure and, very carefully, she caught the mother-to-be. She passed her over to me and then proceeded to examine it swiftly but gently.
I held the quivering bundle of warm fur while I sat on the tree stump in the enclosure. The little thing looked at me and then seemed to snuggle in for a moment. It was an extraordinary feeling. It almost seemed as if this little endangered animal was saying, "I trust her so I will trust you."
Then, on an abrupt nod from Peg, I put the little animal down and it hopped off slowly - leaving me quivering.
And yes, there were young and they survived. There have been more young since. They are back from the brink of extinction even if they have a way to go yet.
And I had the extraordinary good fortune, for a brief moment in time, to hold an animal we nearly lost forever.  I hope they acknowledge the part Peg played in saving them.

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