Eulogy for Extinct Species in Australia

by Julia Peddie

White man (n.) Description: Killer.
Boom Boom Boom. Guns used with greed and fear. Killed the black man, who was not considered a man, as this land was declared Terra Nullius – an uninhabited island. Disease, Missionaries and Assimilation programs, removed tribes from their ‘Country’, stole their children away and stripped the longest living culture on Earth to a tiny fragment of its former self. Lost was Culture. Songs, ceremonies, stories, paintings, lives, animal totems and over 700 languages were made extinct, through arrogance, greed and ignorance. It only took 150 years to exterminate the Tasmanian aborigines, while languages and culture on the mainland were being rapidly whittled away. The Dreamtime drifts on, untended by the aboriginal custodians, embedded in the land, impressions of ancient languages, of songs, of ceremony haunting a monumental landscape.
How many of the 23 birds, 4 frogs, and 27 mammal species known to have become extinct since European settlement of Australia, were animal totems of the aborigines? The three great human-introduced killer species: the European rabbit, the European Red Fox, and the domestic cat assisted further extinctions, not to mention extensive land-clearing, whereby people could not purchase land without clearing every tree and bush home of birds and tiny marsupials. Further poisoning of river systems, and destruction of ecosystems, as rivers continue to be sucked dry by industrial farming and over-distributed water licences. Then there’s the experiment of the Cane Toad, recently introduced to maintain another introduced species, spreading its poisonous skin into Arnhem land, threatening native species that have thus far managed to avoid the Invaders.
How I would have loved to have seen a Dwarf Emu, a Tasmanian Emu or The Gastric-brooding Frog, a Harlequin Lizard (Tasmania, again) or the Western Koala (boo hoo). Not to mention various Bettongs, Bandicoots, Brushtails, Lesser Bilby, Bats or the Broad faced Potoroo, Desert-Rat Kangaroo, many varieties of Wallabys, and lots more Native Mice and Rats. Let us mourn the Lake Pedder Earthworm.
And of course the Tassi Tiger (although myth has it he still secretly exists in the Wilderness of Tasmania.)
In the meantime, in the Dreamtime, 4 mammals, 6 birds, 2 reptiles, 3 fishes and 5 other species are listed as critically endangered. The Hairy Nosed Wombat is hanging on to existence with a few individuals fenced in a tiny Queensland forest. Many other birds, fish, frogs, insects, invertebrates and mammals are headed for the same fate, including the Grey Nurse Shark. …Then there’s the Tassi Devil and the common Koala who’s numbers are falling through disease.
The Invaders of Australia – my ancestors, should hang our heads in shame.

Julia Peddie

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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