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Kangaroos, Koalas and Blackberries

Nine kangaroos. Four koalas. Heaps of blackberries.

Yesterday, we had a lovely time picking blueberries and enjoying a barbie at one of my advisor’s homes. We rode our bikes over for the barbie, and went through Belair National Park. Belair would perhaps be equivalent to one of the smaller properties the National Park Service owns in the US—one you wouldn’t have to pay to get into. Perhaps Marsh-Billings/Mt. Tom is a good comparison. Anyways, it’s not a huge wilderness area. But, if you are in the park in the earlier morning or later afternoon, you’ll almost certainly see kangaroos. We in fact saw nine on our ride home. It was so exciting. I can’t really believe these creatures survived through evolution pressures. The way they move is so unlike any other animal I have ever seen. It looks a little painful because they’re so hunched over. And, it really seems like they should put their hands down to help themselves along. But they don’t need to because their legs are so powerful and bouncy. And, they have this huge tail which keeps them from falling forward. They’re really something. I guess kangaroos (and perhaps koalas, too) are good examples of geographic isolation (or some concept of evolution that you bio people probably know by name.)

Kangaroos are like deer. They taste like deer. They are hazardous for cars like deer. They are hunted like deer except that not just anyone can shoot a kangaroo. You have to be a commercial kangaroo hunter. Also, if you happen to run into one with your car and kill it, you are not allowed to take it home with you for dinner. If you do hit a kangaroo with your car, you’re supposed to look around for joeys and take them to a rescue center if you find them. You are not supposed to take the kangaroo home and eat it.

Although it seems a little strange, many scientists here are encouraging people to eat kangaroos, and for farmers to switch from cows to kangaroos because they do not release methane, and are much better in terms of greenhouse gas production. We’ve decided that kangaroo is the main meat that we’ll eat here. There’s a store in the Central Market called Wild Oz. It sells all sorts of wild animal meat, including camel, crocodile, wild goat and kangaroo. I think we’re going to have to branch out and try some camel next. And, we might start substituting crocodile for our chicken dishes because it, well, tastes like chicken. Here’s an interesting article on kangaroos, camels and cows, and the methane they produce.

But, back to the blackberries. They are a weed here. I am having a hard time understanding how blackberries are a weed in a place that receives so little rain. Ryan explained that they have very deep roots and so can get down to the water. But still. I’m used to picking blackberries in Vermont, where there’s heaps of water, and it still seems odd to me that there are amazingly tasty blackberries growing here. There’s actually some sort of discussion about whether they should try to eradicate them or not. They’re invasive, but they grow well, hold the soil in place, provide habitat for lots of birds, like fairy wrens, and other smaller mammals, and they produce some very tasty berries. Of course, the thorns here are sharper than in Vermont. That’s par for the course in Australia, though. We’ve been told that every (living) thing here is just a little bit nastier than what we’re used to back home.

The whole point of picking blackberries was so we could make a cobbler. We brought our favorite cobbler recipe over (thanks, Aunt Judy!), and wowed everyone with a delicious cobbler. We did in fact eat kangaroo steaks and sausages for dinner. FYI: The trick to cooking kangaroo is hot and fast. It almost felt like we were back in Vermont with hot berry picking, delicious cobbler, and venison-like meat—but I was quickly reminded of our new locale when we saw a koala in a tree. We actually heard it—they sort of make a purring/grunting sound. They’re exciting to see, but not quite as exciting to watch as kangaroos because they mostly eat, sleep and poop. Hopefully I’ll see one in action at some point, but so far, they’ve really just been lumps up in the trees.


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