On the topic of ‘animals’

Watching the sunset at Stokes Lookout

We have just left the Flinders Ranges National Park – the most inland either of us have ever travelled. Our lack of forward planning caught up with us on Monday when we stopped at a Visitors Centre where we were informed that the park was closed until Thursday, to shoot feral goats of all things! Apparently they will eat anything, and the rock wallabies numbers have dwindled with the goats about so they have eradicated nearly 10,000 of them in these kinds of operations over the last few months. As an aside, we did see some rock wallabies on a drive through Brachina Gorge. However they were having some ‘sexy time’, and I got the impression that the female rock wallaby was trying to say ‘no’ and the male wallaby was not interested in listening because she kept trying to run away! 

Anyway we decided then that we may as well stay for the week and booked ourselves into a caravan park that overlooks the outside of the Wilpena Pound. It is exposed, dry and hot – but the scenery is pretty magical. Also, it has a pool. 

Sunset at our camp site at Rawnsley Park Station

Yesterday we were trying to decide on a walk, with Jason angling for the walked listed as ‘difficult’ up Mt Olsen Bagge. I figured we’d done a few ‘moderate’ walks thus far without too much trouble, so figured it was time to step up to the next challenge. It was around 7km, but a lot of the climbing. It was one of those walks where as you are walking down, you keep coming across what I like to call death drops, where you can’t see the path down due to how steep it is, and you think ‘how the hell did I get up here??’ It was bloody hard, but I only thought about giving up once and that was with about 200 metres to go so I pushed on to the top. The views were well worth the pain and we were even greeted by a wedge tailed eagle soaring and diving through the air, it was fantastic! 

At the summit of Mt. Olsen Bagge

During the climb we had stopped for a quick drink break when all of a sudden a ‘should have been killed in Bounceback operation’ feral goat came charging down the path, stopping when he saw us. My encounters with unpredictable animals thus far have gone something like this:

Sarah shits herself, animals shits itself. Both stand still for several seconds anticipating the others next move. Animal runs away. 

So I’m becoming less and less anxious when I come across wild animals (although I’m sure Jason has video evidence of the contrary). Idiot humans who allow their dogs to be off lead at camp sites and beaches who then charge at you from long distances whilst barking and gnashing teeth, well that’s another story. That’s probably happened about five times so far on this trip and while these morons probably think their dog is harmless (they have never been concerned enough to actually do anything about it), how am I to know that and why should I be made to feel threatened by someone’s dog in a public space? But I digress.

What I am learning is that animals want about as much to do with me as I want to do with them as far as interactions go. That is, none. I’m happy looking from afar and watching them do their thing, but I don’t need to get up in their face and start treating them like a pet. I saw such an interaction once when a woman tried to feed a monkey at a national park in China, it did not end well. 

When we went to Kangaroo Island and saw the sea lion colony at Seal Bay, the guide who took us down on the beach to see them asked us to keep a good distance from them and not to interfere with the natural interactions they have within their species. Even the researchers who tag them apparently do so while they’re sleeping with a long rod that they barely feel so the sea lions patterns of behavior aren’t disrupted. 

Sea lion cubs fighting whilst Mum is like ‘Whatevs’

It raises an interesting question that I’ve been pondering the last week. Yes humans and animals must coexist but is it good for the animals’ natural patterns of behavior to have human interactions forced upon them (such as swimming with dolphins, seals, whale sharks etc)? Should we just allow wild animals to be wild? Are their close interactions with us damaging to their wellbeing or survival? 

I don’t have any answers but I like the idea personally of watching from afar and not interfering with ‘the natural way of things’. 

The Prairie Hotel, Parachilna

As an aside, we went to the Prairie hotel in Parachilna as Jason wanted to try their famed feral meats. He had an emu burger (there was also goat, camel and Kangaroo on the menu). I was going to try one, rationalizing in my head that if it’s feral then it’s sustainable eating. I also figured upon starting this trip that I would probably resort to meat eating occasionally when there was a lack of any other option. But I just don’t find meat appealing in the slightest anymore – the thought of ordering it grossed me out, so I guess my resolve around meat eating hasn’t weakened after all! 

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