The Kangaroos of Kangaroo Island

It is not a small island, 90 miles long and up to 40 miles wide. It had been a scorching summer. The lightning struck on December 20th 2019 and started fires on the North Eastern part of the island. For the next two months flames consumed well over half the island.

Two people tragically died. But that was not the main news. The headlines were reserved for the huge amount of livestock and wild animals that died. It is estimated that something like 30,000 kangaroos and 40,000 koalas were burned to death.That was somewhere between 40 and 50% of the kangaroo population and 60 to 80% of the koalas.

The island was named Kangaroo Island by explorer Mathew Flinders who found himself washed up on its shores in 1802. There wasn’t a single inhabitant at that time but it was was teaming with kangaroos. Today there are just 4,500 inhabitants, many more koalas and tens of thousands of kangaroos.

The ship is stopping there for a day. We have seen photos and the island looks beautiful

But global warming has had its affect here just as it has in so many parts of the world. The landscape no longer looks quite the same

Hertz has an office here, a tiny rather untidy room down a dingy corridor in a building near the dock. We open the wooden door and are greeted by a desk strewn with paper work, a calendar on the wall open at February and a very excited jack russell terrier who leaps up at us, tail wagging and tongue hanging out, and then makes a beeline for the open door and freedom. A voice from somewhere in the building yells

“Don’t let the dog out”.

Too late! But we manage to grab it before it reaches the front door. I pick it up and return it to the office, tail still wagging, tongue still hanging out (the dog’s not mine).

We find the Hertz representative round the side of the building washing a car. She is a well fed jolly woman in her thirties, wearing a brightly coloured loose fitting dress and a big smile. If she had a tail it would be wagging. She chats away telling us all the places we should visit, an impossibly long list considering we only have about six hours. We ask her where we should go to find kangaroos. She tells us to just drive along any road and there will be dead ones everywhere, killed by the huge trucks that now drive along the roads.

The roads are long and straight with virtually no traffic but they are indeed littered with dead kangaroos, as well as the smaller wallabies. The carcasses are in various states of decay, crows tearing at their flesh. It is heartbreaking. Traffic is so light that the roos have never learned any road sense.

We drive for an hour before we spot some live ones. They are much bigger than I imagined and very muscular.

They are nervous of our approach. Some stand and stare, others make a run for it.

There are signs of the fire everywhere. We drive along roads very much like the one pictured at the top of this blog. The burned out trees still stand in a grim reminder of what was. But nature will not be defeated. Fires are like a reset button. Signs of new growth are everywhere. Forests of green now lie beneath the old burned trees, just a few inches high today but a hopeful sign of what will be.

Now it is time to search for koalas………………………..

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