The man forging up the path through the snow gums of the ACT’s Namadgi National Park gestured excitedly. “Kangaroos – over there!”
I detected an Edinburgh accent. The scenery too, was Scottish. The walker agreed. “Aye, it’s like Scotland – with kangaroos!”
We are often told that this is the lucky country and I suggest that the wildlife – especially kangaroos – is one of the reasons why.
Found only in Australia, Papua New Guinea and nearby islands, kangaroos are all over. True, we don’t see them bounding past the Opera House but not far away in the Windsor area, Cattai National Park is reliable for the large Eastern Greys, ideal for showing to those overseas relatives.
However, tourists seem to think that a kangaroo is a kangaroo and a wallaby is a wallaby and that’s all. What they often don’t know is that, including the smaller rat-kangaroos, there are well over 40 different species.
I’ve encountered kangaroos throughout the continent: rock wallabies in Alice Springs, tree kangaroos near Cairns, Bennett’s wallabies and red-necked pademelons in Tasmania, wallaroos near Mudgee, swamp wallabies in Ku ring gai Chase National Park, and a pure white (albino) Eastern Grey near Cowra, standing out on a nearby hill like a beacon.
Once when I was near Albany in WA, I rose before dawn to drive north looking for the bird species which are only found in that part of the country. But Western Grey kangaroos were everywhere. Indeed they could be seen every few metres, such was the density.
The creatures insisted on jumping across the road; before me, behind me and even at me! Alarmed, I slowed to a crawl but it was still a heart-banging experience so I pulled over for a break. Kangaroos are less active during the heat of the day and I knew that they would eventually quieten down. I then vowed that when in country areas, I’d never again drive at dawn, dusk or after dark again. A promise I’ve kept.