Conservation or the Art of Dodging Roadkill

(The following article originally appeared on a web publication resource and its inclusion here is solely for light entertainment).


It’s a 15,000km long slaughterhouse upon which lays a trail of carnage as long as the history of the automobile. Known as Highway 1 this bitumen ring road circumnavigates the great Australian island continent and has killed more native animals, feral pests and valuable livestock than the bubonic plague killed Europeans.


And the descendants of these Europeans, on first stepping ashore and threading the endless Australian roads as tourists, are often shocked at the level of beast versus bus incidents that stain the bitumen blacktop.

Their African and American counterparts are more hardened to the realities of wildlife and wild-death on these arteries of the modern world and get on with much more important activities like seeing what all these animals actually taste like.


Because it’s true, – apart from cattle, camels and emus Australians not only kill thousands of kangaroos in car clashes some actually eat their own national symbol as well. For some it’s as crude as watching a Canadian sit down and tuck into a Beaver or a Croatian sauté a Dalmatian - but many locals still insist that ‘Roo’ is one of the leanest and tastiest red meats available.


One brigade who heroically wave the humanitarian flag in protest at the treatment of the humble kangaroo are the well intentioned folk worried that Macropus fuliginosus or Macropus giganteus is about to suffer the fate of so many other species and succumb to extinction.


'No Suck Luck' is the cry from a million farmers, graziers, pastoralists and station owners for whom this ‘big red grass hopper‘ has been an agricultural nightmare from the days of colonization.


For it is the man and woman on the land, the farmer and stockman - the people who dig the wells that provide the water to this dry environment who are responsible for an inflated kangaroo population.


These people understand that by providing life sustaining water to the cattle and sheep they muster they inadvertently supply a lifeline to their biggest competitor – the grass eating native animals - that can now inhabitant previously unliveable regions because of a supply of new water.


Highway 1 is the world’s longest highway - a never ending circuit that passes through every type of grazing land Australia has to offer. From the lush green pastures of the south, to the dry arid deserts of the centre and the tropical northern savannah - man has created a landscape capable of sustaining animals in numbers greater than nature ever intended.

The humble kangaroo is a powerful jumper and Australian farming will never be able to financially construct the sort of fencing required to harness his wanderings – which by and large are at dawn and dusk - in search of water. Many of the northern cattle stations are so large it is not possible to fence them at all and livestock and native fauna alike share the snaking farm road that is Highway 1.


The very nature of modern road construction ensures that the highways remain a natural attraction for any animal searching for fresh fodder or a pool to drink from. The regularly graded gravel verges and gullies contain a diverse variety of bush and crop seed all laying dormant waiting for any moisture that diverts from the road. Naturally turned and cultivated by the machinations of road maintenance machinery they spring to life at the hint of rain and provide fresh green sprouts in areas that can often only provide dry scrub.

The remnants of any water runoff will usually lie under the bridges of small creek crossings – providing not only a much needed drink but also a shady refuge under the road to enjoy it.


So all in all Australia, the driest inhabited continent, has in its endeavours to farm this arid land, ensured the future of the kangaroo, dingo and emu by providing a permanent watering hole every 10 square kilometres. And the introduced species of rabbit, camel, fox sheep and cow all survive alongside them.


So as you meander along Highway 1 vigilantly on the lookout for a straying cow, hopping kangaroo or kamikaze emu be reminded that if you accidently mow one down you have not contributed to the demise of a species, but rather engaged in a necessary culling program – brought about naturally, as a result of planting a crop alongside a national highway system.


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