|Kangaroos on the school oval - a potential road risk for all of us (and especially them!)|
My topic this time is the unbelievable sadness I feel when I see roadkill.
I'm a crazy cat-lady, an animal lover and a campaigner for animal rights. I'm also getting older, and the older I get, the more upset I am by some things. One of these things is roadkill.
It's always upset me to see the remains of beautiful animals by the roadside. As a motorcyclist I have always been extremely aware of the likelihood of animals leaping out in front of me, because that could spell disaster or death for me as well as for the animal. As a car driver I am more sheltered from that fear, which is a Very Bad Thing as far as I'm concerned. People who've never ridden a motorcycle have ALWAYS been sheltered from that fear.
The reality for Aussie car drivers is that if they hit an animal, their likeliest worst case scenario is a hefty bill for panel-beating (and perhaps towing) . For most drivers it will mean some inconvenience and a minor insurance claim.
Between Cooma and Canberra at the moment there must be a LOT of tow-truck operators and a shitload of panel-beaters making a SHITLOAD of money!
On a return trip to Canberra yesterday I was saddened - no, saddened isn't strong enough.... horrified? devastated? shattered? to see roadkill about every 50 metres on the Monaro Highway between Cooma and Canberra. Wombats, foxes, little roos, medium roos, giant roos with hands the size of mine, their clawed fingers splayed...
Ultimately, though, what I saw wasn't just corpses of animals twisted into the undignified shapes of sudden, violent death. It wasn't the misery of motorists who'd totalled their cars whacking them. I felt a horrible sort of vicarious pain.
Sometimes I think I must be going mad - but what I saw when I saw the contorted wreckage of vibrant native wildlife (and the odd introduced fox!) was suffering: awful, lonely, bellies-exposed suffering in the depths of winter. Sad, lonely, uncomforted deaths, unrecorded and unreported. No ambulance comes to help you. Nobody sits with you and holds you till the ambulance or the Grim
Reaper arrives. Nobody cares. They care instead about the damage you may have done to their car or truck as they sped to the ski-fields, or home. You are the cause of their misery; their collateral damage.
Well, I care.
I spent a good part of my drive yesterday in tears, passing roo after roo after roo. I couldn't turn off the thoughts I had of their final moments - or hours. In shock, cold, hurting - how long did they have to wait for Death to end their pain? How many more cars and trucks and bikes sped past their dying selves, oblivious as they bled out or died in agony? Did they have a mate or a family feeling their absence but not understanding it?
Look, I know that roos have zero road sense. They're not very bright. They're sort of like enormous, muscular jumping sheep. But still...they are beautiful, graceful, wonderful living creatures with their own mob, their family. No policeman will ever knock at their doors to explain why they haven't come home. No ceremonies will be held to mourn their passing. There's just a sort of blank and uncomprehending void.
I could say 'well, that's Nature, it's how it works, it's only humans who get hung up on that sort of shit' except for this - it's us humans who are CAUSING this unbelievable amount of suffering and death. And we do it without a second thought. Mostly.
Several years ago I was on that Cooma-Canberra highway and I passed the corpse of a very large kangaroo. Its enormous hind legs, stiffened in rigor mortis, were sticking up in the air, and over the frame they created was draped a checked blanket.
I cried and cried. To me, that checked blanket meant that somebody had noticed. Somebody had cared. Somebody had tried to make that poor dying roo's passing more comfortable somehow. It was naive, but it was beautiful in such an incredibly sad way.
Had the blanket-owner been the killer or a compassionate passer-by? Had they been unable to put the roo out of its dying misery/pain*, and only been able to offer it warmth as its life ebbed away?
On my drive yesterday I came to the Imlay Road at "Rooicide" time. Late afternoon with the light about to start failing. After losing count of the numbers of roo corpses earlier in the day I was driving with a heightened awareness of roadside critters, especially at that late-afternoon time.
I noticed eight little wallabies, three kangaroos, a wedge-tailed eagle and two lyrebirds as I drove that road. None jumped in front of me, but I was very aware of them, and made sure I slowed down as soon as I was aware of them.
Drivers - please, PLEASE be careful - and remember that you and your cars aren't the only beings out there.
* What DO you do if you hit a wild animal? You don't want it to suffer. We tend not to carry guns in Australia - so - what is the humane way to end its suffering? This is something everybody needs to know!!!!! I've googled it and googled it and live in fear of being in this situation!