Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Natural Disaster

I have to admit that I no longer grab for my camera when I see a Koala or Kangaroo. I sometimes will pause for a look, but truthfully these animals have become a bit mundane. However, there are several Australian exotics that make me squeal with joy. Unfortunately, they are a bit harder to come by and often it takes some effort to reap the reward of viewing them in the wild. 
One of these animals is the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat, and it was the hope of sighting one in the wild that had us packing up our camping gear and heading out to the Riverlands over the weekend. We had been planning the trip for weeks, and even though I had seen them a couple of times in the wild, I wanted to take advantage of the unseasonably cool temperatures to head out to the semi-scrub desert of South Australia. A couple of days before we were to set out I realized that the late spring storms, that brought an abundance of much needed rain, had possibly put the animal that we were heading out to see in peril. Apparently, torrential rains had flooded the area that many South Australian Wombats call home. I could only hope the two Conservation Parks that we had planned to visit stood on high enough ground and had not been destroyed by the devastating storms.
As we drove along the cliff banks high above the Murray River, I was shocked by the scene below. The waters had breeched the river banks and the entire valley was flooded. It saddened me to think of the dozens of wombats that had built their burrows on the flood plain. From where we stood it was obvious that for a marsupials that spend more than half its lives underground, more likely than not they had suffered an untimely death. As we continued down the road, my spirits didn't improve since many of the surrounding fields high on the plateau were flooded. 

My spirits rose when we arrived at Pooginook Conservation Park. Less than 10 minutes from our campsite we found a warren with at least a half dozen entrances. With the near full moon high in the sky we sat off to the side in wait. And wait we did, but not a single critter decided to come out for a feed, and eventually we decided to call it a night and return in the early morning.
Under the predawn sky, we were better able to assess the environment and in the faint light we were able to determine that the burrows we had chosen to observe sat in the middle of a flood plain. My heart felt heavy as I looked for signs of life and questioned if the endangered species that once called this home had been overcome by a flood, or had they escaped to higher ground?  

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  1. I mis my hikes si I'll hije vicariously thru you - Happy Holidays Maya

  2. Hi Maya, oh I hope that the wombats who lived there somehow survived. It's so sad if they didn't. I also enjoy seeing the many animals we come across while going on hikes. But we only see deers, bears, birds and squirls. Nothing too exotic although I once saw a family of these beautiful moose once at the Grand Canyon. That was cool.

    I had to smile when I read the beginning of your post. That would be me to snap a photo of every single kangaroo and cute koala bear I saw. And with a zoom lens I might even take one of a croc. :)

    Have a wonderful holidays and thanks so much for sharing your wonderful hiking adventures and photos with us throughout the year.

  3. "I have to admit that I no longer grab for my camera when I see a Koala or Kangaroo. I sometimes will pause for a look, but truthfully these animals have become a bit mundane."

    Wow, Maya, are they that commonly observable in the wilds of Australia? :O

    On my one and only visit thus far to Australia, I did see a number of kangaroos -- but not a single koala bear. Also saw kookaburras though! ;b