“Wildlife” is a word used to describe creatures – animals, birds, fish – who exist in their own right, in their own world, with their own rhythms and behaviours which have not been directed by human desires. Until around 8-10,000 years ago, all animal life was “wild” and we could say human life was “wild” as well. The process of domestication took existing creatures and, in various ways, changed them to suit the needs of humans. Some species seem to have changed themselves – cats, for instance, seem to have chosen to live alongside and to exploit humans rather than the other way around. Although humans have bred all kinds of cats – cats with abundant long hair, cats with no hair at all, cats without tails, cats with certain markings (like Siamese), it is well known that any cat able to live and reproduce in the wild will over a few generations revert to something very close to its original form.
The wildlife of Australia is especially important and valuable, because Australia was isolated for so long from the rest of the world. Only in Australia were hundreds of marsupial species able to survive. They had been long ago wiped out by human settlement and other non-marsupial predators on other continents. Creatures found in Australia by the first non-indigenous settlers seemed unbelievable: animals who carried their young around in pouches, fluffy bears who carried their babies on their backs and lived in the tree-tops, animals with bills like a duck which swam underwater.
Not one of the indigenous Australian animals has been successfully domesticated. They still live in the wild, following their own ancient patterns of feeding, communicating and breeding.
Quite apart from their intrinsic beauty they serve to remind us that planet Earth was not just designed for humans. Humanity is just one of the species once joined in a single natural world alongside other creatures with whom they co-existed. Australia is the last continent on earth where that relationship can still be glimpsed and understood. People in Australia who are committed to nature conservation struggle against rampant population growth, destruction of bushland and animal habitat, and the depredations of introduced species such as foxes, dogs and yes, cats.
There are many ways you can join in the fight to protect Australia’s natural world. More information will soon be coming to this site along with contact details and some ideas about how you can be part of the effort to keep Australia wild.
NOTE: Except where specifically noted and credited, images reproduced on this site are from Wikimedia Commons.