The Sanctuary for Unpopular Species



“If it moves shoot it. If it doesn’t chop it down”

-Traditional Australian saying,

(The Australian Dictionary of Folklore, 1970)

“Everything perishes, Nothing is Lost”-Ovid


I started a Sanctuary for Unpopular Species.

Someone had to do it.

Why undertake this thankless task, you ask?

Part of it is probably due to my Love of Lost Causes,

e.g. Anarchism, Poetry, the Environment et al..

Related to that also is my Sympathy for the Under-Dog,

a personality trait once said, like our “Larrikin Streak“, to be part of the Australian Character. Possibly there is also an empathy built on a romantic recognition of the similarity of our mutual conditions, for does not the Poet himself exist on the Margins of Society, a despised and misunderstood Outsider?

Whatever. I have declared my humble plot of Suburbia to be a Sanctuary for Unpopular Species, and by whatever mysterious”bush-telegraph” they use,

 word seems to have got around the Community of

 “wee, sleekit, cowerin’, timorous beasties”. Thus hence they come hopping, flapping, and scurrying,

like poor, harried Quasimodo himself

seeking the Bell-Towers of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Possibly a process of Elimination or Exclusion is occurring, and rather than being drawn to the Sanctuary, they are in fact being driven there by the General hostility of the Neighbourhood, my property being an island where they are neither chased off with a broom, set upon by a dog nor poisoned on the sly.

Here a bush turkey can build its mound unhindered and raise its young in peace. Here possums can sleep in the roof without fear of being kidnapped by some dubious “Wild-Life Relocation” specialist and sold to greyhound racers for bloody “Live-baiting” practices.

Here the flying-foxes may gather and squawk in the trees at night without being bombarded

 with loud-disco music and fog banks.

The Crows raucously announce the Dawn and a small flock of Sacred Ibis who have recently appeared in the Sanctuary, solemnly stalk the lawn seeking grubs.

Even my humble tortoise has been considered a “pest species” in the past and murdered in their hundreds by “keen anglers” for the crime of taking bait.

tortoise looking away in rain crop

The Myth of Australians loving their Wildlife

Australia has/had a unique ecosystem which evolved more or less in isolation for millennia. The occasional stray latecomer (the aborigines, the dingo) arrived at long intervals, allowing time for the Environment to adapt and find a place for them within the web of interdependence.

You would think that the unique status of the Australian environment would engender some sort of National pride in the current inhabitants,

and a desire to preserve this precious Heritage.

Far from it.

From the moment of European colonisation, official policy and the majority of popular sentiment tended to the opinion that it was a patriotic duty

to rip up trees and kill off the native wild-life and aborigines.

(The esteemed Dame Mary Gilmore‘s recollections of those days

provide a shocking eye-opener.)

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An early attempt at terra-forming, the end result was to transform Australia into a simulacrum of the well-watered Land they left behind. Of course this attempt failed and the blasted, poisoned Land we are left grappling with today is the result. Still, they keep trying.

Newman and cronies

Newman and cronies

In Queensland, for example, under the recently deposed Newman Government, land clearing rates reached new highs, setting a planet wide record in fact, as earlier legislation to protect bushland was repealed or set aside. Nature reserves were opened up for prospecting, cattle grazing, shooting and “economic development”. Bats, crocodiles and other problems species could be dealt with in the Old Way again (see opening quote)

No, the only time Australians show concern for the native wildlife is when they’ve driven a species to the edge of Extinction. At which point they start feeling all sentimental

and not a little guilty and start setting up “Reserves” for the last few specimens, and storing their genetic material in case rich “extinct-exotic-animal” Collectors of the Future

should feel the whim to clone up a few Bilbies.

Why till the 1950‘s at least they were killing emus (you know, the national emblem? See it on coins and coats of arms and stuff) in the hundreds of thousands! Crows, Eagles, Wombats? Pests! Shoot ’em.

Truckload of koala skins, Clermont QLD, 1927

Truckload of koala skins, Clermont QLD, 1927

Even the Koala, a supposed National Ikon was hunted to the edge of extinction until recently. Even today it is afforded no special status if it gets in the way of progress. Recently for example, in Redland Bay, one of the last local pockets of surviving koalas were put further under threat when a local, Council-approved housing development cut down a vital row of trees (known as a “wildlife corridor”) in order to make a few more bucks. There was some community protest at this, but down that way they’d still vote for the Country Party if they could, and more residents seem interested in driving off the local flying-fox colony which is lowering house values so badly (sic).

Kangaroos? They’re still culling them in Canberra, gives the army something to do when they’re not meddling in Middle-Eastern politics, doncha know?


The platypus? Woolworths recently built a supermarket over a platypus habitat at Maleny, despite pleas to maybe, you know, move the whole thing forward a couple of metres? But no, even in “alternative” Maleny, deep in the heart of the Hippie Hinterland,

Profit and Progress hold sway unhindered. Despite vows by locals to boycott Woolworths and run it out of town, Convenience won out over Conscience, and two years later Woolworths is still thriving in Maleny, though alas, the same cannot be said of the Platypus..

Kangaroo Cull

Kangaroo Cull

Domesticated, Endangered or Feral

Some years ago, indeed, in the very first Sermon to appear in this column,

I noted, somewhat facetiously some people may have thought, that future choices for other species are limited to Endangered, Domesticated or Feral.

( )

Domestication of Emus. Well, at least they're not extinct, right?

Domestication of Emus. Well, at least they’re not extinct, right?

As Time has passed I am more and more struck by the Truth

contained in that simple, slightly awkward poem.

Any species that has managed to survive the European Onslaught, and successfully adapt to the Urban Environment inevitably attracts the distinction of being labelled as a “Problem” species.

Bush turkeys, possums, crows, Ibis, flying foxes,

have all in recent years

been labelled vermin by a sizeable segment of Suburbia, who believe they should be exterminated like the rats we brought with us. (Though generally advocates call it “culling” rather than “extermination” because it sounds more scientific and rational.)

Yet these species are neither a health risk nor a threat to Human Life. Neither are they, in the suburbs, any sort of economic threat. The sole cause for the frequent calls for their culling by animal haters is that they are, in some form or fashion, a “nuisance”

Oh, well! I mean.. a nuisance! Yes, that seems like perfectly adequate grounds to call for a species’ extinction.

bush turkey hard at work

bush turkey hard at work

The poor old bush-turkey is a classic victim here, guilty of no more than raking through garden soil & leaves with their powerful claws, yet they attract an hostility out of all proportion to their “crime”.

In this regard I note that 99% of all my hate mail is due to my

once expressing sympathy for bush turkeys.

( )

We should be admiring their ability to survive, adopting them as totems and mascots for football clubs. But no, they use foreign species: the lions, the rabbit-ohs, the tigers, the list goes on. The Cane Toads for god sake, the epitome of invasive, noxious species is the emblem for QLD Rugby League teams.

Only the solitary Adelaide Crows fly the flag for native species.

The Australian Raven has been falsely accused of being a

The Australian Raven has been falsely accused of being a “lamb-killer” and hunted accordingly

Long term the Unpopular Species Sanctuary‘s strategy is basically a holding action. A policy of last ditch desperation, to preserve as much as possible in whatever small pockets you can establish. The Reverend advises you, dear reader, to do likewise.

The Flood is coming and we need many Arks.

turkey shadow 2


nayba JPIG


July KP Handbill VSN4 FIREJPIG


tai chi hand strawberry circle

The Reverend Hellfire is a practised Performance Poet,

President of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity Inc.,

and an Ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanism

AND the Church of the Universe.

Why Not?



~ by reverendhellfire on July 19, 2015.

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