A highlight towards the end of my trip was my much anticipated visit to Chidlow Marsupial Hospital in the Perth Hills. Liz and Mark Appelt have been rescuing and rehabilitating Australia’s struggling marsupials for over twenty years and I first visited them ten years ago on my inaugural visit to Perth on a ‘Superoo’ tour.
Chidlow in the Perth Hills
The nursery had three joeys in their knitted pouches tucked up in small roo beds – I’d come from the other side of the world anticipating a cuddle with one of these babies. Liz also had lots of other Roos, wallabies and a cute little Quokka in rehab in pens in the grounds and at large around the estate. Previous rescue Roos were still regular visitors to the house including Sugarplum and Sweetpea, two grey females and their latest offspring tagged along, but they weren’t tame like their mums.
The Roo nursery
Next we were introduced to a large hairy nosed Wombat called Brixley. This type of Wombat has recently made it onto the endangered list. Mark, Liz’s husband takes Brixley out for a walk each day on a robust harness but he’s so big and strong now that it’s really more Brixley taking Mark. A change in direction of your walk can only be affected by picking the wombat up and turning it round yourself.
The gorgeous Echidna, Snorkel was a revelation. She is one of the most ancient species on the planet. The Echidna looks like an exotic hedgehog but is actually a monotreme, a mammal which lays eggs. Liz described it a kind of half mammal, half reptile, production. The Echidna is also unusual for a number of other reasons. It is a completely peaceful animal, which is rare in itself for such a successful species (think Homo Sapien)
Snorkel the Echidna
Echidnas sort out their differences without violence of any kind and suitors of a female Echidna will queue for attention in an orderly fashion. Once a selection has been made (there isn’t much to go on about how this is done) the rejected males walk away, apparently without rancour.
When I asked Liz about the relative intelligence of the Australian fauna, she told me that the roos are a bit like horses – herd animals, sweet but flighty. Echidnas on the other hand, are top of the IQ pops, surprisingly intelligent and adaptable.You can’t trap or tame an Echidna, it can bury itself to survive a bush fire, is an excellent swimmer and can reduce its body temperature to 30 degrees if it needs to do so. They really are the brains of the operation! Awesome. Australian TV is not very good
A face not easily resisted