Friday, 28 March 2014

Shane, The Chuditch

"So, you'll have to clean up the chuditch scat, give them fresh water, take out any uneaten food and keep records on them... oh, and you'll have to sight them, to make sure they're ok," said my supervisor. 

I was learning the ropes on a very new job - I was now a housekeeper for my native animal rescue and rehabilitation centre's new Chuditch Hotel! I opened the cage of the hotel's first resident, Shane, and stepped carefully in. As I cleaned his cage, I mentally checked off my duties. Finally, I needed to find Shane. I checked in his nest. No Shane. Inside his hollow log perhaps? Nope, no Shane. Behind the brushwood? Again, no Shane. There was only one other place I could think of, and so I looked inside the hessian sack lying by a log. Inside lolled Shane, perfectly relaxed and seemingly unconcerned by this big clumsy human stomping around his pen! He'd eaten all his food, and seemed totally content in his environment.

That was good. Shane had settled down into his pen really well. We didn't know when we got him if he would or not. Because, you see, chuditches aren't very common creatures. And Shane wasn't some chuditch who'd been kept in captivity for a long time. No, he was fresh from the wilds of Western Australia's Southwest, where he had roamed free. Why was he here? What reason would anyone have to capture a rare animal?

Well, it wasn't just people being cruel to poor Shane. No, there was a team of highly trained people looking after him and 25 other chuditches. These chuditches were residing at the hotel for many reasons, but primarily so they could be prepared. They were preparing to become migrants...

A chuditch is a very special animal. It's one of Australia's few carnivorous mursupial mammals. In the wild, they eat insects, small mammals, birds, lizards, frogs and carrion. They are the size of small cat, with beautiful spotted fur. Chuditches live mostly in the bush, with each chuditch taking a large territory that includes lots of hollow logs for them to live in. They are secretive, night living animals.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there were chuditches living pretty anywhere there was bushland in Australia. They were in every State and Territory. There was nothing trying to hurt them, and so they flourished. Then Europeans arrived, and brought cats and foxes with them. The poor chuditch went from being a predator to being prey. Like so many other Australian animals, the chuditch couldn't cope with the ravenous cats and foxes. They died out in many places... including the whole of NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

It was a terrible destruction of a unique species. The chuditch went from secretive to nearly non-existant, hanging on only in a few places in South Australia and the bottom corner of Western Australia...

When I became a housekeeper at the Chuditch Hotel, I didn't know any of this. I began to talk to the people who captured the chuditches and were studying them. I found out that these chuditches in the hotel were very special creatures. They were all young, healthy animals. They were being recorded every night, and checked on every day. Their diet was extra special. Even their scat (poop) was being studied! They were being fitted with special collars that would allow them to be tracked.

This wasn't just for any old reason. You see, despite so much bad luck, chuditches began to make a comeback in Western Australia a few years ago. The zoo bred and released them, and they did so well, the Government changed their status from "endangered" to "vulnerable" in Western Australia. One day, they may even become a normal part of the environment again.

But it isn't like that in the only other State that has chuditches. In South Australia, chuditches are endangered. The chuditches in the hotel were going to to be transported to South Australia, and released in the Flinder's Ranges there. There, they would bolster the SA population, and hopefully begin having babies.

This hasn't happened yet. I'm still looking after 26 little spotty carnivores. Every week I look after them, it seems they are having another study being done on them to make sure they are healthy! But I am so excited that, even in a little way, I get to help out with this project. Because I've grown to love Shane and his kind, and hope that they will do well have lots of babies, no matter where they end up.

I am glad that I can do something to help the poor native animals of Australia. Some of them are finding it so hard to cope with humans, imported animals and our civilisations, they are dying out. It's nice to see a species do well for a change!

This is only a short account of what I've learnt about chuditches through caring for them. If anyone wants to know more, you can always ask by commenting, and I'll try to give an answer. I'm not an expert! However, I do my best. I hope you liked hearing Shane's story. Maybe next time I can talk about bobtail lizards, and how they catch the flu!

1 comment :

  1. Wow! That's amazing:) Shane sounds awesome.