I just read some disturbing news about a great Australian. An Australian whom I consider to be one of the great symbols, dare I say one of the icons, of this wonderful but very sunburnt land of ours. And I feel it’s my duty to sing the praises of this great Australian and raise my voice to register my concerns.
I’m not talking about just any native of this country. I’m talking about one of the finest represents of our extraordinary fauna – the fantastic platypus.
The news I’m referring to suggests that, due to the terrible drought afflicting our country, the platypus is now becoming endangered. And while the extinction of any creature is a terrible thing, the fate of the platypus is particularly poignant for me.
For those who don’t know, the platypus is one of the most wonderfully mixed-up animals in the world. It has a body shape similar to an otter, but with a flat tail a bit like a beaver. It also has webbed feet and a bill like a duck. But to make things extra special, the platypus is one of only two mammals in the world that lays eggs rather than giving birth to live young (the other of course is the echidna). In fact, the platypus is so mixed-up that when the first Europeans saw it and sent specimens back to England, it was believed to be a hoax, sewn together from different animal parts.
This makes the platypus pretty special. From a scientific basis, it has an important position in demonstrating the evolution of mammals. But more to the point, it’s just kind of wonderful that nature could create such a bizarre creature, and that it could survive millions of years to still be around today.
I feel that if I ever had a totem animal, it would be a platypus. I also often feel kind of mixed up and muddled up, and somehow a relic from a long-gone era. And there’s something of the platypus in the stories I write. A little bit of humour and a little bit of fantasy and a little bit of adult and a little bit of kidlit, all mixed up into one unexpected package. So it’s not surprising that I empathise so much with the fate of the platypus.
It truly would be a tragedy to lose the platypus. A great symbol of the uniqueness of Australia would be no more, and the whole world would feel that little bit smaller for the loss. All we can do is hope that somewhere in the corridors of power, wise heads prevail, and the brave and special platypus can live to fight another day.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as