A true but slightly irreverent view of some of the unique Australian animals.
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The PLATYPUS and EMU
The first unique animal we will deal with is the Platypus.
The correct pronunciation is PLAT - EE - PUSSE
Latin : Platus de Pusse
Now as with everything I write, I first go through a gruelling process of research, just to make sure I have all the facts, and that they are accurate.
Now, I have to tell you, I have never found this as difficult as I did while researching the Platypus. The obvious place to start was cats, then felines and do you know, this particular type of cat is very hard to locate.
I even tried the gourmet section, because to some cultures cat on a plate is very appetising. I tried things like "Plate of Pusse delight" and "The Pusse's on the Platey" and many more, to no avail.
It was only a general search of platypus that solved my dilemma - these are underwater cats! Now who would have thought of that?
I phoned a University just to make sure, and spoke to a scientist.
Now I don’t like speaking derogatorily of my own countrymen, but this scientist wasn’t very nice. He gave me a place to look, but when I accidentally mentioned cats again he said “Koala Bears aren't naked, are they ya goose?, and he hung up the phone. Sufferin Snakes, how rude can you get?
Anyway, this is what the rude scientist says;
They describe the platypus as "quirky" - how would we like that?
And this is just because they have a duck's bill, webbed feet, a furry body, lay eggs, and yet they are mammals!
The female Platypus usually lays two eggs and suckles its young. A male platypus is approximately 20 inches long and weighs 4 lbs. A female Platypus is approximately 16.5 inches long. The male platypus has a poisonous spur on it's hind leg which contains a highly toxic poison.
The scientists also reckon they are strange because they swim with their eyes closed, but who doesn't. Admittedly we don't sir up the bottom of rivers with our bills, but if we had one you just never know.
The poor little coots haven't got ears, at least we can't see them and we haven't got webbed feet that we fold back against out behinds like they do. At least we are both mobile on land, but you wouldn't believe it, they have to go along on their knuckles - ouch!
They are clever though - they have a double layer of fur so they can never get wet (our Siamese cat hasn't got that) and they even vary their size depending where they are. Now thats a pretty neat trick, you have to admit. Imagine, if we could do that and lived in New York - there'd be ten million tiny people with room to spare!
Now these little cats, or creatures depending on whether you want to believe me or the mad scientists, live in fresh water lakes and streams.
But when they are out of the water they burrow just above the water level, in river or stream banks or under a gathering of tree roots. Their burrow is distinguished by oval sections and it may also have two ends of entry or exit. These burrows can be up to thirty yards long, particularly when the female is nursing her young. An increase in tunnel length is a protection from predators and flooding.
They live on fresh water insects and their larvae, shrimps, yabbies, worms, tadpoles, small frogs and fish. But they don't eat it when they catch it. Instead they store it in cheek pouches until they come to the water surface to rest. They grind food between two hard pads in the bill. Then, get this, they store fat for periods of low food supply in their tail - wish we could do that. On those evenings when the "old girl" didn't feel like cooking, we men could just say "no worries dear, we'll have a suck it up out of our tails meal" - fantastic. We'd just squirm in our chairs a bit and go on watching T.V. Wouldn't it be great - no going all the way to the dishwasher - I told you they were clever.
They really are pretty harmless, unless the male gets you with his little stinger. Its double ouch for quite a while, but not deadly.
Now we come to the Emu, unfortunately. Thats because of all the creatures I am far and away most afraid of these things - fair dinkum!
The emu is a terrifying creature. Its like a giant chook and er what? whats a chook? aw hell, you know, wife of a rooster, give them a handful of wheat and they give eggs and poop for the garden in return. Thats the difference, give an Emu a handful of wheat and it looks at you square in the eyes as if to say "is that all" followed by a swift kick to the groin and look as if they are going to peck your eyes out for good measure (your eyes are pretty safe). Thats why I leap behind the chair every time Big Bird comes on T.V.
There are millions of the damn things in Australia, their only virtue being that they can't fly. The adult emu stands up to about 6 ft tall, and weighs about 140 lb. Emus run at speeds of up to 30 mph, sometimes faster, defend themselves like I said by kicking, and swim very well. Their eggs weigh one and a half pounds. There is no record of who gave his life to weigh one!
They are edible, but as far as I am concerned only if you haven't eaten for a month. Farmers often consider them a pest, however, because they often break fences and feed on crops.
The early settlers were smart, well almost but they "Blue" it. See, when they got here there were two species, one much smaller. So which of the two did these bright lilly livered characters "knock off" - the small ones of course. Oh clever! So, in 1932 war was declared on the big ones. There was an attempt at their mass destruction by using machine guns. That is true by the way but it didn't work. I say lets nuke em! but I doubt I would get much support. At least we managed to share the hell in the 1930,s 40's and 50's. We exported them to America! Probably told you folks they were "Big Birds". But now we can't do it anymore, damnit.
Its hardly surprising the machine guns didn't clean them up. After all they are a prehistoric bird thought to have roamed the outback of Australia some 80 million years ago, so even Tyrannosaurus Rex must have thundered over the nearest hill at the sight of one, probably holding its groin with one paw.
The Australian Aboriginals weren't scared though. They killed them for food, clothing, shelter, and they used the oil in the treatment of muscle aches, sore joints, inflammation and swelling. Pity there weren't more Aboriginals.
Is it any wonder there are so many of these things They live up to 50 or 60 years in the wild, hens lay clutches of between 8 to 10 eggs and it only takes 50 or 60 days to "make" one. In a year the female lays on average about 50 eggs, but occasionally up to a hundred and out jumps all these little five inch tall chicks weighing about a pound. That would be the time to get 'em, trouble is they would be too damn cute.
Emus are not frightened of anything in particular, including us. If you are crazy enough to get close to one hang on to your camera and any thing else loose, like your nuts fellas. (best not to eat nuts around them anyway - what do you think I meant?) I don't know why they love pinching cameras because I haven't ever seen an emu use one - I guess its like a dog chasing a car - what does it do with it if it ever manages to catch it!
Well, thats it for this time - I'm getting too hypertensive writing about emus.
PREVIEW FOR THE NEXT IN THE SERIES
To be honest, aren't I always, I was going to write about the ring tailed Wallaby next but I haven't so far found out a thing under Jewellery. But don't worry, I'll find it somewhere.
I do promise not to write about snakes - too boring - only three things can happen, for instance for someone bitten by a King Brown Snake;
Person Bitten - dies
Person Bitten - very sick - goes to hospital and survives.
Person Bitten - quite okay - in hospital for observation only - given Taipan antivenene in error - dies of Taipan poisoning.
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