Saturday, September 24, 2011

Poisonous Beast Test

As I was taking the laundry off the line one evening earlier this week I heard a rustle in the grass. 

Me being who I am, a nature-lover, an animal-lover, an ugly beast lover, and an immigrant myself, I immediately thought fondly of the little - or big - cane toad who was probably hopping nearby.

"Hey Ryan," I yelled.  "Run and ask your father for a flashlight."  (Ryan was stationed nearby to deal with my imaginary nighttime fears - vampires and werewolves lurking in the bushes - not with toads and snakes.)

Jedi Knights

Within seconds - I barely ever get a response this fast from my men - Damon and the three boys were by my side, carrying not only torches (whatever, can I mix Englishes, please?!) but armed with baseball and cricket bats.

Like there really was a werewolf after me.  And a baseball bat was going to make the difference if there was.

"Honestly, Damon.  A cane toad isn't going to kill me.  I just wanted to see the little guy, not mash him to bits."

"They're poisonous though."  Damon replied.  Treading rather carefully.

Yeah, only if I lick it.

Damon is right, you are actually obligated by law to kill the little buggers here if you see one.  They are an introduced species - intentionally introduced by early morons trying to get rid of the cane beetle.  Like most other introduced species, they thrive here, outbreeding native fauna and destroying the ecosystem.  My guess is they dealt with the cane beetles though.

If we could find a way to ship 'em to Haiti, they are the same toads whose venom is used in Haitian voodoo ceremonies for its hallucinogenic properties.

And I can't kill 'em.  First of all you have to prove it's a cane toad and not some other local toad.  And then I just can't bring myself to blame that one cute little toad for all the destruction his species does to the habitat.  It wasn't his fault he was brought here.  And again, I'm an immigrant too.  (Really I just can't see myself allowing anyone to kill anything, let alone with a baseball bat.  Or a cricket bat or golf club either.  And who the heck wants to stick one in the freezer next to the icecream?!)

What to do when you aren't sure?  (Matthew has his doubts.)

Two days later we were at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where we were fortunate enough to see the keepers taking some of their charges out for exercise.

"Is that poisonous?"  a woman asked me, eyeing the large green python on the ground with suspicion.

"No.  No.  It's a python."  I reassured her.

"But how can you tell?" she insisted, not at all perturbed by my rather odd accent.  (Like I should be an authority on native Australian fauna!)

"Well, frankly, " I told her.  "I can't really.  I just go on the attitudes of the zookeepers handling her."

Send in an overconfident brother!  (Aidan checks it out.)

Aussies are pretty brave, to the point of nonchalance - Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter is a BIG hero here (and his zoo is right up the road) - but even Aussies will exercise caution - and USE a snake stick - when dealing with poisonous snakes that eh, might not KILL you outright nowadays, but will certainly give you quit a sting, put you in the hospital for a few weeks and generally ruin an otherwise perfectly good day. 

So that when the kids and I got to the beach yesterday and saw a bunch of large, blue plastic-looking jellyfish lying all over the sand and in the water, although my INITIAL reaction was BLUE BOTTLE, the saner part of me thought that even Aussies wouldn't be letting their children swim if they REALLY WERE blue bottles.  (They are called Portugese Man of War everyone else, but Aussies like to put a light-hearted spin on it!  Box jellyfish, also blue, are also deadly.  I believe THESE were blue blubber jellyfish though.  Perfectly harmless.  I checked!)

Touch it and see!  (We DID ask first!)

A few weeks ago we got the kids - ALL of the kids, not just ours - out of the water when a fin pierced the shoreline.  It was probably a dolphin, but it popped up quickly.

I am SO bummed it disappeared just as quickly.  Shark OR dolphin, I would have REALLY LOVED TO SEE THAT!  As long as I wasn't in the water.

Ryan's solution.  Bring shark bait.
So that, just in case there were any doubts by now, this really IS the place for me.  The Huntsmen join me in the evenings when Damon is out.  And I just let them out the back door.  The tiny little spiders help me hang up the laundry.  I haven't actually SEEN a redback - the POISONOUS one - but I figure if it's flourescent yellow or green or that really pretty, snowy white I'm clear.  And the little guys swing about happily letting me get my work done.

You can pretty much tell how dangerous something is by watching an Aussie react to it.

And maybe letting him touch it first!

No comments:

Post a Comment