Animal Dilemmas – Kangaroo Echidna
The Echidna chose an old well rooted tree near the termite city and started digging a new home. Its cub played around the tree catching ants and termite one at a time.
‘Look, look,’ it said. ‘I have two ants stuck to my tongue. It’s my first time I catch two at the same time.’
‘You learn fast. Soon we will try you at on of the termite hills. What do you think?’
‘I would love that!’
Before the Echidna could respond a passion fruit came flying down from the tree and landed on its nose. The Echidna scooped its cub and hid in the half dug burrow. After a few minute it poked its nose out to see a tree kangaroo collecting the passion fruit from the ground and sucking its juices.
‘I am sorry about that,’ said the kangaroo. ‘I am clumsy.’
‘No, it’s not going to be. Big storm is coming that will submerge this entire valley!’
‘How do you know?’
‘The old timer’s bones hurt more than ever. Big storm, your burrow, gone!’
‘What should we do?’
‘Find high ground or climb a tree.’
‘We cannot climb.’
‘We cannot… Thank you for warning us.’
‘I have to go now.’
The Echidna stopped digging and instead it nested in fallen tree trunk. When the rains came they lifted the trunk with the family in it and carried in down stream into the river. The river carried it to the sea and soon trunk floated into the ocean. The ocean currents carried it for many nights. Small fish and clams clung to it and the Echidna was able to scrape them off and eat them. The cub was sacred and the mother tried to not look around into the emptiness of the ocean and endured.
The trunk floated free and after many nights beached on a stony shore. The Echidna was hungry but it survived. Most of the mussels went to its cub. The baby had grown from the heavy on protein and fat diet and started on the shore with youthful vigor. After spending its cubhood isolated in the middle of the ocean, the young echidna was keen to know this curious new land.
It was no jungle but dry and heathery hills. The more the family traveled south into the inland the drier it became. There were enough termites to feed them but they were a poor substitute for the fruits of the sea.
They made it work and thanked the jungle spirits for aligning the stars to help them. Soon after they were used to the lay of this new land they encountered a mob of red kangaroos.
Two large males were boxing over the rights to flower the heftiest females. The females and other males were laying in the thin shadow of a tree. The two males hoped around each other bouncing off their tales and landing their hind legs in the stomach of their opponents until one of them rolled over and leaped away.
The winner walked to the shade, one of the females rose and followed. In the next grove the act of mating begun. The female had just given birth and became pregnant again. The newborn was in her pouch sucking an a teat. The next generation was growing in her.
The next day the male that lost went blind. It has not won a female in two summers. It had come from a place with little grass where the females chose not to mate and it chose not to produced sperm. Its misfortunes boiled inside and when it lost its sight it finally realized how beautiful it was to able to see the grass and the trees and its own way.
The Echidna family found an attraction to the mob of kangaroos and followed them without raising alarms.
One female felt sorry for the blind male and as soon as it gave birth and settled the newborn on the teat in its pouch offered herself to him. The blind kangaroo produced sperm and fathered a fetus. When the previous joey grew up and left the pouch the blind kangaroo’s offspring took over the teat. It sucked greedily and grew fast. It started leaving the pouch to taste the grass young.
One sunny afternoon when the mother was drinking water at the large lake a pack of dingos surrounded it and it was forced to swim into the lake. The joey left the pouch but struggled to stay afloat. It could still not swim well and the mother could do nothing to help it. The dingos stayed on the bank long and the joey was breaths away from drowning.
The Echidna family witnessed the trouble and pushed a fallen tree trunk into the lake, jumped on it kicked the water until it reached the joey. The kangaroo climbed the wood and its mother navigated it to safety.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Animal Dilemmas – Tuesday, May 10th
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photograph by Ewa Gillen