Sad and Lonely

me & tree roo

I really thought the relationship would work. I was willing to make changes to my lifestyle and go the hard yards but for reasons I don’t know, it didn’t work out.  The initial signs were good with him willing to be stroked and handled and soon wanting to sit on my shoulders.  A favourite perch for a human raised tree roo.  I very quickly learned that Doobie, the 2 year old tree roo used his long hooked claws with just the strength required to get the traction he needed.  He dug them in strongly when climbing vertically and used them lightly when perching.  This is fine when climbing a tree but when climbing a human can result in severe lacerations on legs and back and he displayed an appalling lack of awareness of the fragility of human skin.  As I always wear shorts, I found it prudent to kneel down when he showed signs of wanting a shoulder perch.  He could leap right onto the shoulder without the mutilation required for a standing human.  

Once on the shoulder he just used his claws for balance.  So we did the washing up together with his hind legs on each shoulder and his wicked front claws lightly on my scalp.  Every now and then he would lean over to sniff the dishes and we would be quite cheek to cheek.  I hadn’t expected such intimacy and he had been the one to initiate, and me the one to nervously accommodate.  The first day at Possum Valley he was kept in my house to familiarise him with me and the new situation and smells.  Margit supplied a blanket she had deliberately slept with to give some continuity.  Smell is the least important sense to humans but overwhelmingly important to most other animals, and I was trying to make myself aware of that.  Margit also supplied a complete tree roo starter kit of fresh foliage, treats and delicacies, diet supplements, cage, bedding, poop scooper, feed trays, buckets etc and a radio collar and tracker.  The full kit.  I was given a crash course in animal tracking and an introductory course in diet and psychology.  

Now it was over to me.  As it happened, I had friends from Cairns staying at the homestead that night and they were delighted to meet my new friend.  Martin, a tech guy and specialist in telemetry, gave me the full briefing on the use and limitations of the tracking equipment well beyond the useful but non technical introduction by Margit.  He took this pic. 

new friend

new friend

Next day as planned I took Doobie out to the edge of the rainforest and released him.  He had been released every day at Margit’s place and would come ‘home’ every afternoon.  He carefully sniffed around the closest trees to the homestead giving close attention to patches of ground where I could see little interest, but as mentioned previously, there could be a whole story to tell by scent that I am blind too.  He climbed a bush but not much to his liking before slithering down and briskly hopping off down the track to the ram pump.  Here he confronted a waterfall noisily tumbling down which might have been entirely new to him.  He climbed a spindly tree a few meters away and spent the rest of the day there scanning his new domain.  

I checked up on him several times during the day and practised with the radio tracking aided by knowing where he was to get some idea of the direction from the sound of hiss and the strength of the regular ping, ping from the collar.  About 3 pm he hopped up the front steps and into the house.  I rewarded him with feed of vegetation and treats such as apple.  You beaut!  The biggest risk had been that he would do a runner the first day. 

The next day was another test for me as I was on my second job as minder of my grandsons getting on for 2 and 4 years old.  I had to introduce infants to animal and hopefully instill an attitude of mutual respect.  I had alerted my daughter that I undertaken to look after a tree roo and was this OK?  She had actually done babysitting tree roos for Margit as a teenager and had them climb over her.  She realised her kids could get scratched and blood drawn, but hey! that’s life.  It went pretty well with Doobie hopping around the house and kids observing from a distance.  Doobie has met miniature humans before and seemed quite relaxed.  The kids were more wary with Henry the eldest being brave but clutching my thigh, and Philip protected in my arms keenly interested.  Later in the day the kids got used to Doobie hopping around the house and imitated him, pretending to be tree roos.  He went out into the rainforest and I tracked him from time to time.  I found him in a tree and talked to him and he slid down to hop onto my shoulder.  

Next day I took him out to the forest but he followed me back to the house and he stayed close around the house for hours until I left him to go and restore the power to the sauna where corrosion had caused a blackout.  I haven’t seen him since and radio tracking couldn’t raise a signal just 2 hours later.  Me and Margit’s sister Karen have roamed far and wide with radio tracking without getting a signal.  I think he is gone.  I hope he fares well.

The New Lodger

Not the roo but another taken at PV

In a few days time I am going to have a lodger staying for an unknown length of time at the homestead.  I have lived alone for about 16 years and rather got used to it, and come to rather like it, not having to take anyone else’s opinions into consideration and having the luxury of living in my own batchelor squalour.  I wonder how I will take to having to cater to an other’s needs.  The arrangement isn’t for financial gain, after all tree kangaroos don’t have credit cards, but to relieve a ‘situation’ for a nearby wildlife carer, Margit, who specialises in caring for tree roos.  The ‘situation’ is that this 2 year old male tree roo is flat out bent on killing a baby roo already in her care.  Margit’s reading is that the baby roo is the offspring of a tree roo that traumatised the 2yo in his infancy, but the smell reveals the parentage and cross generational feuds are settled in blood.  Anyone with a Walt Disney view of animals is advised to stop reading now.  Tree roos are capable of infanticide.  The males have a particularly hard time, having to fight for territory and being aggressively attacked for trespassing even inadvertently.  This particular roo was found alone when very young and only 800 grams.  All skin and bone (I saw a pic) and would not have lasted another night or two.  Now two years old and a healthy 5.5 kgs.  He also has mental problems with OCD and spends many hours of the day just grooming his feet as a calming strategy.   

So I met this handsome youngster today at Margit’s house, going from floor to kitchen counter, to perching on Margit’s shoulder, as we discussed the feasibility of him staying at PV.  Margit is totally satisfied with the location of PV being far from roads and rainforest as far as the eye can see, my lifestyle can accommodate the needs of a young roo, and I have a spare bedroom that can be furnished suitably.    Although he has lived for 2 years with humans roaming in the forest and coming back for the scary nights, he may do a runner on the first time I let him out.  I think I will be equipped with a radio collar to be able to find him, as long as he doesn’t stray more than about 200m or dive into a gully.  The idea is for him, like any human kid, to be able work from a safe place and eventually establish a place for himself in the wild driven by his own instincts.  The possibilities include him becoming ‘institutionalised’ and deciding it’s just too wild out there, bolting and coming to an early death due to inexperience from not being raised by parents, or finding his mojo and establishing a territory and harem.  I would like the latter on a time frame of say 6 months.

Not the roo but another taken at PV

Not the roo but another taken at PV

I have run the idea by my darling daughter Alice, as I also serve as babysitter to her two little kids.  In  case you didn’t know, tree roos have a powerful bite and long, sharp hooked claws.  I have first hand experience being severely lacerated when a tree roo ran over my foot. It wasn’t even trying to hurt me.  I will have to introduce them carefully, ensuring that they have mutual respect.  Actually Alice has more experience tree roo wrangling than I have, as during her senior school years she used to babysit Margit’s tree roos when Margit had to go away.  Alice is OK with the idea with careful introductions.  The roo didn’t seem at all wary of me and I could stroke him and he jumped on my shoulders as a way of getting to another piece of furniture.  They can’t be trained much at all, including house training, but I’m assured that the pee isn’t offensive like a possum’s and the poo is hard pellets much like a possum’s.  It is fortunate I don’t go for rugs or carpets.  

So on saturday Margit will come over to PV with roo and starter pack of food such as glycine and privit, a bag of almonds and some other nutrients.  She will stay a while giving me further briefing, helpline numbers and settling the roo in.  Then she buggers off to Germany and I find out what it’s like living with a tree roo.  

Water World, G-Rated Version

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BOM Bomb

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Fab Feb

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