Out of focus, and well hidden. We were standing outside at the place we were staying when I noticed a sudden movement in the garden below us. And there was a Quenda or, Southern Brown Bandicoot. I couldn’t see him clearly with the phone camera, so I enlarged – but too much. Still there he is, and a few seconds later as I tried to recalibrate the zoom, he suddenly took off. It was a privilege to see him because they are usually very shy.
The Quenda isn’t yet on any endangered lists, but the population has dropped markedly in the last two decades. Clearing for housing, the presence of introduced predators such as the red fox, and the domestic cat, have all taken their toll. But also, as with all native species, their reproductive capacity is also determined by annual rainfall. The rainfall in the southwest has diminished by 16% over the last fifty years, and this has had a negative effect on all native species, including the Quenda.
There has been a population intentionally introduced into a conservation park called Wadderin Sanctuary (just north of Narambeen in the eastern wheat-belt) where they are protected from predators. The hope is to reestablish them in the region and rebuild hteir numbers.
This one is living in the midst of a housing area, but with access to small pockets of preserved urban bushland (Quendas roam widely). There are reports of populations of Quendas in the metropolitan areas around Perth to our north. So they are clearly resilient. We too are resilient, we have rapidly adopted modern technology, we have been very inventive as a species, and we are making efforts to combat global warming and trying to work to redress climate change in general. But we are doing it from a species-centric viewpoint. In my reading of human efforts to deal with climate change, we seem to be reacting to a crisis (or making a noise about it) but not looking at the whole picture. The environment consists of a number of interelated biospheres, and we need to work with that interrelationship and interdependence. We need to recognise our interdependence with other species, and the need to work across biospheres and not just for our own self-interests. And it’s not just the fact that the well known and exotic species like tigers, elephants and rhinos are diappearing, but whole populations of insects, plants and mammals are under threat. When we’ve pulped the last tree, drunk the last waterhole dry, and killed the last elephant, what will be left?
If we can help the Quenda by provding a fully protected, but natural environment, surely we can do better for all species. There will be no sudden environmental wizzard to save the day. We are the generations who must now do whatever it takes, together, to halt and reverse climate change, and not just for ourselves or for our grandchildren, but for all species we need each other.