In Search of the Boodie

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In Australia dwells a nearly extinct creature called the boodie, an omnivorous and nocturnal burrowing animal “like a kangaroo no bigger than a modest teddy bear” with “a particular appetite for underground fungi,” writes Tim Winton in “Repatriation: Travels Through a Recovering Landscape” in the beefy environmental lit journal Ecotone (Vol. 4, No. 1&2; article not online). Traveling the desert lands of northwestern Australia in the boodie’s former range, Winton also traverses the puzzles and paradoxes of Australian conservation in this engaging and decription-rich essay. Naturally “leery of wealthy do-gooders,” he nonetheless comes to see promise in privately funded efforts to preserve prime boodie habitat. Part of the fun of the essay, I’ll admit, is the Australian animal names. Winton writes about one researcher, Alexander Baynes, who has

“produced a roll call of troubled species that includes not just the boodie and the woylie, but the elusive wambenger, the chuditch, the short-beaked echidna, and several species of dunnarts, bandicoots, bats, wallabies, and mice.

“Creatures with names like these would be at home in a satire by Jonathan Swift, so it should be no surprise to discover that … coordinates put Gulliver hereabouts. At the time Swift was writing, there was indeed an austral island teeming with creatures more strange and marvelous than even he could imagine, but so quickly have they disappeared from view or from existence altogether that they can sometimes seem a product of mere fancy.”

Winton’s article was previously published as “Silent Country” in the Australian magazine The MonthlyRead it in full (pdf) on the website of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

Sources: EcotoneAustralian Wildlife ConservancyShark Bay World Heritage Area

Image courtesy of DEC / Babs and Bert Wells.

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