I asked my 5-year-old grandson to give me the orange cushion with white spots, then told him I’d chosen that one because it was the colour of a quoll.
“What’s a quoll?” he asked.
“It’s an animal that keeps it babies in a pouch like a kangaroo” I said, “but it hunts like a cat and has sharp teeth and claws, and it’s the colour of that cushion.”
His eyes had been widening, and he said “I want to see a quoll.” I promised to take him to a wildlife reserve where he can see one. I explained they live in the forests around here, but it’s very difficult to see them in the wild.
He’s only five years old, so it wasn’t surprising he hadn’t heard of quolls, but many older children haven’t either. MAny of them know virtually nothing about our wildlife other than kangaroos. koalas, wombats, possums and platypus? Wonderful animals all of these, but there is so much more.
And it’s not only kids – many adults (including government staff, developers and others in positions to influence their survival) know very little about the special animals that share our country. A teacher would quite rightfully think a child who hadn’t heard of elephants or tigers very ignorant. How about making sure all our school-children learn the basics of our own native fauna as an essential part of their early training?
It’s not enough either to just give a list or a few pictures, or even the animal itself with no explanations. These are interesting creatures and we have to communicate why they are interesting. I remember years ago taking some young teenagers around a wildlife park. They saw a sign saying ‘Native Cats’ (which quolls were called in those day) above a pathetically small and dingy enclosure. They looked in and said ‘Ha. I though it was going to be real cats but it’s just those things’ and walked on to the next exhibit. Just those things? I was able to enlighten these particular girls, but what a depressing first reaction, and I wonder how many others passed on by without another thought to these fascinating creatures. Had they heard exciting things about about quolls beforehand, or seen them in a decent enclosure with eye-catching and readable interpretation about their behaviour and ecology, perhaps they would have reacted differently.
Our wildlife is wonderful, and our whole population could be taking a lot more pleasure in this.
And it’s only when people know about our animals that they’ll be able to care about their conservation and understand what is needed to achieve it.
So, I’d love to hear lots of others saying what my wide-eyed little grandson said: “I want to see a quoll”