Alistair Paton joins today, writer of Of Marsupials and Men (Black Inc, 2022), a book recounting the fascinating and often hilarious history of the men and women who dedicated their lives to understanding Australia’s native animals.
To the first European colonists, Australian wildlife was bewildering. Marsupials and gum trees seemed strange and hostile; rabbits, sheep and oak trees were familiar and safe. A bustling animal trade soon developed in both directions: foxes, starlings and other reminders of ‘home’ were unleashed on the Australian landscape, while countless Australian animals found themselves in Europe as stuffed specimens or living curiosities in zoos and private collections.
Into this picture stepped a remarkable band of enthusiastic amateurs who were determined to get to know the fauna of the new colony. Equal parts inspiring and outlandish, over the next 150 years they would advance scientific understanding and transform public attitudes to Australian wildlife. From the ‘snake men’ who fearlessly thrust their arms into hollow logs just to see what might happen, to the top-secret plan to smuggle a platypus to Winston Churchill at the height of World War II, these are their stories.
Alistair Paton is the co-author of Discovering Grampians-Gariwerd and a regular contributor to travel and outdoors publications. He has worked at News Corp for twenty years and his current role is as digital editor in the national sport network. He is passionate about wild places and wild animals and lives in Melbourne with his wife Hanna and slightly domesticated terrier cross Lenny.
Bede Haines is a solicitor, specialising in litigation and a partner at Holding Redlich, an Australian commercial law firm. He lives in Sydney, Australia. Known to read books, ride bikes and eat cereal (often). firstname.lastname@example.org