Of Tigers and Parrots

Thirty years before I was born, and less than 10km form where the aforementioned august event took place, something far more important happened. The last Paradise Parrot was seen in the wild. This was quite possibly the most beautiful Parrot ever seen by man or so it was recorded by the scientist who first described it. As a keen young ornithologist I wasted many hours searching for what had already been lost.

That same year the last known Tasmanian Tiger died in captivity. As a child my Grandfather, a Taswegian and long since past, had one as a pet. Apparently it was not a very good pet being worth several quid per skin and not prone to affection. He showed me the scars as proof. He told me, presumably in the unlikely event that I should ever encounter a Tasmanian Tiger, how to kill one without damaging the skin.

“You grab them by the tail and they cannot turn around to bite you, keep their back feet off the ground” fascinating I thought. “Then you slide the knife up under their belly till you get to where the head meets the neck” I am not going to like this bit. “Then you drive the knife upwards straight and hard and there you have the perfect skin” “And don’t let it bite you cause it will break your bones and will never let go unless it takes the limb, even when dead it will not let go”

Unfortunately there is no use for this ancestral advice nor will there ever be. Despite the occasional unsubstantiated sighting there is no evidence that this species still exists. Please no mad theories the fact is they are gone. To me this is the most appalling loss.

We have lost so much and we are losing more by the minute. Climate change will bring an even mightier wave of extinction. Anger and despair are useless in the face of this but I have no other answer.

I can only be a witness and hopefully have some interesting stories for my grandchildren. “Many years ago we had things called trees, you may have read about them, and this is how we used to cut them down to dig up the gold for our wedding rings…”

Journal Comments

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