Angus And The Echidna.
It only looked small but when he got up close he could see there was a Nana in there and she said “hop in, Angus and let’s go for a birthday ride.” Angus hopped in and away they went – all the way to Australia in the twinkling of an eye.
“What are we going to see in Australia, Nana?” asked Angus. “We are going to see an echidna,” she told him. “They live in Australia and they look like a hedgehog but they are not even cousins.”
It’s not easy to find an echidna, even for a Nana in a helicopter. First, she and Angus flew over the desert to see what they could find.
They found a big goanna, who lives in the red sand of the desert but he didn’t know where they would find an echidna. “They don’t live in my desert,” he said. He knew what an echidna was, though. “I don’t want to meet one, anyway. They have too many prickles for me and I couldn’t eat one,” he said. Nana and Angus flew away, still looking. Angus said “How does he know what an echidna looks like, if they don’t live in his desert?”
Nana and Angus flew to the bush near where Nana lived. “Let’s see who else we can find, Angus,” she said. “What would you like?”
“I would like to see a kangaroo, please,” said Angus. “And a koala bear as well, if we can.” Angus is very polite and always says ‘Please’ “Easily done!” said Nana and the helicopter landed on the lawn near her house. Much to Angus’s surprise, there were some kangaroos just sitting there looking at them in their magic red helicopter. “They come every day to my house,” Nana told Angus. “They don’t eat the garden and they are very friendly.”
“We will have to fly up the road a bit, to see a koala and do you know are not actually a bear? They are just a koala!”
While Angus and Nana were sitting in the helicopter watching the kangaroos, Angus heard someone laughing at them. It was such a strange sound, he was a bit startled. “What is that, Nana?” he asked. “What is making that funny laughing sound? I don’t feel funny and we don’t look funny either.”
“Don’t be worried by them, Angus,” said Nana. “They are just kookaburras and they laugh like that all the time. They won’t hurt YOU but they do catch snakes; they eat mice and sometimes they do steal baby birds. They tease my Dalmatian, Pepper, and she chases them up and down the block. She hates it when she thinks they are laughing at her.”
While Nana and Angus were sitting in the magic red helicopter, watching the kangaroos, they saw a strange little animal with a very funny walk. It was the ECHIDNA, just about to disappear down a hole!
The Echidna has spines, a long snout and strong claws. When they walk, they seem to roll from side to side, as if they were walking on a ship instead of on the land.
“A baby Echidna is called a “puggle”; its mother lays an egg and carries it in a pouch on her tummy. Kangaroos have pouches too, deep ones like a real pocket. An Echidna pouch is not much more than a fold in the skin on the outside of the mummy’s tummy, where she doesn’t have any spines. The egg hatches after about ten days and the baby Echidna is the size of a jelly bean,” Nana said. Angus was amazed! “It just grabs hold of a teat in the pouch and the mother keeps it in there until it starts to grow its spines,” Nana told him. “After that, she leaves it at home while she goes out feeding. And what, young Angus, do you think they eat? “
Angus slowly shook his head and said “Nana, I don’t know.”
“Before I tell you, Angus, we have to see one more amazing Australian animal” said Nana, as she and Angus flew away again in the magic red helicopter “and then it will be time for you to go back home for your Birthday party.”
With a flash of red, they landed in a special place in the forest down south and Nana said “Sssshhhh! Look!” Angus looked and looked and he couldn’t see anything. “Over there, look!” Nana pointed and Angus took a deep breath. “What is that tiny little thing? Is it a sort of wild kitten? It’s only very small.”
Nana laughed. “That is something hardly anyone has ever seen, but I have! That is a NUMBAT! It is totally harmless and very shy. There are not many left in the wild, but in our magic red helicopter we know where to come to see them.” Angus was impressed but he hadn’t forgotten what Nana had said about what Echidna’s eat, that they had to see the Numbat first before she would tell him.
“Tell me, Nana,” said Angus. “Why did we have to see the Numbat before you told me what the Echidna eats?” Nana smiled. “Because, Angus, they both eat the same thing and that is almost the only thing they eat. They eat TERMITES! 1,000s and 1,000s of termites every day. They are a very environmentally friendly way to deal with ants and termites (including digging up their eggs).
A Numbat will eat about 20,000 termites a day and an Echidna can eat up to 2kg of termites in a single meal.
Angus was very impressed. “This has been a fantastic Birthday, Nana. I have got so much to tell when I get home. Is it time to go, now?”
“Yes, Angus. It has been a lot of fun. As we scoot on back to your home and your party, we will make one quick stop for you to see a koala but don’t be too surprised if it doesn’t even know you are there. They sleep all day!” Sure enough, when they landed near the koala tree, he was sleeping.
“Too bad, koala,” said Angus. “I am going home to have a Birthday and you don’t even know I came to see you.”
“Don’t worry, Angus,” Nana said. “I will tell him that you came on your Birthday.”
It took no time at all for the magic red helicopter to whisk Angus home and land on the back lawn. He gave Nana a hug and tumbled out of the helicopter – running towards his house. He stopped, waved and watched Nana and her helicopter fly away.
“Happy Birthday, Angus!”she called. “We hope you have a lovely day. We hope to see you again, very soon.”
If you like our Snippets, join us online, get your first premium story FREE and get regular updates of new postings.
Get started here, today.
**Acknowledgement: The lovely Numbat photo in this story is published with the permission of the photographer Panda Broad. On my first trip to Nannup, I did see a Numbat in the forest, but it was a night and I was not able to photograph it. This numbat was photographed by Panda only a few hundred yards further into the forest, in broad daylight.
Today, we had an interview with Ben, aged 10, a school boy in New South Wales who is doing a project on rain forests and the need for conservation. Ben sent me his questions by email and we hooked up with Skype, so he could record the interview.
I would like to share his questions and my answers with you – along with some of the photographs I sent to him by email for his project. The questions were all set by Ben and I simply answered them as I saw fit. His mother was present during the interview and was very pleased with the information Ben received.
1) How can we best preserve our rainforests?
It is very important that we understand the depth of their bio-diversity and that habitat is not just trees. Many people overlook little things about habitat: it is the fallen leaf litter and the decaying logs in which the lizards and the beetles live, as much as the beautiful butterflies in the tree tops.
I have been to Cairns in Northern Queensland and to Sabah in Borneo, to visit rainforests and to try and understand how we can ignore their value as part of our environmental health. [Read more...]