Wednesday 9 January 2013

Pity the poor kangaroos

Crumbs, the news from Australia just gets worse and worse: so incredibly hot, so many fires over such a large area, so many homes lost - but no lives so far, thank goodness. Human lives, that is: I hate to think how many creatures have perished. Remember this heart-warming photo from a couple of years ago of a fireman giving water to a koala while soaking its burnt paw? The poor thing - Sam - still died, sadly, but lots of other rescued koalas survived. That time.

The super-heated air that's causing all the problems is flowing from the Outback, where temperatures are so high that the Bureau of Meteorology has had to introduce new colours on its heat maps. Roxby Downs and Oodnadatta reached 47 degrees yesterday - I haven't been there, but I've got close at William Creek, and can just imagine the shimmer of the heat over that parched red dirt. Coober Pedy, the opal-mining town, was just one degree cooler, but most of the townspeople will be taking it easy at a comfortable 25 degrees in their homes, no aircon required - because they live underground, in surprisingly spacious rooms dug into the rock. I had a tour of one, and though of course it's artificially lit, it was actually rather pleasant, if you could get past the aesthetic horror of the combed effect on the orange-brown rock making it look just like a 70s shag-pile carpet. I was quite diverted by the novelty of tooth-marks on the ceiling of my underground hotel room.
Down in Adelaide, they're busy making ice-blocks for the animals at the zoo. Most of them are used to the heat, but some will be struggling, particularly the pandas. I expect even their special hollow water-cooled lounging rocks won't be up to the job of making them comfortable, and if they're allowed to venture out of the air-conditioned luxury of their enclosures, Funi and Wang Wang will be spending most of their time in their garden ponds.
I got a backstage tour, you know, and saw how they've been trained to scooch up close to the bars so they can have injections and thermometers inserted without anyone going into the cage. Those are proper claws they've got. I wasn't supposed to touch, but I did: the fur is coarse but soft. And thick - just what they don't need right now.

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