Realities of drought:
Experiences during Doctoral fieldwork on an Australian wildlife park
I really don´t know how to put this, but I felt like writing what I have seen.

Four weeks ago, one morning I got up early and went to one watering point to film birds coming to drink water. I got there before sunrise. As soon as I got out of my car, I realized something was wrong. A strong, sweet, bad smell filled the air. I started walking toward the waterhole, and realized that I was walking on bones. As the light slowly came in, I saw one echidna, five emus, and several dozen kangaroos, wallabies and goats, all stuck in the mud, both dead and dying. Mother and their young on foot were buried side by side, caked in mud up to the neck, and occasionally opening their eyes and twitching.

I pulled out two red kangaroos, two wallabies and two goats from the mud. A few got away, but most were too weak to stand on their feet. I knew the best thing would be to put them out of their misery, but the ranger was away, and I was at least one hour away from anyone´s help. The only thing I could come up with was a rock, but I couldn't do it. No matter how much pain and suffering they were going through, they wanted to live. And I couldn't take life away from something that was still struggling for survival.

So I decided to take one of the red kangaroo home because it was too alive to give up on. So I picked her up and carried her to the car then drove back to the station and washed her off. I asked the ranger's partner if I could put the 'roo in their garden - that's the only place with green grass, and they keep some pet 'roos - I told her what ever happens, I would take care of it. The ranger partner is this 20 year old woman, and she turned to me and said "No.There isn't any room in our garden."

Then I said, ‘but you saved a goat and keep it as a pet….´

She goes ‘SO????´

So she took the 'roo and killed it. Because I brought it back. Because I wanted to give it a chance.

Two days later, a road worker came back to the park. I begged him to go to the watering point and kill all the animals that I left there, and he asked me to come with him. We pulled three more wallabies out from the mud….they hissed, they tried to struggle, and they were all bleeding from their eyes! Crows have been eating their eyes out alive….

All the animals I left were dead, off course, but the eyes were gone….I blamed myself for being such a coward who couldn't´t kill them.

It's been four weeks now. But that experience has changed my perspectives. I have never been an animal welfare person, I believed that I was a biologist. Natural selection at work, weaker individuals will be eliminated from gene pool. That was just one water hole, there are millions of them throughout the country. And during severe drought like this, that´s what happens. But I didn't´t care about the big picture. I couldn't´t care unless I wanted to get bogged. I wanted to save them, because I wasn't´t strong enough to live and see somethings I care about, live under so much pain and suffering. I wish I could have given my life away, in exchange of theirs.

I used to think that life is meant to be beautiful. I love living organisms, and they fascinated me and that made me choose the path of conservation. Nature documentaries always have motivated me and to some extent made me believe that what I wanted to do was the right thing. But nature is both beautiful and cruel. Even in a pristine environment, cruelty or callousness will not disappear. Some of us think that we want to conserve nature for its beauty, but if so, we are conserving its cruelty, too. Why are we made to believe that death is something you should avoid, when it is a part of life?

We only see what we want to see in the nature documentary. We only see what people want us to dream. Off course, there are documentaries that show lions eating wildebeest, but all animals need to eat to survive. But you never see anything like this on TV. You never see so many dying animals suffering many days under the hot sun, I learnt nothing but misery, callousness, unfairness, despair, sadness and how insignificant I was. All I thought was….No, I don´t want them to die like that. NOT LIKE THAT. But that's what happens in nature. I felt so sorry that I was still alive. I felt so sorry that there are billions of humans who don´t even appreciate that they are alive. What deserves life and what deserves death? In my head, I understand that there are millions of sacrifices just to give the the few a life. But I never knew how each of them died. How much they had to suffer before death. How much they wanted to survive.

Life is a chance to change the course of future. True strength will be found in the longest hardship and in the deepest despair.