AUSTRALIARK6 October 2016
Sir Richard Attenborough died a few years ago. I, like many others at the time, saw a headline with the words “Attenborough” and “dead” in the same sentence and had a brief meltdown. I soon realised that it wasn’t my boy, Dave, who had passed, but rather his nobody older brother – not soon enough to stop myself from posting a heartfelt obituary on social media, sadly. That was an embarrassing time for me.
Anyway, the point is that I love David Attenborough, and he turned ninety this year, and he has a pacemaker, and I’m worried about him. I’m sure the BBC shares my concerns and has him safely stored away in a hyperbaric chamber somewhere, in a deep state of suspended animation, being drip-fed a cocktail of stem cells and virgins’ blood to make sure he’s spry and ready for the next expedition to the Congo Basin. Still, he’s pretty fucking old, so we should probably expect him to focus more heavily on plants and insects as part of a series called The Life Of Things That Fit In The Studio Greenhouse (Because Dave Is Too Old To Chase Gorillas Around The Congo).
This is bad news for all of the people like me, for whom it is imperative to receive regular updates on wildlife antics in the form of a well-made documentary presented by an erudite old Brit. With the great man on the wane, the inevitable cadre of vultures and jackals has formed, circling at a safe distance, but near enough to catch his scent – the smell of sweet, sweet opportunity (and stale pee). BBC’s chief rival, ITV, has been tentatively offering up the actor Martin ‘Johnny-come-lately’ Clunes (who kind of looks like a younger Attenborough but with the lips of Mick Jagger) as the new go-to guy for animal documentaries. Yeah, thanks but no thanks, Clunesie; we love Attenborough because he is a naturalist/broadcaster/father-figure – in that exact order – and not some kind of a washed-up actor/washed-up comedian/failed musician/Oh-by-the-way-I-like-animals guy.
No, there is only one viable claimant for the succession and that’s Jane Goodall. But she’s nearly as ancient as Dave and if we’re being honest, kind of a one-trick pony due to her pathological bias in favour of chimps. You’re not an honorary chimpanzee, Jane, get over it. So it looks like it’s goodbye to quality nature documentaries and hello to more garbage tossed out by hacks and sleazeballs, such as National Geographic. Ah, NatGeo. Only an organisation that roundly despises animals would produce so many documentaries themed, ‘When X goes wrong’: When Sharks Go Wrong; When Lions Go Wrong; When Snakes Fuck Up; When Birds Shit On Your Car; When Lizards Give You The Creeps; Colony Collapse: When Lazy Entitled Millennial Bees Don’t Know The Meaning Of A Hard Day’s Work. Given how much care and attention goes into their famously excellent magazine, one would think they were all about quality over quantity. I guess having launched their own cable network, they realised that their viewership is mainly housebound depressives and chronic insomniacs – an almost captive audience. When the standard of your programming menu need only be high enough to keep existential angst off the table, it would just be showing off in poor taste to serve something more than tawdry pabulum.
But I digress. What’s clear is that we’re about to enter a time of scarcity in terms of quality animal shows. This tragedy is only compounded by the scarcity of quality animals available to be filmed. Indeed, by the time we manage to find a suitable Attenborough replacement, all of the good ones might be dead. I don’t want to play the blame game here but as an Australian I can’t help but think that this is everybody else’s fault. We have been outstanding stewards of our local fauna. Sure, occasionally you’ll hear some grumbling from a burrow, the odd squeak of dissent coming from the forest underbrush concerning the omnicidal habits of feral cats and foxes. But look at the great work we’ve done with kangaroos – you can drive all around this country and run into so many of them that you barely have time to wipe the blood from your windscreen!
Meanwhile, the Western Black Rhinoceros went extinct this year on Africa’s watch and that’s just not good enough. Looking elsewhere – and I don’t know who exactly the Arctic belongs to, so I’ll just blame Canada – the Polar Bear debacle shows that there is a real lack of leadership on making sure they have enough ice. And how on earth did China let the Panda situation get so out of hand(a)? Yes, I know that their bamboo myopia is frustrating. But I’ll see your picky prick of a panda and raise you an unreasonable, fussy-eating, chlamydia-having, sleeps-22-hours-a-day, asshole tree-curmudgeon of a Koala – we’ve got tons of them! These are showcase animals, people, and they need our help. They need a safe place to call home – somewhere with plenty of space for them to frolick and with great vantage points from which to record a video while a posh English voice softly calls the action. The kind of location you could propose to send a ninety-year-old mega-star and not be told to get the fuck out of the building down at the insurance company offices. You know exactly what I’m getting at: let’s bring the animals here!
Before you all start your goddamned shrieking about cane toads, hear me out. Ever read a little book called the Bible? If so, you may recall that there was a certain ark built by a guy called Noah, who for a time was God’s best friend in the whole world. You know, God, that guy that 3.6 billion people believe in? And I’m sure a lot of haters at the time would have been saying to Noah, “Dude, a rickety old boat is the natural habitat of zero per cent of the animals on your list”.
But God, who by definition only has good ideas, said to Noah, “Don’t listen to them bro. I can’t wait to drown the fuck out of these idiots as soon as this thing is ready. Just make sure you follow my instructions down to the cubit and get all of the animals on board, ’cause I CBF making new ones”.
Well the sea levels are rising again, folks, and things are looking pretty floody. God is way more subtle these days but if I’m reading the signals right, it looks a lot like he’s got his holy marshalling wands out and is waving the apocalypse in to land.
Of course, some of you edgelord mavericks out there will be keen to blow off any talk of God, on account of him ‘not being real’. All the more reason to go ahead with my plan! There is no legitimate reason to decide that animals must always stay in a prescribed habitat, other than the fact that they have no planes or boats of their own and we don’t want to share ours. I mean, what’s the natural habitat of human beings? Africa? Then what the hell are we doing up at the north pole, living in igloos? We didn’t put in the hard evolutionary yards to adapt to the surroundings, we just murdered some local animals who didn’t appear to be shivering, and then we wrapped ourselves in their cold-proof skin and suddenly felt right at home – if you’ve seen Silence of the Lambs, that thought should give you pause. It’s a little bit speciesist to deny some really decent animals a chance to graze on our fine Aussie grass or eat a couple of our tasty roos and camels!
Yes, camels. Proof of concept. The problem with foxes and cane toads is that they’re way too small and elusive to keep an eye on. But the bigger animals seem to settle in just fine, as seen by our wild camel population that is the envy of the world! I’ll bet you anything that lions, tigers, jaguars – any of those guys – would all love to eat a camel. Moreover, I bet the camels, who are famously cantankerous, hate being so over-populated and would totally support a euthanasia policy for the weaker of their number, even by way of a prime-time-worthy mauling administered by 200 kilograms of primordial feline rage. And if the cats get tired of eating camel, maybe they’ll treat themselves to one of our five fucking million feral donkeys – that’s right, donkeys. Now, I don’t know what a donkey eats, but I’m sure as shit that rhinos eat it too, and I would gladly trade in a few million donkeys for a rhino upgrade. This is a gimme, people! We turned a handful of donkeys into five million donkeys, and all we had to do was open a gate, point toward the outback and tell them to have at it. You can’t tell me that the exact same technique wouldn’t work on a zebra. Or a hyena. Maybe not a sloth. Anyway, so many telegenic animals are dying for a chance to call Australia home and it would be a big missed opportunity on our part were we to do nothing while they sit around at home, waiting to die of global warming or from the misappropriation of their precious ivory and other such bodily treasures.
So come on, Australia! 4,000 years ago some brave adventurers arrived on our shores with a vision: a vision of their dogs running away from the boat and over the horizon. Their descendants are known to us as dingoes and they’ve been cruising round the outback, eating babies and generally having a good time ever since. They’ve since been reunited with a few of their delicious friends from the Old World, such as goats, horses, water buffalo and pigs but a dingo can only eat so much. Unless we all start eating McDonkey burgers and Kentucky Fried Goat for dinner, we’re going to have to outsource the predation on this one. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s bring in some lions, tigers and bears, drop them on an unsuspecting herd of feral donkeys and let’s have David Attenborough film the whole thing for the grand opening of the new and improved outback! Outback 2.0! AustraliArk! Let’s show the world that we’ve got more to offer than snakes and spiders! Let’s put Australia back on the map!