Call that a mating ritual? THIS is a mating ritual
If you thought forking out for over-priced flowers was enough to contend with on Valentines Day, then spare a thought for fellow lovers in the wild, who have to work much harder to keep their sweethearts happy.
Take satin bowerbirds for instance, who bring a whole new meaning to the saying, ‘something borrowed, something blue’.
Male bowerbirds create spectacular mosaics by foraging for anything and everything blue – flowers, berries, feathers, Freddo frog wrappers – and protecting their stash from competing males. The best artwork, combined with the best dancing (a criteria shared by discerning females of many species), wins. But before you get googling for exhibition openings and salsa classes, it’s worth noting what humpbacks whales, the supposed ‘gentle giants’ of the ocean, get up to. These guys slam their 40-tonne bodies into one another, often for hours and sometimes fatally, until just the victor is left swimming.
Brute force won’t win over a female cassowary though – they’re all about finding a SNAG.
Male cassowaries take chivalry up a notch by raising their young all on their own, as single fathers, right from egg sitting through to chick rearing. Take note, human fathers: there’s nothing more romantic than giving the love of your life a night off from the kids and chores.
But even after all of the trouble these creatures go to reproduce, the continued existence of their species is hardly secure.
They, like many others, face threats created by our own species.
A calving ground for humpback whales off the Kimberley Coast is currently under threat from the proposed James Price Point gas project, while land clearing has the cassowary firmly fixed on the engendered species list.
We do have a national environment law in place to try and protect special places and wildlife.
New developments for things like mining, dredging, clearing and damming that could damage nationally significant places and wildlife have to be approved under the law.
But big business is demanding that environmental law should be rolled back; even pushing the federal government to abandon its responsibilities for environmental protection and give state governments the final say on whether environmentally reckless developments should go ahead.
That would mean handing over the reins to premiers like Queensland’s Campbell Newman, who last year labelled national protection for koalas as “mindless green tape” and declared, “We’re in the coal business”.
It would mean giving the Victorian Government the power to go ahead with their plan to allow cattle into the Alpine National Park, leaving more than 1100 native plant species, many of them unique snow-adapted plants found nowhere else in the world to be trampled by hooves and infested by weeds.
It would mean winding back environment protection by thirty years to the days before the protection that stopped the Franklin River from being dammed and the Great Barrier Reef from being drilled for oil was in place.
Obviously, people who appreciate the wonders of Australia’s unique landscapes, heritage and wildlife, aren’t impressed by the idea.
Polling shows 85 per cent of Australians agree the Federal Government should be able to block or require changes to major projects that could damage the environment.
Eminent Australians have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging the government to keep Commonwealth environmental approval powers in place.
The likes of Professor David Lindenmayer from the Australian National University’s School of Environment and Society; Robert Pallin, the Chairman of Paddy Pallin and former High Court judge Murray Wilcox all signed on.
Even Sir David Attenborough has spoken up against the idea. Incidentally, I really enjoyed watching YouTube clips of his work in my research for this piece (search ‘humpback whale heat runs’ for some pretty compelling footage).
On top of the big names, thousands of Australians have written to the Prime Minister urging her to stand up to big business.
Today I’ll be dropping off a Valentines Day card and some native flowers to Prime Minister Gillard and Environment Minister Tony Burke signed by some of the many Australians who don’t want to see the places and wildlife they love destroyed.
You can share the Valentines Day card through facebook and twitter at www.placesyoulove.org It’s no humpback whale body slam but it’s a way to show you care about Australian wildlife with enough time left over for our own species’ weird and wonderful Valentines-Day courting rituals.
Saffron Zomer is the National Liaison Officer at the Australian Conservation Foundation.
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