No land anywhere is more earnestly and energetically committed to sport than the wonderful world down under, where tennis buffs and sometimes even Olympic swimmers play and practice long into the night and sunbrowned surfers swarm its spectacular shores. Nor are there many people as athletically capable or as admirably competitive as the Australians.
It is all the more shocking therefore that a nation so single-mindedly dedicated to the sporting life is also so singularly amoral about its wildlife. With something of the same determination they bring to the pools and courts, Australians seem to be engaged in an all-out war on everything finned, furred and feathered that moves.
In the less than 200 years since Captain James Cook sailed into Botany Bay and claimed Australia in the name of George III, more than 30 species of native birds and animals, among them some of the oldest and most interesting in the world, have been either annihilated or so nearly eliminated that they have rarely been seen on the continent for decades.
Uncountable thousands of majestic wedge-tailed eagles are poisoned, trapped and shot each year. One Australian alone has killed 2,500 in the past 30 months; another took more than 300 eagles in one day this spring. Some are destroyed for the 28¢ bounty paid on each head, others for apparently no better reason than that they are there.
May 30, 1965
Along the barrier reef in Western Australia anyone with an outboard dinghy, an eight-foot spear and a strong rope can claim 30 to 40 giant green turtles in a single morning. In a 10-week period recently one chap caught 3,000, ranging in size from 200 to 350 pounds. Most were shipped to Germany, where they were turned into skin creams, suitcases and soups.
Unlike the turtles, Australia's unique emu is turned into nothing, although outbackers do paint and sell to tourists those of its eggs they do not smash. Thousands of these ostrichlike birds are shot annually by ranchers, bounty shooters and weekend plinkers, but the country has yet to match its record bag of the '30s when government machine gunners cut down some 20,000 emus at a crack.
This seems a paltry figure, however, when compared with spectacular koala-bear bags of the previous decade. Without the aid of a single machine gun, annual kills hit two million in the '20s. By 1927 the little bear had disappeared entirely from South Australia and almost entirely from New South Wales and Victoria. A few managed to survive in Queensland, and the state government took prompt action. It licensed 10,000 trappers, who wiped out 600,000 koalas in less than a month, thus assuring one of Australia's most winsome wild creatures an equally valid claim to being one of its rarest.
But the most spectacular Australian crime against wildlife, the one for which all Australians will be judged most harshly by present and future generations, is the mass murder of its kangaroos. This is not solely an Australian tragedy, but one that reaches far beyond national boundaries.
There is not a schoolchild anywhere who does not know and love these gentle, whimsical wonders of an ancient age. Kangaroos bounce and banter in most of the zoos and circuses of the world, are the subject of games, songs, jokes, stories and, currently, of the latest teen-age gyrations. They have leaped feet first into show business (Victoria, a New York-based kangaroo, is a top TV talent), into politics (an albino kangaroo named Miss once belonged to Harry Truman), into society (a well-heeled kangaroo named Joey set Palm Beach on its diamond-studded ear when it moved in near the Kennedys), and even into midtown traffic (an impatient mother kangaroo named Gertrude found herself stalled on Madison Avenue and startled blasé cabbies by leaping, papoose and all, over the roofs of cars).
But for all their extracurricular endeavors abroad, kangaroos are distinctly Australian to the bottoms of their built-in bassinets. No country has a more familiar national emblem. Kangaroos appear on Australia's coat of arms, its stamps, its coins, its airliners and, until recently, on its plains and in its fields.
They will doubtless continue to appear in all the former places, but kangaroos may not turn up again in the great, open outback down under. One of the facts of wildlife that Australians have yet to learn, and that Americans learned all too well in their own not entirely guiltless past, is that it is relatively easy to eliminate a species but impossible to bring it back again. In the finality of extinction, there is no room for second thoughts.
How did this all come about? What prompts a people, considered among the most highly civilized in the world, to ruthlessly slaughter a national symbol? And why now, in the year 1965, after an incredible history of survival, should the kangaroo suddenly find itself unable to meet this most serious challenge of its 20 million years on earth?
The answers are surprisingly simple. Antagonism between ranchers and roos began almost the moment the first sheep were brought into Australia. It did not take the ranchers long to decide that every meal a kangaroo ate was one less for their stock, and they lost little sleep choosing sides. As far back as 1871 graziers, as they are called, began using rifles to keep kangaroo populations in check. Whenever grass or water were short or range competition was excessive, they were justified in doing so. Even with such control measures, kangaroos continued to survive comfortably for almost 100 years.
Then four things happened in the 1960s that changed everything. Kangaroo fur, which had never been particularly popular—or pretty—suddenly turned up with a new look, and it was a very chic look indeed. Radical innovations in tanning, treating and bleaching had turned the marsupial version of the sow's ear into a smashing success. Overnight kangaroo became the In fur. Sydney furriers were swamped with demands from all over the world for kangaroo coats, jackets, ski parkas and car robes.
At the same time that kangaroo fur was becoming high fashion, kangaroo leather was leaping into its own. Australian tanners had long supplied kangaroo hides for such specialized items as football shoes, Swiss walking shorts and Scottish bagpipes. Kangaroo leather is frequently pocked and marred by tick bites, but European and U.S. merchants, eager to cash in on the sudden kangaroo craze, could not have cared less. Even supposedly conservation-minded Abercrombie & Fitch found the temptation irresistible. This spring the store ran half-page ads in The New York Times touting the "unique texture" of the leather. A half million hides a year are being processed in Brisbane alone to meet soaring demands.
The kangaroo's sudden, disastrous popularity was not limited to fashion. While Australian furriers and tanners were busy thinking of new ways to wrap people up in kangaroos, Australian meat packers were busy figuring out how to wrap up the kangaroo. They soon came up with a multimillion-dollar pet-food business. By 1963 mechanized teams of professional kangaroo shooters were operating from mobile freezing units scattered all over the outback. With deadly aim—aided by dashboard rests, telescopic sights and electric spotlights—efficient marksmen were each bringing down anywhere from 35 to 100 kangaroos in an evening. Before they finally began running out of targets, more than 500 full-time shooters and at least five times that many weekenders had joined the elite corps of kangaroo killers. Daily bags at the peak of the boom reached such staggering proportions that Australia found itself with considerably more pet food than pets. Japan, Germany and the U.S. eagerly bought the surplus, a portion of which—passing as Pennsylvania sausage—found its way into some very unpetlike stomachs.
No native animal can stand up to the reported death rate of 10 million a year," Australian Zoologist Jock Marshall warned last summer in an impassioned newspaper plea to "stop the slaughter." Had anyone bothered to listen, it is possible that even then, at that late date, the kangaroo might have been pulled from the edge of extinction. But this spring a fourth and final catastrophe compounded the carnage of fur, hide and meat shooters. A disastrous drought, the worst and most widespread in 19 years, turned the Australian outback into a scorched, sun-scarred dust bowl. As the last burned, brown grass dug dying roots into the parched earth, hope for the kangaroo withered too.
I was there in the outback when the kangaroo was fighting and losing its battle for survival. Nobody seemed to notice. Nobody, in fact, seemed willing even to admit that the kangaroo was in danger at all. I had no idea that such a situation existed when I arrived in Australia this spring, nor had I anticipated being a witness to the tragedy.
Over the years I had heard about wild and daring outbackers who hunted kangaroos from horseback, galloping after big 6-and 7-foot roos over treacherous terrain at speeds up to 30 miles an hour. The chase was tough, the shooting difficult, and the sport challenging. "Suicidal," said a Nepalese gentleman who had tried it, "but unbelievably thrilling." I had come to Australia to find out for myself.
Considerable preliminaries preceded my arrival. Top kangaroo areas were scouted, guides were located, provisions were stocked, transportation into the outback—that endless, empty expanse between the coasts—was arranged. I was met at the Sydney airport with pages of closely typed itinerary. Prospects for the hunt were great. At least half a dozen graziers had extended eager invitations for me to shoot on their stations, as sheep and cattle ranches in the outback are called. Kangaroos were everywhere in pest proportions, they reported, and anyone who wanted to help thin them out was more than welcome. This supported reports I had read of population explosions that were hitting kangaroos even harder than people.
The first hint I had that all was not kosher in the kangaroo kingdom came when I reached the frontier town of Bourke (population 2,200), some 400 miles northwest of Sydney. I do not think I actually expected to see kangaroos squatting on the runway when the little plane set down on the dusty dirt strip, but I did hope to see a few on the five miles of broad, open plain between the landing field and town. I had never seen a kangaroo outside a zoo, and I was as excited as any 10-year-old at the idea. But peer as I might beneath coolibah tree and budda bush, I saw none that day.
My next misgivings came when I pulled on my boots and inquired about the horses. They had, it seemed, been supplanted by wheels. Yesterday's hitching posts were today's petrol pumps, and the last of the cowboys back of the beyond had long since traded saddles for spare tires. "Never heard of any roo shooters in these parts using horses," one of my guides said. "We use jeeps or pickups. Much faster and a lot easier. You'll see."
That night I did. We left Bourke after lunch, driving northwest along a narrow ribbon of red dust toward a horizon that seemed a million miles away. The land between stretched vast and vacant, naked but for sporadic patches of dry grass and the spindly silhouettes of scattered acacia trees. "When they can't find a tree to mark the mileage on," the driver said, "they just whitewash a cow or sheep skull and use that." There were plenty of skulls around.
Rainfall in the outback is spoken of in decimal points, and on the stations graziers quote the day's, or the week's, or the month's measure like solemn stockbrokers announcing Dow Jones averages. The 10 inches or so that fall each year may come all at once, to be drained in a single thirsty gulp, or, maddeningly, the water may be doled out drop by steaming drop, to be burned away by the blazing sun even before it touches the earth. In good times, when the 1,750-mile Darling River, the continent's longest, is full and the broad reaches of its basin are green with grass, this is some of Australia's best sheep pasture. It is also prime kangaroo country.
Our vehicles were Australian versions of a Chevrolet pickup and a panel truck. The latter was stocked with tins of meat and vegetables, fruits, canned beer and soda, a collection of Australian wines that were ridiculously cheap and remarkably good, insect repellent, bedrolls and miscellaneous hunting impedimenta. The pickup was empty except for two drums of gasoline and one of water.
About 100 miles out of Bourke we turned off the "main" road onto an even narrower, dustier track crossed periodically by wooden gates that were fastened with an infinite and imaginative variety of locks, hooks and hasps. This was a typical stock road, one of countless that crisscross the stations, serving both as means of getting sheep and cattle to market and as a link between the isolated outposts of the hinterlands.
We drove for an hour, and still we saw no signs of life, human or animal. Finally we came to a weather-beaten wooden house surrounded by sagging chicken wire and the accumulated debris of better times. A tall, bony man in his middle 60s looked up from the screened veranda that ran around the house, matter-of-factly nodded "Heygowan?" which is Australian for "How are things going?" and went back to paring potatoes. His varicosed legs and leathery face were so browned that his light eyes and neatly clipped mustache seemed colorless. His wide-brimmed hat, short shorts and tennis shoes made him appear an incongruous combination of British army and Bowery bum.
In the peculiar vernacular of the outback, he was the "offside" on the station. The title stems from the time when every grazier rode to market with a chap who stood offside on the running board to open and shut gates along the way. Today it applies to a legion of old, otherwise jobless men who live on stations where there are no women, performing necessary household chores in return for their keep.
We asked the old fellow about kangaroos. "Mobs of them out there," he beamed, gesturing vaguely. "Danged roos all over the place, eating up the feed, drinking all the water, ruining the land. Regular pests they are.
"If you want to shoot a few, try the west bore." He squinted gleefully. "That's the only water left on the place with this drought. Roos are so thick out there, the stock can't pass between 'em."
We asked if he would show us the way to the bore, which was a water pump on the western edge of the station, but he shook his head. " 'Fraid I'm flat out, mates," he said. "I've still to feed the fowl, water the garden and make the meal. But I'll give you a mud map." With a silvery twig of a mulga tree he scratched a rough route in the red sand and pointed toward the dipping sun.
It was twilight when we got there. A half dozen emus looked up, startled, then, stiff-kneed, raced along beside us for a while. Farther on a fox crouched beneath a clump of saltbush. Then, at last, I saw a kangaroo.
It was about the size of a boxer dog. It sat very still and watched us, wrinkling its nose and peering with nearsighted curiosity in our direction.
"Good shot for you there," one of the men said, and I turned to see if he were serious. The kangaroo continued to look at us as I got out my camera.
"Wait, we'll get in closer," the driver said. We drove to within 50 yards of the animal. Still it watched us, unalarmed. We drove closer. Finally, shrugging its shoulders, it hopped away on enormous flat-soled feet, its forepaws poised at chest level as if gripping the handles of some invisible pogo stick.
"That must have been a baby," I said. The men shook their heads.
"Average gray," one said. "Not big, but not a joey either."
I had expected a much larger animal, one that stood at least as tall as a man. My books had described the great gray kangaroo as "seven feet tall and weighing 150 pounds or more." Indeed, in planning the trip, I had emphasized that I was interested in hunting only the largest, fastest animals, and my guides had assured me that this was the place to find them. But so far the sole kangaroo produced in two days and considerable mileage looked alarmingly like a pet.
"You'll see more now," the driver, Clive, said. "Roos lie around during the day sleeping and staying out of the sun, but in the evening they start feeding. That's the time to get them."
He unscrewed the glass from the windscreen of the pickup, then hooked a large round searchlight into a cradle that hung from the roof and showed me how he could spot a 180° arc while driving.
Next he checked out the rifle. It was a new Mauser-action .243, with a four-power scope, lent by one of the graziers for my use. He set a wooden box about 60 yards from the truck, carefully anchored the rifle barrel on a pad on the steering wheel and put three shots within a one-inch circle on the box. The rifle was fine.
"Bring on the kangaroos," he grinned and handed me the rifle. Suddenly the whole idea seemed very unattractive.
"I think I'll watch first," I said.
Just then Clive swung the truck off the road and flicked on the spot. A kangaroo, barely larger than the first, squinted blindly into the circle of light.
"Nice little skin," Clive said as he steadied on the steering wheel and fired.
"Now if I were meat shooting, I'd have aimed for the chest," he explained, "but when you're shooting for skin, which is my cup of tea, you have to hit them in the hip. That way you don't mark up the hide."
"A head shot wouldn't mark up the hide," I said, "or ruin the meat either." It was a naive comment. Head shots are harder to make, and few kangaroo shooters try. They pride themselves on bringing something down with every bullet.
We drove to where Clive's kangaroo had fallen. It struggled to get up, flailing big feet at the air and flinging its body in violent half circles as if pinioned by one hip to the ground. It was making low, snorting noises like a child trying to stifle sobs it can no longer control, and all the while it looked at us with dumb, hurt eyes.
Clive picked up a rock and hit it several times on the skull. Its muscles continued to twitch long after it was dead. I watched the horizon fade into night shadows and tried to take my mind to some other place.
In a dozen years of hunting I have taken my share of game, and along the way I have experienced my share of the myriad and mixed emotions that are part of the sport. I have been awed and angered, elated and saddened, thrilled and unbelievably terrified. There have been good shots and bad; impossible chases and improbable ones; tough trophies and some that were easier. Not all of the encounters have been without regret, but the challenges have been fair and the victories honestly won. This is the substance of hunting and the reason the sport needs no apology. But what happened that evening on a remote Australian plain was not sport. It was slaughter.
We made camp near the bore and uncorked the good Australian wine. Long into the night, while the shadowy silhouettes of sheep and cattle and smaller creatures shuffled past us to drink, we talked of what had happened earlier, and of what was happening all over Australia. These were not evil men, nor were they consciously cruel. They loved their vast, virile land, and they had genuine affection for the animal that symbolizes it. But until that evening, they had not ever really analyzed their actions in terms of its future or faced the fact of an Australia without kangaroos.
Clive was typical of hundreds of roo shooters produced by the boom. He had little schooling and no specialized skills, but he had a good eye and a fondness for being outdoors. Shooting kangaroos offered him a chance to turn both into a living. He did not think beyond this immediate economic fact. And so he packed a new bride, a not-so-new .222 rifle and a couple of bedrolls into his pickup and headed into the hinterlands.
For almost a year, with only occasional Saturday nights off to drink beer or the strange mixture of beer and lemon soda that outbackers call shandy, Clive shot while his wife spotted, and then together they skinned and stretched pelts until the back of their truck was full. They rarely stopped before 2 or 3 in the morning because, to make a decent living at the game, it was necessary to shoot at least 20, preferably 30, kangaroos each night. They got $1 for a prime skin—one that was cleaned, dried and bore only a single neat hip hole—and in a good week they often cleared more than $100 over operating expenses.
But this winter Clive began to notice that he was working harder to make his day's wage. His wife became pregnant at about the same time, and he decided to try a more stable trade. Though he still did some roo shooting to supplement his income as a mechanic, the profits seemed to decrease each week. Even then it did not occur to him that perhaps kangaroos had decreased, too.
"Oh, I noticed there wasn't as many big skins around, and they took more looking for," he told me, "but who would ever think of running out of roos?" The answer, I learned in the days that followed, was nobody.
From that evening on, what had begun as a hunting trip became instead a chronicle of the kangaroo's struggle for survival. From dawn until long after dark, in 110° heat and blazing sun, through dust storms and dense clouds of flies, we crisscrossed the remote reaches of New South Wales, passing at last into western Queensland and the even more remote region Australians describe as "the place the world forgot." A great wire fence separates the two states, running for hundreds of miles along the border. There are supposed to be more dingos, native wild dogs that prey on stock, in Queensland than in N.S.W., and the purpose of the fence is to keep them there. The penalty for neglecting to close the gate in Hungerford (population 20; tennis courts 4) is $225 and six months in jail. We followed the old pioneer bullock-team trail north, stopping at station after distant station along the way. At each the kangaroo picture grew grimmer.
In the utter isolation of outback life, even a stranger's visit is a welcome interlude, and the graziers and their families were eager to chat with us. Most, if they had noticed at all, seemed undisturbed by failing kangaroo numbers. This incredible indifference was apparent everywhere.
Even in good times, just to survive in the outback is a day-to-day struggle," Australia's leading outdoor authority, Vic McCristal, told me. "You have to actually come out here and see how tough the life is, as you are doing, to understand how these people can be the way they are about wildlife. Most see any animal that can't be turned into pounds sterling as useless. If it happens to eat their grass or drink their water, they see it as taking something that belongs to them, and they figure they have a right to protect their own. It does not matter that the animals may have been there first, or even that they may not be harming a thing.
"Most of these people are decent and friendly," McCristal added, "but many of them would be very happy to live in a country completely bare of roos, eagles and most other wildlife."
This was especially clear whenever a grazier spoke of kangaroo damage, and the majority of them did. The Australians have been given a brainwashing on the subject of kangaroo damage that makes the unthink experts behind the Iron Curtain seem like apprentices.
"A kind of mass hysteria seems to grip large sections of the community at the mention of kangaroos," said an eminent wildlife biologist. "A complaint by graziers in the Wilcannia district can be followed by a host of complaints from all over New South Wales, and in places where only small populations of kangaroos exist and are rather uncommon."
"The fact that each female may only produce one young annually," added another biologist, "leads one to find reports of 'population explosions' as untenable."
Of the many graziers we met who complained of kangaroo damage, not one was able to show us more than three scraggly roos. Yet remarkably, these ranchers assured us that roo shooting would stop the instant the kangaroo was in danger. At the moment, they insisted, this certainly was not the case.
Most, I think, believed this to be so or wanted to believe it. Some deliberately looked the other way for fear of learning the unpleasant truth. But a few were beginning to ask themselves exactly how much damage can be done by kangaroos that are not there.
The roo shooters we met, on the other hand, could no longer ignore what was becoming obvious from thinning pocketbooks. One chap who, a year ago, regularly shot 70 kangaroos a night, and sometimes exceeded 100, now found it hard to take even a third that number.
"I never drove more than five miles to get them, either," he said, "but now I drive 80 or 90 miles in a night."
"It hardly pays anymore," another shooter complained. "You work six hours for maybe two roos. Singles. If you're lucky they're does, each with a joey in the pouch or near by. At least that's an extra skin even if it's small. But the big mobs we used to find are all gone."
At one station a meat shooter took me inside his chiller, the mobile, diesel-powered meat coolers that park all over the outback like huge, cabless moving vans. Hundreds of skinned, dismembered carcasses hung from pipe racks on one side of the chiller. On the other side the carcasses were all about the size of jack-rabbits. I asked what they were.
"Roos, same as the others," the shooter explained. "They have this fool law about it being illegal to shoot roos smaller than 30 pounds. Makes no sense when you can't hardly find a roo bigger than that anymore. Sense or no, we can't sell them little critters till they lower the size limit, so we hang them over there. In a good chiller like this, they'll keep two, three months. By then the law is sure to be changed."
"But if you shoot all the breeding stock, and then you shoot the young as well," I asked, "aren't you afraid that there will be no kangaroos left at all?"
"Heck, that could never happen in Australia," he said.
When I suggested that it might already be happening and told him about how few kangaroos we had found anywhere on our travels, a suggestion of doubt crossed his face. I told him about watching one watering hole where the kangaroos were supposed to be especially heavy and of seeing only two scrawny specimens in twice that many hours.
"Sure can't figure that," he said, and he was honestly puzzled. "The roos are always thick as flies at that hole. Why, just last month I took 2,000 from that very spot."
Like the fellow who killed the goose for its golden eggs, he really did not understand the mechanics of the problem. Eventually he will, but by then the few remaining roos on the station will all be in his chiller. To the kangaroo's misfortune, it is another fact of wildlife that ignorance, whether deliberate or inadvertent, is often easier and economically more profitable than understanding.
In Australia ignorance apparently is also politically more profitable. For several years now, state and federal legislators have been singularly deaf and blind to the impending kangaroo crisis, not because they care nothing for kangaroos but because they care more for the substantial grazier vote. To cultivate it, they have shamelessly looked the other way, ignoring not only the evidence of their own eyes but the protests of the few foresighted people like Jock Marshall, who feared for the kangaroo's future even before the current disastrous drought.
More than a year ago Basil J. Marlow, curator of mammals at the Australian Museum, warned that kangaroos will be exterminated like America's passenger pigeon unless haphazard slaughter for the benefit of a few individuals is replaced by organized scientific control.
"It is not the will of the people," wrote the Australian Novelist Ernestine Hill of what she termed The Great Australian Slaughter, "but they are asleep with the sheep in the sun.... To everything but their own gain one finds them increasingly blind, deaf and dumb."
Reporting "a pessimistic picture of depleted kangaroo numbers" in the once heavily populated Wanaaring district, field officers and former professional shooters there publicly urged legislators to recognize that "it is imperative that no further shooting should be conducted here for two years."
"Kangaroos cannot survive the present system of shooting them off private properties despite smug assurances from grazing interests," protested a Labor Party executive to the N.S.W. state government. In a classic compromise, the state government closed its open season on kangaroo shooting while in the same breath extending to all landholders carte blanche license to shoot or to authorize the shooting of kangaroos on their own properties. As far as the kangaroo was concerned, nothing had changed at all.
There is no question that suitable, sensible legislation might have prevented the current catastrophe; might still, in fact, salvage some small segment of the species. Laws that will be respected and enforced, laws based on fact instead of favor, are desperately needed now in Australia. Wherever actual kangaroo overpopulations exist, unlikely as this is today, they should certainly be cropped for man's use, but such cropping must be scientifically substantiated and scrupulously supervised. Embargoes on exports of meat, hides and skins are obvious, immediate measures that would dramatically reduce market shooting. A strict boycott of all kangaroo products, both in Australia and abroad, would also help stem the slaughter.
But all legislation is meaningless until Australians everywhere first recognize for themselves the timeless, intangible worth of their unique wildlife and realize that its long-range values far outweigh the brief rewards of its plunder.
They must set aside, regardless of personal interest or inconvenience, vast portions of their country for reserves and sanctuaries, both to protect and preserve native fauna and to permit ecologists an opportunity to study it. Remarkably little of a scientific nature is known about Australian wildlife and its applications to agriculture, medicine and biology. Yet from such studies of wildlife elsewhere, man has improved his own life tremendously.
Certainly greater knowledge of the game may well produce new answers to its survival. Already two scientific studies completed in Australia only this year have refuted one widely accepted theory about kangaroos while establishing a little-known fact about the animal's range. One report indicated that kangaroos prefer harsher species of grass, particularly the wire grasses which are unpalatable to stock. Where pastures are improved by the introduction of exotic grasses for stock grazing, kangaroos tend to move on to unimproved parts of such properties. The second study, which took two years and covered 3,000 square miles, proved that kangaroos do not range far afield. No tagged kangaroo was ever recovered more than 20 miles from its point of original capture; little change in distribution occurred although the population declined greatly during this period. From these findings alone, it is clear that a program of multiple land use (a concept which has had great success in the U.S.) and a system of managed reserves are both sound and proved conservation measures that would work in Australia.
But time is running out. In a country that, astonishingly, has never had a national conservation program of any kind, to take even these first tentative steps toward saving the natural glory of its wildlife will demand better than Davis Cup determination. Whether Australians are up to the challenge or not remains to be seen.