Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Things I Learned From Tim Flannery

I'm reading Chasing Kangaroos by Tim Flannery right now.

The book has some interesting facts, so I've decided to record them here.

1. Rottnest Island in Western Australia was originally called Rats-Nest Island. It was named by one of the early dutch explorers who saw a Quokka and thought it was a large rat.

2. Some kangaroos have a power called embryonic quiescence. This means they can suspend growth of an embryo in the womb for up to a year. This sounds like a pretty nifty trick.

3. The genitals of a Dugong are very similar to those of a human female.

4. In male Kangaroos, the scrotum hangs in front of the penis. The penis is the one in the back.

5. Female Kangaroos have two vaginas.

6. Female Kangaroos have four nipples, but the joey becomes attached to just one. She can nurse both a pouch joey and a kicked-out-of-the-pouch joey--each nipple providing milk with different types of nutrients. This differs from tandem nursing, in humans, where the toddler shares the nipple with his/her infant sibling--delighted that he's suddenly getting the rich taste of newborn milk rather than the watery stuff he had been sipping previously.

7. Inside kangaroo stomachs are worms known as strongyles. These worms help the kangaroos break down difficult to digest grass.

8. Australia is NOT the only place to find wild animals from the kangaroo family.  There are wallabies in Papa New Guinea. Also, kangaroos and wallabies were long ago released in the wild in Hawaii, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Germany, and France. I guess it's the same way that Australia ended up with wild camels. 

Now I'm learning about Flannery himself from Lord Wiki. He's a mammalogist, a paleontologist and a global warning activist. That sounds pretty impressive to me.

He wrote a controversial book called The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People. He believes Australia ideally should have six million people living on it. That means about 2/3 of the population would have to exit or come down with a really bad case of the flu. He also thinks Australians should stop eating European animals such as cow and instead eat the native Aussie animals such as kangaroo and crocodile.

His work in terms of climate change earned him an Australian of the Year award in 2007.

One of the things that makes him not so popular in some people's eyes is his support of whaling. I've read some of his views on the subject, and so far they make sense to me. I agree with him.  If it's done in a way that does not threaten the whale population numbers, and if it's done in the least painful way as possible; what's the difference between eating a whale and a sheep?  


  1. Hmmm... I find the penis in the back thing vaguely disturbing for some reason. Maybe I just don't want to picture it.

    Anyhow, this is in regards to a few posts ago - I wanted to recommend a great children's book by a famous Texas poet. It's called Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye. It's set in Israel and is about a young Palestinian-American girl who falls in love with an Israeli Jew. It is fantastic!


  2. Andrea,

    Just don't go and have sex with a Kangaroo. You should be fine.

    I'm going to go and look at the book. It sounds beautiful.

  3. Tim Flannery has hurt his reputation by dabbling in areas where he isn't well-grounded, such as climatology. He's made some far-fetched predictions about water supply problems, for example, which haven't panned out.

  4. Retarius,

    What kind of predictions did he make?
    Is his reputation different among the various political groups?

  5. There are two mini-series travel/eco doco's Flannery made with a comedian called John Doyle -
    Two Men in a Tinnie - where they travel the length of the Darling River and Murray River looking at the health of the water systems.
    And the other was Two In The Top End where they travelled from Qld across the top to Broome to check out the suggestions of turning the Top End into the new food bowl and commercialising it, etc.
    They're both quite good.
    Flannery has made a few whoopsies with predictions and statements on the climate from the past which have been proven wrong with historical evidence but, overall, he's a clever cookie when it comes to exploring outback Oz.

  6. Jayne,

    They sound like fun documentaries. I'm guessing I could probably find clips on YouTube.

    As for his mistakes....I guess we all make them ; )

    But it is hard to save a reputation if too many mistakes are made.

  7. Tim has made a series of predictions about environmental catastrophes that were going to befall Australian cities, including my home town, Perth. Unfortunately for Tim's mana as a soothsayer, the predicted deadlines are now in the past and no catastrophes.

    He's relentlessly hated by the Right and defended by the Left - bit like Ralph Nader. If you Google him you'll find plenty of people busting a gut being Flannery-debunkers, so it's fairly easy to discover which of his prophesies haven't panned out.

    I personally find him interesting and entertaining, as long as he's well salted.

  8. Retarius,

    It seems most people are hated by the right and defended by the left. Or vice-versa.

    It's probably rare to find people who are liked by both.