Balancing

When Tallulah and I arrived, Thomas was already treating a patient.


“I’m pretty sure that that’s a chocolate wattled bat,” I noted. “I’ve done the wildlife carer course, the woman who ran it was caring for them.”


“I think that you might be right. Poor fella’s been through the wars.”


We followed Thomas as he carried the bat through into the X-ray room.


“Is he going to stay there?” I asked, as he placed him down on the table.


“Yes,” Thomas confirmed. “I certainly don’t think he’s moving.”


We slipped out of the X-ray room and stood behind the glass during the scan.


“Can you collect the films, please?” Thomas requested, once it was done.


I scurried off and retrieved them, while Tallulah returned the chocolate wattled bat to a place where he could recuperate. Thomas came over to meet me.


“Let’s see what we’re going to find here.”


Thomas fixed the X-ray to the light box and switched it on.


“Ah, that’s a shame,” he remarked.


“What’s the matter? Is it bad?”


“I can’t see what I would need to see.”


“Would a CT scan be any better?”


“You know, animal CT machines aren’t common. I don’t think we would be able to access one in time. There’s only one in all of Tasmania. As much as you and I both love this little guy, he’s not getting a CT.”


“Right.”


“We’ll just have to do the best we can.”


Thomas carefully took the bat through into an area where he could rest and be monitored. That would be Tallulah’s and my responsibility for most of the rest of the day, until there was rubbish to be taken out. I walked out to the bin, under a light smattering of rain. Once I discarded the rubbish and returned inside, it was time to join the carnivore TAG meeting. It was just Monica, Don and I to begin with.


“Jumilah, I have a message for you from Reuben,” she mentioned. “He said if you contact Cathy, she’ll let you go to the Australian Mammals TAG.”


“Thanks, Monica,” I responded. “That would be great.”


I’m not sure how I’d be able to fit that into my schedule, but I’ll make it work if needed.


“The TAG you really want to get into is eles,” Gerard remarked. “It’s essentially beers on a Friday afternoon.”


Bill joined the meeting, so we were able to get started.


“Good afternoon. Our presentation today regards the lion program.”


I’ve not really thought about housing lions, other than when Gavin makes me by waxing lyrical about the possibility of his sheep getting eaten.


“I’ll hand over to Blessing.”


“Thank you, Bill, for the opportunity to present today. I will be speaking about options for housing and breeding lions. This isn’t in relation to the animals we care for, but will hopefully give us something to think about.”


Blessing started sharing his screen.


“Multi-generational prides are ideal, but there are risks involved. If the older lionesses are not cycling, then the pride will not be as cohesive. The females may not accepted new males once they are post-reproductive.”


“Do we have any studbook reports? I note that Monica has added an item in regard to the Sumatran Tiger program.”


“Yes,” she spoke up. “About a month ago, we discussed breeding with Rani at Darling Downs Zoo. Her previous mate, Jalur, has been sent back to Tasmania Zoo without issue.”


“Yes, I remember,” Bill assured.


“There are a few options. Transferring the males at Mogo gives the best opportunity for breeding. They are, however, first cousins with Rani at Darling Downs.”


“Which isn’t ideal, but do we have other options?” Harold asked.


“I’m getting up the software now,” Monica noted. “Let’s first remove all the females from the pool, that’s already done.”


She shared her screen, which was invaluable. I watched the figures jump around, pink and blue representing males and females, each code a particular Sumatran Tiger within the region.


“Then the males at Melbourne and Canberra, her full brothers, and Satu at Dubbo.”


Those three were removed.


“And the post-reproductive males at Ballarat and Sydney Zoo.”


I started to think that there wouldn’t be any left by the time Monica finished.


“And Jalur,” David pointed out.


“Of course.”


He zapped off the list as well.


“Unfortunately, our other male would be too temperamental for breeding,” Fraser pointed out.


I hadn’t known about that.


“I’m still of the opinion that the Indonesian-born male is best at Hamilton,” Monica noted, removing him from the list.


“Well, that leaves our male, who was going to be transferred,” Malcolm pointed out.


“Yes, that would be a good match.”


“I suppose that you could transfer the other male and his half-brother, who is already in Queensland, and then you’d have two male tigers of the same line. Could you run the genetics for that?”


“Of course.”


Monica pressed a button and the computer spat out a number – 3.91%.


“That’s under five, that’s acceptable. The only issue I see is that the Beerwah male won’t turn three until next month.”


“Sure, he’d be early to breed, but we could try a mating with the older male first,” Raffa proposed.


“The coefficient is a little high compared to what we’ve accepted in the past, but it’s fine,” Sam analysed. "Is it higher than the previous recommended pair?”


“Yes, it is,” Monica confirmed, “but I think this is a good option, as long as Hunter, Mal and Raffa are agreeable to the transfers.”


Indeed, they were all in favour.


“Good, that’s a decision made,” Bill praised.


“Christine, I wanted to speak with you about the porcupine program,” Monica requested. “Are there any inter-regional transfers which you foresee coming up?”


“I’m not anticipating any,” Christine answered.


“We would like to house porcupines in the future, but we need to have exhibit space first.”


“Alright, can we move onto the member reports now, please?”


Nobody objected to Bill.


“Adelaide?”


“I have been thinking about my legacy,” Harold mused, “and I would like it to include clouded leopards.”


“We’ve housed clouded leopards in the past,” Sam pointed out. “They didn’t breed, the male died, we sent the female to Melbourne, the end.”


“Clouded leopards need to be away from big cats and main roads, yet in a position where there is the potential for multiple off-exhibit housing areas,” Harold outlined. “It’s the same principles with golden cats.”


“I’m sure Reuben would love the sound of that.”


“Well, I’d love to import cape leopards for Monarto,” Harold said with a smirk, “but that would be Blessing’s decision, not mine.”


Nobody said anything, and it takes a bit to leave Bill speechless.


“They could link savannah and rainforest habitats, between pygmy and river hippos.”


“Beerwah?”


“We’re trying to obtain funding to build an on-display cheetah exhibit. We have multiple males and females from founder lines, which would be ideal for breeding--.”


“If you didn’t house them near tigers and walk them around like dogs.”


Fraser, from Dubbo, didn’t speak often. When he did, I figured that he was worth listening to.

“I’m not a gimmick, Fraser,” Hunter insisted, “I’m a conservationist. I know that I do some things different to you. I’d like to breed cheetahs and we’re committed to making that happen.”


This meeting had already possessed its fair share of bite.


“Coomera?”


“We’re planning on breeding our Bengal Tigers again.”


I heard a round of groans around the room.


“I’d ask you not to, please, but I think we’ve lost that war.”


“Look, perhaps we need to have a full tiger review.”


“Yes, I agree, that would be a very good idea,” Monica agreed, and a date in the future was agreed upon for that review.


The Sumatran Tiger studbook, the managed tiger program, is managed by the ZAA itself.


“Melbourne?”


“We’ve been approached by Jeffersonian Zoo in the US regarding importing big cats.”


“Which species do they have in mind?”


“There are lots of options, they house a number of big cat species and breed them well.”


“Well, what species do you have in mind?”


“I would like jaguars, but that’s not going to happen.”


“Now you’re talking,” Gerard remarked.


“From my recollection we stopped breeding jags because we couldn’t place the cubs.”


“Mogo?”


“We’ve witnessed mating between our binturong pair, so we’ll monitor the female for signs of pregnancy."


“Monarto?”


“Unfortunately, one of our elderly lionesses has died.”


“National Zoo?”


“Our lion pair have mated while the female has been in oestrus, so we’re hopeful for a pregnancy.”


“My turn. Nothing to report this meeting, though, it’s been quiet.”


Bill took a moment for a sip of water.


“Orana?”


“Same here, nothing to report.”


“Taronga?”


“Our female Fishing Cat had a seizure. She’s stable now, thankfully.”


I’d wanted to ask Sam about the dholes, but it didn’t seem like the right time anymore.


“Taronga Western Plains?”


“We’ve had three lion cubs born.”


“Tasmania?”


“I’d like to obtain a mate for our male snow leopard.”


“Ah, right,” Bill responded, “have you spoken to the species coordinator?”


“Yes, he has,” Reuben confirmed, “and I’m supportive.”


“Wellington?”


“Our older female serval has died. That means we have her two offspring remaining, the male and female.”


After the TAG meeting, it was time for Tallulah and I to leave. I worked the close following a long day at the vet clinic, to still earn some money to tide me over during work experience. Thankfully Mum picked me up after my shift, although she seemed a little edgy.


“Are you alright?”


“There has been a problem with the council.”


I fastened my seatbelt.


“What’s the problem?”


“It’s the peppercorn tree.”


“What’s the problem with the peppercorn tree?”


“We planted since the original inspection.”


“Oh my goodness, is that what they have a problem with?”


“Yeah.”


We returned home and walked inside.


“If we had to dig up the peppercorn tree, that would be a nightmare.”


“Don’t worry, we won’t have to.”


My mobile phone rang. I rummaged through my bag looking for it, answering the call from Thomas just in time.


“I just wanted to let you know before you come in tomorrow morning, that unfortunately the chocolate wattled bat died.”


“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that,” I responded, running my fingers through my hair.


“Unfortunately, that just sometimes happens.”


“I know you did everything you could.”


“Thank you. I’ll see you tomorrow,” I farewelled, ending the call and walking back to Mum.


“The chocolate wattled bat at the vet clinic died.”


“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, Jumilah.”


“Thanks, Mum, it was a pretty sick animal, to be honest.”


With a yawn, I knew sleep was calling me. When I got into bed, I snuggled under the covers on my phone, so that I could text with Patrick. He hadn’t been at work, he’s not working Thursdays at the moment. Yet, after a couple of messages, I drifted off to sleep.


 

Jumilah Fioray is a recent high school graduate from lutruwita, Tasmania. Her parents, Catherine and Adriano Fioray, met at the University of Melbourne in the 1990s and returned to Hobart after finishing their degrees, where they raised their daughter and worked in agriculture. Jumilah's passion for conservation reflects her grandparents' work running a sanctuary in Sumatra.


Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey has long had a passion for the weird and the wonderful of stories, sport and zoo animals. 'From the Wild' is her first anthology.


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