In the Wild (1992) s01e22 Episode Script

Tasmania: The Tamed Wilderness

The trouble with being a flatlander from the mainland - where I come from, there are no mountains - is that you're overawed by this massive upthrust of mountain in Tasmania.
Now, I'm standing, to me, on the roof of the world.
It's a long way up and it's cold - And the added adjective in there you shouldn't use.
This is the Tasmanian wilderness.
When you look out there, as far as you can see, there's forest and mountain stretching away.
It's beautiful.
Then you look again and wherever you look are the subtle signs of man and man's impact, man's intrusion man's intrusion, which began 30,000 years ago, but only really became obvious when the white man came in.
(THEME MUSIC) Tasmania is the 'Island State'.
Its cool, wet climate and high, thrusting mountains makes it the lushest area of Australia.
The mountains and lakes and rivers are covered in forest and this rugged terrain beat the early pioneers - they only developed the lowlands.
But other users had eyes on the highland country.
The timber-gatherers, the Hydro-Electric - they all encroached on the Tasmanian wilderness.
The water is a valuable resource and a valuable asset, but it contains its own life forms.
Ahh.
That's the giant freshwater crayfish.
A great, big, blunt head - very primitive sort of crustacean.
These things grow up to the incredible size of 12 pounds.
They're the biggest freshwater crayfish in Australia and they're unique to Tasmania.
Off you go.
Now, what else have we got here? They're some of the native fishes and these little fellows are also unique because these ranges, these mountain tops and snow creates an enormous amount of water and as a result, all of these fishes have evolved.
Man uses this water too.
We'll let these animals go.
There you go.
The Hydro dams these little rivers and creates hydro-electric power - a very important man use.
But what happens to the animals that lived in the streams that are now dammed? That's a different story.
The obvious thing is the drying up of the creekbed, but behind the dam wall is a much more subtle effect.
The water, instead of running, is impounded and still and the native fishes can't survive in it.
But with all that water, as well as being used for hydro-electric power, we also have to use it for other things and trout are put in it.
The trout in Tasmania are out of this world if you're a fisherman - and these eat the native fishes.
But you can have trout and tourism and waterways and native fish.
You can have it all with management and management is really the most important aspect of living with nature.
You manage forests, land, rivers, wildlife, even wilderness so it will remain wilderness.
Sometimes it's a bit uncomfortable in this wet wilderness, but it's the very wetness that makes it so wonderful.
Fern forests, their running waters and mosses and aquatic life are spectacular.
Here's a little pademelon grazing in the daytime as long as Mum's close by.
They're designed to handle wet weather and shed water with a simple shake.
And the native hen - a flightless bird found only in Tasmania.
Wilderness is a bit like this wombat - once it's been tamed, it can't go back to the wild state.
This young lady was reared as a house pet after her mother was run over.
It's not polite to talk about a lady's bottom, but this particular lady has a superb bottom.
It's like a steel and whalebone corset - solid plates of bone and muscle and hide.
When the wombat goes in its burrow, it presents its backside to the world and when something comes down maybe to attack it that part is completely impenetrable.
You just can't get through it.
When a dog goes down a burrow, like a terrier, he tries to get on top to get at the wombat's head and the wombat snugs down and then as the dog gets over, he goes (GRUNTS) and he crushes the dog against the roof of the burrow, quite often killing him in the process.
They're incredibly powerful animals.
And these feet Come on, let's have a look at you.
Give us a kiss.
(KISSES) Oh.
These feet are beautifully designed - huge raking claws on the front feet, which are the digging feet, and the back feet are made like shovels to push the loosened dirt out.
These long claws are primarily for scratching through the fur.
Yes, yes, yes.
Even the pouch opens backwards - the pouch opens there and the bag is up here so when they're digging, they don't get their pouch full of dirt.
Wombats are still found over most of Australia, but they are quite often regarded as vermin.
Here in Tasmania, they're partly protected.
That is, if they build up in numbers where they cause damage they can be destroyed.
Mostly, they are protected animals.
Come on, come on.
There you are.
You settle down there.
That's it.
Oh, give us a kiss.
That's the one.
(KISSES) Yeah.
Very friendly animal.
Spoilt rotten, of course.
But, remember, if you keep animals as orphans from the bush and they grow up and they're an embarrassment or you can't keep them, don't just let them go in the bush again because then they're in trouble, competing with the animals that already live there - and the ones that live there are much tougher and stronger.
Take them to a place like a sanctuary or a chalet or a national park and let them go there.
Come on.
I think it's time you went for a walk.
There you go.
Oh, well.
Come on, then.
(BIRDS CHIRRUP) It's quite amazing, this high country.
You come out of the forest, which is quite dense and thick and can be eucalypt or deciduous beech or lichen, all different sorts of forest and suddenly you're in an open plain.
It's called button grass.
And scientists are pretty interested in this because there's a particular sort of animal that lives here.
I set out some traps just to see if I could get one.
Have a look.
There's the trap.
Yes, it's gone off.
Ha, that's the fellow.
This button grass country is really a sort of quaking bog.
It's very wet, the grass grows in tussocks and it gets its name not only from the tussock growth, but the little flower heads which are like buttons.
The Mastacomys, the broad-toothed rat, makes runs and haystacks in it.
He's a very interesting animal.
I'll just have to juggle him out of this trap for a moment.
Now, that's a really lovely animal.
That's this high-country broad-toothed rat.
That long fur and dark colour is a direct relationship to these high altitudes.
As soon as it gets a bit of warmth, the dark colour soaks up the heat and the long fur, of course, keeps it in.
And the purpose of that is to trap the air in the fur and keep the body warm.
That's why it's so warm wearing a sheepskin or something like that.
Big teeth, orangey coloured.
They're constantly growing, like all the rodents', and grinding against each other, they're able to wear themselves down.
This is one of the native rodents.
He's quite a big animal, really, and a very attractive animal.
Well, we'll let you go.
And off he goes, back into his button grass swamp.
The water from this feeds the creeks and the creeks feed the rivers and in the rivers abound the introduced trout - another of the subtle changes taking place across this landscape.
For those who seek beauty, it abounds in Tasmania.
A wealth of magnificent flowers, berries and scenery.
But all the time there's this incongruous note of a man-made object in the midst of the wilderness.
Sometimes it has a valid purpose.
These are the trail markers and they really are a jarring note in this wilderness area.
That trail is a man-made trail.
It's where people walk.
Those peaks are a challenge and thousands of people come here for rockclimbing and mountaineering, skiing or just the sheer pleasure of walking through a place where there aren't people.
And, you know, if you put them on this area without a trail, they'd be over it like sheep and there'd be tin cans and personalised tracks and little clearings for camps and all of those things from the very people who love wilderness, who want to get away from it all.
And so the purpose of these trails is to keep people in one area and that means that in the entire wilderness, you just get a little bit of damage in one place.
You're restricted to where it can be healed and repaired, whereas if we let people run wild, no value at all.
One of the really nice things about Tasmania, as well as going up in the air into mountains with different environments, it goes down into the ground.
These are caves, of course, and many of them are protected by law by being in reserves, but if they're not, there is legislation in Tasmania to protect all of the fauna that lives in caves.
And that's a very unique piece of legislation in Australia.
Come and have a look.
(WATER FLOWS) There's one now.
That's a cave cricket.
Lovely long legs, very pallid body and very, very long feelers because it's so dark down here, you can't see very well and their feelers are very important for that sort of thing.
And just down below him is a spider web.
Cave spiders are much the same - very long, elongated legs and they run and eat mostly the crickets.
That's their food.
Now, there's something that just in the torchlight looks like nothing, but if I turn it off, something very different.
(BUTTON CLICKS) See them glowing? It's like stars in the skies.
They're the famous glow-worms of these caves.
There must be a thousand or more on that ceiling.
A brilliant sight.
That long tube is the glow-worm case and those threads hanging down are what he fishes with.
He actually is a fisherman.
Lives over the water in the caves, has the tube which is his cocoon, drops the threads down and then has his little light burning.
And just like moths come to the light around the house so little water insects and cave fauna fly up to the light.
The moment they come up towards it, they hit those threads and they're tangled up and then the glow-worm drags them up and eats them.
Fantastic animals.
And down in the water there's another animal.
That's the cave shrimp.
They live in these waters that run through the caves.
One.
There we go.
Because there's no light here, they're gradually losing their eyes.
Each succeeding generation has less eye.
In time, they'll become completely blind.
Like everything else that lives in a cave, these are totally protected by law in Tasmania.
Yes! But that's not the only thing that's protected in the cave.
All of these formations - they're totally protected.
Stalactites are the ones that come down from the roof and stalagmites are the ones that come up from the bottom.
When they join up together, they're called pillars or columns.
The names of the formations vary from place to place.
The whole point of caves being reserves, part of our National Parks system, is the whole point of conservation - it's something for everybody forever.
Sometimes the signs and effects of man are not subtle.
They're absolutely obvious and blatant.
This old fellow was logged about 100 years ago.
In those days, men came out with their bullock teams, cut their scarfs into the tree and with handsaws, not chainsaws cut through the top, two men working one against the other.
They lived on wallaby and damper, very rough, very hard up here in the high country.
And only the biggest and the best trees were taken.
Then came the woodchip.
They've been very lenient here.
They've gone through, thinned out, but left a lot of trees standing - dead trees, trees for seed.
That's worked too.
There's a replacement.
In another 400 years, he might be as big as his grandfather.
But over the road is a very different story because this fellow isn't a timber man.
This fellow is a cattle farmer and he's only interested in clearing the land to produce pasture and grow cattle.
He's used the wood for fence posts, but apart from that, the rest of the timber is pushed up and burnt.
Now, which is the most wasteful? Which is the greatest loss to the community of a natural resource? And it doesn't really matter 'cause if you're a possum, as far as you're concerned, both lots of environment are gone, whether it's timber or farming.
They're both equally as bad as each other from the point of view of the wildlife.
But we don't consider that point of view to a great extent.
We've gotta have farms and stock because this is food for man.
We've gotta have timber and timber products because this is part of our way of life and our standard of living.
But it seems to me that the land users could manage in such a way that all of this waste timber could be utilised rather than wasted and that one area of land could be used at a time, setting up this sort of pattern a retention of wilderness and wildlife AND a human use.
The wilderness is being pushed back further and further by man's use of the land.
This makes it more available, which tends to diminish its value as wilderness.
Roads and cleared areas let one use a spotlight and animals here, like anywhere, respond to the light.
They're not at all afraid.
Even the shy ones like Bennett's wallaby are merely curious to see what's going on.
Look at that one.
(HISSES) There.
I've got hold of this beautiful long tail here.
(HISSES) Now, now, now.
Ooh, boy, he can struggle.
He's really strong.
Enormous muscles.
Steady, steady.
Stop exploring the grass.
Calmly.
Come on.
Simmer down, simmer down.
Oh, jeez.
This fellow is the tiger cat.
They're found on the mainland, but down here in Tasmania - like many of the animals, which are the same - they're bigger and darker Steady! and furrier.
This is because it's a colder, wetter climate down here and they need that sort of thing to help them survive.
You can see those magnificent teeth, the long whiskers.
These are true marsupials.
They're called a tiger cat, but they're a true marsupial.
They eat birds, small mammals and around the areas where people are frequent, they like chickens and ducklings and things like that.
Don't ever try and catch (HISSES) Don't ever try and catch one.
They're really tough.
Come on.
Put yourself down.
Come on.
(SPITS) Now, now, now.
Goodness gracious me.
There you are.
That's better.
Now I'll let this bloke go standing back as I do because he'll probably turn around and have a bite at me if he doesn't just run off.
He wants to run off.
Now, now, now.
You right, fella? Off you go, then.
Phew! They are the strongest animals.
They're not made of meat, I don't think.
I think they're made of just whipcord and steel springs and whalebone and they have an enormous strong neck so that they can crunch up their bones, and that just swells out under your hands.
They're really hard.
Ooh, that's tiring.
Aren't they marvellous things, though? Oh, they're beautiful.
Another one running through the grass over there.
Let's have a look.
Off he goes again.
Ahh, there's what I'm waiting for - a Tasmanian devil.
(SCREECHES AND SNARLS) Oh, goodness gracious me.
Now you know why they're called 'devils' - that howl and that look.
And this is one fellow I don't really want to handle.
There you are.
Enormously thick neck muscles.
Enormously strong - too much to get my hand around.
If I tried to grab that animal, she'd have me.
(SNARLS) Settle down a bit now.
Mostly.
They're really, I suppose, a marsupial hyena.
They eat carrion, dead animals.
They'll kill small game - lizards and birds and things like that.
Those jaws are powerful enough to shear through the leg bone of a kangaroo and I think they would very happily shear through the arm bone of a Butler.
These used to be all across the southern part of the mainland even into Western Australia, right across the Nullarbor, but I think probably the advent of the fox and the change of climate about 10,000 years ago, it made the continent of Australia a dry, arid land and there just wasn't the food for these fellows.
And the coming of the fox and the cat and white man put finish to this particular animal.
It's very likely the last ones died out in southern mainland Australia since the white man first came here.
But in Tasmania where we don't have the fox, these little fellows are still around to delight the naturalist and, in fact, to delight the Australian, because they are a beautiful animal despite their rather ugly face.
Mostly wilderness is lost - we destroyed it - but what remains can still be saved by management and we'll still have a trace of that primeval wilderness.
(THEME MUSIC)