I enjoy camping.
In December 2014, I found myself at Wilson’s Promontory in Victoria.
I find peace out in the wilderness, under the blazing stars, my girlfriend by my side. It was as though we were Adam and Eve and this was the Garden of Eden. A perfect paradise.
One timeless morning I awoke to snuffling and grunting; a wombat was fossicking for juicy grass not far from where I lay. Smiling, I wiggled out of my sleeping bag and grabbed my camera.
It was unusual to see wombats after dawn and to my happy surprise he was not alarmed when I moved towards him to take a photograph.
Before me was a haggard beast, distorted in endless twisted agony. The wombat staggered about blindly, unaware of my existence.
The wombat was not round and roly-poly. The creature was a skeleton, with tightly vacuum bagged skin. What little fur remained was in clumps around his bony spine, showered with white speckles of flaking mange.
His stomach and ribcage were a mess of deep gouges from constant scratching with his long digging claws, some gashes so deep I could see the white bone and gizzard, with maggots and flies gorging themselves in a rotten fleshy feast.
I felt a terrible pang of guilt. Helplessness for this poor innocent animal. I saw the price of my own comfort and convenience in this creatures condition. I wanted to throw him in the car and race him to a veterinarians.
But instead I just stood rooted to the spot, horrified. Repulsed, I shamefully recoiled from a creature that could only be described as the walking dead, a zombie spectre, an abomination to the natural order.
It was at that moment I saw the world dying.
On the wind came a spirit, whispering “You and your kind did this to my garden. What will you do now? Nothing, you will forget and walk away, you always do.”
The nightmare moved slowly back into the bush.
An apocalyptic wombat was not unlike a visitation of one of the Four Horsemen, Pestilence.
A slow death, taking days, weeks, even months of insufferable cruel pain until at last expire.
All the while spreading the introduced mange disease to other wombats in his colony. So that they too would suffer and die in the same fashion.
After that day my eyes became open.
I saw the endless carnage of road kill, the piles of garbage dumped on beaches, rivers and in bushland. I began to read about the over-fishing of our oceans and the unnecessary sports hunting industry. The puppy farming prisons and the euthanasia of thousands of greyhounds that refuse to race.
For a time I was too overwhelmed to do anything. I felt incapacitated and impotent. The darkness seemed infinite.
But that time has passed. I have managed to crawl back to my knees and slowly get to my feet.
On behalf of the apocalyptic wombat, my dark haunting totem. I promise I will struggle to bring about real change to this dying world through my writing and activism.
Time for battle.
Loxley Smithett. Earthknight.org