GREMLINS

HOW THE WATER RAT DEFEATED THE CANE TOAD

By Jimmy O’Keefe

Ever heard of the Rakali?

Although it sounds like a Jamaican witchdoctor, it’s actually our most uncelebrated mammal. It’s the Aussie water rat, like an otter but uglier.

What the Rakali lacks in looks it makes up for in tenacity. After all, the Rakali took on the most loathed pest in the outback and put it on its arse.

The Guardian recently revealed results of a scientific study with the epic headline “Australian Water Rats Cut Cane Toads Open With Surgical Precision To Feast On Their Hearts.”

The article threw a spotlight on a native rodent that’s often overlooked despite growing to the size of a house cat.

If you’ve camped anywhere near a freshwater creek on the east coast you’re likely to have had these hairy gremlins use their fangs and claws to steal your bait from a hole in the jetty.

They’re dexterous little hunters that eat anything but have a particular skill for flipping over yabbies’ and peeling their shells off.

When cane toads first cut in on their turf, the Rakali, like every other animal, tried eating them the usual way, gorging on them whole. Things weren’t looking good for the Aussie water rat, and their numbers dwindled.

After watching so many of their brethren die from the toxic toad skin and gall bladders, they twigged onto a new technique – they started eating them like yabbies, flipping them over, peeling the skin off, and eating around the gall bladder.

Eventually, word got out on the Rakali telegram, and the technique is now being used up and down the eastern seaboard.

Other cluey natives like kites and crows are operating on the Rakali’s strategy as well, and passing the knowledge on to their kids.

It’s high time all of us invoked the tenacious spirit of the Rakali. Why? Because when things aren’t going your way, it’s much easier to sit behind a pokie machine and a schooner glass, helpless to the whims of outrageous fortune.

But as intelligent mammals we’re defined by our ability to solve problems, and like the Rakali we can reverse bad fortune with creative thinking, with trial and error.

Remember, we’ve got a wide-open land where we can shake the dust from our wings. Remember the Rakali if you’ve got a seemingly insurmountable problem in front of you. And remember to keep an eye on your bait.