"I thought, since you have a baby echidna, we could take it up to my kid's school and show the classes there."
"Yeah, sure!" I said. "I have a bat, too. You want to take that as well?"
So at 9am Duncan arrived to pick up me, Rexie and Jack. We arrived at St Mary's, "Good Mooorniiing Miiiister MacGuiiiiineeees! Gooood Mooooooorniiiiiiiing Miiiiiiiiiister Whiiiiiiiiiiiittoooon!" and proceeded to demonstrate the animals. I held Rex and the kids patted her, while Duncan held the bat tent and the kids peered through the mesh window at Jack.
It took us an hour to work from 5th grade down to Kindergarten. By the end of that time Rexie had had enough. She dug down into my glove and tucked her nose and feet under, presenting the kids with just a spiney back to look at and pat. I told Duncan she was getting stressed and he wound up the visit.
Jack, of course, didn't give a shit. He slept through it all and didn't even growl once.
We met Mr Nolan, one of the local Talbragah Wiradjuri who teaches Aboriginal Studies at the school. He told the kids (and us!) about how they used to track them. Echidnas are called "diggbilla" here, and apparently taste like a salty pork.
My mate Terry is a Gamillaroi Wiradjuri from the Narrabri area. He calls them "durrinja" and agrees on the taste, adding that they're an importand source of fat in the Aborigine diet. Kangaroo is very lean meat. Some time ago I asked how he cooked them. "Oh, an hour in the Microwave is good enough." I was sort of expeting something a little more traditional.
Anyway. Rexie is not an any menus. She will be going back to Gilgandra when she's ready.
A visit like this is really important. Dubbo is technically In The Bush, and yet people here know bugger all about the animals. If I can get kids thinking about animals early they'll be more inclined to think about them later, and maybe pass the enthusiasm on to their parents. I hope.
Yesterday I ordered Rexie's milk supply. $20 for 1kg "biolact 150," a special formula for very young echidnas. In a few weeks she'll move on to "biolact 250" with some solid bits thrown in. I have a couple of frozen cakes of stuff that is effectively artificial termites for her when she moves onto solids.