Toxic Custard Workshop FilesGuide to Australia

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When you suck up a huntsman into your vacuum cleaner, does it die? Or will it just crawl back out again when the coast is clear? I had to kill TWO over this long weekend (I think there is a spider plague in Melbourne), and then spent considerable time cleaning spider guts off the walls, so I was wondering if the vacuum cleaner is an alternative. - Sarah, Australia

Huntsman spider factsheet Oddly I haven't seen any Huntsmen (Huntsmans?) around this summer. Regular readers will recall when last summer I did resort to using a vacuum cleaner on one that was hiding underneath my sofa. I never saw it again, so I presume it was killed.

However. Over the weekend I heard the story of a huntsman that was sucked off a wall into a vacuum cleaner. The next day, what is believed to be the same spider was found back on the wall - covered in dust. Is that creepy or what?

So it appears the jury is still out on the effectiveness of vacuuming.

Do you really ride Kangaroo's to school? - Troy, location unknown

Australian Bureau of Statistics 

Dear Troy,

One of the things we learn at school is where to put apostrophes, and where not to. The spot where you put it is one of the places that is not meant to have one. Granted, not all of us who learn this stuff at school remember it and apply it, but it's something to keep in mind: apostrophes do not automatically go in front of the last S in a word.

I should also point out that "kangaroos" doesn't need a capital letter either, but that would just be being picky.

According to official figures, Australians travel to work and study in the following ways:

  • Motor vehicle (driver) - 77.6%
  • Train - 8.5%
  • Motor vehicle (passenger) - 7.2%
  • Bus - 7.1%
  • Walk - 6.3%
  • Bicycle - 2.8%
  • Other* - 2.0%
  • Motorbike or scooter - 1.3%

*Mostly tram and ferry. Not kangaroo. Truly. Honestly.

Presumably for the next census, they'll have to include those little Razor scooter things. Though quite possibly they'll be severely passé and have fallen out of common usage by August.

what does a wombat's pouch look like? - Meagan, location unknown

Melbourne Zoo: Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat

Well, it's kind of furry. What a strange question. Erm... do you have any particular reason for asking?
Some of my office colleagues have taken to pointing out to me that the Aussie insinuation about Kiwis and sheep is factually incorrect since Australia has far, far more sheep. - Greg, Boston, USA

Sheepworld New Zealand

Ah yes, but we don't screw ours.
I am thinking of possibly moving from here in the states to Australia. Where can I find out information on quarantine procedures for your country as well as how long? This pertains to my dog (Golden Retriever). - Dave, USA

Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service

AQIS: Importing dogs and cats into Australia

In Australia the bureaucrats got sneaky and decided to confuse anybody looking for this type of information, by making it the responsibility of a separate Quarantine service: with the intriguing acronym AQIS. They have the responsibility of keeping rabies and numerous other nasty diseases out of Australia.

Some breeds of dog are banned outright from Australia, basically any breed that comes under the category of "vicious bastard mongrel that would bite your hand off soon as look at you". Unfortunately under Commonwealth law their owners can't be banned too, which is a shame as they tend to be the types of people that you wish could be banned.

Golden Retrievers however are not on the banned list. So all your dog needs to do is get hold of the correct application form and fill it out. You can help if your dog's reading and writing skills are lacking. Send the form to AQIS with a permit fee and hopefully the wheels of bureaucracy will creak into motion and you'll get the permit to import your dog.

Have your wallet in good shape before you start the whole process, there is a myriad of fees involved. Full details of the whole process are on the AQIS web site.

Do Tasmanian Devils look like the hairy beast in the cartoons? Do they really eat everything and as much as they show on TV? (I don't get out much - can you tell?) - Scott, USA
Related Link:

Perth Zoo: Tasmanian Devil Page

The real ones look kind of similar, except that they're darker, and they make a helluva lot more noise - a kind of ferocious screech. I don't know if they eat everything, but they look like they probably could. Despite the fact that they're quite small, if you ever see and hear one, you'll understand why they were called Tasmanian Devils.
Does Australia have upside-down trees, and if not, why not? - Andy
  We did but they all fell over.
Considering how many bizarre animals live in Australia, do you ever wonder whether maybe aliens are aiming weird space rays at you as part of an ongoing DNA-evolution experiment? - Fiona, Florida, USA
Related sites:

Wombat home page

It's a theory, but when you think about it, the animals in Australia are no weirder than those found in other parts of the world. Okay, so we have the kangaroo, emu, wombat and koala, but let's not forget the elephant, armadillo, hippopotamus, aardvark, llama or that king of weirdness, the giraffe!
The 10 January '97 issue of SCIENCE is reporting that the Australian government is using biological warfare in the form of a virus intentionally spread across the continent to eliminate a "current scourge of 300 million rabbits..."
Would you say that you are experiencing a rabbit "scourge"? Rabbit gangs taking over neighbourhood, beating up kangaroos, stealing koalas' lunch money...? Is Australia covered with rabbits as far as the eye can see?
- Mark Vanderbilt
Chocolate bilby
Chocolate Bilby

Related sites:

Melbourne Zoo

Bilby information

Rabbits were introduced into Australia in 1861 by one Thomas Austin. They have bred like... well, like rabbits and are now a major pest for farmers. Nowadays the name of Thomas Austin is for the most part forgotten, but I suspect most people who've heard of him regularly proclaim him to be a bit of a dickhead.

If there's really 300 million rabbits, that's more than 15 for each man, woman and child in Australia. Which, quite frankly, is a bit worrying. We're severely outnumbered. Suddenly I feel like I'm being watched...

Judging from the trouble Australia has gone to in the last few decades to wipe out the little bunny-wunny-kins with nasty-wasty viruses, the presence of rabbits must be at the very least a little inconvenient. Myxomatosis was especially developed in Australia specifically to knock off rabbits. The woman who thought it all up is buried in Beechworth, Vic, I saw her grave once. It's got a statue of a dead rabbit on it. Nah, just kidding.

Apparently the rabbits bounced back though, because they've become resistant to myxomatosis. Scientists have now developed a virus that almost nobody knows how to spell, but it's pronounced something like Caleesi. I wouldn't say this one has been "intentionally spread" because it actually escaped from quarantine by accident a year or two back. So far it seems to be doing the job.

There's also a battle being fought on the chocolate front. The bilby, a small local Australian rabbit-like creature is starting to replace the chocolate bunnies that kids have traditionally scoffed down at Easter.

I remember an incident that made headlines many years ago. It seemed a couple went camping in Australia and their infant was snatched (and presumably eatened) by a dingo. A movie was eventually made about the matter. Could you refresh my memory on that event? - David
Related Sites:

Internet Movie Database: A Cry In The Dark

On August 17, 1980 Azaria Chamberlain was taken by a dingo from the campsite her family was staying at, near to Uluru (Ayer's Rock).

This event was followed by about four thousand different legal battles over fifteen years or more, with the verdicts alternately blaming a dingo and Azaria's mother Lindy for the disappearance.

Eventually the Chamberlains were pardoned. The movie produced was "A Cry In The Dark", also known as "Evil Angels".

Why is there such a big controversy over hunting ducks? We do it in the states all the time and there's only a few people who complain. - Scott McLellan
  Every year at about this time in Victoria the Men With Big Guns get government approval to go into the wetlands and blow the crap out of some ducks who are quite innocently flying around.

The Animal Rights Activists turn up too, to confront the Men With Big Guns and generally cause a fuss and get on the TV news. The activists take the position, which has some merit, that the ducks themselves would prefer to just fly around, and not have the crap blown out of them by the Men With Big Guns. Which seems fair enough to me.

The other thing the Animal Rights Activists do is to collect some of the shot birds that are plainly not ducks - swans, for example. I'm not sure how on earth the Men With Big Guns can confuse a duck with a swan, but most years a few of them manage it.

Maybe the solution is for someone to engineer robot ducks, that don't mind having the crap blown out of them. But the Men With Big Guns wouldn't think it was so much fun, so it probably wouldn't work.

This year, most of the ducks have actually flown to other states (where duck shooting is not allowed). Maybe someone explained the different laws to them. With a bit of luck the Men With Big Guns and the Animal Rights Activists will all go home and take up gardening or ballroom dancing instead.

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Toxic Custard Workshop Files Toxic Custard Guide to Australia

Copyright©1996-2001 Daniel Bowen. Questions remain the property of their authors.