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Anthrax. Another New Guinea memory.

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The portly government recruiting bloke in Australia warned me that the job I’d applied for as an Agricultural Officer in Papua New Guinea would involve unique challenges and responsibilities.
And so it proved to be…..time and time again during my 12 years working there.
I’d only been in PNG for a few weeks when this event happened;
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I was nineteen years old when I found myself in charge of one of the most remote agricultural extension stations in Papua New Guinea. Lumi in the West Sepik District. No roads to the outside world, and all supplies were flown in from Wewak once a week on a chartered Piaggio or Cessna ‘push-pull’ aircraft.

No telephones either. Just a crackly HF radio sched each morning which delivered the following telegram from my boss in Vanimo;
“OUTBREAK OF ANTHRAX IN PIGS REPORTED AT RAUIT, BOGASIP AND ANGUGANAK VILLAGES STOP PROCEED AT YOUR EARLIEST TO VACCINATE ALL DOMESTIC PIGS STOP VACCINE ON NEXT GOVERNMENT CHARTER STOP’
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Pigs are a highly valued asset in PNG village culture.
My journal entry for Monday 24 June 1968 reads simply;
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“Departed 10.30 am to Rauit village for anthrax vaccination of pigs. Arrival Rauit 6.30 pm. Overnight Rauit.”
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Now God knows what the village elders thought of us earnest well-intentioned lily-white overgrown children from Australia who were scurrying around their tribal lands ineptly pushing forth barrows full of Western superiority and magic potions delivered with administrative aggrandisement. My own ineptitude on this occasion;
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1. I hadn’t been in PNG long enough to acquire a working knowledge of Melanesian tok pisin, the lingua franca necessary to tell the good folk of Rauit that I was about to poke holes in their pigs with sharp objects. Fortunately a Persian anthropologist was living nearby and able to translate.

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2. I’d never previously administered an injection to anything or anybody, but I thought I’d once seen a vet do it to a cow somewhere.

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3. I had zero knowledge about anthrax. Obviously a rare failure of the Australian agricultural college curriculum. No books or library to look it up. No internet. To this day I do not know if pig anthrax can be spread to humans or if I should have taken any personal precautions whilst administering the vaccine. I spent three days from sparrow-fart to sundown ‘shooting’ hundreds of domesticated pigs with my new fancy veterinary equipment, so I’m assuming either the disease was relatively harmless or I have natural immunity to anthrax.
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Now, one more little thing…… “Departed 10.30 am to Rauit….arriving 6.30 pm” is a statement which totally overlooks the degree of technical difficulty involved.

Getting to Rauit village was not some sort of air-conditioned cruise down the freeway in a Mustang with a Camel cigarette hanging out of my mouth and Hank Marvin and The Shadows twanging away in the quadraphonic speakers. It was a project best left to idiots  people like me who were being adequately remunerated for all the effort and inconvenience. Fifty six dollars per week plus 65 cents camping allowance for every night when we didn’t make it home again.
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Stage One; Lumi to Anguganak. Anguganak Missionary Station was 25 kilometres from Lumi on what we sarcastically referred to as the Sepik Highway. In fine weather it took one hour riding the Government issue Honda 90 motor bike, but on this day, like many others, the journey took several hours.
With every shower of rain the wheels jammed up with sticky mud until they would no longer rotate. The rocky fords at the four major river crossings were so deep that water flowed back up the exhaust pipe, instantaneously killing the engine. Recovery procedure as follows;
Curse and gesticulate.
Push bike over slippery boulders to other side of the river.
Curse extravagantly. Arms too tired for gesticulating.
Dismantle engine and pump water out of cylinder with kick start.
Curse with greater originality and cranked-up volume.
Spray Jesus Juice (CRC) on all parts and reassemble.
Repeatedly push bike up nearest hill and roll back down in gear until engine eventually fires up again. (allow 30 minutes to 1 hour for each river)
(Travel tip; Stop swearing and referring to CRC as ‘Jesus Juice’ before arriving at any missionary station.)

Stage Two; Walk to Rauit.   Leave motor bike with the good missionary folk at Anguganak, then zig-zag walk for an hour up the vertical escarpment behind the station before sloshing through the jungle for another hour to Rauit village.
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I treasure all these memories of what was a wonderful chapter in my life.
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Pictures below; Apologies for crap quality. Not my fault. Almost half a century of fungus and fading did it.
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'Sepik Highway' near Lumi 1968.  Many years later is actually became a graveled highway to the coast at Wewak.

‘Sepik Highway’ near Lumi 1968. Many years later is actually became a graveled highway to the coast at Wewak.

Rocky ford at Keifangu River. Motor bike on far side.

Rocky ford at Keifangu River. Motor bike on far side.

 

Walking up the Anguganak escarpment.

Walking up the Anguganak escarpment.

 

On top of the bluff...mission station far below near the river.

On top of the bluff…mission station far below near the river.

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Wild pigs vs GOF. Episode 23

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TRAP # 43

Background briefing;

Pigs stole a 30kg bunch of bananas which I had stored ‘out of reach’ on top of a hay bale in the garden shed.

Response;

Banana-trigger rolling falling skull-splitting railway wheels 1.

Banana-trigger rolling falling skull-splitting railway wheels 2.

Results;

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Foot, left, exquisite, damaged, unserviceable.

Progressive Score;

Pigs   43.       GOF    O.

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Any comment or ‘like’ deemed by management of The Bucket to be pig propaganda or otherwise rooting for the porcine insurgents will receive a pingback into your computer which will include an exploding packet of pigshit.  This is very serious warfare.

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Footnote;     No GOFs were hurt during the production of this story.

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A Childrens Story (Illustrated)

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(Parental Guidance recommended;  Contains partial nudity)

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Once upon a time there was a cuddly teddy bear called Fozzie.

Fozzie lived in the middle of the rainforest with a little girl named Inga, who grew up into a big girl called Globet which is a really funny name that she chose for herself.
When she was little, Inga would dress Fozzie in nice clothes and tuck him warm and snug into bed every night.

Fozzie had another best friend called Garfield.

One day, soon after Inga had grown up into a Globet, she knew that she had to leave home because her Daddy told her to, so she flew all the way to the other side of Australia just to get away from him.

There were no more seats left on the aeroplane, so Fozzy had to stay at home with Garfield, and Inga’s nice Mummy, and the evil Grandpa GOF, who sometimes made Fozzie sit all alone on top of the wardrobe where all the cockroaches and spiders lived.

After a while Fozzie got really angry at being treated that way, so he sent messages to all his little piggy friends in the rainforest to come and create havok amongst GOF’s assets and gardens.

“Please come and create absolute havok and make a really big mess of GOF’s place” pleaded Fozzie at a meeting of their Porcine Parliament.

The pigs were very happy to help, and they dug, and they wallowed, and they shat, and they ploughed up Evil GOF’s gardens big time.

When Evil GOF found out what was happening, he got really angry and tried to shoot the pigs with a gun which is a very naughty thing to do, but Fozzie and Garfield always warned the pigs when GOF was coming to look for them, so none of them ever got hurt.

Then Evil GOF built a trap to try and catch the pigs, and it was then that some really funny things happened.

First he didn’t build the trap door properly and it fell down on his foot which made him use some words that Fozzie had never heard before.

You  $#%@   %$#&*%   @%$#   *&$%#  door” shouted Evil GOF at the top of his voice.

Fozzie laughed and laughed and laughed until tears streamed down his face as he watched the Evil One hopping around in the mud on one leg.

Then Grandpa GOF tightened some trotter trip wires to make the door fall down after the pigs came inside his trap, and then a long nylon fishing line back to his hideout in the shed so that just in case the pigs didn’t trigger the first one he could do it himself.

Then you wouldn’t believe what happened next.

In the middle of the night after he had given up and gone to bed,
Evil Grandpa thought he heard the trap go off, so he came running helter-skelter out of the house wearing gumboots, a fully loaded shotgun and not a great deal else, to check his trap.

That was a really disturbing sight for Fozzy to see, but what happened next was the funniest thing that he had ever seen in his whole life.

Evil GOF forgot all about his fishing line which he couldn’t see in the dark, so he went running into it and the door came crashing down with a really big bang.
He had caught himself in his very own trap.

Fozzie almost wet himself because it was all so, so funny.

It reminded Fozzie and Garfield of the last time they went to a soccer match together.  But this time the big scoreboard was reading;

Pigs 1 :  GOF  0.

Dear oh dear, Fozzie hadn’t laughed so much for a really long time, but Evil Grandpa heard him laughing and, as punishment, made Fozzie sit on permanent sentry duty with the gun ready on his lap.

But Fozzie isn’t really going to hurt any of his piggy friends, and all the animals still laugh at the silly things that Evil Grandpa GOF does, so they all lived happily ever after…..

except of course for Evil GOF….but that’s another story………and God help us, he’ll probably keep inflicting them on people ad nauseum for ever.

Escalating warfare

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If the scriptures had made refence to GOF’s Ark instead of Noah’s, the world would be a very different place.

There would be no paralysis ticks, snakes, bandicoots, white-tailed rats, cockatoos, possums, leeches, bunyips, mosquitoes, aphids, termites, Clostridium welchii Type D’s, or intestinal tapeworms.

But most importantly, there would be no pigs.

Australian feral pig

You see, feral pigs give me  the absolute screaming #%@&!%# sh.. reason to feel slightly annoyed.

My irresponsible neighbouring landowner, the National Park Authority, through neglectful and incompetent management, breeds thousands of pigs in their rainforest, then allows them to dine out for all three meals a day at GOF’s Place.

Some years ago we grew the world’s most magnificent half-acre of taro (root vegetable).

Two weeks before harvest time, the “Oinker Weekly” newspaper must have leaked this information in the “Dining-out” supplement, because by harvest day there was nothing left.

Q.  Why did I not call upon my human intellectual superiority, ingenuity, and high-powered artillery to obliterate these looters?

A.  Well……let’s not beat about the bush, pigs are smarter than GOF.

If I hunted them during the day, the pigs would hide in the jungle, building up their appetites until after the sun went down.

When I tried spotlighting at night, they would smirkingly hide just inside the leafy borders of the demilitarised and protected National Park until my batteries went flat before gathering up their eating utensils and serviettes to enjoy a moonlight taro dining experience with their entire extended family.

By strange coincidence we don’t grow food crops any more, so the pigs just entertain themselves by digging up my lawn and gardens.

5 acres of this

I still make token attempts to enforce sovereignty over our 46 acres.  With shotgun in hand, I conduct Elmer Fudd style foot patrols and stake out their favourite haunts and nightclubs to ambush them.

Stakeout

Every pig knows that, being as blind as a bat wearing welding goggles, GOF couldn’t shoot a side-on bull elephant at ten paces, so they continue to conduct business as usual.

These days they just taunt me with rude trotter gestures, and arrogantly wander around wearing ear muffs donated by the
do-gooding Animal Liberationist folk to protect themselves from any hearing loss which might result from frequent exposure to close-range firearm discharge.

This sort of over-confidence will eventually lead to their downfall.

I swear that if one ever gets to within two metres of me I’ll clobber the bastard over the head with the blunt end of my shotgun.

Good news for pigs

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This year is turning out to be an annus horribilis for my swine friends.
Not only have they been accused of being responsible for pandemic 'flu, but during the recent Queensland state electioneering circus a newspaper headline proclaimed that;
"Feral pigs are destroying the Reef."
 
Previously in The Bucket we have discussed various odd associations like cows with guns, and chickens in choppers, so why not now scuba diving suicide piglets with coral destroying bombs strapped to their little bellies.

The article was however referring to the incumbent government's inept management of feral pigs rooting around in mainland national parks, the catchment areas from which runoff ends up in the Coral Sea.  Dirty fresh water is apparently detrimental to coral growth on the Great Barrier Reef.

Over my lifetime I have witnessed numerous prophets of doom proclaiming the imminent demise of our coral reefs.
Depending upon which attention-seeking post graduate nerd was positioning him/herself in front of a microphone or television camera at the time, various causes were espoused.

Crown of thorns starfish, excess sediment from rivers, too much fresh water, acid rain, nutrient and effluent from cities, farm chemical and fertiliser residues, acid sulphate soils, and coral bleaching from increased sea water temperature.   It's a wonder there is any reef left at all. 
Several of these variables have been impacting upon the reef in natural cycles for thousands of years.  Nature responds, and accommodates change. 
To a degree…..it is the extent of that degree which humans still do not fully understand. 
The following contribution may very well not add to that understanding.

 I live at the business end of the feral pigs habitat and see the damage they do to the rainforest floor in the mountains, which doubtless results in some increased sediment runoff, some of which may end up on the coastal flood plain.  Finer particles might just reach the sea where river outflows are then mostly driven parallel to the coast by ocean currents. 
Given that the barrier reef is, on average, between 50 and 100 kilometers offshore over its 1200 mile length, I wish to postulate my own theory on "how much damage feral pigs do to the Great Barrier Reef".
 
Firstly I would like to introduce to you a very old Australian bushmans unit of measurement which has sadly gone out of vogue with the advent of political correctness. 
I wish to resurrect it.
It is called a "poofteenth".
It has a value somewhere between zero and three eighths of bugger-all.

GOFS THEORY OF PIG DAMAGE ON THE REEF
The damage that feral pigs cause to the Great Barrier Reef is coincidentally and precisely one single poofteenth.

So, aspiring young environmentalists of the world, go to it, prove me wrong.

I am a conservationist at heart, and, as a student of the natural world have an awareness of the constant need to monitor our environment and act appropriately in response.

It is my contention that far too much "research" is conducted primarily for the purpose of enhancing personal curricula vitae, rather than being a genuine effort for discovery of the real truth.

We would be better served when making practical decisions, to rely upon wiser heads with a broader intellectual and historical understanding of the evolution of our planet.

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