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The Irony - Swamp Wallaby in Oatley ParkPrintable Version
If you've read through my earlier posts, you'll be aware that the prime concern of this website at present is evaluating the credibility of two photographs taken by German tourists Klaus Emmerichs in February 2005 which allegedly show a living thylacine in Tasmania. The thylacine is accepted as having become extinct in 1936.

For a bit of fun, one recent post encouraged you to see how hard it is to capture that conclusive photograph.

In a complete twist of total irony, I today found myself in just that position.

I live in Sydney Australia, in its southern suburbs. There are numerous parks of various sizes. One immensely popular recreational park is the 45 hectare Oatley bush park. This morning I took two toddlers for a short walk along numerous bush tracks - none of which I'd walked before, despite visiting the park dozens of times in the 2+ decades I've lived in the area.

During this adventure, I came across some enormous fungi and an exquisite orchid which I had never seen before. Unfortunately, I did not have any camera with me, but thought about heading back tomorrow morning to photograph them.

As it turned out, I was able to return in the afternoon with just one child. After capturing these and a few other interesting flowers and fungi on camera, we were walking along another track I'd never seen before, heading back towards our car. For some reason I decided to break away from the path and scramble up some rocks to my left, child in arm.

As I neared the top, I heard the unmistakable thumping of some macropod clearing the area at the sound of my approach.

Although years earlier I'd heard that wallabies had been recorded in this municipality, I recall even then I had no clue as to where they could be hiding. Even Oatley Park, so I thought, could not be harbouring wallabies without them being obvious.

At any rate, I now had camera in hand (neck strap on), toddler in the other arm and began to pursue my quarry. Slowly we crept, hopping from rock to rock as much as possible, cursing each stage I had to cross dried gumleaves and twigs for the crunching that made and trying to convince a two and a half year old that whispering would be a far better way to catch a glimpse of this rare creature.

After a time, I again heard the thumping, and then briefly, caught sight of a quite dark - almost black - wallaby bounding up the hill in the distance. I fired off a shot, towards the setting sun, which proved later to be fruitless.

However, I now had the general position of my quarry in sight.

In addition, I knew that straight up the spur there would be a road. On the other side of the road there was a soccer match playing, with all the requisite spectators. (As it turned out, there was also a cycling competition running, which meant a larger than average number of cyclists were circuiting the nearby section of road (which was not a part of the race track). Including the families with children who were making use of the recreational equipment and barbeques, there would have been anywhere between 200 and 500 people in the park.)

Across the gully was an edge of the park which abutted residential dwellings. The creature had two options - to head up over the spur and down the other side into further bushland (in which case my chase was lost), or to come back down the gully in photographic view.

My course of action was clear - head further up the spur before the wallaby did, so that I could keep it between myself and the residential buildings. I would then also have the sun to my back when I took my photos.

The strategy worked, and a wallaby - somewhat larger than what I thought I recalled from the first sighting - headed back down the gully. (Did I see two different animals?)

Balancing precariously on the sandstone overhangs, patient toddler in aching arm, I had my camera at the ready and composed on an open space the wallaby just had to pass through.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it never appeared in the frame and again I had lost sight of it. This time, however, it now had the downhill run of me, which led to the less used roadway and more bushland on the other side.

Having heard the thumping stop again I thought I would try my luck again - this time heading back down along the spur so as to retain my height and sunlight advantage. Eventually I ran out of sandstone and had to head down into the gully.

At last, there it was, hopping off further down the gully.

Three quick shots and I was sure I had captured it on film!

Needless to say, in the back of my mind I just couldn't believe that at home I was in the thick of investigating the thylacine photos and I knew straight away that this presented an opportunity for drawing a comparison.

Before I present the images here, I would like to point out the following:

  • The first I knew of the animal was to hear it bounding away
  • The wallaby was effectively trapped in an area of bushland about 300 meters long by 150 meters wide (a little less than a quarter mile by a little less than an eighth of a mile)
  • I had a camera in hand, turned on, and ready because I was photographing the flora
  • I saw the animal on two separate occassions before finally photographing it on the third occassion
  • Despite the restricted area, it still took me 10 minutes to get the photographs
  • The final photos are of far poorer quality than the thylacine photos

Before proceding, I would like to note that some people will interpret this last point by claiming that this makes the Emmerichs photos even more unbelievable, as they actually capture the animal at far closer range and with far more clarity - but recall that my animal was aware of my presence long before I knew it was there, and it was actively avoiding me for 10 minutes (in a confined space) before I captured it. In Emmerichs' case, the animal wasn't aware of his presence until it heard the
camera's electronic sounds.

Emmerichs' photos aside, I'd like to emphasise again the general point on how hard it is to take a photograph of a cryptid! Even given all the restrictions above, it took me 10 minutes to produce less than glamorous "evidence"!

For the record, the Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society notes the last recorded presence of a swamp wallaby in Oatley park as 1997.

I do not know which species of wallaby I saw today. Given the 1997 record, and that the swamp wallaby is called the black wallaby in Queensland, my best guess is that this was the same species.

Altogether I took four photographs. The first one, taken into the sun, showed nothing of significance.

The next three, taken with the sun behind, caught the wallaby in the first two frames.

Following are the original images (resized) and then two corresponding closeups.

Photo 1 (click to enlarge)

Photo 2 (click to enlarge)

Closeup 1 (click to enlarge)

Closeup 2 (click to enlarge)

I know a wallaby is not a thylacine. And I know I'm in the middle of Sydney.

My questions to you - the reader - are: is this the real deal? Could I have gone out of my way to digitally forge these images? Would I have bothered? Do I have an ulterior motive in coming up with these images? Is my story consistent? What do you think of the quality of the images? Do they convince you that I saw a wallaby in Oatley Park, even though none has been seen there for 9 years? Could I have taken the photo elsewhere (after all, wallabies aren't extinct), and made the story up?

To be sure - my story is true. If anyone has genuine concern regarding this, I can walk you to each of the flowers and fungi I photographed, both before and after the wallaby.

Bear in mind also, that the photos taken by Emmerichs which were published by the Tasmanian media were "distorted ... somewhat to guard against reproduction." (as reported by Col Bailey on Cryptomundo after personal communication with Emmerichs. Since this time, Emmerichs has also communicated with me personally to express this same fact.) The Emmerichs originals are far better quality than was seen online, and certainly far better quality than these wallaby photos!

Links to related information...

Topic Area - Swamp Wallaby
Topic Area - Swamp Wallaby

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