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First Dog on the Moon and the guest of honour in the desert who never turned up

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Greetings from Paraku. I’m here at the Species of the Desert Festival having a lovely time. We are 12 hours drive eastish from Broome on the shores of (currently empty) Lake Gregory (Paraku) near the community of Mulan. It is very in the middle.

This festival is a gathering of Indigenous rangers who live and work on country and also sometimes get together at events like this to share knowledge, do some organising and have a friendly chat. For a humble and very white cartoonist from rural Tasmania it is another world and I am feeling very lucky to be here and thoroughly enjoying myself – although the red dust gets into literally everything, even one’s undies (sorry TMI but it really does).

The real scandal at this festival is that the faunal guest of honour hasn’t even bothered to turn up, in fact has barely been seen by anyone ever. The night parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis), AKA the million dollar bird, the fat budgie, the mystery parrot, is being discussed at length in (and also because of) its absence. Bigger than a budgie, smaller than a corella.

There’s one now! Ahahah no there isn’t. You will probably never see one, only a few people have. I have never met a night parrot but I met a few blokes who have, they seemed nice.

The festival is not just about “that bird” of course, but it looms large over the goings on. I asked some of the scientists (Nick and Steve) about the infamy of this creature and they said wearily, yes there had been a bit of controversy about the night parrot at various points but that is mostly sort of done with now, can we just get on with finding some more of the little buggers (I am paraphrasing the scientists here).

Also, they are suggesting the night parrot story has changed. When there was the one night parrot sighting (at Pullen Pullen, Queensland in 2013 on pastoral land) white people were all OH MY GOD THIS BIRD!! But then in 2017 some birdos found one in the East Murchison region of Western Australia over 1,000km away. Then a couple of months later the Paraku ranger group caught a night parrot on........

© The Guardian