When I returned home, the crime scene was not immediately apparent. I unlocked the front door and set down my bag of groceries. It was only after walking through to my back verandah that I saw it. My basil plant had been violently expelled from the planter box and lay lifeless on the floor. The soil scatter pattern left me in no doubt as to the prime suspect for this terrible act. It was the work of our neighbourhood brush-turkey bandit.
Not content with digging up our new seedlings, raking the ground with his big feet and wreaking destruction below, he had ventured two metres higher up to make his mark. Before Basil (that’s what we call him now), the local possum would have been at the top of my list, but he usually snacks on my plants, never digs them up.
Like his friend the possum, the brush-turkey is a protected species. Both creatures have driven me to despair. I love living in a leafy suburb and I enjoy the fauna that comes with it, but some of the native wildlife are just downright spiteful. They act as if they understand they are special, strutting around to what I imagine is the tune of MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This in their head, like they know this to be true. Not that I want to touch them, or harm them in any way. Although, there was that momentary slip in December when I found myself Googling “brush-turkey recipes”, and “what do brush-turkeys taste like”, but that was more seasonal curiosity than malice. Honestly.
Some weeks ago, I saw a cute little “quail” dart across my backyard. A text from my neighbour confirmed my fear that it was in fact a brush-turkey chick. Basil’s baby? Recently, I spotted a gang of six brush turkeys giving another neighbour’s front garden a landscaping makeover. They wander from property to property. Perhaps they are scouting the neighbourhood looking for the perfect home. There are a number of bushy reserves and nice parks nearby. Hopefully they settle on one of those.
On hearing me rant about Basil and friends, my 10-year-old son sweetly advocated for the brush-turkey, reminding me that we humans are the intruders in the brush-turkey’s environment, not the other way around. Yes, yes, little wise one. We must adapt and work out how to co-exist harmoniously.
For that to happen, somebody needs to change their tune. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to be the brush-turkey.
Meena Evers is a Sydney writer.