Wallabies damaging crops in Tasmania poppy fields after getting high

Unlike their larger mainland cousins, the wallabies of Tasmania appear to be more trippy than Skippy. No lesser an authority than the island’s attorney general has discovered that hungry marsupials and thousands of acres of legal opium poppy fields do not mix.
“We have a problem with wallabies entering poppy fields, getting as high as a kite and going around in circles,” Lara Giddings told a budget hearing on Wednesday. Nor does the problem end there. Even drugged-up marsupials, it seems, cannot break free of the physical law that demands that what goes up must come down. “Then they crash,” said Giddings. “We see crop circles in the poppy industry from wallabies that are high.”
Tasmania is the world’s biggest producer of legally grown opium for the pharmaceutical market. About 500 farmers grow the crop on 49,420 acres (20,000 hectares) of land, producing around half the raw opium for morphine and other opiates. Giddings was answering questions about the security of the island’s poppy stocks, which are estimated to be among the safest in the world. However, the attorney general noted that 2280 poppy heads had been stolen over the last financial year.
Rick Rockliff, field operations manager for Tasmanian Alkaloids – one of the two Tasmanian companies licensed to take medicinal products from poppy straw – said that deer and sheep that munched the poppies had been known to “act weird” afterwards.
“There have been many stories about sheep that have eaten some of the poppies after harvesting and they all walk around in circles,” Rockliff told the Mercury newspaper. He said growers did their best to stop the local lifestock invading the fields as there were worries over the contamination of meat from animals that ate the drug crops.
“There is also the risk to our poppy stocks, so growers take this very seriously but there has been a steady increase in the number of wild animals and that is where we are having difficulty keeping them off our land,” he said.
British animals appear to be more conservative in their choice of intoxicants. Last October, a drunk pony called Fat Boy had to be rescued from a Cornish swimming pool after gorging himself on fermented apples and falling into the water.
Source: www.guardian.co.uk 25 June 2009

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