New look at an ‘extraordinary marsupial’

Published 03 December 2010

vernesThe kangaroo is a unique symbol of Australia, and a newly-published book examines the world’s continuing fascination with this famous marsupial.

Kangaroo: Portrait of an Extraordinary Marsupial, by Stephen Jackson and Karl Vernes, tells the remarkable story of the kangaroo from its ancient origins and prehistoric significance to current-day management and conservation.

The project started over two years ago, when Dr Karl Vernes from the University of New England and Dr Stephen Jackson from the NSW Department of Primary Industries at Orange teamed up to write a book about kangaroos that was unlike any other written on the topic.

“We wanted this to be a lively, informative book for anybody interested in kangaroos – one that touches upon the many diverse reasons, both cultural and biological, why we find kangaroos so fascinating,” said Dr Vernes, a Senior Lecturer in UNE’s School of Environmental and Rural Science. “The book delves into the cultural importance of kangaroos to Aborigines over tens of thousands of years, and the fascination that was obvious to Europeans when they encountered them, right through to issues such as kangaroo harvesting, management and conservation.”

Karl Vernes and Steve Jackson met back in the mid-1990s when, as PhD students, the pair found themselves sharing an office in Dr Chris Johnson’s mammal ecology lab at James Cook University.  “Together, we hatched all kinds of book plans, but getting though our PhDs, publishing research papers and finding postdoctoral positions and jobs sort of got in the way,” Dr Vernes said.  “The plans for this book were developed two years ago, when Steve got the green light from Allen & Unwin to write the book, and invited me onto the project because of my experience with kangaroos gained over two decades of ecological research on the group.”

Kangaroo: Portrait of an Extraordinary Marsupial was published by Allen & Unwin in September this year. The book will be officially launched on Thursday 9 December at 4:30 pm in the United Campus Bookshop at UNE.

Kangaroo reveals the amazing diversity of this group of animals – ranging from tiny forest dwellers and tree kangaroos to large majestic animals living on the open plains of central Australia and the giant kangaroos that once roamed the Pleistocene landscape. The authors also investigate the natural history of kangaroos: their unique reproduction methods, intriguing behaviour, varied diet, and trademark hopping ability – all of which make them such fascinating animals.

The launch on Thursday will be a public event, and everyone is welcome. For details of the launch go to: http://www.ucb.net.au/home_une.htm.

The image displayed here expands to show Dr Karl Vernes and Professor Annabelle Duncan, UNE’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), with the new book.