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Memento : Issue 25
January 2004 MEMENTO 11 Animals in war Donkeys, mules, dogs and pigeons have all been involved in war. Remember how Simpson and his famous donkey saved the lives of soldiers at Gallipoli? And what about the brave and valiant little dog from Egypt, Horrie, who served with the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion in Egypt, Greece, Crete, Palestine and Syria and was smuggled back to Australia in 1942? And let's not forget the message- carrying pigeons that were awarded medals for bravery nor the mules that struggled over the Kokoda Trail ... It has been the Australian horse, however, that has made the greatest sacrifice to the war effort. In 1885 hundreds of horses went to the Sudan with the NSW contingent; during the Boer War, 37,000 horses left our shores; and over 130,000 horses took part in World War I. Unbelievably, of all those horses, only one came home. Animals on guard Lots of different dogs have worked at keeping Australia and Australians safe. During the Vietnam War, Australian tracker dogs went out in front of the patrols to catch the scent of the enemy. Vietnam veteran Ian Atkinson once remarked that 'there'd be a lot more names in that War Memorial in Canberra if we didn't have these dogs with us.' Today the defence forces use more military working dogs than ever to protect military bases and to sniff for explosives. Every day, more than 50 Customs dogs diligently search for illicit drugs at airports and other entry points around the country. At the same time, detector dog teams of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service work four- to six-hour 'sniff' shifts, helping to protect Australia from exotic pests and diseases. Animals that pull their weight Australia owes much to the muscle of draught animals and their work on the railways. Today passengers sit comfortably aboard the Indian-Pacific between Sydney and Perth as it glides across tracks and sleepers lugged there by hundreds of camels, horses, donkeys and mules in the 1910s. Animals engaged in biological control While dung beetles, moths and worms might have a low profile, their work for the government has been essential in preserving Australia's environment. The Cactoblastis moth, for example, saved an area of Australia the size of England from an invasion of prickly pear. And do you know why the CSIRO introduced dung beetles? To clear Australian paddocks of unwanted droppings -- the cowpats promote grass that animals won't eat and lock up valuable nutrients. The beetles bury the cowpats in tunnels, aerating the soil and leaving food for their larvae. Even the humble nematode carries out an important job. These tiny worms are mixed with water and sprayed onto lawn to kill destructive scarab grubs. Rolling dung. NAA: A1860, 9/2/72/1 The first camels were brought to Australia in 1840. They were mainly used to carry goods in outback Australia before roads and railways appeared. NAA: A1200, L15616 The exhibition is on show in ou r Canberra exhibition gallery until 4 Ap ril 2004. Animal stats One t rained guard dog can secu re anareaofupto1sqkm. On average, each Customs dog makes a d rug seizu re each week. Detector dogs are trained to recognise mo re than 30 alien smells. A camel, if thi rsty, can d rink up to 100 litres in one go. Clydesdales can pull 1200 kg all day, walking at 7 km per hour. Husky teams in the Anta rctic cantravelupto60kmaday in spring and 40 km in winter. Af te r insects, nematodes (worms) are the most populous creatu res on Ea rth. The smallest measu res 0.08 mm and the largest 8 met res (found inside a whale!). Forty dung beetles can bury a cowpat in under two days. Animal stats