The Razzmatazzmanian Numbat
This is the jazzy call of the razzmatazzmanian numbat.
Resembling a small anteater, the numbat likes to eat termites. But lions like to eat numbats. In fact, in this part of Australia, razzmatazzmanian numbats are the favourite food of the rare Australian lion. Fortunately for numbats, lions find it almost impossible to catch them. Is it because numbats can outrun the lions? No, numbats are rather poor runners. Are numbats good at hiding from lions? Do they blend in with their surroundings? Oh heavens, no. Just look at their brightly coloured, chequered coats, sparkling with glitter. Clearly, the numbats want to be noticed.
So, how do razzmatazzmanian numbats escape lions? By putting on a show.
My name is Hickory Slick. And welcome to Hickory Slick’s Weirdlife… with Hickory Slick.
Hiding behind a tree, I’m watching a young numbat practise her survival skills in front of several older numbats. The junior numbat is waving her arms while doing a complicated tap dance. Reaching the end, she plops down on both knees and shouts.
One of the other numbats is shaking his head. He’s showing the young numbat how she should plop down on just one knee and then spread her short, furry arms as wide as she can before shouting.
Oh yes, that’s much better. I can’t help but applaud. “Bravo! Bravo, I say!”
Oh dear, the numbats are now aware that I’ve been watching them. When animals realise they’re being watched, they almost always run away. But what’s this? They’re gesturing for me to come closer. Heh heh, I forgot – the razzmatazzmanian numbat loves audiences. They travel in a group of ten, known as a “troupe”. It’s the perfect number for high-stepping dance numbers, as well as for stacking on top of each other to make one of their amazing “numbat” pyramids. Oh, we’re in luck – they’re making one right now. Wow! The numbat at the top of the pyramid has just jumped off with a double-flip! And he’s now doing a cartwheel towards me, stopping right before my feet!
A stunning performance. I cheer and ask for more,
But how do their skills as performers help them evade lions? Because encounters with lions are so rare, no naturalist has been able to answer that question… until now.
A distant roar tells the numbats that a lion is approaching. The younger numbats look afraid. Wouldn’t it be easier to run away, while there’s still time? But the older numbats are ordering everyone to stay and get into position.
And here comes the lion! Oh my, it’s a big beast with yellow fur and enormous teeth! It looks hungry as it slowly creeps into the clearing, ready to pounce!
But now the lion looks confused. It’s wondering why six defenceless numbats are standing in a line right in front of him and… smiling. Now they’re rocking back and forth while repeating their jazzy call.
The lion is scratching its head with its paw. It is thoroughly confused. Now four more numbats are shuffling in front of the lion, waving palm leaves in the air in a mesmerising pattern. But the lion shakes its head – it’s trying not to get distracted. The lion looks set to pounce towards two dancing, palm-leaf-waving numbats. But bursting through the palm leaves as if it were a curtain, a numbat appears, holding… a pineapple. The lion sits back on its haunches, utterly perplexed. It watches as a numbat waves a palm leaf in front of the pineapple.
The pineapple has vanished! Oh my! I didn’t know the numbats could also perform magic tricks! The lion’s mouth is open, not because it wants to eat a numbat, but because it’s dumbfounded. It clearly wants to know: “How did they make a pineapple disappear?!”
Watch out, lion – the numbats are preparing for their grand finale. Cartwheels! Matching dance moves! A numbat pyramid! A numbat upside-down pyramid! Amazing! The lion is standing on its back feet, clapping, whistling and wiping tears of delight from its eyes as the numbats take a bow and exit.
The lion sighs with satisfaction, then remembers its original plan – to eat numbats! It prepares to pounce, but… where’d they all go?! The lion is baffled. It’s looking all around the clearing, but there’s no sign of a numbat. Apparently, while the lion was busy applauding, the numbats took the opportunity to slink away.
And that’s how the razzmatazzmanian numbat manages to stay alive. By being sneaky. And very entertaining.
This has been Hickory Slick. Tune in next time for Hickory Slick’s Weirdlife… with me, Hickory Slick.