Alistair Paton on the curious history of Australia's amateur scientists in 'Of Marsupials and Men'

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Manage episode 334358641 series 2359219
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To the first European colonists, Australian wildlife was bewildering. Marsupials, monotremes and the vast array of birds and snakes were strange and hostile. A bustling animal trade soon developed in both directions. While rabbits, foxes and starlings were unleashed on the Australian landscape, native animals soon found themselves as stuffed or live specimens in zoos and private collections around the world. Into this picture stepped a remarkable band of enthusiastic amateurs determined to get to know these strange creatures. Over the next 150 years they would advance the understanding of Australian fauna and transform public attitudes. 'Of Marsupials to Men' is the story of those fearless and sometimes foolish individuals who were prepared to risk their lives in the name of science. In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to Alistair Paton about the 'gentlemen' naturalists in the early days of the Australian colony and their curious approach to the 'exotic', the first collectors and the legacy of John Gould, the emergence of the 'snake men', and more recent casting of the Australian naturalist in the media.

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