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澳州野生骆驼奇谭

更新时间:2018-4-24 21:04:06 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The strange story of Australia's wild camel
澳州野生骆驼奇谭

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting the camel.

老实说吧。我没有料到这里有骆驼。

The hours tick by slowly when you’re driving Australia’s Stuart Highway. Named after the 19th-Century explorer John McDouall Stuart, who was the first European to successfully traverse the continent from sea to sea and back again, the road broadly follows the route of his marathon journey. It’s 2,834km long; a near-endless spool of bitumen stretching from Port Augusta in the south to Darwin in the north, crossing what is largely open wilderness. They call it, with some understatement, ‘The Track’.

开车走在澳洲的斯图尔特公路上,时光缓缓前行。这条路因19世纪的探险家斯图尔特(John McDouall Stuart)而得名,他是第一个成功穿越澳洲大陆的欧洲人,从海边出发到海边结束,然后折返;这条路与他的漫漫征途大致重迭。它长达2834公里,看不到尽头的柏油路从南方的奥古斯塔港穿过旷野,延伸至北方的达尔文市。当地人不以为意地称之为“小径”(The Track)。

I knew to expect occasional wildlife, and sure enough the emptiness of the plains was sporadically broken up by the presence of the kind of climate-hardened animals Australia is famous for. There were kangaroos gazing blankly into the distance and wedge-tailed eagles hunkered over roadkill. On one occasion a dingo – a sandy-coloured wild dog – appeared out in the scrub, lean and wiry in the heat. I slept in the little outback towns that dot the route. Then, three days in, I saw a camel.

我知道偶尔会遇上野生动物,而且非常确定那些闻名澳洲的、无视恶劣气候的动物会跑出来,打破一马平川的空寂。几只袋鼠茫然地望着远方,楔尾鹰蹲守着被汽车撞死的动物。有一次,在酷暑下,一只精瘦结实的土黄色澳洲野狗从灌木丛中现身。一路上,我都是在沿途的内陆小镇过夜。走了三天,我看见了一头骆驼。

I looked online that evening to make sure I hadn’t been hallucinating. Camels, you understand, are about as Australian as polar bears. Or rather, that used to be true. It turned out I’d just been ill-informed – and to a colossal degree. The outback was, and is, home to an extraordinary number of wild camels. The government-supported website Feral Scan, which monitors invasive species, puts the current number at between 1 and 1.2 million, with this amount reportedly doubling every eight or nine years. It’s a wonder, frankly, that the highway isn’t one continuous camel parade. So how on Earth did such a huge number of non-native animals come to be here?

那天晚上,为了确定那不是自己的幻觉,我上网去查。澳洲跟骆驼,你明白,就像澳洲跟北极熊一样不搭界。更准确的说法是,它们曾经是不搭界的。事实证明,我真的是耳目不聪,而且到了很严重的程度。无论是过去还是现在,澳洲内陆都生活着数量巨大的野生骆驼。根据政府资助、监测入侵物种的网站“野生扫描”(Feral Scan)的说法,野生骆驼的数量目前在100万头到120万头之间,而且据说这个数字每八、九年就会翻一番。坦率地讲,这条公路居然不是一个连续的骆驼方阵,还真是奇迹。那么,这么多外来物种究竟是怎么到这里的呢?

The answer begins back in the pioneering days of characters like Stuart. To start with, there’s one crucial thing that needs to be understood about Australia’s outback. It’s big, in every direction. Very big. This is a mighty obvious statement, but it’s the absolute essence of what makes the outback the outback. The region covers more than 6 million sq km, or an area almost twice the size of India. Out here, the horizons are just precursors to more horizons.

要回答这个问题,就要从斯图尔特这些拓荒者的时代说起。关于澳洲的内陆地区,有一个关键的事情需要先搞清楚。它面积很大,连阡累陌。一眼望不到边。这本无需多说,但内陆之所以为内陆,也正是因为它面积广阔。该地区面积超过600万平方公里,几乎是印度的两倍。这里的地平线延绵不绝。

When parts of coastal Australia were settled by the British from the late 1700s onwards, the colonial thinking of the day meant that a fuller exploration and understanding of this vast landmass became seen as a necessity. Indigenous people had lived here for tens of thousands of years – adapting, surviving, reading the land – but for newly arrived Europeans, the interior was a sun-scorched, unknowable expanse.

自英国人于18世纪晚期开始在澳洲部分沿海地区定居以来,根据当时的殖民思维,对这片广袤大地进行更全面的探索和了解,是理所当然的事。原住民在这里已经住了数万年,他们顺应着这片土地,艰难度日,想要读懂这里的意义。但在新来的欧洲人看来,内陆地区不过一个阳光炽烈、不可知的广袤大地。

Inland expeditions began to take place with regularity, in often punishing conditions. Confusion sometimes reigned – a map from the early 1800s mistakenly shows a huge inland sea in the centre of the country – but, explorer by explorer, the continent was pieced together. Goldfields were discovered, outback settlements were founded and formative transport routes were established. But covering such extreme distances required packhorses or bullock teams, which generally lacked the staying power for long, thirsty days of travel. The alternative was obvious.

前往内陆的探险开始频繁推进,条件往往极其恶劣。有时完全搞不清状况——一张19世纪初的地图上,在这个国家的中心位置居然画着一片巨大的内海——经过一次次探索,这片大陆逐渐拼凑成型。探险者找到了金矿区,发现了内陆定居点,也建立了意义深远的交通线。但要穿越这么远的距离,需要驮马队或者牛车队,但这些队伍通常并不具备应对长途跋涉、干旱缺水的耐力。必须换一种方案。

Between 1870 and 1920, as many as 20,000 camels were imported into Australia from the Arabian Peninsula, India and Afghanistan, together with at least 2,000 handlers, or cameleers, from the same regions. The animals were mainly dromedaries: half-ton ungulates with a single hump. They were ideally suited to the climate of the Australian interior: they could go weeks without water, and they had the stamina and strength to carry their loads and riders across what were often highly exposed, fiercely hot landscapes.

从1870年到1920年,澳洲从阿拉伯半岛、印度和阿富汗等地进口了2万头骆驼,还从这些地方请了至少2000名驼夫。当时进口来的主要是单峰骆驼——这种重达半吨的蹄类动物只有一个驼峰。它们非常适合澳洲内陆的气候:在没有水的情况下可以行走数周,有耐力和力气驼着人和货物穿过往往毫无遮挡、异常炎热的地带。

The impact made by these camels – and just as importantly, their handlers – over the following decades was considerable. In her co-authored book Australia’s Muslim Cameleers: Pioneers of the Inland, 1860s-1930s, Anna Kenny says that they have not been adequately acknowledged by mainstream Australia even though they made significant cultural and economic contributions to Australian society. “The cameleers opened lines of supply, transport and communication between isolated settlements, making the economic development of arid Australia possible. They also enriched the cultural landscape.”

在接下来的数十年时间里,这些骆驼和那些同等重要的驼夫,产生了重要的影响。肯尼(Anna Kenny)在与他人合著的《澳洲的穆斯林驼夫:内陆的先驱,1860-1930年代》(Australia's Muslim Cameleers: Pioneers of the Inland, 1860s-1930s)一书中指出,尽管驼夫为澳洲社会的文化和经济发展作出了重大贡献,却并没有得到主流社会的充分认可。“驼夫在偏远的定居点之间开辟了供给、运输和通信线路,为澳洲干旱地区带来了经济发展。他们还丰富了文化景观。”

Laden camels became a fixture of outback life. They carried wool and water, telegraph poles and railway sleepers, tea and tobacco. Aboriginals began to incorporate camel hair into their artefacts. Even today, the luxury train that runs vertically across the country between Adelaide and Darwin is named The Ghan, in honour of the cameleers, who came to be referred to generically as ‘Afghans’.

负重的骆驼成为了内陆生活不可或缺的部分。它们送来羊毛和水,电线杆和铁路枕木,茶叶和烟草。原住民开始把骆驼毛设计到手工艺品中去。今天,在阿德莱德和达尔文之间纵贯全澳的豪华列车被命名为“汗号”(The Ghan),以纪念那些被通称为“阿富汗人”的驼夫。

By the 1930s, however, the camel industry went belly-up. The arrival of the internal combustion engine, and motorised transport, meant camels became almost redundant as pack-carriers. A four-legged mammal was no match for a goods vehicle, regardless of how stoic it remained in 40C heat. Thousands of camels were released into the wild, where, naturally, they thrived. Fast forward nine decades, and their numbers have ballooned.

然而,到了20世纪30年代,骆驼产业就衰落了。内燃机的到来以及机动运输的出现意味着,骆驼已不适合作为搬运工。不管骆驼在40摄氏度的高温下有多么坚忍,这种四条腿的哺乳动物没法跟货车相比。成千上万的骆驼被放生到野外,自行繁衍兴旺。时间快进90年,骆驼的数量已经不可同日而语。

But all is not well. Australia has had a serious camel problem for some time. The animals themselves may come across as gentle, lackadaisical beasts, but good luck telling that to the outback communities whose fences they routinely destroy, whose pipes they break and whose waterholes they drink dry. They also have a profound bearing on native wildlife, stripping their traditional grazing lands bare. In the words of modern-day explorer Simon Reeve, camels “are almost uniquely brilliant at surviving the conditions in the outback. Introducing them was short-term genius and long-term disaster.”

但麻烦也随之而来。澳洲骆驼泛滥的问题,已经有一段时间了。这种动物给人的印象温和、懒散,但如果你去跟内陆社区的人这么说,那就祝你好运吧——那里的栅栏和水管经常遭到骆驼的破坏,水泉也被它们喝干。这些野生骆驼还给本土的野生动物带来深远的影响,令它们的传统草场荒芜。用当代探险家里夫(Simon Reeve)的话说,骆驼“太适合在内陆的自然条件下生存了”。把它们引入澳洲,短期看是天才之举,长期来说则是灾难。

Drastic measures have been employed to curb the population. It was reported in late 2013 that the government-funded Australian Feral Camel Management Project had culled around 160,000 camels in the years since 2009, usually by gunshot. Unsurprisingly, this blunt approach has been heavily criticised by some, and there have been attempts to turn the country’s influx of wild camels into a positive.

为了控制野生骆驼的数量,澳洲采取了严厉的措施。据2013年年底的报导,政府资助的澳洲野生骆驼管理项目从2009年开始,每年捕杀约16万头骆驼,通常是用枪。毫不奇怪,这种生硬的做法遭到一些人的严厉批评,还有人尝试将该国数量庞大的野生骆驼说成是好事。

One such example is Summer Land Camels, which now grazes more than 550 camels on its 850-acre organic farm in Queensland. It vaunts the benefits of camel’s milk and camel’s milk products, which are high in essential unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin C, and has a range of dairy goods that includes everything from fromage blanc and marinated Persian feta to salted-caramel gelato – all made using camel’s milk. Elsewhere in Queensland, meanwhile, the QCamel dairy has announced it will be launching camel’s milk chocolates later this year.

其中一个例子就是夏日骆驼农场(Summer Land Camels),它在昆士兰州拥有面积达350公顷(即850英亩)的有机农场,放养着550多头骆驼。这家企业鼓吹骆驼奶及其奶制品富含对人体大有裨益的不饱和脂肪酸和维他命C,并且推出了一系列用骆驼奶制成的乳制品,从白奶酪(fromage blanc)到腌制的波斯羊奶酪(Persian feta),再到咸焦糖雪酪(caramel gelato),不一而足。与此同时,在昆士兰州的其他地方,可爱骆驼乳业(QCamel diary)宣布,将在今年年末推出骆驼奶巧克力。

Where the future lies for the country’s wild camels is uncertain. It still amazes me that there are quite so many of them out there. Since that first trip down the Stuart Highway I’ve made two more trans-continental journeys across Australia, but I haven’t yet spotted another wild camel. Not so much as a silhouette in the distance. But that’s the thing about Australia – it’s a place where the map stretches on forever, where horizons jelly in the heat, and where even the statistics exist on an unfathomable scale.

澳洲野生骆驼将何去何从,目前尚不确定。野生骆驼的数量之多,依旧令我讶异不已。自从第一次走了斯图亚特公路后,我又在澳洲进行了两次跨大陆旅行,但还没有看到一只野生骆驼。连远远的影子都没见到过。但这就是澳洲——一个版图永远在延展的地方,一个在高温下地平线融化成果冻的地方,一个甚至连统计资料都多如牛毛的地方。

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