Friday, June 15, 2012

Wildlife Attack

Michael and Lindy Chamberlain took their 9-week-old daughter Azaria on a camping trip to Ayers Rock, the famous monolith in the Australian desert. It was August, 1980. Sometime during the night of August 17th, little Azaria disappeared from camp. Her body was never found.

Lindy and Michael reported that their baby had been dragged away by dingos — Australian wild dogs the roam the desert regions, hunting prey at night. The authorities didn't believe that story, because the popular beliefs were that a dingo was not dangerous and would only attack if provoked. Not only that, but the theory was that a dingo was not strong enough to carry away a baby human.

An initial coroner's inquest found that a dingo had taken Azaria. A second inquest (after some of the baby's clothing was discovered in the desert) ended with Lindy being charged with murder and Michael being charged as an accessory. Lindy was accused of slashing her daughter's throat with nail scissors and making it look like a dingo attack.

Lindy was prosecuted for murder, was found guilty, and was sentenced to life in prison with hard labor. Ultimately, she spent more than three years in prison before being cleared of those charges when further evidence was found that backed up her story. But in spite of being exonerated, public opinion ran strong against the Chamberlains for years. Some spat on Lindy, others gathered outside her home and howled like dingoes.

A third inquest came to no conclusion one way or the other. At that time, no similar dingo attacks had been verified.

Then new evidence emerged of dingo attacks, including three fatal attacks on children that happened after the third inquest. A fourth inquest was held, and Australian authorities finally made it official that Azaria was killed by an attack of dingoes.

In an interview, Lindy said, "No longer will australia be able to say that dingoes are not dangerous and only attack if provoked."

This outcome is important for two reasons. First, it finally and officially clears the parents of the heinous crime they had been accused of.

Second, it illustrates to the world that the "Disney" version of life in the wilderness is not true. Nature is not all warm and fuzzy. It's harsh. Predators are always on the hunt for their next meal, and sometimes they will attack humans.

For those of us who enjoy being out in "nature" this is a clear signal that we need to take precautions to avoid a tragic encounter with wildlife.

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