Physical appearance and biologyEdit
Diprotodon in many ways resembled a Wombat, but far larger, and with longer legs, a longer neck and a more powerful build. They have four toes.
Behaviour and traitsEdit
Large and cumbersome herbivores, Diprotodon are in no way aggressive, yet people are still warned against disturbing them.
They seem to be grazers and browsers, living in remote swampland and woodland, far away from human activity.
There are stories of animals in Aboriginal legend which match Diprotodon perfectly. Anthropologists believe that oral traditions cannot go on for more than four to five centuries without undergoing changes or distortion - therefore, Diprotodon must have been alive at least five hundred years ago.
Melanesian folklore of these Diprotodon-like animals are also know in Papua New Guinea, where early European explorers and settlers in the 19th century spoke of having either seen or found the freshly-made footprints of these mystery giants.
Captain John Moresby, R.N. who in 1873 surveyed the north-east coast in H.M.S. Basilisk, reported quite mater-of-fact, that the tracks of a “rhinoceros” had been discovered by a landing party which had been cutting wood in Collingwood Bay. He related that one of the Basilisk’s lieutenants had “observed the droppings of some large grass-eating animal in a spot where the bushes had been heavily trampled and broken”.
Soon after Captain Moresby’s report, in 1875 the Reverend Samuel McFarlane returned from a short voyage up a south coast river, with tales of “buffalo” tracks having been found in the jungle thereabouts.
Since those times there have been persistent rumours of living Diprotodons seen roaming the interior, by both tribespeople and Europeans alike. About the same time that Captain Moresby was reporting the ‘rhinoceros footprints’ found in Collingwood Bay, early settlers and gold prospectors who had begun penetrating the Australian interior, were reporting similar tracks, as well as actual sightings claims of rhinoceros-like animals, encountered in widely-scattered regions of eastern Australia, from Victoria to Queensland.
Other stories would come from settlers in South Australia and Western Australia, particularly from that state’s north, as well as Arnhem Land and the Gulf Country.
Old settlers of the Berrima district of the NSW southern highlands, at the beginning of the 20th century, could recall old stories from the mid-19th century, concerning encounters by settlers with enormous, Diprotodon-like animals in the bushland beyond the settled areas.
There was a swampland that local Aborigines would not go near, for fear of the ‘bunyips’ that waded about in it.
These ‘bunyips’ were by no means dangerous to humans, for they lived upon plant life, even so, the settlers seem to have left well enough alone, observing them from afar. Eventually the creatures appear to have left the area and moved on elsewhere.
Aborigines spoke of these same bunyips inhabiting the Burragorang Valley, and old settler’s tales of the Bathurst district west of the Blue Mountains, spoke of “huge, wombat-like bunyips” roaming the swamps and creeks in the hills beyond the town.
These same hairy bunyips were widely known to Aborigines in the Hunter Valley-New England district, and warned the early settlers of supposed dangers should anyone meet up with one or more of them. Thus they warned the settlers never to frequent certain lonely swamps and forested areas where these creatures lived. Similarly, in far northern NSW, Aborigines of the Lismore district kept well clear of a certain billabong where these animals were believed to live, although settlers who disobeyed the usual warnings failed to find any trace of these hairy giants.
Sightings are still reported from the more remote regions of the most inaccessible forestlands of the rugged mountain ranges on the eastern side of Nundle State Forest; the remote swamplands of the Goulburn River National Park west of Denman, and the Wollongambie wilderness on the eastern fringe of Lithgow, itself part of the Blue Mountains National Park.
The Gazeka is sometimes speculated to be a surviving Diprotodon, based on the footprints. However, the Palorchestes theory is far more popular. It is also commonly thought to be behind the legend of the Bunyip, as notes above.