ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
A NEW GROUP of critically endangered drug addicts have been spotted close to a trendy new Japanese-inspired gastropub, in Sydney’s Inner South. Before being shooed away by a 19-year-old bartender who grew up in the Hills District and now sings girls Mac Demarco songs in his shared bedroom on the top floor of a Surry Hills terrace house.
Despite the initial commotion surrounding the presence of the disoriented and distressed drug users, the sighting is raising hopes the rare creatures may not be wiped out in the next decade as scientists and anthropologists had feared.
The Redfern Junkie, with its sickly gait and gaunt pallor, is endemic to the Redfern district, but their numbers have dwindled in recent years because of property developments and gentrification activity in the suburb’s fringes.
A team of scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation [CSIRO] spotted a group of about 40 huddled together close to the Ichi-Ni-Sanchez Alehouse above a Redfern Street chemist, bringing their total population to less than 250.
“It’s great news for this particular species because had we not found this new population, they were in grave danger of being wiped out within a decade,” spokeswoman for CSIRO in Redfern, Gaye Dandridge, told The Advocate Tuesday.
“The fact that they are breeding is brilliant news,” she added.
The CSIRO did not say where anthropologists spotted the junkies exactly, whose habitat is threatened by the invasive and introduced species, the Yuppie – whos’ activity in the area remains the biggest threat to the critically endangered creature.
They’re also targeted by police who hunt them to make it look like they’re doing something about drugs in the area, with their arrests used for evidence that they’re winning the war on heroin.
Discovered in nearby Surry Hills in the 1960s by eminent anthropologist Michael Taussig, they are only found in Redfern nowadays after widespread and devastating gentrification swept through the area in the mid-1990’s. Over two-thirds of their population was lost in the first five years of organic food shops and $7 schooners.
CSIRO social director Meagan Cassilis said urgent interventions were needed to protect the special creature, which numbered about 3000 in the early 1990s.
“We continue to work alongside officials and local communities to ensure the Junkie doesn’t become this century’s first social extinction,” Cassilis said in a statement.
The rare humans are protected under The City of Sydney’s conservation laws, but critics say the legislation is not effectively enforced and poaching of rare or endangered people by the NSW State Government continues unchecked.
Redfern is home to some of Sydney’s most endangered human beings, including the day-drinking grandpa, the Eveleigh swagman and the socialist baby boomer.
Drug addicts are under constant threat in the suburb, with their government housing in high demand for both development and public infrastructure projects.