Monday, July 6, 2009

Wildlife Bytes 30/6/09

Wildlife Mini-Bytes


Miles offshore in the US, a fight is raging between angry anglers armed with guns and bombs and bottlenose dolphins, the marine mammals popularized in movies and TV shows like "Flipper." Boat captains say dolphins, known for their toothy grins and playfulness, are growing increasingly aggressive in their quest for food, with some taking fish right off the hook — something that rarely happened just a few years ago. In response, fishermen are pulling out everything from pipe bombs to .357-caliber Magnum pistols to fend them off — and breaking a federal law against harming the sea mammals. The head of a national fishing organization, Bob Zales II, said the problem of bottlenose dolphins stealing fish has gotten "tremendously worse" in the last year. So have stories of retaliation by angry boat captains and ordinary anglers, who are paying hundreds of dollars for even short fishing trips because of high fuel prices. "You have people who are getting so frustrated they're shooting at them," said Zales, of Panama City, who has fished for more than four decades and is president of the National Association of Charter Boat Operators. * YahooNews. Full Story here...

Wildlife Smuggling

A package from Sweden containing two live tarantulas and two live scorpions has been intercepted at Sydney's international mail centre. Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service staff made the discovery on June 14, after opening four film canisters contained in the package. Customs and Border Protection investigators, with support from AQIS and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service officers, searched a home in Doonside, in Sydney's outer west, where a number of other specimens were found. * Herald Sun

Turtles, Wild Pigs, and Shooters

A leading turtle researcher says he is confident the flatback turtle population has not been badly affected by wild pigs which were introduced to a significant breeding site. Wildlife officers have eradicated the pests from Wild Duck Island, off Mackay, which is the major breeding ground for flatback turtles. Up to 30,000 eggs are laid on the island each year, but a large portion have been eaten by the pigs. It is believed the pigs were introduced to the island in the last couple of years. (by shooters) Doctor Col Limpus says they posed a significant threat but the problem was solved in time. "If the pigs had not been removed, if they'd been left there to cause the continuing damage that they were doing to the eggs, it would seriously threaten our capacity to maintain a sizeable population of flatback turtles on in Eastern Australia," he said. "Had it continued for decades, it would have been disastrous - in 20 years time, when the young turtles from this period are coming back to breed, we may not even be able to detect much more than a minor reduction in breeding numbers." *ABC

Bald Eagles

Bald eagles are making a comeback in the US, and are nesting at six confirmed locations in southeastern Wisconsin - compared with only two as recently as 2007 - and a steadily increasing number of people are calling state Department of Natural Resources offices to report eagles flying over their communities, department officials said. A pair of eaglets at Donges Bay gorge in Mequon are hopping around a broad nest of branches atop a white pine in a secluded area along the Lake Michigan shore. The wooded bluff at the gorge is home to the first successfully nesting bald eagles in the metropolitan area in more than 100 years. More adult eagles are joining them, said Tami Ryan, regional wildlife program manager with the DNR in Milwaukee. "This is definitely a success story for our region," Ryan said. "Bald eagle sightings are on the rise."

Golden Eagles

Ambitious plans to bring Golden Eagles back to Ireland have been guaranteed for the next two years, it was revealed today. Scottish conservationists will continue to support the project by supplying chicks despite a series of poisonings in Donegal, Kerry and Wicklow. In the last years five White-tailed Eagles, one Golden Eagle and two Red Kites have been poisoned and experts believe several more birds were also victims of killer bait and their bodies not recovered. Officials in Scotland said they will donate seven more chicks this year bringing the total number of Golden Eagles released in Donegal to 65. Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe, director of science and biodiversity for the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service, welcomed the move. “I have been pleased to contribute to this review, and reiterate my thanks to Scotland for providing us with Golden Eagles to continue this massively important project,” he said. *IOL

Screwworm Fly

Queensland scientists have developed traps and tests aimed at wiping out a dangerous species of fly that eats living flesh. Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland Tim Mulherin said the screw-worm fly is endemic to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines but has not entered Australia. "This exotic pest is just a short step away from entering our country so strict measures and procedures are in place to protect our cattle, wildlife, native fauna and other animal industries," the Minister said. "Screw-worm fly infestation is considered to be one of the most serious animal disease threats facing Australia's livestock industries. "The spread of screw-worm fly into Australia would threaten the survival of the northern cattle industry and the estimated direct production losses would be in the order of $500 million per year. The Minister said the screw-worm fly could enter Australia as an adult insect in a storm front or on a boat, or as larvae (maggots) on animals or humans. *Australia TO


Scientists think they have resolved one of the most controversial environmental issues of the past decade: the curious case of the missing frogs' legs. Around the world, frogs are found with missing or misshaped limbs, a striking deformity that many researchers believe is caused by chemical pollution. However, tests on frogs and toads have revealed a more natural, benign cause. The deformed frogs are actually victims of the predatory habits of dragonfly nymphs, which eat the legs of tadpoles. * BBC, Full Story Here..

Meanwhile according to the BBC, a new study has shown up to one billion frogs are taken from the wild for human consumption each year. Researchers arrived at this conclusion by analysing UN trade data, although they acknowledge there is a lot of uncertainty in the figure. France and the US are the two biggest importers, with significant consumption in several East Asian nations. About one-third of all amphibians are listed as threatened species, with habitat loss the biggest factor. But hunting is acknowledged as another important extinction driver for some species, along with climate change, pollution and disease - notably the fungal condition chytridiomycosis which has brought rapid extinctions to some amphibians. Thee article also states that a large portion of the trade in amphibians for the pet trade is conducted illegally, and experts say customs officials in many countries are ill-equipped to spot and deal with illegal consignments. * BBC


The International Whaling Commission's annual conference has ended in disarray, keeping in place a ban on commercial whaling amid deep rifts between hunters and conservationists. The commission's new chairman said the IWC should now question its role, as the conference on the Portuguese island of Madeira wrapped up a day early with delegates agreeing only to extend negotiations on whaling for another year. *Herald Sun


As Tasmania's short-tailed shearwaters undertake their arduous migration across the Pacific to winter grounds off Alaska and Siberia, a new peril has emerged in recent years to dog their progress. Despite vandalism and disturbance of their breeding grounds, and overfishing of their food supply, the shearwaters and other migratory seabirds must also contend with a sea of plastic floating in our once pristine oceans. The seas of the world are awash with man's plastic waste. In particular, the northern Pacific across which the muttonbirds travel twice a year. By some accounts, this vast region of ocean holds a staggering 100 million tonnes of flotsam, most of it plastic and much of it ending in the stomachs of travelling birds.

Wildlife Cruelty

Authorities believe they are close to solving one of Queensland's worst animal cruelty cases. A shame file of at least five cases of cruelty against native animals in southeast Queensland in the past two months has led to a closer working partnership between police and the RSPCA. Investigators have a fresh lead on the brutal death of a kangaroo found at the Wolston Park Golf Club, in Brisbane's southwest, on June 18 with a metre-long hunting arrow piercing its abdomen. RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty told The Sunday Mail: ``We have a strong lead. Information has been phoned through on offenders who might have been in the area at the time.'' Meanwhile, Broadwater MP Peta-Kaye Croft said she was saddened and angered after a baby wallaby had been found in the Coombabah Lakelands this month with wounds likely caused from a slingshot attack. Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin said offenders found guilty would face the maximum penalty -- a $100,000 fine. *Sunday Mail

Majura Kangaroos

The Defence Department has resume a cull of thousands of kangaroos on a site in Canberra. The ACT Government granted the Defence Department a licence to kill 7,000 kangaroos at the Majura site. Around 4,000 animals were killed before the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal put a temporary stay on the cull in May. Animal Liberation challenged the granting of the licence, arguing there was sufficient inaccuracy in the assessment of kangaroo numbers on the land. But today the tribunal ruled the cull can continue as there was evidence the kangaroos have caused substantial damage to ecological communities and threatened species. Animal Liberation was expected to appeal the decision, but has decided by teh time an appeal can be maounted, all teh kangaroos will have been killed.

Prehistoric Kangas

The Australian newspaper reports that a new study claims that humans caused the extinction of the largest kangaroo ever to hop on earth, but the results have been cahllenged by others. Weighing in at 230kg and standing 2m tall, short-faced Procoptodon goliah was wiped out by prehistoric hunters who lay in wait by water holes, according to an international team led by paleontologist Gavin Prideaux of Adelaide's Flinders University. There has been long-running scientific debate about what caused the demise of the so-called "megafauna", exotic mammals and flightless birds that roamed the Australian continent until about 46,000 years ago. Other experts will not be satisfied until Dr Prideaux and his team find hunting and butchering tools found in direct association with megafauna remains. But one has to wonder how 45,000 years ago a small population of indigenous hunters could wipe out such a large species? WPAA

Kangaroo Meat to China

After five years of negotiations, Chinese authorities have finally signed trade protocols to allow kangaroo meat into the country. The agreement was signed on the same day as protocols for allowing donkey meat into China. Queensland kangaroo processor, John Burey, says its a very big win for the industry. "Russia used to, and still would, consume 70 per cent or more kangaroo meat," he says."Now China, they could consume by far and away more kangaroo meat than we could supply." * ABC


A python stolen from a Perth wildlife centre has been found by using the tracking device on the animal it ate. The two-metre carpet python swallowed a woylie in the Narrogin district of WA earlier this month. The snake was taken to the Department of Environment and Conservation's (DEC) research centre for treatment because the marsupial was still wearing a wristwatch-sized radio at the time it was swallowed. The snake was then stolen from the centre on Monday. The DEC used a plane to locate the radio collar and found the snake, with the collar still inside it, at a house in Heathridge. John Angus from the research centre says they were lucky to find the python. "We were able to pinpoint the location of this animal," he said. "We probably would have never of recovered it otherwise." Two men have been taken into custody. A woylie is a small marsupial also known as a brush-tailed bettong. It is listed as endangered. *WA news

NSW ...Shooting in National Parks

The NSW State Parliament has become increasingly incestuous lately with the cosy relationship with Labor, Fred Nile of the Christian Democrats and the Shooters Party passing each other’s legislation, no matter what the merits and the effect it will have on you. It all began way back when Labor allowed the Shooters into State Forests to shoot feral animals. That legislation lay there until Minister Ian MacDonald started to declare some forests open to shooters. One of the most notable was his opening up of Belanglo forest to shooting. Most of the community would have preferred the Belanglo forest be dedicated as a memory to the beautiful young people who perished there as a result of a serial killer equipped to kill. If John Howard did anything right I would commend his attempts to restrict the sale of semiautomatic guns after the Port Arthur massacre.

But to accommodate their friends in the Upper House, Labor last year passed the Firearms Amendment Bill which allowed, amongst a host of changes, the re-arming of thousands of people in contradiction of the firearms amnesty. Why would they pass such legislation? Because Labor could then rely on the Shooters to pass their evil Planning reforms, despite the Coalition’s attempt to send the Bill to a committee to evaluate just exactly what the hurried legislation meant to us. You will find out just how horrible Part 3A is becoming soon when the Regional Planning panels are stacked up to pass anything touristy over $5 million along the coast.

Last week Labor cashed in again when Lee Rhiannon’s Bill to save prime agricultural land from the coal miners was voted down by the Shooters and one other vote - that of the Reverend Fred Nile, who was described by his former Christian Democrat member, the Reverend Gordon Moyes, along with the Shooters Party as one of “Labor’s junkyard dogs”. You might wonder why the Shooters, who have a farming base, sold out the farmers. You might until you see the Shooters Bill allowing Game Council approved shooters to shoot native animals in National Parks. Yes, I know you just read that again to check.

“Native animals” including black swans, ducks, teals, corellas, three types of kangaroos and anything the Game Council can get on the list, inside our National Parks. Catherine Cusack, the Liberals and Opposition spokesperson on the environment, came out quickly, saying: “We totally reject the idea of shooting in national parks and the concept of shooting native animals in national parks is repugnant to almost anyone.” Local MP Andrew Stoner confirms the Coalition is totally against the Bill in its present form. Carmel Tebbutt’s office says the Minister for Environment and Climate Change will not support the shooting of native animals in National Parks.

This you would expect from the Environment Minister, but she has not cut out supporting the Bill which would make the provision for any future minister of whatever bent to open any national park to game hunting. The Minister’s reputation for integrity is on the line here. The definition of game hunting is unclear and there is provision in the Bill for almost anything to be included. For instance, farmers have long sought, and obtained without too much trouble, licence to kill protected animals when they threaten their livelihood. Not just kangaroos but also corellas, cockatoos, bats, wombats and dingoes. Farmers are always blaming national parks for harbouring all sorts of threats such as wild dogs, so perhaps we could see shooters hunting in Limeburners Nature Reserve.

Limeburners contains possibly the most viable pack of 100 per cent gene test dingoes on the coast, probably in the whole of NSW. How a shooter will do a gene test on a dog running away from him is a mystery. Out west we might even see Game Council-appointed shooters experiencing the thrill of taking down a charging wombat. In the past we have seen animal activists like the PETA organisation trying to save black swans shot by duck shooters with highly effective shotguns but highly defective eyesight. Minister Ian Macdonald set out an answer for that democratic protesting problem in his new legislation to remove any environmental study requirements for the Repco Rally from Tweed to Kyogle over National Park and State Forest dirt roads and the provision to prosecute any protestors. His friends in the Shooters Party took note of that and have included making it an offence for anyone to even approach a shooter to talk with him while he is hunting.

Forget about animal rights, forget about democracy. Macdonald is taking us into a brave new totalitarian world. Labor is on a hiding to nothing on this one. The environmental movement is in an uproar over this and the general public will not stand for it. But Labor needs the Shooters and the Reverend Fred to get the rest of their evil program up, so they will probably try to float a compromise of the shooting of ferals only as a conservation tool, which will help the National Parks and Wildlife Service protect their native fauna. Sounds all right to the general public perhaps, but let us take a look at this propaganda. In the published work, “A critique by ISC policy officer Dr Carol Booth of ‘Recreational hunting and its place within Australia’, an issue of the Australian Shooters Journal,” the Invasive Species Council says: “Of all conservation NGOs, the Invasive Species Council has the strongest potential reasons to support recreational hunting on public lands, for it campaigns for more effective control of feral animals.

But the council opposes recent moves to open up State Forests and National Parks to recreational hunters because evidence shows that recreational hunting usually does not provide effective feral animal control and creates a serious risk of worsening feral animal problems … Conclusion: Feral animal control is being used as a justification by some State governments to open up public lands to recreational hunters. NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald, for example, told Parliament that “after habitat loss, invasive species are the single greatest threat to Australia’s unique and treasured biodiversity,” and that recreational hunting was a “sensible option” to “help to eradicate feral animals”. The Invasive Species Council agrees that feral animal control is very important, but concludes there is no evidence to support the claims that recreational hunting is an effective or low cost option. ‘Outsourcing’ control of feral animals to ineffective recreational hunters will see populations increase, particularly if governments use it as an excuse to not fund professional control efforts.

There is also the very serious risk that governments are unwittingly creating incentives for maverick hunters to move feral animals into new areas and worsen feral animal problems.” Wherever hunters have access to forests to shoot ferals the ferals do not disappear. Obviously the hunters have a vested interest in their survival. In fact they have a voluntary code of not shooting deer, male or female, in each deer species breeding season. There is an answer to the need to remove feral animals from the reserve system and that is through proper resourcing of NPWS and encouraging the work of people like Bernard Whitehead, who is already trapping humanely all sorts of ferals in the Maria-Limeburners area. The most valuable contribution though would be in keeping the shooters and the Game Council out. *Macleay Argus

Ed Comment, The Shooters Party's push to hunt native animals in National Parks is still on the backburner, still appears to be supported by Labor, and the Bill will come back later this year.

Conservation funding for critically-endangered woylies The project is part of the Government’s $3.5million allocation for six Natural Resource Management projects in line with its commitment to strong management of Western Australia’s natural resources. “The aim is to establish a secure emergency colony for the woylie,” the Minister said. “The enclosure will not only protect the woylies from feral predators but will also enable scientists to conduct vital research on the health of woylies.” Mrs Faragher said $100,000 would be used to support the further recovery of woylies, including an investigation into potential wildlife health issues related to the species’ decline and establishing a woylie captive breeding program at Perth Zoo.

“The captive breeding program is expected to involve a dedicated keeper at the zoo and woylies that remain in wild populations for breeding,” she said. “Perth Zoo’s wildlife veterinary expertise is vital in understanding the conservation needs of the woylie and I am looking forward to their ongoing contribution to these critical recovery actions.” The Minister said the woylie had bounced back from near extinction once before. “Once spread across southern Australia, the woylie was found in just three areas in South-West Western Australia by the 1970s,” she said.

“Thanks to fox control, a breeding program and the establishment of new populations, the woylie was the first Australian vertebrate to be removed from State and Federal endangered species lists in 1996, as a result of recovery actions. “However, since 2001, woylie populations have declined dramatically, with some populations shrinking by 97 per cent. “The Department of Environment and Conservation has been investigating these declines in a major collaborative research program, but has been unable to isolate the specific cause or causes.” In 2000, there were about 20,000 woylies in the Upper Warren region, and there are now estimated to be less than 1,000. Mrs Faragher said maintaining WA’s biodiversity was an important part of responsible natural resource management. “The woylie has made a spectacular recovery once before and we are taking decisive action now to give it a chance to do so once again,” she said. *AustraliaTO

Cane Toads

The discovery of an adult cane toad in a remote Kimberly community has sparked fears that the pest is closing in on WA. Kimberly Toad Buster spokeswoman Sandy Boulter said the adult toad hitchhiked on a truck from Darwin to Turkey Creek, a small settlement 858km east of Broome, on the Great Northern Highway last Tuesday. She said the toad – the first to be found in Turkey Creek – was found by Warmun General Store workers when they unloaded the truck. Turkey Creek is the only town near WA’s iconic Bungle Bungles – a major tourist attraction in the region. Students from Ngalanagnagpum School have preserved the toad ahead of an educational visit from the Toad Busters, who are working to stop the toad from reaching WA.

Under the State Government’s draft Cane Toad Strategy for West Australia 2009-19, the government plans to strengthen quarantine procedures along WA’s border to prevent the spread of cane toads. Species threatened by cane toads will be identified, quarantine procedures will be reviewed and strengthened, education campaigns will be developed and long-term biological control measures put in place as part of the plan. Members of the community have until tomorrow to comment on the draft policy. The Toad Busters are concerned their methods of killing the toads with Dettol and carbon dioxide will be banned because the Department of Environment and Conservation considered it inhumane. Ms Boulter said more violent options of killing the pests were not practical to the volunteers. “Dettol power backpacks can kill millions of toads in 10 minutes,” she said. “The main thing (we want) is to give us back our weapons.” PerthNow


A third of the whales harpooned by Japan in the Antarctic last summer were pregnant, it was claimed yesterday. Conservation group Humane Society International (HSI) said Japan's own figures, revealed in secret documents discovered at the International Whaling Commission meeting being held this week, showed the "true, disgusting nature" of the country's whale hunting. Japan's annual hunt, which it claims is a scientific study, took a horrific toll on female whales, the HSI said. The HSI said data from Japan's 2008/2009 hunt showed of 679 whales it reported killing, 304 were female. The data showed 192 of the whales were pregnant. Four were lactating. "The four lactating females would each have had a calf that would have starved to death," HSI Australia's director Michael Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy said the Japanese data also contained "gruesome" details of how whale foetuses were treated after being torn from their mothers on board the whaling fleet's factory ship. "They report they measure the length and weight of the foetus, they measure their eyes and take skin samples from the foetus for what they call genetic studies," Mr Kennedy said. "It is gruesome, useless information which, if it was even needed, could be found without dismembering a foetus." The details of Japan's impact on female whales was contained in what is known as a "Cruise Report", secretly sent to the IWC's scientific committee before the IWC meeting in Portugal.

During the 2007-2008 hunt Australia was shocked when newspapes published photos of a minke whale and her calf being hauled aboard a Japanese factory ship to be dismembered. HSI vice president Kitty Block said Japan's whale hunt should be condemned and was conducted in a whale sanctuary under the guise of science. "The fact is this hunt is commercial and killing pregnant females makes it all the more egregious," Ms Block said. Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who is at the IWC meeting, said Japan had killed more than 13,000 whales in the name of research since a moratorium on commercial whaling was imposed in 1986.

One of Mr Garrett's tactics to try to end Japanese whaling is to bring it under the direct control of the IWC, something Japan has been vigorously opposing. Japan is also pushing hard for a "coastal whaling quota" - which would allow it to kill whales in its own waters without the pretence of scientific study - which conservation groups said was a return to commercial whaling. This week the Australian Government announced what it called the largest study of Antarctic whales. The joint Australian-New Zealand scientific expedition will steam to Antarctica this summer. No whales will be killed during the research. * Daily Telegraph

Wildlife on menu spurs smuggling

A rising appetite for wildlife and its increasing use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are fueling an increase in the illegal imports of endangered animals, a senior official has said. "Illegal wildlife trade used to be outbound, but domestic demand has reversed the trend," Wan Ziming, director of enforcement and training at the endangered species' office of the State Forestry Administration, told China Daily. Wild animals are mostly smuggled in at the southwestern border and coastal regions, according to figures by Customs and major border points. Because the trade is illegal, the number of smuggling cases uncovered does not reflect the full extent of the animals and plants being brought into the country, Wan said.

Last year, there were 87 criminal cases of endangered species being smuggled, up from 77 in 2005, said Wan. In 2007, there was a spike in cases to 175. "Illegal wildlife trade is alive and dynamic," said Xu Hongfa, director of the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) TRAFFIC East Asia China Program. "We have noticed an increasing amount of trade and consumption in wildlife, including bear paws, tortoises, pangolins and monitor lizards," he said. The smuggling has severely impacted the wildlife populations in neighboring countries, particularly Southeast Asian nations, Wan said. He said the demand stems partly from a "resource dilemma" faced by the country - rich in variety, but scarce in amount. "The demand comes from a traditional culture of using wildlife for food and medicine," he said. "It is not easy to change the cultural habits of 1.3 billion people."

Chinese people have long believed in the medicinal and health benefits of wild plants and animals. The trade in TCM products has also been growing at an annual rate of 10 percent, which has seriously impacted medicinal plant and animal populations, though more than half of plants and animals being used by TCM are from artificial propagation or captive breeding. Up to 20 percent of these are now considered threatened. Eating wild animals is also a traditional practice in southern China. The consumption of wild animals, which slowed amid the SARS epidemic in 2003, has once again gained popularity, a WWF survey has found.

Profit from illegal trade can be up to 10 times the cost, with restaurant operators offering the exotic dishes usually aware of the violation but lured by the gains, Xu said. Illegal trade in tiger meat and bones is also alive, continuing to threaten the extinction of an already depleted species, he said. Alarmingly, Xu said, more wealthy people are demanding elephant ivory for decorative purposes. Of the 87 wildlife cases uncovered by the Customs last year, more than half involved ivory, Wan said. "The profit margin is as high as in drug trafficking but the punishment is too mild," he said. He Yong from the International Fund for Animal Welfare China said the demand for wildlife springs from weak links in law enforcement - the use and trade of wild animal products is banned, but artificial breeding is allowed in many instances to fulfill the needs of customers. *China Daily

15 rare Sumatran Elephants Killed

At least 15 endangered Sumatran elephants have been shot or poisoned to death with cyanide-laced fruit this year, marking a sharp rise in the rate of killing from 2008, a government conservationist said Wednesday. The giant mammals were mostly killed by poachers for their ivory, said Tony Suhartono, the director of biodiversity conservation at the Forest Ministry. The number killed in the past six months is equal to the total for the whole of 2008, he said. "It is shocking," said Syamsidar, a campaigner with the World Wildlife Fund in the western island of Sumatra.

The killing is the result of a "conflict between humans and elephants," said Syamsidar, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name. "The forest is in critical condition due to the illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming practices and plantations." Indonesia's endangered elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans are increasingly threatened by their shrinking habitat in the jungle, which is commonly cleared for commercial farming or felled for lumber. Only 3,000 Sumatran elephants are believed to remain in the wild. They sometimes venture into inhabited areas searching for food and destroy crops or attack humans, making them unpopular with locals. *AP

Happy hoppers damage poppy crops

The mystery of crop circles which appear from time to time in Tasmania's legal opium poppy fields may have been solved. It seems it is not aliens, but junkie wallabies hopping around in dazed circles - perhaps. Poppies are grown in Tasmania for morphine used by the pharmaceutical industry to make pain control drugs. But humans are not the only ones who have discovered that the poppies contain narcotics. Recently retired farmer Lyndley Chopping spent more than 30 years growing poppies and he has seen wallabies acting strangely in his fields. "They would come and eat some poppies and go away. They seem to know when they've had enough. Then they'd come back again and they would do hop around in circles in the paddock," he said.

"It's hard to work out. Didn't seem to be any real pattern to their behaviour." But the state's largest poppy producer, Tasmanian Alkaloids, has noticed a pattern in the wallabies' behaviour. Rick Rockliff is the company's field operations manager. "Often other forms of food are in short supply in late January/February and half their weight in poppy capsules is seed which is very nutritious. It's the seed you see on bread rolls," he said. "In the process of nibbling open the capsule it's possible they do ingest a little bit it. The capsule material contains the narcotic alkaloids. Ingested in large quantities it has a short-term effect."

Barry Wells, animal welfare officer at the University of Tasmania, isn't sure that the wallabies are getting stoned. . "It's quite possible that they are being affected by them," he said. "But we need to rule out the other things and look more closely to make sure that they are eating lots of it and it is affecting them. They could become addicted and start eating lots of them." He says if the wallabies are addicted to the poppies there would probably be signs, like bowel upsets and constipation. "We would expect them to be uncoordinated - staggering about, walking in circles," he said. "Certainly out of character from what you would expect with wild wallabies." *ABC News

Outfoxing the bats

Residents of a Territory air base being terrorised by a plague of bats have launched a noisy tirade at the "flying rats" in a bid to get rid of them. Each morning between 6.30 and 7am they have been making as much noise as possible around the bases of the flying fox-laden trees to scare them away. Some residents living in the married quarters at RAAF Base Tindal near Katherine have been cracking whips and banging pots and pans while Defence vehicles are being driven around with sirens blaring. Other tenants, who are so fed up with the screeching, smelly species that have been keeping them up at night, have even got their hoses out and attempted to spray them away from the branches.

The noise campaign followed the Northern Territory News revealing earlier this month how the residents are constantly under attack by the red and black flying fox species. The residents said they often experienced headaches, nausea and vomiting because of the stench and a 13-year-old boy had to be rushed to Katherine Hospital after he was attacked by a bat on the base in April. A resident told the NT News that most of the families on the base were at their wits end as to how to get rid of the "disease-ridden pests". And she said the noise campaign didn't seem to have worked.

"We've been out there making as much noise as possible and the bats are still here," she said. "We have tried almost everything and it is just not working." Defence has even started cutting down trees to their stumps so the bats don't have anywhere to roost. But residents are saying they should just cull the bats. "They really need to just have a cull," one woman said. "It didn't seem to be a problem to cull hundreds of wallabies so why not bats too?" Wallabies were causing problems on the air base's runway after several planes struck the mammals on take-off and landing and aero medical services were halted. * NT News

Letter to the NT News Territory Day is approaching, along with the usual noisy, pesky fireworks. As a lifetime resident of the NT, I'm long over all this silliness to do with cracker night. However, perhaps there is a silver lining to this dark, gunpowder-smoke cloud. It's well known, of course, that fireworks strike terror into animals -- both pets and wildlife . Perhaps this knowledge could be put to effective use by scaring off the flying fox plague that is so annoying the residents of Tindal near Katherine. I suggest that on Territory Day plenty of fireworks are set off near where the bats roost (under supervision, of course) in an attempt to encourage them to move on. This might need to be done over a longer period of time but it seems worth a try to see if this will help solve the problem. Letting off fireworks to frighten fruit bats is potentially a lot kinder than culling them or cutting down trees they roost in. *Alex Nelson, Alice Springs


Almost 400 brush-tailed possums have been culled by the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust since 2002, but environmentalists are now arguing that alternatives should be sought. The Trust receives a licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service through the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, which allows the animals to be trapped and taken to a vet to be euthanased. Representatives of the Trust said culling was necessary to deal with overcrowding and damage caused to plants as well as injuries caused by territorial behaviour among possums. Under National Parks guidelines, it is illegal to relocate possums more than 50 metres from where they were caught, because their territorial nature makes survival rates among relocated animals very low.

Some environmentalists suggest a more humane approach to population control should be considered. One environmentalist, who did not wish to be named, said sterilisation of the animals would be a better alternative to culling. This has not been taken up by the Trust, which maintains that culling is the best option. In internal correspondence obtained by Central, a Botanic Gardens Director Mark Savio wrote: “When trapping first started in the Gardens, the possums found were in horrific condition - covered in injuries from fights with other possums and stress dermatitis from overcrowding.’’ According to Mr Savio, at the time of writing, 394 brush-tailed possums had been culled since permission was granted by National Parks in July 2002, an average of 55 a year.

Mr Savio said Botanic Garden’s staff found the overall health of the brush-tailed population improved after culling began. “Because we are managing the population at a sustainable level, such injuries and stress-related illnesses are rare in the trapped possums. Due to our trapping program, our possum population is now much healthier than it used to be,” he wrote. Animal activists have also expressed concern that there had been an increase in the culling in recent weeks. Mr Savio wrote that trapping occurred only “when horticulturalists are having problems with possums damaging plants in a particular area, but no more than once a week”.

Ed Comment; Well, why are we not surprised about this? This is the same Botanic Gardens who want to remove the flying foxes too, by frightening them away with sirens and loud noise when they come into roost. History shows these flying fox relocation attempts are a complete failure, and cause many deaths. The Melbourne Botanic Gardens relocation attempt cost 3 million dollars, and was claimed by the State government to be success...that is, unless you were a flying fox!

Claims that the Sydney Botanic Gardens possums were in poor condition have not been backed up by any experienced possum carer. But injuries occur, that's nature, and many of the Gardens possums would range into the City in search of food and shelter anyway, and would fight and mate with City possums. Where do we stop killing our native animals, in our last remnant pieces of wildlife habitat? Kangaroos, possums, flying foxes, parrots, wallabies, lorikeets, ducks, even wombats, are all under fire, and allowed to killed by State governments who seem to lost purpose and plot! Do we stop the killing when there are no wildlife species left?


Bureaucratic bungling scuttled a ``visionary'' plan, funded by Kathmandu clothing founder Jan Cameron, to create a world-class rescue service for orphaned and injured animals in Tasmania. Documents obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws reveal Tasmania came close to securing a five-year deal with Ms Cameron's Bonorong Wildlife Centre. But the deal fell over last month, with Boronong blaming chronic red tape and a ``lack of direction'' within government. Boronong, also known as Go Wild Tasmania, is bitterly disappointed, as is Ms Cameron, whose charitable Elsie Cameron Trust purchased the wildlife park with the aim of setting up the proposed service. ``Now I've got a bloody wildlife park that I don't really want to have -- unless it can be transformed into something more to do with animal welfare, rather than just displaying animals,'' Ms Cameron said.

In late 2007, GWT offered to take over the emergency wildlife care service, now provided by 220 volunteers under government co-ordination. It offered the use of the 7.8ha Boronong, north of Hobart, for the care of native animals orphaned or wounded. The deal would have seen injured animals nursed back to health at a centre for excellence in native animal care, with special enclosures, trained keepers, administrative staff, a full-time co-ordinator -- and even an animal ambulance service. Primary Industries Minister David Llewellyn jumped at the offer and, after about a year of talks, Mr Llewellyn signed an in-principle agreement with GWT managers, Sally Bryant and Pru Cotton, on December 15. Taxpayers' only contribution to the new service would be a $7000 telephone hotline and the salary of one public servant for 12 months to aid the transition.

But a paper trail suggests Mr Llewellyn's department struggled to organise these aspects. As the months dragged on, news of some sort of deal leaked to volunteer carers, who became resentful and fearful that their role was being usurped by GWT and the cashed-up Ms Cameron. Documents suggest these perceptions were unfounded, with GWT to take over co-ordination of these volunteers, not supplant them. However, volunteers began campaigning with venom and, by last month, Volunteering Tasmania wrote to Mr Llewellyn that growing ``apprehension'' was threatening ``the volunteering sector in general''.

Mr Llewellyn was also privately under fire from GWT. ``Unnecessarily protracted negotiations and lack of direction shown by your department have created havoc and fear amongst the volunteer wildlife carers,'' Dr Bryant wrote to Mr Llewellyn on April 7. ``And the goodwill that has been garnered through our patient negotiations and recognition of the sensitivity of the surrounding issues has been lost ... The simple negotiations have become entangled in a mire of bureaucracy.'' In desperation, GWT offered to organise a transition co-ordinator. But stung by the backlash from volunteers, Mr Llewellyn reluctantly pulled out.

In an open letter to volunteers last month, the minister expressed regret and praised GWT for its ``visionary ideas''. Volunteer carers opposed to the GWT takeover are jubilant. ``We were the ones doing the hard yards and these negotiations went on for two years with us knowing almost nothing about it,'' Jude Lennox said. ``We volunteer to the government; not to private enterprise. We are all rapt that it (GWT) is not going ahead. All we ever wanted was the status quo.'' *The Australian

Traditional Hunting

"It's a sham. It's time for a ban. Or there will be nothing left for future generations'' Eddie Deemal Aborigonal elder Eddie Deemal wants an end to the ``sham'' of traditional hunting. And he is not alone. ``If they want to hunt dugong or turtle, they must do it by spear from a canoe,'' the 83-year-old said. ``That is the traditional way.'' For centuries his people have lived off the rich bounty of the Coral Sea -- hunting fish, turtles, crabs, rays and dugong -- by the coloured sands of Cape Bedford. Mr Deemal still hunts the traditional way himself. Silhouetted by the rising sun, the old man, cradling his bamboo fishing spears, strikes a timeless pose. Every morning he wades kilometres through knee-deep water over the white sand bars in front of his Elim Beach home scanning for whiting, mud crabs and barramundi. He boasts he once speared a 55kg barra in the shallows, heavier than his own body weight, taking hours to wrestle the mighty fish to shore. ``That fish, he fed my family for a month,'' he said.

The Deedar tribesman, custodian of the sea country north of Cooktown, is among a growing band of indigenous leaders who believe traditional hunting is excessive and unsustainable. The elder said he was sick of seeing dead turtles and dugong piled high on the beach, barely touched for the precious meat, shot by ``outside blackfellas'' with rifles from power boats. ``It's a sham. It's time for a ban. Or there will be nothing left for future generations,'' Mr Deemal said. Mass killings of as many as 15 dugong at a time, all of them riddled with bullets from speedboats, have been reported in recent years north of Cooktown.

Some elders are calling for a system where they decide who can take turtle and dugong and punishment for those who abuse the right with traditional spearings, fines and jail time. Eastern Kuku Yalanji elder Bennett Walker has a card identification system to stop outsiders preying on his tribal waters off the world heritage-listed Daintree. Kuku Yalanji men, out of about 5000 tribal members, have self-imposed hunting regulations, are allowed to use only traditional hunting weapons, and restrict takes to one animal. Peter Guivarra, of Mapoon, north of Weipa, is among those who believe traditional hunting is out of control.

The western Cape leader says magpie geese flocks are now a fraction of what they were because of indiscriminate killing. In the Torres Strait, killing a dugong or turtle is part of the rite of passage to manhood for teenage boys. South of the Torres Strait, the Girringun people of the Cardwell area and the Woppaburra people of the Keppel islands have banned the hunting of dugong and restrict turtle catches in agreements with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The latest concern comes amid rumours of a blackmarket trade in dugong and turtle flesh, a highly prized delicacy, in Cairns and Kuranda. * Courier Mail

Ed Comment; Of course there is blackmarket in dugong and turtle meat, it turns up regularly at weddings and similar functions throughout Queensland.

Thinking about Wildlife?

Who’s going to watch over our wildlife when you no longer share their World? Well, we are! The Wildlife Protection Association of Australia Inc. will continue to forcefully lobby governments to do better with wildlife management, and by taking them to Court if necessary. We are currently working on developing eLearning projects, so students can become aware of the importance of our wildlife living in a safe and secure natural environment. After you have looked after your family and friends in your Will, think about wildlife. A bequest to the Wildlife Protection Association of Australia Inc. will ensure that we can continue to take a leading role in protecting and conserving our precious wildlife. None of the donations we receive are diverted to "administration". Every dollar we get through bequests or donations for wildlife hits the ground running! Talk to your solicitor, or if writing your own Will, add the words "I bequeath to The Wildlife Protection Association of Australia Inc. for the purpose of protecting wildlife in Australia (a specified sum), or (specified items including land or vehicle), or (the residue of my estate) or (percentage of my estate) free of all duties, and the receipt of the President, Secretary or other authorised WPAA officer for the time being shall be a complete and sufficient discharge for the executor(s)." You can also phone me for a confidential chat, as to how a bequest can help us work to protect our wildlife, when you are no longer able to. * Pat O’Brien, WPAA 07 54941890