Monday, November 23, 2009

Wildlife Bytes 17/10/09

It could only happen in Queensland

Without wishing to get sidetracked by the Hoo Haa surrounding the Traveston Dam fiasco, here is a very good summary of Peter Garretts decision by James Sinnamon, at James reminds us that Minister Garrett has only blocked two major proposals, both seriously flawed, so much so that both were blocked by an otherwise useless EPBC Act. One was the proposed and much lauded (by Anna Bligh) coal loading facility at Shoalwater Bay, and the other one was the Traveston Dam.

Meanwhile, The EPBC Act Review website ( ) has been updated with the following announcement: On 30 October 2009, Dr Allan Hawke presented his final report for the independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) - The Australian Environment Act: Report of the Independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - to the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. The Report follows an extensive consultation process conducted over 12 months. Under section 522A of the EPBC Act, the Minister must table the report in Parliament within 15 sitting days of receipt. Based on the current Parliamentary Sittings Schedules, this period will expire in early February 2010.

Note that many of the Submissions to this Independent Review, and to the prior Senate Review, were highly critical of the EPBC Act, and its many failings. Some groups suggested the Act should be scrapped and started off all over again. In a meeting with Garrett prior to the Elections, he assured us that it was Labor policy to strenghten the EPBC Act, and this Independent Review by Dr Hawke is apparently part of that process. However, any meaningful changes will have to go through the Labor political system, and may well be knocked over by Labor development and mining interests. If any changes to the EPBC Act survive this process, it may be years before they actually get legislated.

And, a little bit more about the politics of the Traveston Dam fiasco and other poor policy decisions imposed by the Qld Labor Party. Premier Anna Bligh appears to be copping a lot of flak over this, and other issues such as the failed water grid, water flouridisation and assett flogging. But it's not just Anna Bligh! Former Premier Peter Beattie also approved these issues, and why do you think he resigned? Because he knew that eventually there would have to be a public accounting! It's not just the"Bligh Labor Government" as the media fondly states. Its the Queensland Labor Party thats responsible, the powerful Industry lobby groups, and the rightwingers that rule the Labor policy process! And there's not a lot of options for something better. Although the new Queensland NLP is fighting back, and getting some community support, their support for flying fox shooting and relocation has lost them much credibility from many Queenslanders. In the past we have said to the opposition that if they wish to govern in Queensland, thay have to govern for all Queenslanders, not just a few rural residents, but it doesnt seem to have sunk in. Politics in Queensland is always a fascinating grab bag of unfathomable political strategies, rednecked politicians, corruption, cronyism, foot in the mouth syndrome, just plain stupidity, and inaccurate and biased media reporting. * WPAA

Kangaroos and the Media

Last week a TV crew from NZ 60 Miniutes arrived in Australia to do story about the kangaroo kill. They particullarly wanted to focus on the hypocracy of the Australian Government opposing Japanese whaling, while supporting the kangaroo kill, arguably much worse. I took them out to Toorbul, a little seaside town in Queensland with lots of wild kangaroos. They got magic footage of the wild kangas with the late afternoon sun on them, including shots of them grazing on lawns around the houses. Thursday morning they spoke with Agforce, and then interviewed me for a couple of hours again in the arvo. Interestingly, Peter Garrett said he didnt have the time to talk to them, and John Kelly for the KIAA said he wasnt interested.Then they took off out West to talk to a shooter. They were very sympathetic, loved the kangaroos, and will do a good story. One said he was coming back to buy a house at Toorbul! It may or may not be on Aust. TV in full, but segments may appear in the news. * WPAA

For those who watched the biased report on Landline over the weekend, the situation is not as grim for kangaroos as Landline reports. For those who missed it it can be seen here Landline stated that a Russian delegation will travel to Western Queensland in the New Year to examine improvements in the kangaroo meat supply chain. They claimed this follows top level talks in Moscow and Canberra over the past few weeks aimed at overturning an import ban over contamination and food safety issues. Since Russia accounts for two-thirds of the trade the outcome of these delicate negotiations and an overhaul of the industry may well determine the future of the kangaroo harvest, the Landline report claimed.

But in fact this Landline report included some old file footage of mob of kangaroos, and no substantiated facts or data. Wildlife and Animal Liberation groups have been talking to the Russian Embassy too, in Sydney, Moscow and Canberra. You can send an email with complaints about the Report to ABC Mediawatch here In reality the Russian ban created only one story for the Multinational was that those Russians have cost hundreds of hardworking Australian their jobs...that's the only story they were interested in, not in reporting the real reasons for the ban...which was consistent contamination over many years, and concern about the killing of the joeys. None of those issues are fixable........but if they were, why weren't they fixed years ago when the Russian complaints first started rolling in?

Meanwhile Qld Premier Anna Blighs office is still sending out emails claiming Animals Australia was part of the Code of Practice Review and supported the Code. In fact AA did NOT support the Code of Practice and argued strongly against it. The letter from the Premiers office states that " Additionally, the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes 2008 has been produced to ensure that all harvesting of kangaroos is undertaken in a way that euthanising of pouch young and young at foot. There was disagreement on key issues within the working group that produced the Code, which included representatives from Commonwealth, State and Territory Government authorities responsible for kangaroo management and welfare, the kangaroo industry, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and Animals Australia. The working group also sought public comment on the revision of the Code." Unquote. Animals Australia did not support the Code, and demanded that their opposition be recorded in the Minutes. But that hasn't stopped the Queensland Government from implying in letters to constituents that AA did support the Code of Practice for the commercial killing of kangaroos.....

Over the last few weeks, human consumption kangaroo meat from different supermarkets in Melbourne,Sydney, and Brisbane were purchased by wildlife and animal liberation groups and tested in Independent laboratories in those three cities. All had high levels of salmonella, and most contained eColi. The Telegraph ran a story about this, but other media don't seem to be that interested. However the results will be sent to the Supermarket management and the Government. It's interesting that when some claim the commercial kangaroo Industry is wellmanaged, one has to wonder why Government testing hasnt found this contamination....or has it? * WPAA

New Snail Found

Queensland Museum scientist Dr John Stanisic has named a rare species of tree snail discovered in north Queensland in honour of wildlife advocate and conservationist Steve Irwin. The snail, Crikey steveirwini, was found in the mountainous regions of north Queensland's Wet Tropics near Cairns. Honorary Research Fellow Dr Stanisic said that like its namesake, the Crikey steveirwini is a unique creature with some interesting qualities that set it apart from other land snails. "This is an extremely rare species of snail," Dr Stanisic said."So far it has only been found in three locations, all on the summits of high mountains in far north Queensland and at altitudes above 1,000 metres which is quite unusual for Australian land snails. "These mountainous habitats will be among the first to feel the effects of climate change and Steve Irwin's tree snail could become a focal species for monitoring this change. "In contrast with its more drab coloured ground-dwelling relatives, Crikey steveirwini is a colourful snail, with swirling bands of creamy yellow, orange-brown and chocolate giving the shell an overall khaki appearance. "It was the khaki colour that immediately drew the connection to the late Crocodile Hunter," Dr Stanisic said. *Qld Museum

Flying Foxes

Frustrated students will stage a mass walkout of Maclean High School tomorrow in a desperate bid to get authorities to remedy problems caused by a bat colony adjacent to the school The move, which has the backing of the school’s Parents & Citizens Association, was prompted by members of the school’s Student Representative Council and senior students. School captain Phoebe Zietsch said nobody wanted the bats harmed, but the effect on students and their learning environment needed to be highlighted. “They are quite loud even when they’re not flying and we can’t open any windows near where they are,” she said. “They have us pretty much surrounded.” She said students would like Environment Minister Peter Garrett at the school, but only if he was prepared to listen and act. She said students were taken aback by reports that ‘greenies’ had rung the school asking that students be quieter during recess and lunch.

She said students didn’t deliberately make noise to disturb the bats, but wished the callers good luck in trying to keep 1200 students quiet during breaks. Male captain Jordan Fisher said students had a right to come to school and learn in good conditions. “Conditions need to be conducive to learning and at the moment they’re not,” he said. Jordan, who has just started his Year 12 studies, said many of his courses were in the school’s G block, which had high exposure to the bats. He said many staff were supportive of the walkout because they too were affected. “It makes it very difficult for them to teach,” he said. The walkout will coincide with the school recess from 11-11.20am.

P&C president Lorraine White said that at a meeting on Monday night parents voted almost unanimously to support the students. Only teacher members, who have a duty of care to students, abstained from voting. “Hopefully this will generate a bit of media attention and with that the powers that be might be encouraged to do something,” she said. She said bats had defecated on one female staff member, leaving faeces through her hair, face and clothes. A Department of Education spokesman said the school’s focus remained the welfare of the students. *Daily Examiner

A truck fitted with large speakers pumping out "truly annoying sounds'' would circle the Botanic Gardens' flying fox colony each afternoon in the latest desperate bid to drive them away. The colony of 22,000 grey-headed flying foxes is devastating the garden's historic trees. They have already killed 18 trees and damaged more than 300. But the colony has proved impervious to a variety of sometimes bizarre schemes to oust them from the garden's palm grove. The flying foxes have shrugged off garbage cans being banged with sticks, water sprays fitted to tree tops and bags of ``python poo'' (pythons eat flying foxes) hung from branches. But perhaps the strangest strategies were smearing shrimp paste on tree trunks, because flying foxes supposedly hate seafood, and the installation of a giant inflatable man. The foxes weren't bothered by his huge flapping arms, but the generator inflating the man annoyed park staff.

The Botanic Garden Trust's latest plan is now on public display and is awaiting an OK from Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett. `We've come up with what we believe are truly annoying sounds to flying foxes,'' Trust spokeswoman Kerry Brown said yesterday. ``They include whipper snippers, chainsaws, street sweepers, starting pistols, banging metallic objects, and computer generated noises. `They would be played for 10 minutes each hour in the afternoons while the foxes are sleeping.'' ``The aim is to annoy them mightily so, just as they nod off again, the noises would come back.'' The Trust wants the gardens' flying foxes to set up home elsewhere _ probably with one of the six or so other major Sydney colonies, which include Parramatta, Gordon and Wolli Creek. *Daily Telegraph

Rare Pygmy Hippo Killed in NT

A pygmy hippopotamus has been shot dead during a pig hunting expedition in the Northern Territory. The hippo is normally native to the swamps of west Africa, in particular Liberia. The Northern Territory News reports, Nico Courtney, 27, was out spotlighting for pigs with his mate Rusty on a station in the Douglas Daly district 200km south of Darwin on Saturday night. "It was about 1am and running away from us - from the tail end it just looked like a big pig," Mr Courtney said. "We got out, had a look at it, and thought 'that's not a pig, it's a hippo'. "Then we thought 'you don't get hippos in Australia'." Mr Courtney's boss, Gordon Coward said he believed the female hippo - estimated to be about 250kg - is an old escapee from Tipperary Station. The station was turned into an exotic wildlife sanctuary by its former owner, millionaire Warren Anderson. But it shut in in 2003 - meaning the hippo has been roaming the bush for at least six years. "I heard all sorts of funny stories of break outs and people kept saying 'look out for giraffes in the paddock', but I didn't think much of them." Mr Anderson began trying to sell the animals - which included rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, giraffes, zebras and deer - after selling his interest in the station. *

Ed Comment; Not only did Anderson try to sell the animals, without success, he also tried to shoot them. He arrived in the NT wellarmed, but police confiscated his guns. For a while the NT Government supplied supplimentary feed to the animals, and it's believed that some animals were deliberately released to stop them from starving.

More Dead Muttonbirds

Thousands of muttonbirds - upon arriving in Australia to breed - have been found dead along the Victorian and NSW coasts in the past two weeks. The birds, properly known as short-tailed shearwaters, probably died from exhaustion and malnutrition following their migratory flight to Australia from the Arctic Pacific. The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment said about 1000 shearwaters were found washed up between Portland and Apollo Bay. A Government spokesman said the DSE had ''taken samples and performed autopsies on some of the birds''. A Warrnambool-based DSE officer has reportedly suggested a shortage of fish caused the birds to starve. The situation along the Great Ocean Road has been complicated by a red algal bloom that is being blamed for the deaths of a variety of bird species, including cormorants. Dead fish have also been reported by concerned members of the public.

Meanwhile, National Parks and Wildlife Service officers in NSW have concluded that the hundreds of shearwaters that perished on the Central Coast last week succumbed to exhaustion on the final leg of their 30,000-kilometre round trip from the top of the world. Bird experts say there is a natural cull each year of older and inexperienced younger birds, but not often in numbers that cause alarm to the public. Rob Farnes, a Birds Australia observer based in Portland, said he found 86 dead birds on a three-kilometre walk along the coast two days ago. In previous years he has picked up hundreds of shearwaters, but that was over 16 kilometres. ''And I've never seen them inside the harbour before,'' he said. * Age

Drivers on New Zealand's south island are having to dodge birds which have begun crash-landing on roads. Hutton's shearwaters spend half of the year in Tasmania, then fly to New Zealand to lay their eggs. On the Kaikoura coast, near Christchurch, the sea birds are mistaking roads for flat expanses of water. Park Ranger Mike Morrissey says large numbers are crash landing on the bitumen. "It varies a lot, we've had up to 50 odd in one night," he said. He says the birds are being confused by bright lights. "Round town they're hitting buildings and the hard surfaces." The ranger says luckily, most of the birds have not been hurt, just stunned. *ABC

Sheep and Cattle

According to the Federal Government, there are 71 million sheep in Australia, and 24.5 million cattle, and again according to the Federal Government, 25 million kangaroos, except that even the kangaroo shooters can't find them!


The damaged forest in the hills of the Cycloop Mountain in Papua is threatening the habitat of its native butterflies. Thirty years ago, said Brother Henk van Mastringt, Jayapura residents could see about 30 kinds of butterflies. “Now, there are no more than 10,” said Papuan butterfly researcher during the International Biological Diversity Conference in Jayapura yesterday. According to Brother Henk, people who want to see butterflies must go about three kilometers inside the forest before they can see them. Yet, some years ago, these animals could be seen flying around Jayapura Regional General Hospital. He hoped that the government would be more careful when constructing in areas like Foja, Arfak, Wondama and Cycloop, which is rich eco-biodiversity.

Brother Henk said that there were other exotic and protected animals besides the butterflies. In Arfak, Manokwari, for instance, there are 30 species of butterflies. During the period between 2000 and 2004 in Wamena, some areas were deforested, causing butterflies to become extinct. Former Environment Minister Emil Salim said more than 50 percent of Indonesia’s biological diversity is found in Papua. “They are found with a high average of endemic species,” he said, in his address at the International Biological Diversity Conference. Papua also has a complete ecosystem, from coral reefs and mangrove, to savanna, lowlands and highlands, as well as mountains. *Network Item

Tassie Devils

The Tasmanian devil is doomed to extinction unless the State Government sets up an insurance population. That is the warning from the Tasmanian Conservation Trust. A "Noah's Ark" project has ground to a halt because of a lack of zoos and parks to keep devils. Four years ago, the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program began collecting devils free of facial tumour disease, with the target of 1500 animals. Only about 170 have been collected, including the offspring of those captured in the wild. "The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program told us there is no limit to the number they could trap but they have nowhere to put them," Conservation Trust director Peter McGlone said yesterday. "They informed us they stopped trapping for the insurance population in 2008." He said program staff had told the trust the devil was doomed without a focus on creating an insurance population.

Mr McGlone said islands should be chosen as devil sanctuaries, an idea first raised several years ago, and resources should be put into the plan. Wildlife tour operator Geoff King, of the Devil Program Stakeholder Reference Group, said: "With the disease spreading and no cure on the horizon, an insurance population of disease-free devils is essential to safeguard the species against extinction. "At this rate, it looks certain they'll fail to reach their target before the disease spreads over the entire state." A spokesman for the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program said it had always been known zoos and parks would not be able to house all the devils, which was why free-range enclosures were being developed. One had been set up near Bicheno and the program was working with East Coast Natureworld owner Bruce Englefield on the enclosures, known as the Devil Island Project.

"Surveys and assessment have begun on building three more free-range enclosures and other options are being looked at," spokesman Warwick Brennan said. He said the island option required assessment of food sources and the impacts of putting devils on islands. "We recognise zoos and wildlife parks are not the only answer," Mr Brennan said. "We welcome the trust's input." Also yesterday, the Tasmanian Greens urged federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett to reject the $23 million Tarkine road, which could put at risk threatened species including the devil and the giant freshwater crayfish. "Even the State Government's submission acknowledges that further work is yet to be done on crucial areas including impacts on threatened species and roadkill, which means a comprehensive assessment is not possible," environment spokeswoman Cassy O'Connor said. *Mercury


A blood-orange blob the size of a small refrigerator emerged from the dark waters, its venomous tentacles trapped in a fishing net. Within minutes, hundreds more were being hauled up, a pulsating mass crowding out the catch of mackerel and sea bass. The fishermen leaned into the nets, grunting and grumbling as they tossed the translucent jellyfish back into the bay, giants weighing up to 200 kilograms (450 pounds), marine invaders that are putting the men's livelihoods at risk. The venom of the Nomura, the world's largest jellyfish, a creature up to 2 meters (6 feet) in diameter, can ruin a whole day's catch by tainting or killing fish stung when ensnared with them in the maze of nets here in northwest Japan's Wakasa Bay. "Some fishermen have just stopped fishing," said Taiichiro Hamano, 67. "When you pull in the nets and see jellyfish, you get depressed."

This year's jellyfish swarm is one of the worst he has seen, Hamano said. Once considered a rarity occurring every 40 years, they are now an almost annual occurrence along several thousand kilometers (miles) of Japanese coast, and far beyond Japan. Scientists believe climate change - the warming of oceans - has allowed some of the almost 2,000 jellyfish species to expand their ranges, appear earlier in the year and increase overall numbers, much as warming has helped ticks, bark beetles and other pests to spread to new latitudes. The gelatinous seaborne creatures are blamed for decimating fishing industries in the Bering and Black seas, forcing the shutdown of seaside power and desalination plants in Japan, the Middle East and Africa, and terrorizing beachgoers worldwide, the U.S. National Science Foundation says. *From CBS News

Motorcyclist hits Kangaroo

A motorcyclist has died following a collision with a kangaroo on NSW's South Coast. Police said the 39-year-old man was riding his Harley-Davidson south along the Princes Highway in South Nowra about 4.15pm yesterday when a kangaroo jumped onto the road. The animal hit the rider, causing him to fall off the bike and slide into the path of an oncoming Toyota LandCruiser, police said. The man, from Bondi Junction, suffered extensive injuries and was pronounced dead on arrival at Shoalhaven Hospital. The kangaroo was not found, but witnesses saw it cause the accident, police said. The area where the accident occurred, about 400 metres north of the Btu Road intersection, was surrounded by bushland that was known to contain kangaroos, Inspector Wayne Thorpe from Nowra police said.

"But most of the kangaroo accidents are fortunately with cars, and not too often with motorcyclists," he said. "If you hit a kangaroo at 100km/h [while riding a motorcycle], you are not going to come off too well." There was nothing to suggest excessive speed or alcohol were factors, Inspector Thorpe said. Fred Madderom, director of Sydney chapter of the Harley Owners Group, did not know the rider but described the incident as a tragedy. While the area where the rider was killed was not necessarily a major bike route, kangaroos commonly posed a threat to bike riders, he said. "They're so unpredictable, they go in one direction and you think you've missed them and suddenly at the last second they go in another direction," he said."All you can do is improve your skills, do the best you can and then a kangaroo jumps out at you." Mr Madderom said a member of his chapter hit a kangaroo during a rally in Tasmania this week, but was not seriously injured. *AAP and Arjun Ramachandran

Dolphin Deaths

The Environment Minister Donna Faragher says a spate of dolphin deaths in the Swan River will be fully investigated. About six of the river's 25 bottlenose dolphins have died in the past five months. At least four of the mammals had failing immune systems and three had high levels of the banned pesticide Dieldrin. Mrs Faragher says while the deaths are of considerable concern there is no health risk to humans. However she says her department and the Swan River Trust are trying to figure out how and why the dolphins are dying. "They are already doing that in addition to work that is being done with Murdoch Uni and Curtin Uni," she said. "This is vital work, I am fully supportive of it, it has been undertaken for some considerable period of time and I expect that it will continue." *ABC

Expert: bats not the bad guys Hendra has given bats a bad name. Understandable given Hendra virus has killed people and horses, and scientists have discovered that Hendra virus is carried by bats. But it’s not all the bats’ fault. “Flying-foxes or fruit bats are large, very mobile animals that can fly long distances, possibly 100s of kilometres overnight. They are also very social animals, and roost during the day in large communal groups. We are very aware of them because they are so visible at dawn and dusk when we see them leaving or returning to their roosts” says Billie Roberts, an expert in flying-fox ecology and behaviour. “Because flying-foxes roost and feed within urban and coastal landscapes people have the impression there are more flying-foxes than ever, when in fact some species are actually undergoing dramatic decreases in numbers because of habitat loss and shooting of flying-foxes to protect crops.”

We’ve long had a mixed relationship with bats. These species are important to Australian forests because they are the major pollinators and seed dispersers of the forests, and tourist operators regarded them as a key ecotourism species. In urban areas, though, local governments are interested in the impact of flying fox camps on residential areas, because people are disturbed by the bats’ noise and smell. Farmers are concerned about fruit damage and loss. And now health departments and horse owners are worried about Hendra virus. But some of the negative outcomes we blame on bats are of our own making. “As urban development sprawls the flowering eucalypt trees that flying foxes should be feeding on are being chopped down. As a result, hungry flying foxes have to travel more to search for food, and sometimes they find an orchard with ripe fruit as a substitute to their natural food.”

“We should think of flying foxes as the canary in the coalmine; they are messengers of what we’re doing to our environment. We shouldn’t be shooting the messengers but regarding them as important indicators of the health of our environment.” Scientists are starting to think that the recent appearance of Hendra virus is a symptom of bats showing stress as a result to changes we’ve made to the environment. "The actual virus is uncommon in flying-foxes and does not appear to cause them any problems. All indications are that Hendra virus spills over from bats to horses and then from horses to humans – there are no known cases of people contracting Hendra virus from flying-foxes” says Dr Stephen Prowse, CEO with the Australian Biosecurity CRC. Despite recent annual outbreaks, Hendra infection is rare in horses and people. Hendra virus does not appear to be highly infectious and does not spread easily; however when it does the consequences can be devastating.

“More research is required to get a better understanding of how the virus persists in bats and spreads to horses, and for the development of vaccines and treatments. However, the public should not be unduly concerned about fruit bats but treat them as they would any other wild animal and enjoy having them in our urban environment. We need to better learn to live with bats.” So, if you find a sick or injured bat don’t try to pick it up, but call the RSPCA or the bat rescue helpline on 0488 228 134. Horse owners need to try to minimise the likelihood of contact between fruit bats and horses. And horse owners and veterinarians need to improve their biosecurity and infection control practices. In this way we can better manage and reduce the risks of Hendra virus outbreaks and allow bats, horses and people to safely share our environment. For more information about Hendra virus research visit * Australian Biosecurity CRC

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