Monday, March 15, 2010

Wildlife Bytes 9/3/10

Wildlife MiniBytes

Plague Rodents

Sylvatic plague - a close cousin of the dreaded disease that killed one-third of all European residents in the six years between 1347 and 1353 - persists in rodents in the American West even when the disease does not erupt into epidemic form, new research demonstrates. The newly published work indicates that plague continues to affect the black-footed ferret, one of the most critically endangered mammals in North America, as well as several species of prairie dogs, including the federally threatened Utah prairie dog. The disease also has been found in larger predators such as cougars and lynx that prey on rodents, rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels that may be susceptible to plague. Plague, a flea-borne disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis was introduced to North America in the late 1800s. It spreads rapidly, causing devastating effects to wildlife and posing risks to people. Read more

Duck Shooting

A protester has been rescued from the annual wild duck shoot on Tasmania's east coast. Police say the rescue helicopter was called about 9:00am (AEST) to retrieve a 35-year-old woman who was part of a campaign to disrupt the hunt at Moulting Lagoon. The woman, from Battery Point, was thought to have been bitten by a snake but it was later diagnosed as a suspected marine sting to her foot. The woman is in hospital in Hobart in a stable condition. Tasmania's duck hunting season opened today and runs until June. *ABC

Rare Plant

A rare plant species found only in south-east Queensland's South Burnett region has been declared critically endangered. About 3,000 plants remain of the lasiopetalum species, found only in the Speedwell Range north-west of Murgon. South Burnett botanist Carolyn Haskard says protection under Commonwealth law is a major step forward. "What that means is that [for] any development, roadside maintenance, any works whatsoever that may disturb the plant, a referral has to be put together and sent to the Federal Government for approval," she said. "So therefore what it means is no harm whatsoever is allowed to come to that plant in the wild." *ABC

Ivory Smuggling

A Philippine wildlife officer is suspected of stealing more than 1,500 pounds (700 kilograms) of smuggled elephant tusks seized last year, an embarrassing setback for the country's anti-poaching efforts, an official said Wednesday. The ivory worth $65,000 was part of a 8,800-pound (4,000-kilogram) shipment of tusks that was impounded at Manila airport in July and turned over for disposal to the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, said Theresa Mundita Lim, the agency's director. Trade in ivory is banned under U.N. rules. Read more


Help Bob Irwin save the cassowaries...... Read Bob's Blog here......


The "Year of the Tiger," the lunar Chinese New Year, was celebrated on February 14. Once every twelve years, tigers are honored for their transcendent beauty and for the physical and psychic prowess their parts are believed to offer humans. There are perhaps 17,000 tigers on this earth. Between 5,000 and 7,000 are "farmed in China," five thousand in the United States, three thousand of which are kept in private hands, about two thousand in zoos. These are not solid numbers, but what we do know is that there are probably no more than 3,200 tigers in the wild. And we do know that wild tigers are being snared and poached and killed at a rate that will once and for all time bring silence and death to the wild. Thus, this Year of the Tiger has brought an orchestra of well-wishers to the fore: to hold conferences, to issue papers, to pledge to double wild tiger numbers by the next Year of the Tiger. But conferences will not suffice to shut down the vicious criminal organizations, serious killers, who run an operation that is as lucrative as the trade in illegal drugs. A 55 pound sack of tiger bones from a single tiger, a tiger once wild and now caged in a tenement zoo enclosure, can be worth up to $250,000. Consider the selling price of all the parts of a failing, ill-treated, once-wild tiger, now near death with other once-wild, dying tigers. Read more

Federal Whaling Backflip Coming?

Key nations in the whaling debate are meeting in the United States to discuss a compromise deal over the divisive issue. Delegates meeting near Saint Petersburg in Florida are considering a proposal put forward by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to allow Japan, Iceland and Norway to commercially hunt whales. The proposal would include strict monitoring and reductions in the number of whales killed over the next 10 years. Australia is trying to stop Japanese whaling in the Antarctic and has put forward its own proposal. The meeting is closed to the media but lobby groups are allowed to observe. They say the atmosphere is cordial. This is a preliminary session ahead of the full meeting of the IWC in Morocco in June. *ABC


Missouri House members gave first-round approval Tuesday to a proposed constitutional amendment designed to make it harder for citizen efforts to change the state's wildlife and forestry policies. The measure would require a four-sevenths majority to pass ballot initiatives changing the state constitution or laws dealing with hunting, fishing or forestry. Currently, ballot measures only require a majority to pass. Lawmakers, who have debated similar proposals in recent years, said they are concerned about outside efforts -- particularly from animal rights or environmental groups -- to curtail the state's hunting and fishing rights. Sponsoring Rep. Mike Dethrow said hunting and fishing are embedded in Missouri's culture and deserve particular protection. Dethrow, R-Alton, (the proposer) said his proposal is a "proactive approach that protects responsible, science-based management of our wildlife resources." * News Tribune

Flying Foxes

Hope is on the horizon for bat-haters in Maclean. An application for a licence to disperse the flying foxes next to Maclean High School will be made this week by the Department of Education and Training. The department has already lodged an application with the State and Commonwealth authorities to remove trees and tree limbs close to the school which can harbour flying foxes, a spokesman said. “The department continues to work with urgency in its consultation with the State and Commonwealth environment agencies and with Clarence Valley Council, on the basis that any resolution will require the agreement of all three levels of government,” the statement said. “While previous advice has indicated that a new application to disperse would involve a costly environmental study and stood little chance of success, after further intensive liaison with the State and Federal authorities, the department is now in a position to believe that an application, if lodged, may have a greater chance of resolving the issue,” the statement said. *The Daily Examiner


The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are searching a second anti-whaling ship today in Hobart. Police boarded the Sea Shepherd boat Bob Barker when it docked in Hobart shortly before 2:30pm (AEDT) today, Saturday. Earlier today, the AFP searched the Steve Irwin when it docked in Hobart. The Sea Shepherd group says police are investigating about 100 complaints made by Japanese authorities about protesters' behaviour in the Southern Ocean. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the Federal Government will not interfere with AFP investigation. Mr Rudd says the Government has made its stance clear that if Japanese whaling does not stop, it will take the matter to the international court of justice. But he says the Government will not get involved in the AFP's investigation. "In terms of whether or not the Sea Shepherd has in any way violated any relevant law where Australian authorities are involved, that properly lies within the independent decision making processes of the Australian Federal Police," he said. But Greens Senator Bob Brown has condemned the use of AFP officers to carry out the requests of the Japanese authorities. "This is a political issue and the Japanese government is using the policing services for a political purpose while the Australian Government seems to be totally asleep," he said. *ABC

Sealions Killed

Oregon's Department of Fish and Wildlife killed its first fish-eating California sea lion of 2010 Wednesday after capturing it by Bonneville Dam. The department, working with the state of Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, first started killing California sea lions by lethal injection last year. In 2009, biologists euthanized 11 California sea lions identified as repeatedly dining near the Columbia River dam's fish ladders and transferred four others to a zoo or aquarium. This year, no zoos or aquariums have agreed to take sea lions, ODFW spokeswoman Jessica Sall said. The sea lion killed Wednesday was one of 64 California sea lions on a NOAA-approved list of animals eligible to be euthanized because they've been repeatedly spotted eating salmon, Sall said. Biologists have seen the animal for the past seven years at the dam, she said. The Columbia is home to multiple runs of endangered and threatened wild salmon and steelhead, and is the focus of a multi-billion-dollar salmon restoration effort. The sea lions feast mainly on spring chinook, both hatchery-raised and wild. The animals gather at Bonneville's fish ladders, where the fish are easy pickings. Opponents say the sea lions do relatively little damage to fish runs compared to fishermen and the dams themselves and new animals will replace those captured and killed. In Defense of Animals and the Sea Lion Defense Brigade are planning a demonstration against the killings at noon today near the dam, the first on the salmon's run to their spawning grounds. The sea lion killed Wednesday was named "Lionel" last year by students at Oregon City's Redland Elementary School, the activist groups said. * OregonLive

Wildlife Trafficking

Almost 40 illegal exotic and native snakes, including live specimens in glass tanks and dead ones stored in freezers, have been seized in raids in western Sydney. Among the exotic reptiles were corn snakes, king snakes and a boa constrictor. Federal and state environment department officers raided two homes on February 18 and March 3, a Federal Government spokeswoman said yesterday. "The live snakes were found in tanks throughout the properties. There had been no attempt at hiding them," she said. Several people are being questioned and could face charges. * Daily Telegraph

Wildlife Relocation

Hundreds of animals have been flown off Barrow Island in WA's Pilbara in what the Department of Environment and Conservation is calling a successful translocation program. In the past month, about 600 threatened animals have been removed from the island in preparation for the $43 billion Gorgon gas project. The animals are being taken to three different locations in WA. Principal Scientist Keith Morris says two burrowing bettongs have died due to heat stress after being relocated to the former pastoral station, Lorna Glen. "The other 63 are doing fine, we've got radio collars on 22 of those and they're doing very well indeed," he said. Hundreds of other animals including golden bandicoots, spectacled hare wallabies and possums have been taken to Lorna Glen, Hermite Island in the Montebello group and the Cape Range National Park. *ABC


The New South Wales Department of Industry and Investment says it is researching how to better manage young kangaroos that may become orphaned because of commercial harvesting. Department researcher Steve McLeod says management is justified in the far west where kangaroos are affecting valuable resources like sheep grazing areas, but an assessment of what happens to their young is needed. "Because they harvest at night and the young at foot might not be close to a mother that's shot they sometimes might not get seen," he said. "We don't know the extent of that problem and we don't know what actually happens to those young." The department says if done properly, current kangaroo management practices still remain the most humane way of harvesting the animal. *ABC

Two men have been fined over the death of a number of kangaroos near Dargo last year. Wildlife officers, police and park rangers launched a joint investigation after dead kangaroos were found in the area in October. One man from Melbourne and one man from Western Australia pleaded guilty in the Sale Magistrates Court to owning dogs that attacked wildlife, possessing protected wildlife and a number of other charges. The men received fines of $2,000 and $500. *ABC Gippsland

The New South Wales Department of Industry and Investment says it is researching how to better manage young kangaroos that may become orphaned because of commercial harvesting. Department researcher Steve McLeod says management is justified in the far west where kangaroos are affecting valuable resources like sheep grazing areas, but an assessment of what happens to their young is needed. "Because they harvest at night and the young at foot might not be close to a mother that's shot they sometimes might not get seen," he said. "We don't know the extent of that problem and we don't know what actually happens to those young." The department says if done properly, current kangaroo management practices still remain the most humane way of harvesting the animal. *ABC

A central western Queensland mayor says big rain and flooding in the region means many people are unable to work. Blackall-Tambo Mayor Jan Ross says while the region is experiencing its best season for 30 years, it has also bought problems for some people who are unable to earn an income in the wet conditions. She says some businesses have been quiet since Christmas. "The truck drivers can't get out to cattle properties to load cattle, cattle can't be mustered to be loaded, [there is a] great hiatus in that business," Cr Ross said. "The harvesters of kangaroos can't get out to shoot so they are all sitting down as well and have been doing so since the Christmas break." *ABC

Heres a Petition for the kangaroos that were poisoned by fluoride in SA


The Shooters Party is at it again ... and now they're after our marine parks! With its mission to open up NSW’s terrestrial national parks to hunting stalled, the Shooters Party is spearheading a call for a moratorium on marine parks off the NSW coast. It’s hard to believe but Shooters Party leader Robert Brown is now chair of the Committee holding an inquiry into recreational fishing in NSW. The Committee under his leadership is responsible for looking at ‘sustainable’ fishing and marine parks, among other issues, and setting the direction for decision making on recreational fishing for decades to come. Not allowing evidence to get in the way of sensationalism, the Chair of the Committee dismisses the science behind marine parks as "voodoo science". The Nature Conservation Council strongly disagrees with this rhetoric. Marine parks, particularly no-take or sanctuary zones, are a vital tool for marine conservation as evidenced by a huge number of scientific papers.

They say we cannot let the Shooters Party and some extremists in the recreational fishing lobby destroy the precious marine sanctuaries and protected areas we fought so hard to establish. We’ve stood up to the Shooters Party in the past and I ask you to join with us now. We must send a clear message to the inquiry and our political leaders that we not only do not want any scale-back of ‘no-take’ areas, but we believe these areas must be increased without delay in order to provide better protection for marine biodiversity. Have your say Please urgently send two cyberactions before Friday 19 March: one to the recreational fishing inquiry showing your support for marine parks and suggesting management improvements for recreational fisheries in NSW; and another to Environment Minister Frank Sartor and Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan expressing your support for expanding, not stopping, marine parks and sanctuaries:

You can also view the full Terms of reference for the Inquiry into recreational fishing:$FILE/Terms%20of%20reference.pdf

Thank you for your support of our precious marine environment, * Nature Conservation Council of NSW


Atrazine, one of the most commonly used and controversial weedkillers, can turn male frogs into females, researchers in the US have found. The experiment is the first to show the complete effects of atrazine, which has been known to disrupt hormones and is one of the chief suspects in the decline of amphibians around the world. "Atrazine-exposed males were both demasculinised (chemically castrated) and completely feminised as adults," researchers from the University of California Berkeley wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The chemical had been shown to disrupt development and make frogs develop both male and female features - termed hermaphroditism. Tyrone Hayes from the University of California Berkeley says the study of 40 male frogs shows the process can go even further. "Before, we knew we got fewer males than we should have, and we got hermaphrodites. Now, we have clearly shown that many of these animals are sex-reversed males," Mr Hayes said in a statement. "Atrazine has caused a hormonal imbalance that has made them develop into the wrong sex, in terms of their genetic constitution."

Whether the effects translate to humans is far from clear. Frogs have thin skin that can absorb chemicals easily and they bathe in the polluted water. The European Union banned atrazine in 2004. The finding may add pressure to the United States to more closely regulate the chemical, which is used widely in agriculture. "Approximately 80 million pounds (36,287 tonnes) are applied annually in the United States alone, and atrazine is the most common pesticide contaminant of ground and surface water," the researchers wrote. "Atrazine can be transported more than 1,000 kilometres from the point of application via rainfall and, as a result, contaminates otherwise pristine habitats, even in remote areas where it is not used," they added, citing other researchers. "In fact, more than a half million pounds (227 tonnes) of atrazine are precipitated in rainfall each year in the United States." The US Environmental Protection Agency said in October it was reviewing the health impacts of atrazine.

Syngenta AG, one of several companies that makes atrazine, has long defended its safety. The company says it is one of the best-studied herbicides available and pointed to prior safety reviews from the EPA and World Health Organisation, among others. Hayes and colleagues studied 40 African clawed frogs, keeping them in water contaminated with 2.5 parts per billion (ppb) of atrazine. The EPA's current drinking water standard is 3ppb. "Ten per cent of the exposed genetic males developed into functional females that copulated with unexposed males and produced viable eggs," the researchers wrote. "Regardless of the mechanism, the impacts of atrazine on amphibians and on wildlife in general are potentially devastating. "The negative impacts on wild amphibians is especially concerning given that the dose examined here (2.5ppb) is in the range that animals experience year-round in areas where atrazine is used as well within levels found in rainfall, in which levels can exceed 100ppb in the midwestern United States." *Reuters

A species of frog has been found alive in the New South Wales Southern Tablelands, more than 30 years after it was thought to have become extinct. New South Wales Environment Minister Frank Sartor announced this morning the discovery of a population of yellow-spotted bell frogs. The frogs were found in a remote creek on private property in the Southern Tablelands region. NSW Fisheries field scientist Luke Pearce first spotted an unusually coloured bell frog late last year while conducting a native fish survey. He then alerted his colleague, David Hunter, a frog expert with the state's Environment Department. But it was not until a field visit last month that the pair was able to return to identify the creature as the missing yellow-spotted bell frog.

Dr Hunter, who spends up to six months of the year monitoring remote frog populations, told The 7.30 Report's Rebecca Baillie the initial capture was a once-in-a-lifetime event. "Luke and I went out to the site, did a frog survey, found one of the bell frogs - and it just so happened to be this yellow-spotted bell frog," Dr Hunter said. "This was definitely the most exciting moment of my career and I will be surprised if I repeat it." He says the find highlights the important role that private landowners can play in habitat conservation. "The property owner at this particular site is extremely excited about having this critically endangered frog species on his land, and is very much looking forward to working with us in collaboration towards the conservation of the bell frog," Dr Hunter said.

However he warns the survival of the yellow-spotted bell frog rests on its fragile creek habitat remaining hidden. "We really don't want anyone going to the site, trying to capture the bell frog or photograph it, because that could introduce an unknown pathogen into the population and cause a problem," Dr Hunter said. A tiny tadpole and frog collection has now been established at Taronga Zoo and there are plans to breed a safety population for re-introduction to the wild. Scientists warn Australia still has more than 40 threatened frog species, all battling the impact of chytridia mycosis, a devastating fungal disease responsible for amphibian declines world-wide. *ABC

Kangaroo Boxing

An event featuring a red kangaroo goaded into fighting a human clown at a festival in the US, designed to celebrate all things Australian, has been cancelled. The BorderFest festival in Hidalgo, Texas, features an event called Rocky Show Circus, involving two kangaroos and their owner, Javier Martinez, who dons the clownsuit. Martinez baits the kangaroo by pushing it and poking it before placing it in a headlock. If Rocky fights back too much, Martinez's wife Sandra restrains it using a heavy tether attached to a harness around the animal's chest. The American arm of Kraft - the owners of Vegemite - was sponsoring the show, which claimed to be a celebration of all things Australian. Kraft Foods Australia says it is pleased that the show was cancelled. "We understand the BorderFest Association, which organises this annual cultural celebration, has apologised for offending anyone, particularly the people of Australia, with the kangaroo boxing display," said Kraft spokesman Simon Talbot. "That portion of the event has been cancelled. "Kraft Foods is pleased they've taken this proactive stance."

Martinez has defended the show, saying the kangaroos are in control at all times. "You cannot force a kangaroo to do nothing," he said. "(Kangaroos) only do what they want to do so we don't make them work, you work around them." But Martinez is known to US animal welfare authorities, having been on their watch list since 2003, when two kangaroos he was caring for died within four months. He's also been investigated by PETA, which says one of the kangaroos died from a bacterial disease called lumpy jaw. *NZTV A petition is online here


A group of greenies and vegetarians were converting to Kangatarianism, a vegetarian diet with one exception - kangaroo meat. The decision, according to the, a regional Australian news site, is based "on environmental, ecological and humanitarian grounds," as the "kangaroo is often described as the ultimate in free-range, organic meat" that "...require[s] no additional feed, water or land cleared for them. They also produce a low level of greenhouse gas emissions." On February 9, Samantha Vine, a kangatarian told The Sydney Morning Herald, a Sydney-based newspaper, "after being vegetarian for so long, after a certain amount of time I craved some meat... it's not worth the pleasure of eating meat if it hasn't been treated well, I don't want to be part of that."

Jimmy Cocking, from Arid Lands Environment Centre, told the Centralian Advocate, "more people are becoming ethical consumers of food and kangaroo has been the ecological alternative. But in places like Alice Springs, camel is one of the more ethical meats you can eat here in the desert," and "...there is great potential for cameltarianism to be the new semi-vegetarian food trend." Cocking continues to boast that camel is "the healthiest meat in the world" with "low cholesterol, Omega 6, Omega 3." It's unclear if the kangatarian Facebook group's 31 members will swap their roo for camel or return to veggies if the supply of kangaroo meat is jeopardized. The semi-vegetarian has many labels and dietary restrictions including flexitarian, pescatarian (fish), pollotarianism (poultry), now adding kangatarian to the list and possibly cameltarian. One trend is certain, ethical eating is on the rise. *Network Item

Wildlife Trafficking

A jail sentence handed down to a German visitor who pleaded guilty to possessing New Zealand geckos has been welcomed by the Wildlife Enforcement Group. Manfred Walter Bachmann, a 55-year-old engineer living in Kampala, Uganda, was today sentenced in Christchurch District Court to 15 weeks in jail for his role in a wildlife smuggling venture. He was caught with 16 protected jewelled geckos in his backpack in February and pleaded guilty to the Wildlife Act charges at his first court appearance. Co-accused Swiss national Thomas Price today pleaded guilty to possessing absolutely protected wildlife, and Spaniard Gustavo Toldedo-Albarrans pleaded guilty to hunting absolutely protected wildlife. Both were remanded in custody for sentencing on March 29. The court was told Bachmann was handed the geckos by Price, when the animals had been packed into plastic tubes. He was meant to pass the package on to a fourth person who would have taken them out of the country. The fourth person has never been caught.

The 15-week jail term imposed on Bachmann by Judge Jane Farish today was one week longer than the sentence for another German national, Hans Kurt Kubus, who was caught at Christchurch International Airport with 44 geckos and skinks in December. Kubus was also fined $5000. The Wildlife Enforcement Group, a partnership between the Customs Service, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Department of Conservation, said Bachmann's sentencing today sent a message that wildlife smuggling would not be taken lightly. Department of Conservation investigator Stuart Williamson said the geckos would have suffered stress from being in the plastic tubes. Nine of the 11 female geckos were pregnant and the stress could cause them to lose their young, as happened in Kubus' case, Mr Williamson said. More details emerged today about the latest Department of Conservation interception in which the department says it was "acting on information received". Prosecutor Mike Bodie said Price and Toledo-Albarran had arrived in New Zealand on February 5, rented a vehicle and drove to Dunedin where they planned to collect wildlife from Otago Peninsula for illegal export.

Over five days, Toledo-Albarran searched vegetation for the 16 animals which were later placed into plastic tubing sealed with cotton wool and tape, and with breathing apertures. They drove back to Christchurch on February 12. Price met Bachmann and handed him the package of tubes and the men were arrested soon after. The animals had a total value of $192,000 on the European market *

Police seized tiger bones, anteater scales and bear gall bladders in an international operation against the use of endangered plants and animals in traditional medicine, officers said Friday. Illegal animal and plant products with a retail value of 10 million euros (13.6 million dollars) were seized in a month-long drive carried out by forces around the world, the global law enforcement agency Interpol said. "National wildlife enforcement authorities, police, customs and specialised units from 18 countries across all five continents worked together as part of Operation Tram which ran from 1 to 28 February," Interpol said. Operation Tram "revealed a large amount of medicines either containing or marketing the use of illegal ingredients such as tiger, bear and rhinoceros," according to the French-based international coordinating body.

British police targeted a business selling medicine from the Chinese tradition, but an Interpol spokeswoman told AFP the global operation was against all use of endangered species in cures from various cultures. For centuries, traditional Chinese healers have used tiger bone to treat arthritis, rhinoceros horn for fevers and convulsions and bear bile to treat various infections, thus encouraging poachers to hunt rare animals. In Rome, Italian forest rangers said they had seized 30,000 products containing wildlife, worth about one million euros, after checking more than 3,000 individuals, planes, baggage, and container ships. Arrest warrants were issued against 40 individuals or companies.

"We noticed there is great deal of illegal traffic in Italy," the Italian Interpol director Colonel Giuseppe Verrocchi told AFP, adding that rare plants and parts of tigers, bears and pangolins -- a scaly anteater -- were seized. "The products were imported directly from India, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam through the ports of Mestre, Trieste and Naples and Milan airport," a statement by the Italian forest rangers said. In London, the Metropolitan Police raided a Chinese traditional medicine business and found what seemed to be plant species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). "Most traditional Chinese medicines are perfectly legal. However, a small number of people continue to trade in illegal products containing endangered species," said Sergeant Ian Knox from the force's wildlife crime unit. "This trade threatens some of the world's most iconic species, and it will continue as long as the demand exists," he added.

A director of the company that owns the raided properties will be questioned once the plants have been analysed, Scotland Yard said. Police in Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, Georgia, India, Italy, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey and Zimbabwe also took part in the operation. "The important cultural, historical and religious values of traditional medicines are recognised by the law enforcement community," said senior British officer Chief Constable Richard Crompton. "However, the increased use of endangered species in medicines can no longer be tolerated as it places extreme pressure on their very survival," he warned.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), still known in North America as the World Wildlife Fund, welcomed the raids. "Given that this crosses many borders, coordinating effective efforts to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife is not easy," said Heather Sohl, who advises the WWF on wildlife trafficking. "It's great to see 18 countries all working simultaneously ... This can be a blueprint for future action on other areas of illicit wildlife trade too." *AFP


Treasury boss Ken Henry has taken a swipe at the work of his own department as well as others on valuing the environment saying much of it is flawed and fails to give proper weight to the importance of retaining Australia's unique biodiversity. Fresh from producing the as-yet-unreleased Henry Tax Review and in the midst of preparing the 2010 Budget Dr Henry told an environment conference in Sydney that the part of his Intergenerational Report that had received the least attention was the section on environmental sustainability. But not only did the well-being of future generations depend in large part on the environmental resources left to them from this generation, the environment was likely to become more important to them than it is to us.

"It is very likely that improvements in our material wealth and our understanding of the environment will enhance our appreciation and enjoyment of the environment over time," he told the conference. "There seems great scope, for example, for developing new or improved food crops, medicines and industrial products from our biological diversity." Market valuations of forests and farmland underplayed their real value because many of their benefits were too far in the future to be taken into account in prices. Asking people how much they would be prepared to pay to preserve parts of the environment had been found to result in bizarre conclusions including that preserving blue whales is more important than preserving all whales... "The idea of blue whales evokes a richer mental image than the idea of whales in general," he said.

A practical conservationist, Dr Henry helped draft the Henry Review's tax discussion paper while on working holiday in central Queensland caring for northern hairy nosed wombats. In 2008 in a personal capacity he is reported to have helped draft a submission opposing plans to cull 500 kangaroos on urban grassland in Canberra. He told the conference the problem with consulting experts was that they too often gave advice on areas beyond that expertise. In Canberra a panel of grassland ecologists had been asked to "offer advice on the difficult ethical question of whether it is more humane to kill a kangaroo than it is to relocate it." "Ethics too requires expertise," he told the conference. "And it is an expertise that should not be assumed to be positively correlated with scientific training." "We in the Treasury, who are often called on by governments to offer such assessments are very aware of the risks in claiming too much," he said. *SMH


Logging has started in part of a South-West karri forest which is home to one of WA's biggest populations of mainland quokkas, sparking accusations the Forest Products Commission is putting the vulnerable animals at risk. Conservationists fought for 10 years to halt logging in the Crowea 7 coupe near Northcliffe - an area of forest about half the size of Kings Park - because of the presence of threatened quokkas. But logging preparation started this year and is set to ramp up in coming weeks. The commission says it has set aside sections of the 170ha coupe which will protect the quokkas and allow them to escape to adjacent forest. It will also fund a fox-baiting program in the area which would reduce the risk from the quokkas' main predator. But the Wilderness Soceity said any major disturbance would put the rare animals under severe stress. Wilderness Society WA co-ordinator Peter Robertson said he was concerned that leaving "conservation zones" was inadequate.

"The quokkas are in quite a serious predicament and any disturbance, whether it be in logging or consequent burning that takes place, and all the other activities that take place with logging, all those things potentially destroy their habitat or make it more accessible for foxes and cats," he said. "We've been told many times over the years that there is no proof that the little reserves they leave by the streams provide adequate protection for the species that are left to rely on those areas." Global Warming Forest Action Group members Kim Redman and Mark Sheehan have led the push to protect the quokkas. Mr Sheehan accused the Department of Environment and Conservation of doing inadequate research into mainland quokkas and ways to protect them. DEC Warren regional manager Peter Keppel said while there was a healthy population of quokkas in Crowea 7, he was satisfied with FPC's actions to protect them. "We went to FPC and asked them to review their plans and to provide linkages as much as possible through the coupe . . . such as transport corridors along the coupe area," he said. The commission said the coupe would provide about 17,000m of logs. *The West

More about Whaling

The International Whaling Commission has refused a Danish request to allow limited hunting of humpback whales off the coast of Greenland. The proposal failed to garner the necessary support at a commission vote on Thursday in St Petersburg, Florida. Denmark had in June requested that indigenous Greenlanders be allowed to hunt the whales for their meat. Anti-whaling activists expressed concern on Friday that the motion would be put to another vote at the commission's annual conference, which is scheduled for June in Morocco. Nikolas Entrup, spokesman for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said there was a real danger the request could still be granted. Famed for their song, humpbacks were hunted to the brink of extinction in the first part of the 20th century until a 1966 worldwide moratorium on their hunting.

In light of a recovery of their numbers, Denmark requested a hunting quota for humpbacks in the waters off Greenland. The hunt would ostensibly provide food for the Greenland Inuit people, who traditionally eat a lot of whale meat, particularly in winter. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society disputes that hunting humpbacks is necessary, arguing that the Greenlanders were more likely to be motivated by the high quality of the humpback's flesh. Greenland already benefits from an exemption to the commission's convention, allowing its people to hunt around 150 minke whales, 20 fin whales and two bowhead whales per year. Conservationists said they were concerned that any quota granted for humpbacks could provide a loophole for commercial whaling of the species.

The proposal for a Greenland humpback quota is set to be back on the table at the commission's convention in Agadir, Morocco. Other motions scheduled for discussion include a proposal to allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to continue whaling under commission supervision and an Australian-led counterproposal to eliminate whale hunting altogether. Japan and Norway carry out the large majority of the world's whaling, killing an estimated 730 and 590 whales per year respectively. - Sapa-DPA,

Australia looks set to go head-to-head with some of its former allies at this year's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Morocco. A meeting of IWC nations in Florida has just concluded with a number of them pushing for a compromise deal. The US and New Zealand are backing the deal, which would see a ban on commercial whaling overturned in return for Japan reducing its so-called scientific research. Australia is standing firm and has rejected the plan, but it may be a lone voice. Environment Minister Peter Garrett says Australia's primary objective is the total and permanent elimination of all whaling. "We will not agree to any compromise which sees us allow for commercial whaling under any guise, under any name," Mr Garrett said."We have a proposal in front of nations in the IWC which has got a very strong reform component, a very strong conservation component and very clear steps to ensure that we don't see commercial whaling under the name of science. "We'll continue to be part of the discussions but we'll also clearly be pushing our strong position in those discussions."

Mr Garrett will not say whether he is disappointed that the United States and New Zealand may be edging towards a compromise deal. However, Australia's proposal does allow for a five-year phasing out of whaling. "That's in the context of our overall call for the elimination of so-called commercial whaling and scientific whaling," Mr Garrett said. "We certainly say there can be a phase-down within a reasonable timeframe, but there must be a commitment to go on that journey." Mr Garrett says Australia will continue in negotiations while its proposal is given appropriate space, but will not be compromising its position. "Australia has been the strongest pro-conservation voice in the IWC," he said. "Our strong view has always been that in order to break the deadlock there has to be meaningful and deliberate steps taken to achieve what we believe are the necessary conservation goals the IWC should be setting itself." *ABC

Fraser Island Dingoes

Recently Wildlife Bytes ran the story about Jennifer Parkhurst, the photographer who had her house invaded by DERM thugs early one morning last year. Jennifer now faces a maximum two years' jail or up to a $300,000 fine under the Nature Conservation Act and Recreation Area Management Act, for allegedly interfering with the Fraser Island dingoes. The real reasons for the raid were that, like many others, Jennifer has been highly critical of the Fraser Island dingo mis-management strategies. Anyway, a rally or two are being planned, and Fund has been set up to help Jennifer and the dingoes. People can contribute to the fund at Westpac Bank, Pialba, Hervey Bay. Save Fraser island Dingoes Inc. BSB 034-136 Acct 303196.

The Fair Dinkum Characters

The new Summer range of toddlers wildlife shirts, shorts, and singlets are now avaliable on the Fair Dinkum Characters website at too late for Christmas unfortuntely. The Dinkums are Ambassadors for the Wildlife Protection Association of Australia Inc. Watch for them playing in a Shopping Centre near you!