Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wildlife Bytes 27/4/10

Wildlife MiniBytes

Tortoises saved from from the ravages of drought in the lower Murray have been given a new home. Primary students from Milang have released 24 long-necked tortoises into wetlands near Mount Barker in the Adelaide hills. The tortoises were saved from potentially-fatal tube worm infestations in the lower lakes of the Murray in South Australia. High salinity in the lakes because of prolonged drought caused the calcified crust of tube worms on the tortoises. James Stroud nicknamed the one he cared for Lucky. "He was trapped to the jetty I think it was with like all tube worm on him attached so he couldn't get off, so that's why he's called Lucky, because he was lucky," he said. The students scraped the tube worms off the tortoises, but Kerri Bartley from the Department for Environment and Heritage says the creatures cannot be put back into the lower lakes. "There's been more water put into the Goolwa Channel but there's still, the salinity is still high enough to support tube worm activity," she said. The students have saved about 2,000 tortoises. *ABC


The International Whaling Commission has just unveiled a proposal to legalize commercial whale hunting for the first time in 24 years. Now, countries are deciding whether to support it -- or push back. Already, New Zealand's Foreign Minister has described some provisions as "unacceptable," "inflammatory," and "offensive." A massive global outcry is needed now, as other key countries choose how to react. Avaaz will deliver this petition to the Commission delegates each time it adds another 100,000 signatures -- sign here and spread the word!

Operation Waltzing Matilda was a spectacular success, and we are excited to report that more than half of the whaling fleet's quota was not met, because of our interventions and your support! The Japanese whaling fleet set out for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with a permit issued by the Japanese government to kill 935 protected Minke whales, 50 endangered fin whales and 50 endangered humpback whales. Their objective was to kill 1035 whales in total. We are happy to report that we saved 528 whales - our biggest impact on the whale quota to date! Please read on to learn more about this exciting news here *Sea Shephard


360 Degree Films is currently filming Kangaroo Mob, a documentary about kangaroos in Canberra for ABC TV and other international broadcasters. Over the coming year the crew will be following several kangaroo mobs on their journeys into the suburbs of Canberra. They are looking for all types of stories about humans and kangaroos interacting and would love to speak to any members of the Canberra public with a story about kangaroo encounters. Perhaps you have a roo that visits regularly, swims in your pool, or grazes in your backyard. Or maybe one of your pets has had a close encounter with Skippy. Whatever your story, bizarre, funny or confrontational, 360 Degree Films would love to hear from you. Also - if you see any kangaroos in unusual places, please film them on your mobile phone or video camera and send them in to us! If you can help, please contact Kate Breen at 360 Degree Films on 03 9948 1922 or visit the website at and send an email.

Forget candlelit dinners - a good flood has made conditions the best they've been for years for kangaroos to start making love. Rain and floodwaters are preparing the perfect setting for kangaroos numbers to explode in Queensland. University of Queensland wildlife behaviour lecturer Andrew Tribe says numbers could increase by 20 to 30 per cent within months. "It's really a very neat reproductive system designed to exploit the conditions we have in Australia, which are traditionally boom and bust conditions, and we're in boom at the moment," he says. *ABC

Gemfields wildlife carer Carol Graham is pleading for the return of five joeys stolen from their compound at her Sapphire home yesterday. “Please, if they drink cow's milk they will die,” said a distraught Ms Graham who said the three grey does and two bucks, aged from 14 to 18 months, were taken between 7am and 3pm. “They are on two bottles a day, and need wombaroo milk, a special formula specific to macropods. “They're like babies to us.” Ms Graham said the offenders cut a hole low in the mesh compound and took five of the six joeys and loaded them on to a vehicle. Track marks were found nearby. The joeys, who are around 60cm in height, were also due for tetanus injections on Monday. “All they know is this compound,” she said. “They wouldn't just hop away and they would have come this afternoon when I called. “If anyone knows anything just ring me (on 4985 4290) or Louise Cupper in Emerald (on 4987 5736) or the police, and if I don't answer leave a message. “Please, I'm pleading with you, just bring the joeys back or tell me where they are.” CQ news

Next week we have an intriguing story about kangaroos, UFO's, kangaroo shooters, and rifles that were mysteriously rendered unable to be fired! Dont miss it in Wildlife Bytes Australia!

Flying Foxes

A wildlifeconservationist group is furious after duck hunters allegedly shot two protected flying foxes at Lake Connewarre. Victorian Advocates for Animals president Lawrence Pope said two grey-headed flying foxes which are federally and state protection listed were found floating in the water riddled with shotgun wounds on Sunday. "It is clear that duck hunters have shot these animals ... because either they were unable to recognise the difference between a flying fox and a game bird or they were simply bored and decided to kill whatever came their way," Mr Pope said. "What makes this situation even more disturbing is that the animals were killed in Reedy Lake, part of Lake Connewarre at Moolap Station Rd, near Geelong and a wetland of international importance." Mr Pope called for the wetland to be closed to hunters. "This is intolerable," he said. "The VAFA calls on the Minister for Environment, Gavin Jennings, to close off this wetland entirely and permanently to shooters and any other person intending harm to the animals that live in its precincts." *Geelong Advertiser

Silent Summer, a New Book.

After Silent Spring, Britain now faces the Silent Summer. Fifty years after Rachel Carson’s seminal book about humanity’s impact on nature, Sir David Attenborough has warned that Britain’s wildlife could be on the edge of the next great environmental disaster. Jeremy Thomas, professor of ecology at Oxford University, who wrote Silent Summer’s chapter on butterflies, said populations were falling faster than almost any other group. The reason, he suggests, is that the caterpillars of many species need particular plant species to feed on — but these are often targeted by farmers as weeds. “Nearly every butterfly decline can be attributed to habitat loss or the degradation and increased isolation of surviving patches of habitat,” he said. The story is similar for moths, whose overall population declined by more than a third from 1968 to 2002, when the last survey was carried out. At least 20 of the larger species, such as the dusky thorn and the hedge rustic, have suffered population declines of more than 90%. read more here;

Dragonflies Recognised

The US federal government has doubled the size of a protected zone in the Midwest for the only dragonfly on the U.S. endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday that 26,532 acres in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin will be designated as critical habitat for the Hine's emerald dragonfly. Originally, only about 13,200 acres had the designation. Under the law, federal agencies must consult with Fish and Wildlife Service biologists before issuing permits for activities in the zone that might harm the insect. Habitat loss is the biggest reason why the Hine's emerald dragonfly is in trouble. It lives in Midwestern wetland areas, many of which have been drained for farming or development. *

Giant Jellyfish Filmed

Remarkable footage of a rarely seen giant deep sea jellyfish has been recorded by scientists. Using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), they captured a video of the huge Stygiomedusa gigantea. The jellyfish has a disc-shaped bell than can be a metre wide, and has four arms that extend up to six metres in length. The jellyfish has only been seen 114 times in the 110 years it has been known to science, say researchers. Professor Mark Benfield from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, US, came across the creature as part of the Serpent project, a collaboration between marine scientists and energy companies, including BP, Shell, Chevron and Petrobras, working in the Gulf of Mexico. Using ROVs provided by the oil and gas companies, scientists are able to explore the deep ocean in more detail, including the so-called mesopelagic and bathypelagic layers of the sea. In a similar study, researchers recently captured footage of one of the ocean's largest fish, the serpent-like oarfish. Read more, watch footage,


A water aerobics class at a holiday park in Australia had to be postponed - after a 5ft crocodile entered the pool. Workers at the Howard Springs Holiday Park, on the outskirts of Darwin, found the crocodile as they scooped out leaves from the pool to prepare it for the class. "We went down like normal to check the pool out because Tuesdays and Thursdays the local ladies of Howard Springs do their water aerobics," park manager Geoff Thompson said. A government ranger was summoned to remove the visitor, which was identified as a freshwater crocodile, capable of giving a nasty bite but rarely fatal to humans. "The crocodile gave one of the rangers a bit of a run-around, having to chase it around the pool," said NT Parks and Wildlife senior ranger Tom Nichols. "The crocodile did not have any markings so we believe it to be a wild animal. "While we can't be sure how it got there, it's likely it came through the swamps that join up from the Howard River. "The ranger managed to capture and remove it with a scoop net." The ladies did eventually get their aerobics class: "They were all there waiting for the ranger to collect it and once he got it out of the water they started their aerobics," Mr Thompson added. *


They may all look similar, but new genetic evidence shows that killer whales, also known as orcas, include several distinct species. Tissue samples from 139 killer whales from around the world point to at least three distinct species, say researchers in the journal Genome Research. Researchers had suspected this may be the case. The distinctive black-and-white or grey-and-white mammals have subtle differences in their markings and also in feeding behaviour. Orcas as a group are not considered an endangered species, but some designated populations of the predators are. A new species designation could change this and affect conservation efforts. One of the newly designated species preys on seals in the Antarctic while another eats fish, said Phillip Morin of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) South-west Fisheries Science Centre in La Jolla, California, who led the research. Read more

Media Release Fraser Island Dingoes

The song ‘Dingoes Don’t Bark’ by Badtjala Wangari was officially launched in Noosa this week, and proudly supported by Glen Elmes, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, local Noosa MP. The CD is a culmination of 6 months work and totally funded through community-supported programs such as: e-bay auction of an original Jennifer Parkhurst painting (many thanks to the proud purchasers, AW & AO), sales of t-shirts designed and printed by Deb Richards, donations from ‘SFID Inc (Save Fraser Island Dingoes)’, donation of funding for recording studio by GBC, and donation of time by band members. (Left to right in photos: Cathy Tapper – lead singer, Erana Tapper, Pania Tapper, Deb Richards, Robin Wells (songwriter), Jennifer Parkhurst, and foreground Hayden Richards.)The CD will be available for purchase on face book: Save Fraser Island Dingoes; the new website: Note that this is new website, and we had trouble accessing it. If so, try

All proceeds go directly towards promoting, funding and assisting independent dingo research on Fraser Island, particularly in the areas of non intrusive observations of family groups, pack social structure, regular census of animals, and regular census of food supply. We are currently recruiting organisations and individuals with the necessary skills and abilities to further this goal. Funds raised from the CD will also assist with education programs where possible to ensure protection and harmonious relationship between dingoes and their environment, which not only includes their natural environment, but also incorporates their inevitable interactions with residents, tour operators, tourists, and other stakeholders on the Island. We encourage and promote open dialogue between the government and all stakeholders to ensure that the dingo maintains its status on the Island as an important and ongoing part of Aboriginal culture and heritage, and remains an integral part of the world heritage listed status of the Island that it enjoyed at the time of the original listing. To contact for interviews or info: Glen Elmes: (07) 5449 8988 Robin Wells: (07) 5474 5045 Debbra Richards: 0448 744 267 Cathy Tapper: 0428 161 622Jennifer Parkhurst: 0428 281 967 m Karin Kilpatrick: (secretary SFID): 0407 842 988 If you have the time, please also visit our petition and sign it with your comment:

PS PLease dont forget the Fraser Island Dingo Rally on May 15th in Brisbane. More details soon!


A Cairns navy vessel delayed its journey to Cooktown to participate in an Anzac Day service after crew spotted four dugongs trapped in a net off Cairns yesterday. Three of the dugongs pulled from the water were dead, while a fourth was still alive and released back into the water by navy crew. A shovel nosed shark also trapped in the net was freed as well. Conservationists have applauded the crew’s actions but branded the killings a dark day for Far North Queensland’s wildlife. Two of the dead dugongs were about 2m long while the largest to have died measured 3m, indicating it was a mature adult capable of breeding. The landing vessel HMAS Labuan had just left port bound for Cooktown when the trapped animals were spotted by crew about 3.5 nautical miles offshore around 3pm. Lt Steven Noakes said rough weather had created difficult conditions for the rescue.

While one of the dugongs was able to be saved, Lt Noakes said some of his crew were greatly upset by the kills. "They’re a great bunch of guys and I think there will be some guys on board who will feel a bit disappointed to see what we’ve got here today," he said. "It’s obviously very upsetting." Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers met the vessel at port and hoisted the three dead dugongs on to the back of a truck to be taken away for an autopsy. The net appeared to be a fishing net which, given the tide and wind, was presumed to have drifted out from the Cairns harbour. Department of Environment and Resource Management regional marine manager Richard Quincey said the department would work with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Royal Australian Navy and Fisheries to investigate the incident further. Cairns and Far North Environment Centre co-ordinator Steve Ryan described the incident as a disaster. *Cairns Post

Ed Comment; Fishermen claim that the net size involved is not used by commercial fishers, and the fact that it was set in a shipping channel indicates it was an illegal net. Whatever, we do know that the loss of one dugong a year, for any reason, is unsustainable. Dugong only have one young every eight years or so.

Flying Foxes

Anyone wanting a good deed to do over the weekend? Do I have a deal for you! The story so far ... BGT referred their proposal to disperse the fruit bats from their camp at the Royal Botanic Gardens to the federal government (specifically DEWHA) under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The assessment of this referral is nearly at decision time. We anticipate that the decision will be to allow the action to go ahead, subject to a number of conditions. At present the BGT are reviewing and commenting upon the conditions that DEWHA propose to attach to the action. This is happening under s.131AA of the EPBC Act. Now .... We feel that the public (you, me and a few others) should also have the opportunity to review and comment upon those conditions, this should not be limited to the BGT. The EPBC Act allows for this to happen under s.131A. This section of the Act has not been frequently used.The section of the legislation is reproduced below my sig. So far suggestions of a public review have not been received enthusiastically by DEWHA. We are hoping that with a little more pressure DEWHA might see that a public review does have merit. We feel that, as the PER attracted more than 280 submissions, a significant amount of public interest has been demonstrated. So, your good deed is to write to Minister Peter Garrett ( at this contact website address ) and express your concern that the public should have an opportunity to review and comment upon any proposed conditions that might accompany an approval. This deal is a short term one though - the decision is now due on 30 April 2010 (ie next Friday) so please email Minister Garrett NOW. *Network Item

After four long years, Matthew and Leigh Magnussen can finally sit in their garden without being showered with excrement from a black cloud of flying foxes. The Magnussens yesterday expressed relief that efforts to relocate a noisy, smelly colony of flying foxes from the block next to their North Eton home appeared successful. When the relocation program began on Monday last week, an estimated 4800 flying foxes were roosting at the Mill Street site. Yesterday afternoon, there was not a bat in sight. You can actually leave a window open now without the noise (of the bats) coming in at two in the morning to wake you up Mr Magnussen said. They were like a black cloud (when they were flying in and out of the roosting site). It was like rain on the roof (as their excrement fell) when they flew over. Ms Magnussen said about 60 bats had been hanging around the area in recent days, but they appeared to have moved on. I didn't think it was going to happen Ms Magnussen said.

They think they'll probably try and come back but hopefully they'll get the message and bugger off for good. Hopefully they'll be settled somewhere else by the time the trees grow back. The flying foxes drove the North Eton community batty for seven years before the State Government granted a damage mitigation permit to Mackay Regional Council late last year. Trees were trimmed and fog, loud noise and bright lights were used to deter bats from roosting in the area last week. A tea tree and eucalyptus wetting agent was also used during the relocation process, which began last Monday, after the dependent young bats matured. Mackay regional councillor Paul Steindl said council was more than happy with the progress. Flying fox counts at other roosting sites were up, indicating bats had moved to other colonies, he said. Cr Steindl said the site would be monitored for at least a couple of weeks to ensure the flying foxes did not return. * Mackay Mercury

Ed Comment; Photos show the trees that were "trimmed" were just devastated, at least one large tree cut down at ground level. No monitoring has, or will be done, so its impossible to know whether any flying foxes died in the relocation. Mind you, we dont blame the flying foxes for leaving the neighborhood, who'd want to live next to such a bunch of unsociable rednecks? Remember, these flying fox removal attempts have been approved under a Queensland Labor government on its last legs. When the flying foxes have all gone, and they will go, just like the koalas, I suppose we can put the persecution down to political expediency....they were just in the way of a few votes.......

Letter to Mackay Mercury

We should be cautious about proclaiming the dispersal of the flying foxes from North Eton as a success.  Of course, because the roost habitat has been completely destroyed, the bats no longer have a place to roost at North Eton, so perhaps that aspect may be viewed as successful. As for the welfare of the Flying Foxes, we do not know what has happened to them, as there has not been proper monitoring.  Mackay Regional Councillor, Paul Steindle  (DM 21/04/10) has said that numbers of flying foxes have increased in other sites, and implied that these have come from North Eton. I have been following up on these sitings, and there have been both increases and decreases in numbers in various sites around Mackay, presumably due to movement following Cyclone Ului. It is not accurate to attribute changes in numbers to colonisation by the North Eton bats.  Some at least of these changes have occurred prior to the dispersal action.

Flying Foxes are not a pest, as are introduced species such as cats, rats, foxes, rabbits and cane toads. Flying Foxes are a native and protected species, responsible for the pollination of the forests. They have an economic value in the millions of dollars. We have not established monitoring systems to determine if these particular animals develop disease as a result of stress, or if their fertility is compromised, or if they suffer increased mortality. We do not even know where they are. It is important that the recording of the effectiveness of this dispersal is not exaggerated. *Writer Unknown

Work is under way at Maclean High School to remove more than 20 trees as part of the Maclean Flying Fox Working Group management strategy to create a buffer between the school, its pathways and the car park. The tree removal and lopping is being coordinated by the Department of Education and Training (DET) and is expected to continue this week. Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water’s (DECCW) acting regional manager Brett Nudd said this latest work was one of a range of measures developed by the Maclean Flying Fox Working Group to manage issues associated with the Maclean flying fox camp. “Students and teachers returning from their Easter holidays can expect to find significant progress has been made to reduce the impact of flying foxes on their amenity and in the prevention of bats roosting in this area and their droppings landing on the cars using the car park,” Mr Nudd said yesterday. He said this latest work on the strategic tree trimming on the school grounds had been one of a number of other short-term actions developed with DET and the Maclean High School P&C.

The working group is also finalising a revegetation program to provide alternative flying fox habitat further away from the school buildings. Tree lopping at Maclean High School will continue this week to create a buffer zone between the school and the flying fox camp. The State Government says it is waiting on a guarantee from the Charters Towers Regional Council that no bats will be harmed if helicopters are used to move a large colony out of the north Queensland town. Almost two months ago, Mayor Ben Callcott asked the State Government for permission to move about 10,000 bats out of Charters Towers. In early February, the bats caused problems for an emergency helicopter which tried to land at the local hospital. Last month, State Government scientists said hundreds of the animals found dead in residents' backyards had died from malnutrition. Councillor Callcott says he wants to see the bats gone but cannot guarantee they will be unharmed. "Who can say that if you're going to muster bats with a helicopter that you're not going to blow a few of them out of the air or strike one with a rotor blade," he said. The council says previous attempts to move the bats with water canons and smoke have failed. The State Government says it wants proof from the council that no animals will be harmed during the planned helicopter muster but Cr Callcott says that is impossible. "We can say that yes we won't injure a bat but we can't prove that we won't, so we're stalemated and I'm here to suggest that they're not going to allow us to do it at the end of the day," he said. * ABC


A planned cull of kangaroos on a Panton Hill property has been postponed after an angry protest last Wednesday. The Department of Sustainability and Environment approved the cull on private land at Church Rd despite its proximity to properties ear-marked as wildlife havens. Colin Duggleby, who shares a 200m fence line with the proposed cull site, said his property had official Land for Wildlife status. “It’s very strange that kangaroos are protected on my property but if they hop next door they’ll be shot,” Mr Duggleby said. He said he understood the cull, initially scheduled for last week, had been postponed for 10 days after negotiations with the landowner. The department’s wildlife management project leader, Ian Temby, confirmed a permit had been issued for “area control of kangaroos on private property”. Mr Temby said the department was aware of the neighbouring property’s wildlife status but the application to reduce kangaroo numbers was considered warranted.

“The department has previously issued permits to control kangaroo numbers on Land for Wildlife properties,” Mr Temby said. “Some owners recognise that too many kangaroos can compromise other biodiversity values.” Panton Hill resident Janice Crosswhite said locals were appalled that the cull had been approved. “Kangaroos are not a problem out here - years of drought have taken care of most of them - there’s not enough left to worry about shooting them,” Ms Crosswhite said. “I haven’t seen a kangaroo on my property for six months and then it would have been a lone animal, not a great mob.” The landowner could not be contacted for comment. *Diamond Valley Leader

Issued from the Campaign Office of - 440000 Reasons not to eat Kangaroo Meat. A statement by M.E.P. Mr. David Martin, Labour spokesperson for Trade in the European Parliament

“The killing of joeys in Australia is cruel and barbaric. While killing female kangaroos is bad enough, considering the young a mere by-product is particularly brutal. Nursing female kangaroos are shot in order to sell kangaroo meat, or to use the skin for making shoes. Joeys, however, are killed because they present no financial value to the shooter. This is without a doubt totally unacceptable. As a member of the International Trade Committee and the Labour Party spokesperson for trade, I fully endorse your campaign and will press the Trade Committee to do the same. I am strongly committed to animal welfare, and as a member of the European Parliament Intergroup for the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, I regularly meet with animal welfare experts and support strong animal welfare provisions in European legislation. I will continue to press for strong provisions, and I am happy to lend my support to your campaign.” Media Information:- Contact:- Philip Woolley, 440000 Joeys EU Campaign Email:-

Search giant Google has been slammed by animal experts after a caged kangaroo was used to entertain children at the company's New York offices. A video has surfaced online that shows the Australian red kangaroo in a small cage surrounded by children at the company's "Take Your Kid to Work Day". In the short clip one man is seen flashing his camera directly at the kangaroo's face, while the animal turns around in its small enclosure. Animal expert Tim Faulkner of the Australian Reptile Park analysed the clip and told ninemsn it appeared the kangaroo was mistreated. "The kangaroo's most definitely not happy. He looks stressed out," Mr Faulkner said. "If it's only in there for ten minutes then that's not as bad as three hours — but either way it looks bad." Mr Faulkner said the flash photography would not cause the animal any eye damage, but it would have caused it to become startled.

Operations manager for Featherdale Wildlife Park Evan Harris said the animal was visibly stressed and that the stunt looked like a "backyard job". "When kangaroo show signs of stress they lick their paws to cool themselves down because stress causes them to overheat," Mr Harris told ninemsn. "Having the cage size so small and with nowhere to hide is not a great way of setting it up." A spokesperson for Google Australia said that a kangaroo and a wallaby were brought to the company's New York offices for the event. The spokesperson said the kangaroo was not "caged" because there was no ceiling on the enclosure. "Professional handlers who are experienced in animal care looked after the animals throughout the visit," the spokesperson said. The wallaby was not kept in the cage — instead it was carried around in a pouch by an animal handler. The spokesperson said no visitors at the event were allowed to touch the wallaby, and that trainers were prepared to remove the animals at any time if they became distressed.

The video was uploaded onto Twitter by Google employee Kurt Kluever, whose website says he works as a software engineer at the New York offices. The emergence of the video follows a similar issue in which a kangaroo was left in a cage in Los Angeles as part of a campaign by Tourism Australia. At the time a spokeswoman for Tourism Australia said the stunt was humane and the kangaroo was only used for four hours at a time. *

Cane Toads

Monster toads the size of small barbecue chickens are popping up in a Darwin location, and an expert believes a special diet is boosting their growth. Darwin Lord Mayor and top toadbuster Graeme Sawyer caught this loathsome lady at Lee Point, and has dubbed her Toadzella. "She's the second biggest one we've ever seen out of the 500,000 toads we've disposed of," he said. Toadzella weighs 860g and measures 37.5cm from toe to tip of nose when her legs are stretched out. The biggest one they caught was her "brother", christened Toadzilla, who was collared in 2007 at the same location. He was a shade lighter at 830g, but was 40cm from nose to toe. Mr Sawyer said a "lot of big toads" were found in and around Lee Point and that it could be to do with what they're eating. Mr Sawyer's Frogwatch conducted autopsies on a number of Lee Point toads this week, and found their stomach contents were full of hermit crabs. "I reckon the high protein diet that they're getting in our mangrove areas is part of what's making them grow so big," he said. He said it threatened the ecosystem of Lee Point, which is part of a coastal reserve and listed on the Register of the National Estate for its environmental values.

The Frogwatch co-ordinator said the toad didn't just impact on the species that ate them. He said it degraded important ecosystems - multiplying rapidly without natural predators, slowly stripping areas of the insects and small animals it could eat, and competing for food with native animals. Mr Sawyer called for more research to be conducted in the field. Frogwatch is holding a toadbust on Friday night, starting at 7.30pm. Mr Sawyer said everyone was welcome - people are to meet at Darwin's Gardens Golf Links carpark, and should bring along insect repellent and a torch.


A surfer told yesterday of a terrifying attack by a New Zealand fur seal at Bruny Island. Liam Byrne was surfing at Cloudy Bay when the seal showed a persistent interest in him and his surfboard. "There were two other guys in the water but as soon as they got out, it was on," Mr Byrne said. The 2.5m seal disappeared underwater before charging Mr Byrne from beneath, knocking him off his board. "It repeatedly latched on to my board and thrashed it about even though I was kicking and punching it as hard as I could," he said. But his actions did not deter the seal, which attacked him another four times as he tried to reach the beach. "It's easy to laugh about it now but at the time I was really quite scared," he said of Tuesday afternoon's attack. Mr Byrne's partner Angela Watts watched helplessly from the shore. Fearing that the seal would turn from the surfboard to his limbs, Mr Byrne tried to swim as it punctured the fibreglass with its teeth. Mr Byrne, the Peppermint Bay Restaurant manager, said he had seen many seals when travelling on a boat between Hobart and Woodbridge. "I've listened to the guides on the boat give their spiel about them. I've always thought they were harmless," he said. It is not unusual for seals to turn up at surfing spots but they rarely attack surfers. Mr Byrne said his meal the night before had been salmon, the preferred food of New Zealand fur seals. *Mercury

Rare birds

Rare birds are disappearing from Tasmanian beaches, prompting calls for a summer ban on dogs, horses and 4WDs. Birds Tasmania wants important breeding beaches declared no-go zones for dogs, horses and four-wheel drives during the summer months, when tiny shorebirds are nesting in the sand. "The data show birds are losing the battle," Birds Tasmania chairman Eric Woehler said. "We are not going to stop you going to the beach, but you need to realise birds use these beaches, otherwise we will not have any birds on our beaches in 20 years. "There are some beaches on the East Coast where in the last 20 years we have lost all our birds." Dogs do not just trample on eggs, they also eat them and chase nesting birds.

Birds Tasmania is concerned about fairy and little terns, red-capped and hooded plovers and pied oystercatchers - five species in rapid decline that use Tasmanian beaches as a last refuge. "They all nest on the beach, they all just dig a scoop in the sand and lay their eggs on the surface of the sand," Dr Woehler said. "It's very easy for someone in a vehicle, on a horse or with a dog to trample on an egg because they are so well camouflaged." The group's surveys show some of the species have disappeared from beaches near Scamander, Swansea and on the Tasman Peninsula. Time is running out for the endangered little tern there are fewer than 10 breeding pairs in Tasmania and this summer there were only two reports of a nesting pair.

The Glamorgan Spring Bay Council has already used Birds Tasmania surveys to ban dogs from important shorebird breeding beaches on its stretch of the East Coast, but other councils are yet to act. Dr Woehler said the ban was a job for the State Government. He has already nominated beaches that should be considered for protection, including Marion Bay and the mouth of the Prosser River at Orford. "You identify the high-value areas, where the birds are breeding and you don't let dogs on those beaches," he said. "If Glamorgan Spring Bay can do it at their beaches, why can't the others do it? "All this stuff is done regularly on the mainland, we are the last state to act when it comes to protecting our birds." But the State Government is not offering to take over the responsibility for protecting rare shorebirds.

A spokesman for the Government said dogs were already banned from a significant proportion of coastline which was in national parks. He said councils and community groups already made the effort to protect shorebirds in coastal reserves close to urban centres and it was an offence to allow a dog to disturb wildlife. He said vehicles were not allowed on beaches in reserves, apart from exceptions including the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area. *Mercury

Loch Ness Monster

A senior Scottish police officer claimed the existence of the Loch Ness Monster was "beyond doubt" in letter to a Government minister 70 years ago. The letter from William Fraser - then chief constable of Inverness-shire Constabulary - is among a number of files recently uncovered by the National Archives of Scotland. It dates from the 1930s when a large number of alleged sightings of the mysterious creature led to the Scottish Office being asked to confirm Nessie's existence. Articles and grainy photographs were published in newspapers and many monster hunters travelled to Loch Ness in an effort to see, catch or even kill their prey.In his letter to the Under Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, Mr Fraser said: "That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness seems now beyond doubt, but that the police have any power to protect it is very doubtful."

He told the minister that a London couple, Peter Kent and Marion Stirling, "are determined to catch the monster dead or alive". Mr Kent had told a police officer that he was having a special harpoon gun made and planned to return with 20 experienced men to "hunt the monster down". He added: "I have, however, caused Mr Peter Kent to be warned of the desirability of having the creature left alone, but whether my warning will have the desired effect or not remains to be seen." The increased speculation on Nessie's existence even led to the tabling of a parliamentary question on a possible scientific investigation into the monster in 1933. An archives spokesman said: "In the end it was felt that as the monster provided interest and amusement, it would be better to let it continue to do so than to kill it, or the tales told about it." *