Monday, August 9, 2010

Wildlife Bytes 4/8/10

Fraser Island Dingoes

Save the Fraser Island Dingoes organisation is having a Dingo Charity dinner at Hervey Bay on the 4th September, at the Hervey Bay RSL Function room. For Reservations phone 41241979, great guest artists, including Keri McInerney, Stevie T, Riverhead with special guest Mark Nuske, k'gari performers and more! Tickets are $50 each or $90 for a couple.

Kangaroos Found in Van

Traffic police in Austria who stopped a driver for looking jumpy opened the back of his van - and found six kangaroos inside. Andreai Branimir, 42, was arrested in Nickelsdorf, Austria, as he tried to smuggle more than 60 animals and birds back to his Bulgarian homeland. The animal trafficker told police he'd bought the animals from a broke wildlife park in Holland and was driving them home across Europe, reports CEN. Officers found dozens of parrots, peacocks, birds of paradise and small mammals crammed in with the six kangaroos. Branimir is facing five years in jail for animal trafficking, while the animals are now being cared for at local wildlife centres. One police officer added: "They were being kept in appalling conditions with nothing to eat or drink. It was heartbreaking." *


A group formed to help save the endangered cassowary is lobbying the Federal Government for $60 million to help preserve the big bird's habitat in far north Queensland. The Save the Cassowary group have met Leichhardt MP Jim Turnour in Cairns, presenting him with more than 4,000 signatures urging politicians to help save the bird. Organiser Anneke de Graaff says the money would be used to buy back land in the Daintree area and Mission Beach for cassowary conservation. "They are known as a keystone species," she said. "They disperse up to 150 different types of rainforest trees and plant seeds, so if the cassowary disappears from this region, they biodiversity of the rainforest will possibly decline." *ABC

Morriset Hospital Kangaroos

There has been a protest at the Morriset Hospital ( a hospital for the criminally insane) near Newcastle, after a local media report that kangaroos will be culled there. We featured the media report in Wildlife Bytes a couple of weeks ago. One wildlife carer, Margaret Howley was incorrectly quoted in the newspaper report as supporting a cull, when she does not. But since the newspaper report, locals have spent some time inspecting the site of 3000 acres, and its very large, with significant forest areas. Local Aborigonal people have an interest in part of the site, and its big enough, and in a superb location, to really be a developers dream, if they could get hold of it. *WPAA

Mekong Dams threaten Rare Giant Fish

Wild populations of the iconic Mekong giant catfish will be driven to extinction if hydropower dams planned for the Mekong River go ahead, says a new report by WWF. The report, River of Giants: Giant Fish of the Mekong, profiles four giant fish living in the Mekong that rank within the top 10 largest freshwater fish on the planet. At half the length of a bus and weighing up to 600kgs, the Mekong River's Giant freshwater stingray is the world's largest freshwater fish. The critically endangered and culturally fabled Mekong giant catfish ranks third at up to 3 metres in length and 350kgs. "A fish the size of a Mekong giant catfish, simply will not be able to swim across a large barrier like a dam to reach its spawning grounds upstream," said Roger Mollot, Freshwater Biologist for WWF Laos. "This would lead to the collapse of the wild population of this iconic species." Wildlife Extra

How Much Does a Kangaroo Eat?

A scientist from the University of Wollongong will present a talk to local land managers at Fowlers Gap about the impacts of animals this weekend. Adam Munn has been studying the difference between the impact sheep and kangaroos have on the land. He has found the impact of a kangaroo is about 30 to 40 per cent that of a sheep. Mr Munn says he hopes the information can be used by land managers and government bodies to understand the impact kangaroos might be having on the environment. "Ultimately what we're hoping to do is build a picture," he said. "Now that we have a good idea about some of the kangaroo species, we want to expand this research into looking at different animals such a feral goats and different breeds of sheep. "[Then we'll] really be able to figure out what the ratios are of animals you can have on the land to improve your environmental, and therefore your economic, sustainability." The public is invited to attend the talk which begins at 10:00am (AEST) Sunday at the Fowlers Gap Research Station. *ABC

Rare Coral Found

Researchers from James Cook University in far north Queensland say they have discovered one of the world's rarest coral species. The giant Pacific elkhorn has antler-like branches and is about five metres wide and two metres high. It was recently found during an underwater survey near the Marshall Islands, north-east of Papua New Guinea. Dr Zoe Richards says it looks similar, but is genetically different, to a critically endangered Atlantic elkhorn variety. "There's nothing like it at all known in the Pacific Ocean, so since then I've been looking for it in other locations in the Marshall Islands and I still haven't found it anywhere else," she said. "It's a spectacular coral for many reasons, both scientifically and just aesthetically. "This is a very large colony, so it radiates from a central stalk and it has branches that diverge just like the branches of an actual elkhorn. "They pair off at about 120 degree angles from each other, so the branches are just diverging left and right." *ABC


June is National Pest Control Month—but instead of reaching for the Raid, why not show a little kindness to a cockroach? A new study by scientists at Queen Mary, University of London has found that cockroaches are social beings who “talk” to one another about food and prefer to dine in groups. When presented with two identical slices of bread, the roaches repeatedly gathered around the same slice, rather than splitting up. In an earlier study, researchers used computer simulations to show that, even with their tiny brains, insects have enough neural circuits to possess consciousness, and they may even be able to count. According to professor Lars Chittka, one of the researchers, “Animals with bigger brains are not necessarily more intelligent.” If you’re not ready to roll out the welcome mat, though, here are a few simple steps to help you keep unwanted bugs at bay: * Don’t provide roaches with food. Wash dishes promptly, store food in tightly sealed containers, and keep trash in bins with tight-fitting lids. *Remove roaches’ hiding places. Keep compost heaps as far from your house as possible, always wash out food containers before storing them for recycling, and don’t let old newspapers pile up. * Prevent roaches from entering your home by sealing up holes and cracks. Baby roaches can squeeze into a space as thin as a dime. * If you do see roaches, scatter whole bay leaves or catnip throughout your house. Iowa State University scientists found that catnip is 100 times more effective than DEET at repelling roaches. *Network Item


A newly opened paintball course in Montana, US, had to shut down after odour from disintegrated paintballs was luring possibly dangerous guests: bears. The paintball contained a vegetable oil that ended up attracting grizzly and black bears that roam the region. A wildlife official says some bears were even eating unexploded paintballs. Meanwhile a grizzly bear in the United States has been euthanased after tests determined it was responsible for a deadly triple mauling in a Montana camping ground, wildlife officials say. DNA tests determined the sow killed a Michigan man and injured two others in unprovoked attacks. * Network Item

Pet Snakes

Fancy a bout of the runs, severe fever, septicemia, or perhaps meningitis? Then head on out and get yourself a snake or other reptile as a pet. According to a recent report, hundreds of people were exposed to salmonella bacteria from dead mice they were feeding to their reptiles—but that's just the tip of the iceberg. For years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been sounding the alarm about contact with reptiles because every year tens of thousands of people in the U.S. contract salmonellosis—a serious bug that can land you in the hospital … or worse—as a result of direct or indirect contact with reptiles. In the last year, there have been two other reptile-related salmonella outbreaks, one tied to the sale of pet turtles and the other to the sale of African dwarf frogs.
Should pet stores give away a free hospital stay with each reptile they sell? You tell us. Meanwhile, please help stop the wobbly stomach blues (not to mention the blues that every snake and lizard who's stuck in an aquarium must experience) by adding your support to the proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban the sale of nine species of snake. * Opposing Views

Balloons and Wildlife

We understand the Queensland Bligh government is having an internal arguement over a proposal to ban the relase of gas filled balloons. It's well known the damage that balloons can do to wildlife, especially marine species. NSW has had fines of up to $750 for mass releases of more than 20 balloons for more than a decade. But Queensland Labor Party branches love the balloons, they can give out free red baloons to children with the ALP logo plastered on them, and they see it as good advertising. However the Queensland Environment Minister Kate "Whatshername", who also supports the cruelty handed out to the Fraser Island dingoes, said she felt smaller events such as kids' birthday parties should be allowed to have them. * WPAA

Ancient Marsupials

Australia's marsupials originated in what is now South America, study says. The research in PLoS Biology suggests that Australian kangaroos, wallabies and more evolved from a common South American ancestor millions of years ago. Ancient South American marsupials may have migrated across Antarctica to Australia more than 80 million years ago. The kangaroo, a beloved national symbol of Australia, may in fact be an ancient interloper. A study published Tuesday in the online journal PLoS Biology suggests that Australian marsupials — kangaroos, wallabies, Tasmanian devils and more — evolved from a common South American marsupial ancestor millions of years ago. The finding, by researchers at the University of Munster in Germany, indicates that the theory that marsupials originated in Australia is incorrect. Marsupials are characterized by distinctive frontal pouches in which they carry their young. There are seven existing orders, three from the Americas and four from Australia. One prominent theory, now validated by the new study, suggested that ancient South American marsupials migrated across Antarctica to Australia more than 80 million years ago when the continents were connected in a supercontinent known as Gondwana. * Los Angeles Times
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Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke says the worst locust plague in years is set to hit parts of Australia in the coming weeks. He has urged landowners in parts of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to contact state authorities to order insecticides. But he says some locust eggs have been laid in forests or other areas that may not be sprayed. Mr Burke says recent warm weather may cause the swarms to appear sooner than expected. "All of these briefings are about minimising the plague that is coming, but we should not pretend any level of action by farmers or government will be enough to eliminate all locusts in coming weeks," he said. "Even if everybody plays their role to perfection, the fact they'll be egg laying in forest areas, things like that, means that there will be swarms and no amount of preparation will change the fact that there will be swarms." *ABC


Kangaroo Increases?

Australia will soon know if the big wet has caused kangaroo numbers to bound ahead. Aerial surveys are underway to find out if rain across inland Australia has affected kangaroo numbers. The results of the survey will be released at the end of next month. A spokesman for the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water said any increase in population would take "some time". "We are not expecting any significant increases in this year's estimates," he said. A ban on culling grey kangaroos in a large tract of western NSW will remain in place until at least the end of August. Hillston kangaroo shooter Bob Brittle said he had not noticed any big leap in kangaroo numbers. "I think the rain has just made them spread out more," Mr Brittle said.

He said any lifting of the ban on shooting grey kangaroos would be welcome. "We are doing it hard out here without being able to shoot the greys, so it would be good if the ban was lifted," Mr Brittle said. Authorities are serious about ensuring the ban is enforced. Deniliquin shooter John Edward Fizmaurice was fined $12,000 last month after pleading guilty in the Deniliquin Local Court to six charges including harming protected fauna and contravening a licence condition. A NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water spokesman said the kangaroo shooter killed 50 eastern grey kangaroos and claimed they were red kangaroos. An inspection of a chiller, where the carcasses were stored, showed dead kangaroos with identification tags which were for a different species. *Weekly Times

Kangaroo Meat into China?

ELEANOR HALL: After years of lobbying by Canberra Australia's kangaroo meat industry is on the verge of a major export deal. China has signed import protocols which would allow high-end kangaroo fillets to be sold in the potentially massive market. The industry still has to pass hygiene tests, which will be conducted shortly by visiting Chinese officials. But Chinese food experts say they expect the exotic meat to be enthusiastically embraced.

Jeff Waters has our report.

JEFF WATERS: It's been a plentiful source of protein since people first arrived in Australia but now the kangaroo meat export industry may be about to take a great leap forward according to the Kangaroo Industry Association's John Kelly.

JOHN KELLY: The two governments agreed on a protocol to enable product to flow in. We're now simply waiting for the Chinese to send out a delegation of vets, veterinarians to inspect and approve individual processing premises. When that happens then we can start supplying into that market and it's a market, as I say, industry is very excited about and we see quite a deal of potential

JEFF WATERS: Its good news for an industry which recently lost its biggest customer when Russia halted kangaroo and some other red meat imports from Australia over what they said were concerns about hygiene.

Melbourne's Red Emperor restaurant is one of several Chinese establishments in Australia which already serve Kangaroo.

General Manager, Christine Yong, says it's a meat which will go down well.

CHRISTINE YONG: We get a lot of Chinese delegations here at the restaurant and we've found that maybe nine out of 10 tables will order some kangaroo.

JEFF WATERS: But kangaroos are harvested in the wild by shooters and some European parliamentarians are calling for a ban because of cruelty concerns.

Christine Yong says that may not bother Chinese consumers.

CHRISTINE YONG: Mainly I don't think Chinese people do so much about environmental things, in terms of wildlife protection over there anyway.

JEFF WATERS: And that's something which Fiona Cooke, from the Australian Society for Kangaroos, says is a big problem for environmentalists who want to stop the trade.

FIONA COOKE: They've also got a really bad track record themselves with their own wildlife extinction. But I really think that the Chinese and the Japanese love to see the wildlife alive. They want to see it, they want to get up close to it, that's what they love. They don't want to come here and the only kangaroo they see is a slab of meat on a plate with a sauce dribbled over it.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Fiona Cooke from the Australian Society for Kangaroos ending that report from Jeff Waters.

Kangaroos Killed by "Progress".

Baldivis (WA) residents have been saddened by the death of a young kangaroo, struck by a car on Safety Bay Road. The male joey was one of a number of kangaroos that had been trapped on the Nairn Road site after Stockland began clearing bushland for a residential development. The kangaroo was killed on Sunday morning despite a kangaroo relocator hired by Stockland viewing the site over the past two weeks. Resident Charlie Ballard said he was saddened by the death. “The kangaroo has obviously panicked, gotten out and been struck by the car,” he said. “The kangaroos have been in distress for weeks. I just feel so sorry for them. They have been there for years. “I had hoped they would have left some of the trees there. It’s just so bare now. “I suppose this is what’s called progress.”

Stockland general manager Graham McArthur said that six kangaroos had been removed from the site and relocated to Mandurah. He acknowledged they were aware that three kangaroos had been left on the site. “During the weekend, the licensed kangaroo relocator returned to the site,” he said. “He watched them (the three kangaroos) move across Clyde Avenue, through another developer’s estate, joining a mob of kangaroos in an open paddock further south.” He said he considered this open paddock to be a safe environment for the kangaroos. “Stockland’s relocator is only licensed to remove kangaroos from the Settlers Hills site, not any neighbouring developer’s land,” he said.

However, Om-Shanti wildlife carer Lynn Hancock disagreed, saying the situation was “not good enough”. “There is no food or water for them,” she said. “Because they’re a mob, if some kangaroos are taken away, the others go into a panic.” “I knew this would happen. “It’s a sad ending.” She said she was ‘extremely concerned’ for the two kangaroos that remained trapped and frightened of the heavy machinery being used. Stockland said work would continue on the site and the kangaroo relocator would continue to monitor the situation on weekends. *Inmycommunity


Marine Parks

A marine conservation group says it is disappointed with Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's announcement yesterday in Mackay, in north Queensland, that it will suspend the expansion of the Marine Protected Areas program. Mr Abbott announced the Coalition would immediately suspend the program if it wins next month's election to try and achieve better balance between environmental and fishing interests. It was introduced by the Federal Government in 2008 and bans fishing in parts of marine parks, including the Great Barrier Reef. The Coral Sea Conservation Zone covers nearly 1 million square kilometres and begins at the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Mr Abbott has promised to suspend the planning of the Coral Sea Conservation Zone if elected. He says he will suspend the planning of all new parks and consult with industry about how to restructure it. Suggestions it could become the world's largest 'no-take' marine park sparked anger in the fishing community last year.

Marine Queensland's far north Queensland chairman Wayne Bayne has welcomed the announcement. "What it has done is put a lot of uncertainty into industry and it has put a permit situation onto the charter boat operators, so it has negatively impacted on them," he said. "What this will do is put a hold on the entire process until we can get some rational science back into it." Tim Nicholls from the group 'Save Our Marine Life' says there should be more action on marine sanctuaries, not more delays. "Tony Abbott's out of touch with voters on this issue," he said. "Polling released just last week shows eight in 10 voters actually support increasing marine protection levels from current low levels to much higher levels of marine protection." Commercial fishermen in north Queensland say the announcement could help stimulate the industry. Terry Must, a major seafood wholesaler in Bowen, says too much of the Coral Sea is protected. "Fishermen are threatened all the time - for example, trawl fisheries have gone from 1,100 participants down to 330 in the last couple of years," he said. "In-line fishing - we're down to about 67 active fishers today. "We're getting reductions voluntarily at the moment." * ABC Ed Comment; One scientific report we read recently suggests that the oceans will fished out in 20 years at current catches, and millions of fisherpersons will be unemployed.


Squirrel Meat

A grocery store in north London is committing "wildlife massacre" by selling squirrel meat, campaigners have claimed. Viva - Vegetarians International Voice for Animals - accused Budgens of supporting a "barbaric and needless cull" of grey squirrels by allowing an independently-owned branch in Crouch End to sell the meat. Viva founder Juliet Gellatley said: "'Culls' of thousands of grey squirrels by so-called conservation groups to boost populations of red squirrels are irrational, inhumane and destined to fail, so it is very sad that Budgens are allowing profit to be made from wildlife massacre." Actress and Viva patron Jenny Seagrove also spoke out against the sales, saying: "It is unbelievable that our wild grey squirrels are now being killed and packaged up for sale in such high street stores. "Anyone who cares about wildlife, as I do, should be appalled at Budgens for allowing this," she said. "It seems that no animal is to be spared falling victim to such companies' marketing ploys. "What gruesome product will be next to grace our food aisles? Blackbird, field mouse or mole?"

A spokesman for Musgrave, which operates Budgens, told the Daily Mail: "As our retailers are independent, they therefore have the right and ability to secure products that Budgens do not offer for sale, within their individually-owned stores." No one from the company was available for comment. Squirrel meat used to be a common feature of the British diet but has gone out of fashion in recent years. One modern chef who has served the meat is River Cottage's Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His recipes include squirrel ragout and squirrel offal skewers, although he said rabbit could be substituted in both dishes. * UKPA. * Ed. comment, Squirrel offal skewers.....sounds delicous....not.


New York Geese Killed

Nearly 400 Canada geese and goslings that had been living at Prospect Park were captured and euthanized last week as part of an ongoing effort to reduce the goose population in the New York City region. Early on Thursday morning, wildlife biologists and technicians descended on the park and netted the birds. The biologists, who work with the wildlife services division of the United States Department of Agriculture, then packed the geese two or three to a crate and took them to a facility where they were gassed with lethal doses of carbon dioxide, said Carol A. Bannerman, a spokeswoman for the wildlife services division. The wildlife specialists had taken advantage of the fact that the birds were in the middle of molting season, when they shed their feathers and are unable to fly.

On Monday morning, only four geese were seen out on the lake in Prospect Park, according to one nearby resident, and it was not clear if they had avoided the roundup or arrived in the days since it occurred. Last summer, 1,200 geese from 17 sites around the city were euthanized. The authorities have been trying to thin out their ranks since two geese flew into the engines of US Airways Flight 1549 in January, 2009, causing it to splash down in the Hudson River. Everyone on board survived. The absence of the birds was noticed by park enthusiasts and landscapers, though officials at Prospect Park were not notified of the specifics about their removal. Two of the park’s birds gained some notoriety because of their disabilities – one was missing the top part of its beak, and another had a crossbow bolt speared through its neck. The Prospect Park geese were not the only ones removed in the last month. The goal is to remove all geese within seven miles of La Guardia and John F. Kennedy airports. *NY Times


Wildlife Pets

Milwaukee County taxpayers may have to pick up a bill of more than $250,000 to pay for the care of the 239 snakes, lizards, crocodiles and other animals seized from reptile-keeper Terry Cullen, according to the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission. Authorities rescued the animals from two Milwaukee locations in May. The majority of the reptiles were found in filthy conditions with little food or water. MADACC is contracted by 19 county municipalities to provide safekeeping for animals involved in law enforcement cases. According to Melanie Sobel, MADACC executive director, the estimated cost to date for the animals' care is approximately $247,365 for housing fees, $4,780 for impound fees to cover processing and assessment of the animals, and $2,500 for medical care. Materials and supplies cost about $2,400, and included horse troughs to house alligators and wood to build lids on anaconda containers "so the snakes wouldn't escape," said Sobel. Some of the animals were found housed in plastic sweater containers, "so tight they couldn't even move so we went out and bought bigger containers so they could move around," Sobel said.

The estimated figure of $257,045 for the reptiles' care does not include "thousands of dollars in additional staff time and overtime," and does not include three days of police time spent bringing the animals to MADACC, Sobel said. Various zoos and other institutions across the country have now taken dozens of the reptiles into their care. MADACC is still housing 141 animals. Cullen has been charged with several counts of misdemeanor animal-related offenses and has also been charged with the sexual assault of an Illinois woman. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Sobel said she understood that the Milwaukee County district attorney's office may seek restitution from Cullen for the care costs. If there is no restitution, "taxpayers will pay the bill," says Sobel. However, Kent Lovern, chief deputy district attorney for Milwaukee County, who is working on the Cullen case, said: "At this point, because the case is pending in court, it is inappropriate for me to speculate about any potential outcomes. We will have to let the case run its course through the legal process." *JSOnline


New Sea Monster Sighted

Cynics may dismiss it as just a piece of driftwood or a trick of the light. But a photograph showing what appears to be a long-necked sea creature has got marine experts scratching their heads. The 'animal' was snapped stalking a shoal of fish just 30 yards off the British coast. The fish were apparently so terrified they beached themselves just seconds later. The creature was spotted off the Devon coast at Saltern Cove, Paignton, by locals who reported a sighting of what they thought was a turtle. But pictures taken by one of the baffled witnesses, Gill Pearce, reveal the neck of the greenish-brown beast with the reptile-like head is far too long for it to be a turtle. Mrs Pearce, who took the photo on July 27, reported her sighting to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) where it was studied by sea life experts. Claire Fischer from the MCS said: 'Gill Pearce spotted the creature about 20 metres from the bay at Saltern Cove, near Goodrington. 'It was observed at about 15.30 on 27 July but by the time she had got her camera it had moved further out. 'She spotted it following a shoal of fish which beached themselves in Saltern Cove.

'The creature remained in the sea, then went out again and followed the shoal - this indicates it's not a turtle as they only eat jellyfish. We would love to know if other people have seen anything like this in the same area and can help clear up the mystery.' In the deep: The 'animal' was at first dismissed as a sea turtle but experts say its long neck and reptile-like head - as well as the fact it was chasing fish - contradict this theory Some people think the sea sighting could be linked to that of a sperm whale sighted off south Devon recently but Miss Fischer dismissed that explanation. 'They [sperm whales] wouldn't come that close inshore and the reptilian-like head counts that out - at least that's what the experts are saying.' The sighting has caused a stir on the MCS website too, where theories range from sea serpent to salt water crocodile. An MCS spokesman said: 'It was reported as a turtle as it had large front flippers and small back flippers and what appeared to be a shell but was also said to have a small head on a thin neck about two-feet long which craned above the surface like a Plesiosaur.

'No sea turtles do that with their heads and we do not know of similarly described freshwater turtles that grow so big. It's described as being as long as a sea lion with a long neck which floated at the same height in the water all the time. 'This is not a fake. The problem is the distance and clarity from which the photos were taken. The lady thought it may have been a turtle - but turtles don't chase fish.
'So at the moment it is "unidentified" - the person who reported it has trawled the internet and says the closest ID fit is a giant green sea turtle - but the description of the head doesn't add up.' The organisation is now asking for people to keep a keen watch on the seas off South Devon and have appealed for more photos to be taken. A spokesman said: 'If you live or are visiting down near Saltern Cove Goodrington, near Paignton please keep your eyes on the sea and let us know if you see anything - and keep your camera by your side just in case.' *MailonLine


Snubnosed Dolphins

A little-known species of dolphin, found only in northern Australia, is taking a battering from boats and lost fishing gear off the WA tourist town of Broome. Nearly two thirds of the Snubfin Dolphins that live in Roebuck Bay show injuries from boat hits and fishing gear snags, a new report shows. Dolphin researcher Deborah Thiele wrote the report for the conservation organisation WWF, which is working with the Broome community to minimise harm to the animals. Dr Thiele identified 161 Snubfins in the bay, finding nearly two thirds had injuries such as deep gashes and line marks and in some cases completely severed dorsal fins. The problem occurred because the dolphins' foraging and socialising grounds overlapped the heavily used recreational fishing zone in the bay, she told AAP. Dr Thiele said the slow-moving dolphins, often in shallow water, were hit by speeding boats across the bay. Even more injuries were caused by lost or discarded fishing line and hooks that cut into the animals' skins. Dr Thiele has worked with the Roebuck Bay Working Group, set up to protect the bay's ecosystem, on guidelines to minimise harm to the dolphins, dugongs, turtles and other wildlife. "My purpose is not to stop any fishing, my purpose is to get people who are fishing to slow down and to try and look after their line and just by doing that I think we're going to make a huge difference," she said.

The Snubfin Dolphin was only recently recognised as Australia's only endemic dolphin, found in tropical coastal waters across northern Australia. Until 2005, they were thought to be Irrawaddy Dolphins found in Asia, but they are now classified as a separate species. WWF's spokeswoman on tropical marine species, Lydia Gibson, said the number of injuries seen in Roebuck Bay meant it was likely dolphins had died, while injured animals would find it harder to feed and socialise. She said raising awareness was key, but state, territory and federal governments must also work together to protect areas crucial to the Snubfins' survival, including more research, which could see it put on the threatened list. Environment Minister Donna Faragher has said the WA government would commit nearly $30,000 for more research on Snubfins and there were opportunities for establishing a marine park at Roebuck Bay. Broome Fishing Club president Jeff Cooper said the club was keen to ensure the Snubfins were unharmed, but tourists needed to be educated about how to protect the animals in the bay. * Herald Sun


Biodiversity Plan Criticised

Threatened native animals and plants that live on prime development land could be "offset" by an undertaking to protect different species somewhere else, under proposed state government changes to biodiversity rules. It means an echidna colony in one part of NSW could be destroyed in exchange for the preservation of a rare stand of trees elsewhere in the state. The proposed new biodiversity certification guidelines would allow developers of large urban projects even greater flexibility than the controversial BioBanking scheme, and includes provisions for cash payments for building on the habitat of certain animals if no suitable offset can be found. The government said the proposal was a balance between the need to protect endangered animals and secure large-scale developments, and would lead to more animals and plants being preserved than the current ad-hoc system of voluntary offsets. But environment groups see the proposal as a weakening of existing laws. "To suggest a threatened frog or bird or reptile species could be offset by some trees elsewhere in the state makes a nonsense of the 'maintain or improve' principle that was supposed to be enshrined in the legislation," said Jeff Angel, the executive director of the Total Environment Centre.

The NSW Environmental Defender's Office said in a submission to the government that the plan "relaxes the offsetting rules to such an extent that the legislative test becomes meaningless". "The clauses in the draft methodology allowing offsetting of one species with an entirely different species and allowing for a financial contribution in lieu of an offset, represent a radical departure from the 'like for like' principle of offsetting." Payments made in lieu of being able to find suitable animals or plants with which to offset a development would usually be a last resort and would have to be approved by the director-general of the NSW Environment Department. "Compared to the current process we would be miles ahead in terms of getting good outcomes, said Julie Ravallion, the manager of the department's conservation policy and strategy section. "You can't get biodiversity certification unless you go through the process where the gains are bigger than the losses."

Ms Ravallion said the plan was a way of addressing the incremental loss of native wildlife habitat, which is being eroded as urban centres expand. "At the same time the problem with offsets is that there are not that many of them, so you have got to give people a little bit of room to move ... Sites containing critically endangered species will never be developed. The biocertification methodology makes that very clear." Several of the state's leading environment groups say the changes meant they could no longer support the new biodiversity guidelines, after initially endorsing the overhaul of the existing voluntary system. "Environment groups will be appealing to the next Federal Environment Minister to reject this scheme as part of any alignment of Commonwealth and state threatened species laws," Kevin Evans, the executive officer of the National Parks Association of NSW, said in a statement. "The Feds will have to intervene every time if any national threatened species are involved." The guidelines are designed to complement the BioBanking Scheme, which the government sees as a way to improve the offsetting process. But the principle on which it is based - that one piece of environment can be developed if another is preserved - has also been widely criticised. * Sydney Morning Herald


Wildlife Pet Trade

The most threatened tortoise in the world is being sold openly at a plant and animal exposition in the heart of Indonesia's capital, highlighting concerns about the rampant -- and growing -- illegal pet trade. The country has become a major trading hub for endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles, including species from Africa, South America and Asia, said Chris Shepherd of TRAFFIC, a British-based international wildlife monitoring network. While the government has passed legislation banning such illegal trade, dealers continue to blatantly sell endangered species without fear of arrest or prosecution, Shepherd said. Those found Friday at Jakarta's annual flora and fauna expo -- held from July 2 until Aug. 2 -- included the world's most threatened ploughshare tortoise and the critically endangered radiated tortoises, both from Madagascar. They were priced up to $1,700.

Cages also were filled with rare Indian star tortoises, which are protected under the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species, known as CITES, and the endangered pig-nose tortoise, from Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua, both selling for up to $500. Vendors told the Associated Press other threatened tortoises and turtles not found on display could easily be obtained for a price. "Recent surveys, and this expo, have shown that the trade continues and, in fact, now involves more illegally imported species than ever," said Shepherd. "Dealers know full well that it is illegal and are taking advantage of the enforcement agencies' lack of action." Indonesia, one of the most biologically diverse nations in the world, has for years sold everything from eagles and leopard cats to gibbons as pets in the capital. Shady transactions continue to take place at the popular Pramuka and Jati Negara markets. *LA Times


Dead Sea Lion

South Australian police say no charges will be laid over allegations of extortion relating to a sea lion found dead near a broken-up abalone farm. The animal was found and later photographed wrapped in aquaculture farm debris near Elliston after a recent storm. Police investigated allegations thousands of dollars was demanded from the aquaculture company to remove evidence of the dead sea lion. But police say they found no evidence of extortion or any other criminal offence. Australian Bight Abalone expects its clean-up of debris to be finished by the end of the week. It has been retrieving rope and plastic rings from areas including West Waldegrave Island. Managing director David Mazengarb says the company will look for ways to prevent any similar incidents. "Certainly natural events are outside our control but we'll look at procedures in the future to make any modifications that we can possibly make to avoid any impact on our sea cages of any natural event," he said.

Mariners are being warned by authorities that ropes, nets and trays from the abalone farm are floating as far south as Coffin Bay, 100 kilometres away. Bob Minnican from the Friends of Sceale Bay says much of the debris will never be recovered. "These nylon trays have been floating around for the last five years and now there's 20,000 that are out from this and there is no word about what's happening with these trays," he said. "Only a percentage of these trays are going to be found because they've been distributed into the ocean. "Many are on the island but many are just floating around." *ABC



Tasmanian scientists have developed technology to help improve the monitoring of an important species of penguin in Antarctica. For 20 years, scientists have studied the breeding habits of Adelie penguins on Bechervaise Island near Mawson Station. They have been monitoring the impacts of fishing and climate change. Colin Southwell from the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart says the remote, extreme conditions have been a challenge. "We send a two-person team down every summer but they work on an island that is isolated from the mainland," he said. The high cost of sending scientists to remote areas had prevented the program being expanded. Researchers wanted a cost-effective way to monitor more sites, so electronics engineer Kym Newbery developed a camera that could withstand the Antarctic elements.

"The winds are up to 200 kilometres an hour, they're very dry and cold," Mr Newbery said. Colin Southwell says the new camera means researchers can now monitor multiple locations, without having to put researchers on-site. "We're monitoring in the Davis region as well as the Mawson region, and this summer we plan to be monitoring by deploying more cameras in the Casey region as well. "So what we're able to start doing now is to develop a network of monitoring sites, not a single monitoring site... and we're able to see how much variation there is from site to site. "Hopefully this can extend right across east Antarctica," he said. Kym Newbery says a number of countries including Japan, France and England are keen to use the camera in their own monitoring programs. "If we make a method that other countries can adopt then it becomes a standard, almost a no-brainer, for everyone to use: the same mechanism, the same method, to monitor the same species at lots of different sites. "Having common data recording techniques is really important to be able to compare what you're measuring." *ABC