Monday, November 29, 2010

Wildlife Bytes Australia 30/11/10

Leading Stories


Governments Incapable Of Managing Tuna; Fisheries Management 'Flawed And Inadequate'. Dr. Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group, issued this statement today in response to decisions made at this year's meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. "ICCAT member governments today adopted measures to protect oceanic whitetip and hammerhead sharks, but were unable to provide real protection for Atlantic bluefin tuna and several other species of sharks whose populations are in jeopardy. Denying critical protection for some of the most threatened and iconic fish in the ocean is inexcusable. "Despite sound science to show how threatened these species are -- and all the recent evidence of fraud, laundering and illegal fishing -- Atlantic bluefin tuna once again were denied the protection they desperately need. ICCAT member governments had more than enough information to act decisively. They failed to do so.

"They failed to protect the spawning grounds for Atlantic bluefin, either in the Gulf of Mexico or the Mediterranean. They failed to suspend, or even significantly reduce, this fishery until effective management measures are in place and illegal fishing is brought under control. They agreed to only minor reductions in Atlantic bluefin catch limits in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, while adopting only cosmetic efforts to promote enforcement and compliance. "Japan, the United States, the European Union and other member governments had an opportunity to secure meaningful protection for bluefin tuna this week. The inability of ICCAT member governments to make significant decisions to improve the health of Atlantic bluefin tuna and shark populations reflects the failure of a system that was set up largely by fishing countries on behalf of fishing interests. "It is now clear that the entire management system of high seas fisheries is flawed and inadequate. The time for letting the fox guard the hen house is over; we call upon governments that care about healthy ocean ecosystems to overhaul this broken system." *Underwater

Birds Fight Back

A decade-long survey has found key species of birds that were in trouble because of land clearing and grazing are on the way back. For the past decade, David Lindenmayer and a team of scientists from the Australian National University have been keeping a close watch on woodland birds, studying 300 sites across 150 farms over a 10-year period. Over that time, many species that were considered to be in trouble have reappeared, including the speckled warbler, the diamond firetail and the rufous whistler. "In some cases we've seen the reporting rate, which is the number of times we record the birds on our sites, double, triple, even quadruple on some of these farms where there's been these kinds of interventions," Professor Lindenmayer said while visiting a property near Boorowa in southern New South Wales. "The fantastic thing is it is telling us now about the kinds of things that we might need to alter slightly on farms to actually have really good environmental outcomes." And it is not just birds that are reappearing. Reptiles are also being monitored and are also making a comeback.

"It's been a really buoyant year as far as the rainfall and things have been going on," scientist Geoffrey Kay said. "So we're picking up blind snakes and pink-tailed worm lizards. These are species that very rarely come up. They're subterranean and the moisture is really pulling them to the surface." The key to this biodiversity comeback is the landholder. Graziers and farmers are helping regenerate the land, replant the vegetation and grasslands, and over 10 years that has paid off. Grazier Neil Stuart signed up to the Federal Government's Environmental Stewardship Program and he is now taking great pleasure in watching the dramatic turnaround. "It gets you more involved because the more they find the more excited they get about the birds, reptiles, grasses and whatever," he said. "You go to some of these sites and you see these incredible wildflowers, that are endangered, growing. "I reckon it's great, and I just like talking to other people who are involved with this and they get a bit excited, because it's the first time they're seeing something happening." *ABC

Editorial....Wildlife Politics

A change of Government in Victoria will certainly put the possibility of a startup commercial kangaroo Industry in Victoria on the agenda. The previous Brack government have always claimed to be opposed to such an Industry, but we all know political promises are always made to be broken. While when in opposition, the Liberal/National coalition supported such an Industry. Fortunately, the establishment of a new State commercial kangaroo export Industry is a long and complicated process. Noone knows for sure how many kangaroos are in Victoria, but its believed the numbers are far short of enough animals to make a kangaroo commercial Industry viable. So the first thing they would have to do is a long and costly State-wide kangaroo count. As well, there are at least two public comment periods to work through, one State, and one Federal. Naturally wildlife and animal welfare groups will oppose the proposal every step of the way, even to taking Court action in the event they failed to stop a commercial kangaroo Industry startup. And of course, support for an Industry would have to be approved by the new Baillieu Cabinet, not just by a couple of new rural Ministers, and again, prior Elections, political promises are often made to be broken. So hopefully a Victorian commercial kangaroo Industry startup is still wishful thinking by only a couple of rural politicians. Meanwhile, it's believed the confusion of preferential voting played a big role in the final election results, especially being responsible for the poor results for the Victorian Greens. As well, playing on the public confusion surrounding preferential voting, the mainstram media ran slogans like "A vote for the Greens is a wasted vote.” In spite of this, it appears likely that the Greens will have the balance of power in the Legislative Council. Politics, politics...what can we say? Unfortunately, wildlife protection is very much subjected to poor political decisions made by poorly advised, development at any cost, State governments. *

More kangaroo information below.......

New Parrot Species

DNA experts from Australia have discovered that dwindling populations of ground parrots in Western Australia belong to a different species than those found in the rest of the country, a find with important conservation implications. A team of researchers from the University of Adelaide and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy used DNA from 160-year-old museum specimens to learn of distinct differences between the ground parrots in the east and west and that the western populations should be recognized as a new species. It has been named Pezoporus flaviventris. The DNA study suggests the two species diverged from each other some 2 million years ago. "Our findings demonstrate that museum collections, some going back more than 150 years, continue to be relevant and can provide critical information for understanding and conserving the world's biodiversity into the future," said team member Jeremy Austin, of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide. While excited about the discovery, researchers were also concerned for the survival of these newly classified birds."The discovery has major conservation implications," said team member Stephen Murphy of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. "The western ground parrot has declined rapidly in the last 20 years; there are now only about 110 birds surviving in the wild, and most of these are confined to a single national park. It is now one of the world's rarest birds." *Our Amazing Planet

On 17 November 2010 the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications for inquiry and report.

In accordance with the Senate's resolution establishing the inquiry, the committee will not publish submissions, or take other action relating to the inquiry (for example, arranging public hearings) until the first day of sitting in 2011 (8 February 2011).
Submissions should be received by 08 February 2011. The reporting date is 01 June 2011.

The Committee is seeking written submissions from interested individuals and organisations preferably in electronic form submitted online or sent by email to as an attached Adobe PDF or MS Word format document. The email must include full postal address and contact details.

Climate Change

Scientists working with the Global Carbon Project have raised the spectre of renewed growth in fossil-fuel driven carbon emissions. Based on global GDP growth, they believe the increase will be around 3% this year, more than offsetting the 0.7% reduction observed in 2009 and making 2010 a record year for CO2 emissions. The Global Carbon Project is a climate science support initiative sponsored by the CSIRO and Japan. *Ecomedia

A research team running the world's first underwater laboratory on the Great Barrier Reef has confirmed the natural treasure is in great danger. Led by Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, from the global change institute of the University of Queensland, the team has been studying how coral is affected by increasing acidity in sea water caused by carbon emissions. They began the world-first experiment on a two-square-metre patch of the reef off Heron Island in May and found damage to the reef more serious than expected.
Read more

Tuvalu is the world's second-least populous nation, after Vatican City. Its 12,000 residents live on several reefs and atolls halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Nearly all the land is less than three metres above the sea. The director of the tiny nation's Environment Department, Matio Tekinene, says his people are already suffering the ill effects of climate change. Rising sea levels and more frequent king tides are causing coastal erosion and salinating the groundwater, making it hard to grow the traditional subsistence root crop, pulaka. The freshwater supply is now restricted to rainfall, which arrives in unfamiliar patterns at unfamiliar times. Coral bleaching is reducing fish stocks close to shore.
Read More

Christmas Beetles

For generations of children they were the sign that Christmas was nearly here. But kids growing up in the city today may never know the sound of christmas beetles beating against the screen door in the run up to the festive season - and scientists believe it is man who is to blame. In and around Sydney, the beetles' numbers are falling as the city's expansion demolishes their feeding grounds. "While christmas beetles live in woodland but will come in to feed on the grasslands, the amount of land is increasingly disappearing," entomologist Stephen Fellenberg, who runs website Insektus, said yesterday. Christmas beetles were once so common in Sydney there were stories about tree branches collapsing under their weight. But now land clearing and urbanisation has harmed the christmas beetles, who need soil for the larvae stage of their lives. Christmas beetles spend up to two years underground as they grow from larvae to pupa.* Daily Telegraph


The Australian director of the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd says its new vessel has the potential to stop Japanese whaling. The fast interceptor vessel, which is registered in Fremantle and cost $4 million, is called Gojira. It is the first Sea Shepherd vessel to be registered in Australia. Director Jeff Hansen says Gojira is the fastest and strongest Sea Shepherd vessel ever built. "This vessel can outrun any Japanese vessel which means that we will have the element of surprise," he said. "We can find the factory ship and the factory ship is the one we're after. If we can find the factory ship we can shut down whaling." *ABC

Tillegra Dam Scrapped

New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally and her Government have rejected the proposed “costly, unnecessary and environmentally destructive” Tillegra Dam. An independent report found the proposed dam would have significantly impacted and potentially caused an ecological collapse of the internationally recognised Hunter Estuary Wetlands. *EcoMedia


With a dwindling number of sightings in recent years, fears have been raised that Scotland’s famous monster may be dead. But fans of Nessie could be given fresh hope with this picture of a mysterious humped shape in the Highland loch. The new “sighting” was captured on camera by landscape designer Richard Preston, while he was working at Aldourie Castle Gardens, on the banks of Loch Ness. Yesterday, he said: “When I looked closer, I could clearly see the four hump-like features. “I thought I’d take a picture, to see if there was anything in it, to see what others thought. “I was surprised that it stayed there as long as it did. “I took various shots before it suddenly disappeared. I literally just turned my back and it was gone.” Richard, 27, added: “There were no ripples in the water, no boats, nothing around. “I have no idea what it was, but it undoubtedly looks like Nessie.” Tales of something lurking in Loch Ness go back to the sixth century, when St Columba was said to have confronted a water beast. But the myth only took hold in the modern era after a series of photographs appeared in the press during the Thirties. The first grainy “evidence” was taken by Hugh Gray, in November 1933. * See picture

Wildlife Poaching

Kenya Wildlife Service agents have shot dead two suspected poachers who they saw shooting at a herd of elephants. This brings the number of suspected poachers shot dead by wildlife agents in November to five, the most in a month, spokesman Paul Udoto said. He said rangers shot the two suspected poachers and recovered one firearm at Amboseli National Park, in south-western Kenya. Three others escaped with injuries, he said. The gang is suspected of involvement in the killing of two elephants in the same area three weeks ago. Poachers target elephants for their ivory tusks, which are often smuggled to Asia. * AP

Flying Foxes

A colony of flying-foxes has set up camp in Nambucca Heads’ Gordon Park, much to the chagrin of those living close by. The most likely explanation for the new guests was simply their seasonal hunt for food, National Parks spokesman Lawrence Orel said. Flying foxes have been known to travel hundreds of kilometres to find food, usually native tree nectar or rainforest fruits. “Flying foxes do tend to move around, they travel up and down the coast following the flowering of native species of plants,” Mr Orel said. Sometimes a camp would be forced to relocate if a location they had previously roosted in was destoryed. Flying foxes formed two kinds of camps: a ‘maternity’ camp, which was established and permanent, and a temporary camp, which existed only while there was a plentiful supply of food, Mr Orel said. Gordon Park was mostly likely a temporary camp, due to the small number of bats there. But there was every chance Nambucca would remain a regular site for flying-fox visitors in years to come. They were known to develop an affinity for certain camps, and would return to the same trees anually. Nothing could be done about the mess, noise and smell created by the camp, because flying foxes and their camps were protected under NSW legislation, Mr Orel said. Those in the neighbourhood must simply wait until the food supply ran out, and the flying foxes moved further afield. *Guardian News

Charters Towers residents under siege from a colony of bats are also faced with a plague of blood-sucking mites. Thousands of bats are roosting in Lissner Park as Charters Towers Regional Council remains locked in battle with the State Government over its plan to muster them away from the area using a helicopter. Residents say the creatures are noisy and disease-ridden, have destroyed the park with their droppings and created a foul stench in the area. The bats have also been blamed for bringing swarms of a small unidentified insect, described as similar to a tick, that latches on to skin to feed on blood. Mayor Cr Ben Calcott said the mites were an ongoing concern. In previous years, some workers had been taken to hospital to have the insects removed, he said. ''The mites adhere to their skin like ticks,'' he said. 'If you attend the park you run the risk of these mites adhering to you. They're an insect-type thing with legs so they're fairly mobile bloodsuckers.''

Cr Calcott said the mites were living on the bats and residents were fearful they could spread disease. 'We know a very small number of bats have lyssavirus and or hendra virus or melaka virus,'' he said. However, the Department of Environment and Resource Management said it had not received any complaints relating to mites. ''Further, Queensland Health advises bat mites do not carry any diseases that can be transmitted to humans,'' a spokeswoman said. The department has refused to grant permission for council to use a helicopter to muster the bats into a new habitat, away from the township, as there was no guarantee the bats would not be harmed. More than 2000 people have signed a petition for the bats' removal. Politicians and business leaders plan to hold a public rally on Saturday. The spokeswoman said the department would consider any application from council for a damage mitigation permit to disperse the flying foxes, as long as the methods proposed were humane and did not impact public safety.

''The minister (Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones) has written to council urging them to work with the department on long-term strategies to manage the impacts of flying foxes in Charters Towers, as the migratory animals travel to the area every year before moving on, once food sources, such as flowering trees, are depleted.'' Cr Calcott said council was in discussions with a Melbourne scientist about its proposal, which it would re-submit following her input. ''We're sticking to our guns to muster them out of town with a helicopter,'' he said. The rally will start from Charters Towers Hospital at 9.30am and head down Gill and Deane streets to Lissner Park. *Townesville Bulletin

About 500 people protested over the weekend against the Queensland Government's refusal to relocate a colony of flying foxes from a park at Charters Towers, south-west of Townsville. Sustainability Minister Kate Jones says she is prepared to hold further talks about how to handle thousands of the noisy mammals, that have inhabited Lissner Park in the town for almost a decade. Charters Towers Mayor Ben Callcott says all previous relocation attempts either have not worked or have not been allowed by the Government. "I think [Premier Anna Bligh's] on the skids anyway but that's beside the point," he said. "What I hope is that the LNP government has the maturity to do something about it because that's what we need. "People mention guts - it's not a matter of guts. "It's a matter of being able to think and reason and have the maturity to actually plough through a problem and do something about it." Councillor Callcott says locals are growing more frustrated by the day. "This is the first showing of strength from the town and that's a good thing," he said. "If they see that there is solidarity out there maybe they'll think again, but we have been told by a member from DERM [the Department of Environment and Resource Management] that we're right on the cusp of a breakthrough, so who knows then?" *ABC


The Opposition says it will use Queensland Parliament to publicly name two people it believes are poaching dugongs in the state's far north unless there is a prompt investigation. Opposition sustainability spokesman Glen Elmes says he has given police and other authorities the names and contact details of people illegally catching and selling dugongs. He says the black market for dugong meat must be shut down and he has started to do the environment department's work for it. "I took the responsible view and actions and didn't name the people in the Parliament, but if for some reason - and particularly with the two Labor Ministers involved - there is not some quick action on this," he said. "When the Parliament comes back early next year, I will name the individuals concerned." He accused Queensland Sustainability Minister Kate Jones of ignoring the problem. "Every time I turn around the Minister says if 'you've got proof, let's have it'," Mr Elmes said. "There's 5,500 staff in the Department of Environment and Resource Management [DERM] and I was able to come up with just two of the perpetrators. "They're not the only two by any means, so I've started to do the job for DERM and the other authorities." Ms Jones says she is hoping there is something substantial in the material Mr Elmes has provided. She says the Government does not hesitate to take action when illegal activities can be proven. *ABC


Kangaroos...Legal Driveby Shootings.....Watch the Video put together by AWPC and the "440,000 reasons not to eat kangaroo meat campaign".
Watch now,

How does a hopping kangaroo breathe?

Here is a breathtaking piece of kangaroo research from the Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan. It's likely that someone actually got paid to do this........ "We developed a model to demonstrate how a hopping kangaroo breathes. Interestingly, a kangaroo uses less energy to breathe while hopping than while standing still. This occurs, in part, because rather than using muscle power to move air into and out of the lungs, air is pulled into (inspiration) and pushed out of (expiration) the lungs as the abdominal organs "flop" within the kangaroo's body. Specifically, as the kangaroo hops upward, the abdominal organs lag behind, and the insertion of the diaphragm is pulled toward its origin, flattening the dome and increasing the vertical dimension of the thoracic cavity (the thoracic cavity and lungs enlarge). Increasing the volume of the thoracic cavity reduces alveolar pressure below atmospheric pressure (barometric pressure), and air moves into the alveoli by bulk flow. In contrast, the impact of the organs against the diaphragm at each landing causes expiration. Specifically, upon landing, the abdominal organs flop into the diaphragm, causing it to return to its dome shape and decreasing the vertical dimension of the thoracic cavity. This compresses the alveolar gas volume and elevates alveolar pressure above barometric pressure, so air is expelled. To demonstrate this phenomenon, the plunger of a syringe model of the respiratory system was inserted through a compression spring. Holding the syringe and pressing the plunger firmly against a hard surface expels air from the lungs (the balloon within the syringe deflates) and compresses the spring. This models the kangaroo landing after a hop forward. Subsequently, the compression spring provides the energy for the "kangaroo" to "hop" forward upon the release of the syringe, and air enters the lungs (the balloon within the syringe inflates). The model accurately reflects how a hopping kangaroo breathes. A model was chosen to demonstrate this phenomenon because models engage and inspire students as well as significantly enhance student understanding." *Network Item

A goanna found mutilated in Bongil Bongil National Park on October 18 is not the only native animal to have apparently suffered from deliberately-inflicted damage recently. The body of a dead kangaroo was found on the northern side of Coffs Harbour on October 20 with the head and tail removed. The head was discovered two days later with what were reported as boiling water burns to the face, as well as the eyes blinded and the ears cut off. Residents said while this animal was discovered on Pinehurst Drive at Avocado Heights, there had been reports of other injured kangaroos at nearby Heritage Park at Moonee. The Northern Beaches area of Coffs Harbour, especially around Safety Beach, Sandy Beach and Moonee, is well known for its large population of kangaroos. Although the animals’ depredations on gardens and lawns are not always welcomed by residents, the mobs of ’roos are generally considered a positive feature of the area and are admired by tourists and visitors. The area manager for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Glenn Storrie, said they were investigating the matter and would welcome any input from the community A goanna was found dead and disembowelled in Bongil Bongil National Park on October 18. The dead monitor lizard was found beside a crude campsite in sand hills near the south bank of Bonville Creek by a patrolling National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger. As the campsite was in view of houses in South Sawtell, NPWS rangers are hoping someone may have noticed the fire at the campsite on October 16, where two people are believed to have camped after travelling there by canoe or tinnie. If you know who was responsible for either of these attacks contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or NPWS on 6652 0900 or call into the NPWS jetty office. *Coffs Coast Advocate

The Victorian State Government has been called upon to begin a kangaroo culling program in Manningham as the rapidly growing population wreaks havoc on local farms. Pettys Orchard’s John Mustafa said the kangaroos destroyed fruit trees, snapped drip lines and broke fences, causing thousands of dollars damage each year. “When something scares them, it’s like Jurassic Park around the farm. They stampede,” Mr Mustafa said. The number of kangaroos on the Templestowe orchard had doubled to more than 300 over the past five years and a systematic culling program was needed, he said. Manningham Council’s draft Green Wedge Action Plan released last month identifies kangaroos as one of six species - including sambar deer, fruit bats, wattle birds, lorikeets, and cockatoos - with “unsustainable populations”. Council environment co-ordinator Hamish Allan said kangaroo numbers grew when there was easy access to food and water. Mr Allan said dealing with wild animals was the State Government’s responsibility and there had been a failure to respond to concerns about rising kangaroo numbers in interface areas. He said the council was often called upon to deal with kangaroos and clearer guidelines on protocols were needed. Warrandyte police Sgt Keith Walker said police had this year put down about 10 injured kangaroos hit by cars.

Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman Nick Talbot said landowners could get a culling permit as a “last resort” if kangaroos were damaging crops, fences or property or directly threatened communities or public health. But Warrandyte orchardist Richard Aumann (pictured) said it should be up to the State Government to deal with the problem. “Why should we be doing the dirty work and bearing the costs for the Government whose animals they are?” he said. Wildlife rescuer Adriana Simmonds urged the Government not to cull kangaroos. She said it was a short-term and simple solution to a complex problem. Comment here

There is limited scientific or environmental evidence to support the killing of large numbers of kangaroos every year, a series of reports has found. Despite being the national symbol of Australia, more than 3 million are killed each year for their meat, or because they are considered pests that compete with livestock for food and other resources. There is a growing movement to promote the consumption of kangaroo meat over beef and lamb as it is seen as a more environmentally sustainable option, because kangaroos emit less greenhouse gas. But a report by THINKK, a research group based at the University of Technology, Sydney, found some of the assumptions, which allow for the largest land-based wildlife cull in the world, were misguided and not grounded on scientific evidence. The ecologist and THINKK co-founder Dror Ben Ami said their reports, based on numerous studies, found kangaroos rarely competed for food with livestock. 'Long-term studies indicate that competition is intermittent, occurring only during a period of climatically driven food depletion,'' he said.

The report also found significant reductions in greenhouse gases from livestock would only occur if kangaroo meat consumption replaced beef and lamb demand. But Dr Ben Ami said it was unlikely that farmers would choose to farm kangaroos over livestock because there were not enough roos to fill the current demand for meat in Australia, let alone an international market. ''To replace one meal a week with kangaroo meat you need to have about 130 million kangaroos in the landscape to have a sustainable industry,'' Dr Ben Ami said. On average there were about 27 million kangaroos in the outback, he said. The co-author of the reports, Keely Boom, a lawyer, said culling kangaroos presented issues of animal cruelty. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act stated animals could not be killed unless there was a reason to do so. Only licence owners were permitted to shoot kangaroos.

As there was limited evidence to show kangaroos damaged the environment, and several studies showing they were not pests, culling them for those reasons might be illegal, she said. Ms Boom works as a research fellow at THINKK, which is partly funded by the Sherman Foundation, a supporter of the animal protection group Voiceless. The reports called for the government to review whether killing kangaroos in such large numbers was necessary. "And where it is necessary let's look at the reasons for and against, and have a quantitative means of measuring its effectiveness," Ms Boom said. The government should also ban the killing of female kangaroos, which often had joeys in their pouches or with them, she said. A spokeswoman for the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water said kangaroos were protected fauna not pests in NSW. 'It is [the department's] view that kangaroos do cause damage and economic loss to the farming community, the extent of which does vary across the landscape.''

She said the department stood by the legality of the licensing system. The kangaroo expert Gordon Grigg agreed that research over the past 20 years had demonstrated kangaroos were not pests. But he said some of the report's assumptions were not correct. Most people realised that kangaroo meat could never totally replace beef and lamb, said Professor Grigg, an emeritus professor at the University of Queensland. Instead it should be marketed as gourmet or as a low fat alternative to beef and lamb, he said. The biologist Michael Archer, of the University of NSW, disputed the findings of the reports and said the sustainable wild harvesting of kangaroos was a conservation strategy. If graziers made money from kangaroos it gave them a reason to value the native environment, and reduce their sheep and cattle population, Professor Archer said. The findings of the THINKK reports will be presented at a free public lecture at the University of Technology, Sydney tomorrow evening. *SMH

Ed comment; This story appeared in almost every major newspaper across Australia.

Its meat is plentiful, it's healthy and natural, and it's even on Australia's coat of arms. It's roo meat, and there should be more of it on Australian dining tables, an industry leader says. Sharyn Garrett - who is secretary of the Queensland Macropod and Wild Game Harvesters Association and is the 2010 winner of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women's Award for Queensland - says the kangaroo industry already contributes well over $130 million to the economy and supports 4000 direct and indirect jobs. Kangaroos should be seen as a resource and not just a pest, she says as she attempts to expand Australia's first kangaroo growers' and harvesters' co-operative. At present about 70 per cent of kangaroo meat goes into pet food, the "economic foundation" of the industry, Ms Garrett said. "But we see many, many benefits and opportunities in kangaroo meat for human consumption," she said.

Kangaroo meat has just 2 per cent fat and would help address Australia's obesity epidemic, Ms Garrett told a meeting of the Rural Press Club in Brisbane on Friday. However, little of the kangaroo meat suitable for humans is consumed in Australia, and Ms Garrett wants to change that, establishing a co-operative of landholders and harvesters who established their own processing works. There's no shortage of meat to be harvested. "We are limited by the actual quota the state government sets, but in the last 15 years we haven't gone anywhere near the quota, which is set at a sustainable level," Ms Garrett said. Only three of 90 species are allowed to be culled, she said. She said domestic consumption of kangaroo should grow in Australia, but an archaic structure is holding the industry back. The co-operative she has established aims to control the supply chain from harvester to consumer, Ms Garrett said.

Debbie Newell, who runs the Hunter Gatherer Dinner Club targeting game meats and other wild food, said kangaroo meat is a very healthy alternative to other meats, including fish. "Game meat doesn't taste `gamey'," Ms Newell said. "It's a very sweet, very fresh meat. "Because it comes from a natural background eating grasses, its fats, the very few it has, are Omega 3 fatty acid and you'll find roo especially has less fats than white-fleshed fish." It could be a way to eat healthy meat without further eroding fish stocks, Ms Newell said. *AAP

At the end of her article on eating kangaroos, Wendy Zukerman happily tucks into a kangaroo steak, having assuaged her conscience as to the meat's origin (9 October, p 4z). However, her assertion that kangaroo numbers "have been on the rise ever since Europeans settled in Australia around 200 years ago" is a contentious one. We do not really know if numbers have increased or not, though the range of some species may have increased. On the subiect of ethics, the article misrepresented the stance of the animal welfare group RSPCA Australia. Its official position is that females should not be killed until the welfare of young joeys is resolved. In a 2004 paper in the iournal AustraIian Mammalogy, David Croft, who was quoted in Zukerman's article, stated that orphaned young animals are likely to die, as they are strongly dependent on their mothers for nutrition, and for learning to forage and avoiding predation. Kangaroo shooters are portrayed in the article as good marksmen, but evidence from the Australian animal rights charity Animal Liberation indicates that this is not always the case. It has film showing carcasses in chillers with necks severed below the occipital joint, and suggests that
up to 40 per cent of adults are miss-shot and are cut in a way so as to hide the evidence.

Kangaroo meat cannot be a direct replacement for livestock. To meet a fifth of Australia's current demand for beef would require there to be kangaroo populations quite considerably greater than they are at present - an impossibility as kangaroos are free ranging and their numbers are regulated by climatic conditions. Nor would removal of sheep from grazing land increase numbers, as findings by Croft and others indicate that there is little competition between them and kangaroos. Kangatarians should know that they are supporting another meat industry and plundering Australia's wildlife. Without question they are also significantly damaging the animals'welfare to an extent that is on par with the harm inflicted on Canadian harp seals.

Wendy Zukerman tells us that she suffers from anaemia, and thinks that eatlng kangaroo meat might improve matters. I do not see this as a reason to support the slaughter of kangaroos, during which the babyjoeys are "coshed with a metal pipe" and the older ones are left to die of starvation. She believes that she is short of iron because her diet doesn't contain enough of it, but a more likely explanation is that she Iacks vitamin B12, which is needed to absorb it. One tablet a day would be a more ethical alternative to supporting the bloodshed in Australia. *Dror BenAmi, New Scientist

Ed Comment; I guess nothing else drives the message home more succintly than Dr Dror Ben Ami's statement that ''To replace one meal a week with kangaroo meat you need to have about 130 million kangaroos in the landscape to have a sustainable industry,'' Dr Ben Ami said. Currently we only have around 25 million, and probably going downhill. Wouldn't 130 million kangaroos upset a few farmers?

Kangaroo meat imports...this question was recently asked in the European Parliament. The response is below......

According to laboratory test results kangaroo meat from Australia imported into the EU has been found to contain E220 (sulphur dioxide), which is banned in EU meat products. This contravenes European Parliament and Council Directive 95/2/EC of 20 February 1995 on food additives other than colours and sweeteners (OJ L 61, 18.3.1995, p. 1). E220 is a well-known irritant for asthma sufferers. According to Asthma UK, in the UK alone some 5.4 million people suffer from asthma, and throughout the EU asthma affects some ‘10 % of children, continues in 5 % of adults and affects twice as many people as 20 years ago’. ( Has the Commission investigated kangaroo meat imports? What action does the Commission plan to take concerning meat imports that are shown to contain unlawful substances? *

Answer given by Mr Dalli on behalf of the Commission
The Commission has searched its database ‘Rapid Alert System for Feed and Food’ (RASFF) and there is no notification of sulphur dioxide in kangaroo meat. The RASFF system includes notifications by Member States of risks to human health deriving from food and feed following border and market controls. Apart from official controls, any findings of unauthorised or excessively high levels of dangerous substances should be reported. Food business operators and Member States' competent authorities have to take appropriate mesures. The Commission would be grateful to receive further information by the Honorable Member on the source of the report findings in order for the Commission to investigate. For RASFF notifications related to imported meat, the Commission immediately informs the third country in order for its authorities to take appropriate action.

The Commission also assesses the severity of a notification and has different instruments to act. In the case of lower risk contaminations and occasional findings no specific measure is put in place, and Member States continue to carry out their own risk-based controls. In other cases the Commission may adopt a decision after advice from the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) to set an increased minimum level of import testing. In severe cases, the Commission adopts a safeguard measure where a 100 % testing frequency on imports is laid down, or the product is even banned if the seriousness of the risk requires it. The inspection service of the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers, the Food and Veterinary Office, carries out routine inspection missions in third countries in order to verify the proper enforcement of EU requirements. In some cases such missions are also carried out in emergency cases or for targeted purposes. *

Climate Talkfest

While expectations for last year's climate change talks in Copenhagen were inflated, hope for the United Nations' climate meeting in Mexico is already low. This time last year the world's focus was on the Copenhagen summit, which was supposed to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Expectations were high but they were thoroughly dashed. Now climate negotiators are heading to the Mexican resort town of Cancun for the annual UN talks and some experts are warning global climate talks risk disintegrating altogether. Climate Group chief executive Mark Kenber says there is no chance of a legally binding agreement in Cancun. "That was the big hope in Copenhagen last year and it was clear there really wasn't the concerted political will to reach a legal treaty then, and I think the same is the case now, perhaps even less so," he said. This past year has seen Australia and the United States back away from carbon trading, while South Korea and China are considering introducing their own emissions trading schemes.

Nick Rowley, the director of consultancy firm Kinesis, was at last year's meeting as part of the Copenhagen Climate Council. He says 2010 has been a confused year. "Sadly, if you look at some of the NASA analysis, it looks like 2010 is going to prove to be the warmest year on record," he said. "That's the most serious thing we've got to be focusing on is that the level risk associated by this problem doesn't look as if it's going to be any less. "There's been an enormous northern heatwave and in Russia that has led to a decision by the Russian government not to export any grain. "They're the second largest grain exporter in the world. That affects food prices. So it's not just an environmental problem. It's actually a problem that is actually hitting our capacity to feed the world." Yet Mr Kenber says the lack of a global deal has not stopped some countries from tackling climate change on their own or bilaterally. "While progress at international level is faltering at best, at the national level there have been incredible advances," he said. "We saw both China and India set targets for themselves. The US made its commitment to reducing its emissions by 17 per cent. The European Union committed itself to a 20 per cent target. "We've also seen a lot of domestic action. So there's been a lot happening on the ground despite the lack of an international agreement."

There have already been some bilateral deals on climate change this year. For example, Norway promised $1 billion to Indonesia to stop emissions from cutting down rainforests. Mr Rowley says countries, regions, cities and even businesses can make progress on their own. "My view is much of that bilateral action could actually be built towards informing the way in which a global response can be properly designed and calibrated," he said. "I think that's the way to look at it. It's not either or, it's both." Bill Hare is the chief executive of Climate Analytics and a visiting scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He is in Cancun and says a global set of rules negotiated through the UN is critical. "We need a multilateral process so we've got common rules for reporting emissions so everyone is on the same playing field, otherwise we'll have countries electing to do things which don't really work," he said. "We need a multilateral system also to get the level of ambition needed to reduce emissions fast enough to keep warming below two degrees."

Mr Hare says fears the talks could dissipate are valid. "I think complete disintegration is definitely a possibility. If the process keeps on going the way it's been performing, I think it becomes an inevitability not just a possibility," he said. "I think the reasons for that are quite complicated. My perspective would be that essentially this is a conflict between the US and China." Mr Hare says if the US takes another five years to sign up to a Kyoto-style treaty then the rest of the world should simply go it alone. But while countries continue to wait for each other to move first, hope that next year's conference in South Africa will produce a new climate deal are already fading. *ABC


Most people associate this hairy, eight-legged fellow with a stabbing sense of fear not a relief from pain. But Queensland scientists are now studying spider venom for its potential use as a painkiller. Brisbane researcher Glenn King was granted $550,000 by the Australian Research Council over four years to probe compounds within spider venom for pain-relieving properties. His research follows the discovery of a family in Pakistan who have a defective gene, or SCN9A, which eliminates the ability to feel pain. The SCN9A gene has become a target for pharmaceutical companies keen to develop new drugs for chronic pain sufferers, a market worth about $34 billion worldwide a year. Professor King, of the University of Queensland's Institute of Molecular Bioscience, said spider venom contained compounds that knocked out the function of a similar gene in insects, pointing to the venom's potential as a painkiller for humans.

He is searching for molecules in spider venom that may block a protein produced by the SCN9A gene in humans to effectively silence pain signals throughout the body. He said UK scientists were alerted to the Pakistani family by stories of a boy who performed dangerous stunts during street performances, apparently without feeling pain. Meanwhile, other researchers are studying a molecule in the venom of the Brazilian wandering spider for its potential use as "the next Viagra''. *Courier Mail

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