Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wildlife Bytes 30/12/10

Swan hit by Jetski

A jet ski rider has been charged after allegedly being caught on video deliberately running down a black swan in a Gold Coast canal. The 19-year-old from Mudgeeraba has been charged with animal cruelty after allegedly running over the bird with his jet ski on a Mermaid Waters canal around 1pm (AEST) on Boxing Day. Senior vet at Currumbin Wildlife animal hospital Michael Pyne said today the swan suffered horrific injuries and a broken wing, but there was a reasonable chance it would survive. "As I understand it, the jet ski had three attempts at hitting the swan and people on the shore saw it happening and had time to get their video camera out and start filming it," he said. "I'm not 100 per cent sure it will live, but its appetite's improving day by day but she's been pretty knocked around so I still wouldn't want to say it's definitely going to live yet, but I'm feeling confident, certainly."

Mr Pyne said the swan was heavily bruised and was being given heavy pain relief medication, and if the wing hadn't taken the brunt of the impact it probably wouldn't have survived. "It's taken off all the feathers, skin, muscle and ligaments - down to the bones of the joint," he said. "The problem is that the ligaments on the outside of the joint have been stripped off which makes the joint very unstable and if it's still unstable in a couple of weeks time we're going to have to look at fusing the bones of the joint together. "It should be able to fly, but not well, however swans can get away with that because they really only float around and only fly to get from one waterway to another and generally the waterway they come from is their territory and we'll look at releasing her back there." The teenager is due to appear in Southport Magistrates Court on on January 21. *SA News

Flying Foxes

Farmers and environmentalists have joined forces to criticise the state government's inaction over the shooting of grey-headed flying foxes. The species is listed as vulnerable by the Commonwealth but hundreds are killed each year by orchardists to prevent the destruction of crops. Some are clipped by shotgun pellets and take a long time to die; others leave behind young that will die of starvation. An independent review of the culling last year found the practice, which is licensed by the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, to be ethically and legally unacceptable. In June the department received advice it would cost $3.5 million to provide a 50 per cent subsidy for netting to keep flying foxes out of Sydney and central coast orchards. Those affected have become frustrated that the government will not ban culling or come forward with funding for netting. ''They've been consulting now for 2½ years and the bullshit is thicker on the ground now than it was at the start,'' said the treasurer of the NSW Farmers Association, Peter Comensoli. He said farmers wanted to leave culling behind and were ready to fund half the cost of netting and deal with ongoing maintenance.

The NSW Nature Conservation Council and the Humane Society International backed the farmers' bid for help and called on the government to immediately stop issuing licences for the shooting of flying foxes. 'It just strikes me as a rare occasion when all the antagonists are on the same field - I can't understand why the government doesn't take the free brownie points,'' Mr Comensoli said. The Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said the money the government needed to spend was minor given the gravity of the situation, and that the Treasurer, Eric Roozendaal, was playing hardball. ''The government really needs to come forward and just solve this,'' she said. A department spokeswoman said options for full exclusion netting were being discussed with Treasury and the federal government but she could not confirm when a decision would be made. The department has previously estimated it would cost up to $1 million over five years to manage full compliance of shooting licences. *Age


International authorities have agreed on stricter shipping conditions in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, in an effort to prevent further accidents like this year's grounding of a Chinese coal carrier. The accident off the Capricorn Coast smashed coral and caused more than two thousand tonnes of oil to leak into the sea. And there have been other such incidents before that. Now ships travelling through this area will be tracked by radio and satellite and will be required to regularly report on their location and route. Australia's Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese says he is also looking at tougher penalties for those who break the rules. In our view it's still nowhere near good enough, if they had forced mandatory Australian pilotage thru the GBR reef years ago, the latest accidents may not have occured. Mandatory Australian pilotage is the only way to ensure these incidents wont happen again. The GBR must be the only World Heritasge Area anywhere, that allows Australian unqualified, and non-English speaking cargo boat skippers, to make their own way through such an important area. Hundreds of huge cargo vessels travel the GBR World heritage Area every week, many of them skippered by non-Australian qualified Captains. The new requirements are a feeble attempt by Government to allay public concern, and are simply not good enough to prevent more incidents from happening. *


Norway's 200,000 reindeer are being fitted with reflectors to protect them from being run over. So far about 2,000 of the animals have been fitted with reflective yellow collars or small antler tags, reports the Daily Telegraph. The aim is to reduce the number of car crashes that kill around 500 of the animals each year. "It really works," said Kristian Oevernes, the leader of the project at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. "This is the first time it (reindeer marking) has happened on this scale." A test drive on a snowmobile showed that marked reindeer were far more visible in the dark than others. About 200,000 reindeer live in Norway, mostly owned by Sami indigenous people who raise them for meat, skins and antlers. Sami herders had tried small experiments to attach reflective tape to the animals but the glue failed in the cold. Finnish herders had also tried a reflective spray, but it reduced the fur's ability to keep out the chill. *OrangeUK


Prime Minister Julia Gillard has reiterated the federal government's anti-whaling stance amid reports of Japanese officials accepting whale meat gifts. Japan's Fisheries Agency has admitted its officials accepted gifts of whale meat from the body that runs the country's so-called scientific whaling program, the ABC has reported. Ms Gillard told reporters in Adelaide the Australian government is "completely opposed to whaling", which is why it is taking action through the international courts. "We view whaling as absolutely unacceptable, so I am opposed to it in every circumstance including that circumstance." *AAP


A rare albino kangaroo has died before rescuers could reach it in the flooded Murray River. The Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) was attempting to rescue the animal this afternoon near the NSW-Victoria border. The "extremely rare" kangaroo was trapped by a strip of land and accessible only by boat. Rescuers had planned to either lift it into a boat or tow it alongside the boat to safety. But WIRES said that when the rescuers reached the land the kangaroo had already died, most likely of hunger and exhaustion. *HeraldSun

Shire of Capel (WA) kangaroo open season declarations have recently been modified to allow farmers and property owners to shoot the animals while they’re on their property. The amendment, made at the last council meeting, has been submitted to the Department of Environment and Conservation for approval. Acting chief executive officer of the Shire Andrew Ross said the council had had plenty of complaints from the community about the amount of kangaroos in the Shire. “The community has a lot of safety concerns – particularly a hazard for driving,” he said. “They have asked that the kangaroos be culled to make the roads safer, as well as prevent damage to the native flora.” The DEC approached the council with three separate options with how to deal with the kangaroo population. At the council meeting they decided to declare a full open season which allows professional shooters and property owners to cull the kangaroos which are on their property without a licence from the DEC. “The only concern we would have is people not understanding the guidelines which are placed on the open season,” Mr Ross said. “Property owners need to make sure they are well informed of the rules before they begin to cull the kangaroos.” *Bunbury Mail


Scientists and conservation groups are asking the US Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately protect what was the most common bat species in the Northeast just five years ago. The brown bat is being ravaged by white nose syndrome, a fast-moving and deadly illness named for a powdery white fungus that appear on bats’ noses, faces, and wings. The disease has killed more than a million bats in the United States, and scientists say it could wipe out brown bats in the Northeast within 20 years. “The little brown bat is in imminent danger of extinction in its Northeastern core range due to white-nose syndrome, and the species is likely in danger of extinction throughout North America,’’ said Thomas H. Kunz of Boston University, a leading authority on bats. Kunz and other researchers are asking the federal agency to place the animal on the endangered species list as an emergency measure and then assess its population. Kunz and others conducted their own study earlier this year and determined there is a 99 percent chance the brown bat will not sustain a regional population for more than 16 years unless death rates slow. *

Some Green Energy May Harm Marine Wildlife

Without maps or GPS, great white sharks travel thousands of miles roundtrip from California to Hawaii or Australia to South Africa. Sea turtles hatched on the beaches of Florida travel the currents of the North Atlantic Gyre to Europe, Africa and South America before heading home. And in one of the most mysterious and epic journeys of all, salmon from the streams and rivers of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest head to sea and swim into the far reaches of the North Pacific before returning to spawn. Scientists increasingly believe these marine creatures and others use the earth's magnetic fields to navigate vast distances. But as the search for green energy turns to the oceans, there are concerns that tidal and wave-powered generators, and the cables that bring their electricity to shore, could interfere with the internal compasses of sea creatures. The fear isn't that the fish and other marine life will get chewed up in revolving turbine blades or other machinery. It's that the generators and the cables to shore produce electromagnetic fields that could interfere with their natural guidance systems, which use the earth's magnetic fields. In addition, there are some worries the machines may produce a low-level hum that interferes with such marine mammals as whales. *

Irresponsible Pet Owners Slammed

Irresponsible pet owners are being blamed for the "shocking" number of dog and cat attacks on native wildlife in Australia's eastern states. Almost 17,000 attacks on native animals have been recorded in the past five years by prominent animal welfare groups who say the results are just the tip of the iceberg. The figures only include injured or orphaned animals, and not the many hundreds of thousands which die or go unreported, according to the Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES). WIRES general manager Leanne Taylor said most cases are likely to be related to domestic dogs and cats rather than feral animals which usually eat their prey. But the real culprits are people who don't supervise their pets, she said. "Cats and dogs only do what they have evolved to do to survive and that is to hunt their prey for food," she said. "We shouldn't demonise them for doing this but (we) should take the responsibility for their behaviour ourselves." WIRES collated the statistics with Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Service (SMWS), Wildcare Australia (WA) in Queensland, and Wildlife Victoria (WV).

In a joint statement, the agencies said the figures "add up to a shocking picture of irresponsible pet ownership". They reveal that in Victoria, cats were responsible for 1631 attacks on native animals while 1163 dog attacks were recorded during the five-year period. Nearly 70 koalas were either killed or injured by dogs, WV said. Sixty attacks on kangaroos were recorded, along with 143 attacks on blue-tongue lizards by dogs. More than 1100 possums were injured or killed by cats and dogs. Among them were some of the more rare species including the eastern pygmy possum, Mitchell's hopping mouse and the mountain brushtail. WIRES figures show 10,936 attacks on wildlife for NSW - almost evenly split between cats and dogs - with more than 4700 of those in Sydney alone. That figure jumps to 6646 when SMWS's recorded attacks are included. The organisation also says one of the most attacked animals by cats in Sydney is the ringtail possum.

In Queensland, Wildcare Australia (WA) recorded 1128 dog and cat attacks over the five-year period from December 2005 to November 2010. WA says 318 birds, 486 possums and 134 reptiles were injured, orphaned or killed by cats and dogs, adding that the Gold Coast City Council area "topped the list for irresponsible pet ownership" with a reported 356 attacks. Brisbane City Council followed with 245 and then Logan with 137. WIRES said pet owners can help reduce the number of attacks by preventing their cats and dogs from roaming uncontrolled or unsupervised. "We also recommend people buy or build enclosures for cats so they can get access to outside safely, and with dogs, keep them on-leash on beaches and in wildlife areas," Jilea Carney of WIRES told AAP. Dogs and cats should also be desexed to stem the flow of unwanted animals, she said. The agencies said there are other wildlife groups in each state which would also have their own figures. "You could only imagine what the national figure would be," Ms Carney said. *NineNews

Ed Comment; When we add in the numbers killed on the roads, and in landclearing and moonscaping for Mega Malls and Satelite Cities, wildlife shooting and poisoning, etc, etc, the numbers of wildlife killed across Australia must be enormous. No wonder our wildlife is disappearing........


Scientists have confirmed the theory that the African elephant belongs to two separate species - the savanna elephant and the smaller forest elephant. The researchers made the discovery after comparing elephant DNA to that of extinct woolly mammoths and American mastodons. Professor Michael Hofreiter, who specialises in studying ancient DNA at the University of York in England, says he has created a comprehensive elephant family tree by comparing the gene sequences of the African and Asian elephants to the gene sequences of the extinct species. "African forest elephants and African savanna elephants diverged as long ago as mammoths and Asian elephants, so around 5 million years ago or even earlier," he said. "Five million years is almost as long ago as humans and chimpanzees diverged, and I think nobody would make the claim that they are the same species. "What we found is that mammoths and Asian elephants are as distinct from each other as African savanna and African forest elephants, which almost certainly means that the two African elephants are two distinct species." The new family tree helps scientists to better understand the evolutionary history of elephants.

Dr Mike Bunce from Murdoch University, who also specialises in ancient DNA, says one complicating factor is that African elephants can interbreed, which may have an impact on conservation efforts. "It can create hybrids and there's some evidence that that has occurred at some point in the past," he said. "So in the same way that horses and donkeys can interbreed to create mules, African savanna and forest elephants could also potentially interbreed, but may produce fertile offspring. "So this taxonomy is very important in conservation, because if you do not define what a species is, it's very hard to devise a species plan that's able to effectively manage that resource." The research is published today in the journal Public Library of Science. *ABC

Shotguns and Wildlife

Pump-action shotguns are a useful tool for wildlife management on farms, a Kempton farmer says. Don Jones has disagreed with comments by National Coalition for Gun Control chairman Roland Browne in which he describes pump-action shotguns as "military weapons". The Mercury reported yesterday that the coalition was concerned about a proposal to change the guns from a Category C classification to Category A as part of possible changes to the Tasmanian Firearms Act. Mr Jones said re-classifying pump-action shotguns as Category A would give farmers better access to an efficient and humane method of animal control. "They are not a military weapon," Mr Jones said. "Farmers have asked for pump-action shotguns to be put into the same category as pump-action rifles. They are currently in the category with semi-automatics. "Farmers and their employees and recreational hunters who assist in the control of wildlife need this type of firearm to achieve better controls."

Mr Jones said the ability of pump-action shotguns to carry more rounds than a conventional shotgun could make shooting more humane. "A pump-action has a capacity of five rounds. You've got a couple of rounds up your sleeve. If you wound something, you can efficiently dispatch it," he said. Mr Jones said heavy restrictions placed on the use of 1080 poison had left farmers to rely heavily on shooting to control pests. "Firearms are tools of trade for farmers and their employees," he said. "We have to choose between adequate firearms to do the job or ask the Government for the wholesale use of 1080 poison as an alternative. "If people want to get really friendly, they can pay our farmers to keep excess animals."

Veterinary pathologist David Obendorf said while he was not an expert on firearms, he believed the animal welfare implications were no different whether using a pump-action in comparison with a conventional shotgun. Dr Obendorf said accurate shooting was the best means of preventing animal suffering. "It's about the correct calibre shot, being a good marksman and being within range," he said. "The welfare implications are still as paramount." He said shotguns were a problem in the hands of people who did not know how to use them. "I've seen the consequences of animals splattered with gunshot under their skin," he said. "They can die a very slow and lingering death as a result of shooters not getting it right and killing quickly and humanely." Mr Jones said licensed gun owners underwent police checks before being granted their licence. He said responsible gun owners did not pose a threat to the community or the police. "Mr Browne said that pump action shotguns posed an extra danger to police. That is a ridiculous statement and should be ignored," he said. "Making these alterations is in no way watering down the laws affecting gun ownership or control." *Mercury

Chinese Zoos Clampdown

The Beijing State Forestry Administration (SFA) has ordered 53 wildlife parks and zoos that stage animal shows to improve their management after inspections found animals' welfare had not been well protected. The administration also nullified the certifications of seven other parks and zoos that violated laws. The measures came after a nationwide inspection revealed commercial performances have led to animals' frequent abuse and exploitation. The central government has sent six teams to monitor and evaluate 500 wildlife parks and zoos nationwide since October. The inspections found poor management and illegal activities in some zoos and wildlife parks were increasingly causing rare species' deaths. There were also incidents in which animals injured visitors, SFA department of wildlife conservation and nature reserve management director Zhang Xiwu was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying.

Some zoos were found unable to provide animals' basic care because of their insufficient profits and others were found to be engaged in illegal wildlife product sales, Zhang told a meeting in Guangzhou on Monday. "Both the security of endangered species and the safety of the public are threatened by improper management," SFA deputy head Yin Hong told Xinhua. An estimated 700 public zoos, wildlife parks and circuses organize animal performances, which attract about 150 million visitors a year. International Fund for Animal Welfare Beijing office campaign manager Hua Ning told China Daily she viewed the restrictions on animal performances as a positive step toward animal rights protection. "I believe many Chinese would be unhappy if they knew the baby tigers they hold in their arms for photos (in some zoos) have had their canine teeth pulled out," Hua said. "The government needs to help zoos and aquariums cancel some performances that entertain visitors but harm animals." It is important the government enforces the restrictions through surprise inspections, Hua said. "In the long run, the government should guide zoos back to the purpose of educating people about nature's beauty and informing the public about how to better protect Earth's magnificent creatures." Administration official Zhang Xiwu said the crackdown on illegal wildlife performances will continue over the long term, although it remained difficult to monitor circuses and individual trainers. *AsiaOne

Birds Killed in Nets

Wildlife biologist Mark Holdsworth believes irresponsible use of netting has resulted in the death of countless marine birds. Mr Holdsworth, of the wildlife management branch of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, discovered 10 dead black-faced shags, or cormorants, trapped in a grab-all net while fishing off the sheltered waters of Primrose Sands this week. He managed to save another four shags, which are wholly protected, who were still alive. "The birds were all juveniles, about two months old, and would have been going for one of their first swims," Mr Holdsworth said. "They would have suffered terribly and had probably been there for at least an hour struggling to get free before they drowned. "A few were still alive, we managed to free them and return them to the island." Mr Holdsworth came across the net near the Isle of Caves, just off the coast of Primrose Sands, which was busy with breeding marine birds. "I think in this case it was just ignorance. There are hundreds of birds in that area, but it is worrying," he said.

"If people were close, checking on their nets, they would realise the problem and could move them to a safer area." Mr Holdsworth was concerned the incident was just the tip of the iceberg. "I just happened to be out there yesterday. If I hadn't been, many more birds might have been caught and died slow, painful deaths," he said. Mr Holdsworth said although nets were legal in Tasmania, ideally, none should be used for recreational fishing. "Avoid putting nets out at all, but if people must, they should definitely avoid sea islands where birds nest," he said. "Tasmania is one of the only States in Australia where these sorts of nets are legal." If you find birds trapped in a net, ensure your own safety, pull the net into the boat and free the birds. *Mercury

Goanna Watch

Tis the season for goannas to be jolly. The summer solstice starts the courtship season for Rosenberg’s Goanna. Kangaroo Island is this species last stronghold. Life history studies of Rosenberg’s began on the island in 1966 and continue today under the direction of doctors Brian Green and Peggy Rismiller. Brian retired from CSIRO Div of Ecology and built a home on his much loved Kangaroo Island. Today he is working harder than ever to unravel the mysteries he began studying decades ago. “Rosenberg’s have been a challenge. New field equipment and techniques are giving us opportunities to follow individuals through life. That in itself is a big job. Over 1,000 hatchlings have been given lifetime ID and only eight have been recovered within the study area during the past ten years. We can say that juvenile survival is not high.” On Kangaroo Island summer is when the goannas really start moving. “Some males have home ranges exceeding fifteen square kilometres,” says Dr. Rismiller. “Females stay closer to home because of the heavy energy investment with breeding and egg development.

Digging the incubation chamber in a termite mound takes two or more days and then the female guards the freshly laid eggs for another fortnight before she resumes eating and a normal life.” CVA joined the research team in 1990. Since then they have established and maintained the National Goanna Watch for this threatened species. South Australia CVA Manager Terry Peacock says “Rosenberg’s has become extinct across more than 80% of its pre European settlement range. Understanding the decline of this species is about understanding habitat loss. Healthy habitat and healthy communities is what CVA is about. Our work with the scientist on Kangaroo Island is providing critical data for mainland wildlife managers in areas where Rosenberg’s still manage to survive. On Kangaroo Island this eye catching goanna has become an icon for international travellers.” To learn more about the Island Rosenberg’s population and life studies direct from the scientist, contact Dr. Rismiller on for an email fact sheet.

The downside of this jolly time for goannas is the significant increase in road deaths that occurs during the holiday season. “Last summer reported road kills along KI sealed roads exceeded 400 individuals.” says Dr. Rismiller. “If you find a road kill, please send a message to me or the NRM office with date and location. This will help us identify where active hotspots are for future education and driver awareness. As a native and threatened species, Rosenberg’s is protected by both state and federal legislation. Deliberately running over one is an offense. Sometimes education, public awareness and involvement can achieve more than laws.” Fresh road kills can help island scientist gather other vital statistics. If you find a fresh casualty, you can take it to the NRM office on Dauncey Street in Kingscote during business hours. They will freeze the specimen along with relevant date and location of collection information. “Your help and interest provides another important piece in the big puzzle of studying the life of Rosenberg’s. Have a safe holiday season and enjoy our unique wildlife.” Thank you from Randy & Rosie Rosenbergs and the team at National Goanna Watch. *The Islander