Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Australia's Wildlife Flood Victim Appeal

The authorities tell us that the widespread floods in Queensland cover an area of the size of both France and Germany combined, or an area as big as NSW. In some degree we are lucky in Queensland that much of the flooding occured in agricultural areas, where there is not a lot of wildlife anyway. Except for Brisbane, which surprisingly carries large numbers of many different wildlife species. The kangaroos are fairly okay, because in most cases in rural areas the water came up relatively slowly and they could get away. We'll still lose a lot of kangaroos of course, but the shooters can't access many areas because the tracks are too wet, so that compensates a bit we suppose.

We'll lose lot's of the smaller macropods of course, especially the wallabies. Bandicoots, native rats and mice, invertabrates etc, will all be heavily impacted, but the reptiles and spiders etc, seem to be able to get on fenceposts and trees, although there are lots of dead snakes on the roads. I did hear a report from Lowood where some idiots in a boat were going around shooting the snakes in the trees. Some houses have found hundreds of snakes crawling over them, as the snakes head for any high ground in a flood, even a house!

Some koalas have been drowned, but mostly they can stay up the trees until the water subsides. In most areas it will take some weeks for the floodwaters to recede, so we wont know much about the wildlife losses until then, except we know the losses will be huge. We can be sure that much wildlife habitat, grasses and shrubs etc, will die after long periods underwater, so that will create a severe loss of habitat, which in turn will make it harder for smaller species to recolonise previously flooded areas.

One huge impact will on the Gt Barrier Reef, when the silt, containing mud, cow manure and farm chemicals, pours out of the rivers and onto the coral. After the 1991 Rockhampton floods, I spent several years snorkelling and diving on the Central GBR, and much of the coral was covered in mud and silt. That year was followed by almost 20 years of drought and high temperatures, with subsequent coral bleaching. Another siltation period now from this flood event may be devastating to remnant coral....and devastating to those marine species that depend on it.

At this stage its difficult to determine accurately what wildlife species have been mostly affected. We know some wildlife carers have been out rescuing whatever they can, but its difficult to access many areas because of flooded and damaged roads. Just today, I spent 7 hours sitting on the side of the Bruce Highway, waiting for flood waters to go down, so I could get home. In spite of the bad conditoins, some wildlife carers have been feeding marooned kangaroos and other wildlife species where they can.

Overall though, its a disaster for wildlife. When we add these floods on top of previous ongoing road kills, habitat loss, and all the other threats, it's a very grim picture for Australian wildlife.

We've been asked to set up a Donation Fund, where people who wish to donate to help flood-affected wildlife can do just that. Any moneys donated to this Fund will only be provided to non government funded wildlife carers groups or individuals who are actively working on helping wildlife flood victimes, orphaned or injured. Funding will be provided to wildlife carers for fuel to get into the flood affected areas, and for wildlife food, over the next months. We know who these carers are, and where they are, and we'd like to help them too, so if you would like to help the wildlife flood victims you can donate here, tax-deductable within Australia.

WPAA will kickstart the Fund with $500. Donate here.......... http://www.kangaroo-protection-coalition.com/floodwildlife.html
or simply mail a cheque to WPAA PO Box 309, Beerwah, Qld, 4519, Australia

Whaling Duplicity

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd launched legal action against Japan's whaling program despite strong opposition from senior ministers and bureaucrats, who warned it was likely to fail and might strengthen the hand of the Japanese. Leaked US diplomatic cables also indicate the decision to take Japan to the International Court of Justice was aimed to divert public pressure on Labor over whaling. The Foreign Affairs department warned the case against Japan's ''scientific'' whaling program would ''either fail completely or, at best, set up the Japanese to simply make changes to their program to improve the science''. And a senior Australian diplomat told the Americans that both the then foreign minister Stephen Smith and trade minister Simon Crean had made clear their opposition to such a legal challenge.

According to the cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to Fairfax, Australian officials told US diplomats that even if successful, legal action against Japan would be ''unlikely to stop the whale hunt entirely''. They said that ''equally importantly, such action would probably take a long time, removing some of the pressure on the Government for the next few years''. The cables also reveal the Japanese Government's confidence Australia's legal challenge would fail and vindicate Japan's position. In February last year, the US embassy reported discussions with the Japanese deputy head of mission in Canberra, who observed that then foreign minister Katsuya Okada had ''made clear his growing annoyance with Australian complaints about whaling''. ''FM Okada is very confident that Tokyo will win a legal challenge and has suggested internally that it would be good for Japan to show that its whaling program is on firm legal ground,'' it said. The Federal Government yesterday attempted to play down earlier revelations Australia had been prepared to secretly negotiate a compromise deal to allow continued Japanese whaling. Acting Attorney-General Brendan O'Connor claimed the ICJ case showed the Government was not soft on whaling. 'I think that underlines the seriousness of the matter and the fact that this Government the Gillard Government opposes whaling and will continue to fight through the courts so that we can stop this particular activity,'' Mr O'Connor said. *Canberra Times


Kangaroo meat supplies are down to one third of normal levels because of recent heavy rain and floods which have prevented shooters from harvesting kangaroos as road access becomes limited. And with a year of good rain providing plenty of good feed in more areas, kangaroos have become more widely dispersed making it harder for shooters to track them down. Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia executive officer, John Kelly, said the extent of the supply problem was unusual. “It is quite often the industry gets held up by floods but this is certainly the worst we have seen it,” he said. “There have been widespread effects.” He said harvest numbers were usually lower after drought-breaking events as more feed was available. “The population disperses because of the feed, and they are harder to track down,” he said. “We have also come out of an extended period of drought so the population is down as it is.” He said the supply issue was costing the industry in the order of several tens of millions of dollars in lost production. *Land


A snake expert has warned Burton residents to keep an eye on their children and pets after the shedded skin of a 2.7m Queensland carpet python was found in a local park. Mother Tracy Skitt and her two children found the skin on a path in the Janine Drive Park on Tuesday, January 4, about 2pm. Snake expert Ian Renton, from Snake-Away Services, told the News Review Messenger the skin was from a carpet python. He said the snake had probably travelled south by attaching itself to a truck, caravan or four-wheel-drive. “A snake of this size could easily eat a possum, small cat or dog, so locals should lock away their pets,” Mr Renton said. *Adelaide Now Ed comment; more likely a pet that has been released or escaped.

Flood Survivor

Gulliver’s travels have nothing on Gilbert the lizard’s. Normally found in Winton, it is a mystery how far this little fella travelled before he washed up behind the St Vincent De Paul building on Gladstone Road in Rockhampton. The Gilbert’s Dragon water lizard, nicknamed after his species, has had one wet and wild ride. Fortunately he was discovered by the 12-year-old son of two wildlife carers, Kayren Chapman and Peter Kummerfeld. Peter specializes in lizards and snakes, and was able to identify the water dragon. “They’re a rare listing. Even the EPA doesn’t have a listing on them because there is not a lot of research on them,” he said. Now that the couple has bandaged Gilbert’s tail and found him a warm sleeping spot to curl up in, the only problem is finding his food of choice, termites. “Where do you find termites in a flood?” Kayren said. Kayren and Peter said they would send Gilbert back to Winton with a friend of theirs when his tail had healed in 10 days. *Morning Buletin

Climate Change

The La Nina weather system brought about the third wettest year on record for Australia in 2010, with a mean total rainfall of 690mm surpassing the long-term average of 465mm. Extreme flooding was seen across parts of the country, with Queensland experiencing its wettest year on record, and it was the third wettest year for the Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia. Although a cooler than average year overall, 2010 saw the close of the hottest decade on record for Australia, and Western Australia’s southwest region had its driest year on record.


Heidi the cross-eyed opossum has hit a new high - with her own Facebook page. The two-year-old marsupial shot to fame when pictures of her bizarre boss-eyed look emerged from Leipzig Zoo in Germany. Now Heidi has her own Facebook entry and has already gathered more than 34,000 fans. "She's very cute and if you write her a message of support you get a reply back from here. More and more of us are joining every hour" said one. Experts believe Heidi's condition may be caused by fat deposits around her eyes because of a poor diet. Now keepers have put her on a diet and she has already lost 500 grams following a healthy eating plan. "The fat around her tail is another symptom of the same problem. But with the right diet and exercise we can reverse them," said one. *

Saudi Arabian security services have captured a vulture suspected of being a Mossad spy sent over by Israel. The bird, which was carrying a GPS transmitter and a tag from Tel Aviv University, strayed into Saudi Arabian territory, according to a report in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv. Residents and reporters told Saudi Arabia's Al-Weeam newspaper the matter seemed to be linked to a "Zionist plot" and swiftly alerted security services. The bird has since been placed under arrest. The accusations went viral with hundreds of posts on Arabic-language websites and forums claiming "Zionists" had trained the birds for espionage. Israeli authorities said the bird's activities were innocent and that it was part of a long-term study of the migratory habits of the vulture. The incident comes amid growing paranoia among Israel's neighbours over the nation's growing military might. An Egyptian official reportedly claimed a shark that attacked tourists off the coastal resort of Sharm el Sheikh was acting on behalf of the Israeli spy service. *


Wombats might look cute and cuddly, but to some people they are fast becoming a marauding pest at one of Victoria's most famous national parks. Visitors to Wilsons Promontory in the state's south-east are increasingly reporting cases of wombats breaking into their tents at night as they forage for food in the summer holiday season. Steve Grocott's family experienced a wombat invasion on their first night camping in the park. Mr Grocott was asleep in his tent with his wife Pia, and their children Olivier and Daisy, when he was woken by a wombat who had ripped a hole in the tent and bowled over their food supply. Prom wombats are deadly. Deadly hungry. They'll go to any length to feed; even nibble on your legs. The Grocott family (above) learnt the hard way. Unperturbed by the disturbance, the big, furry marsupial pushed confidently on to the kids' room in search of food. ''The kids slept straight through it,'' an incredulous Mr Grocott said. ''The wombat was even pushing their beds up before I managed to chase it out.'' The incident was one of many wombat stories aired in the park yesterday. One camper told The Age he thought some teenagers were stealing his beer supply in the middle of the night recently, but when he investigated found a wombat trying to get into his Esky . Another visitor, Daniel Born, of Narre Warren North, said a wombat snapped the tail fin on his surfboard while searching for food last week. 'And last year a friend came down with me and was bitten by one because he had food on his leg,'' Mr Born said. 'It didn't hurt him and it was pretty funny … If you are silly enough to to leave food in your tent then I guess it is bad luck,'' he said. Customer service manager at the park, Scott Griggs, said although most visitors enjoyed the interaction, there had been complaints about the wombats damaging property.

He said research carried out on the park's wombats about 10 years ago showed they doggedly pursued the scent of food - even satisfying their ravenous appetites by gobbling down chillies and curry paste.
'Nothing tends to be sacred with them … and nothing seems to deter them,'' he said. Mr Griggs said the wombats were not aggressive and that he had not heard of them biting people, but he said they could cause problems when they got stuck in tents. ''People say they usually find their way into the tents OK, but it's on the way out that they have trouble. ''They're quite flighty so if they get disturbed, they'll take off any which way they can, so that's when they start to rip and shred. Their claws are pretty sharp because they're diggers,'' he said. 'They'll push Eskies around, too, and try to get the lids off them.'' The reports come as the park participates in a Melbourne University trial of contraceptive devices on 20 females. Dave Bone, a program manager, denied the contraceptive trial was linked to them becoming pests to campers. He said the research was examining the devices to see if they would help control wombat populations in areas they were damaging throughout Australia. ''I don't think this is the wombats' problem. People coming into the park need to be aware that they need to store food in airtight containers that aren't emitting scents that will attract wildlife,'' he said. ''I think we're lucky that wombats are not bears. If they were lethal animals, I'm sure people would start storing their food properly.'' * Herald Sun


The west Victorian pied currawong is one of six Australian bird species missing for decades that will soon be listed as ''presumed extinct''. A study of Australian birds by Charles Darwin University and four wildlife conservation organisations has found no trace of a type of currawong previously found in the Grampians and grasslands of western Victoria, despite numerous searches over two decades. It is one of six critically endangered Australian birds now recommended to be upgraded to ''presumed extinct'' on the ''Red List'' of species, published by the world's largest conservation organisation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature was involved in the bird survey and is considered the global arbiter of existence. Also believed lost forever are a thick-billed grasswren from around Alice Springs, a hooded robin that lived on the Tiwi Islands, a spotted quail-thrush from the Mount Lofty Ranges near Adelaide, a white-breasted white-eye from Norfolk Island and a type of star finch that once lived between Townsville and northern New South Wales. They are the first Australian bird species upgraded to the presumed extinct or extinct list in 20 years, taking the national tally to 30 lost birds.

Professor Stephen Garnett, who led the study, said many of the birds, including the currawong, were so rare that no known photographs existed. He believed the currawong had been overrun by its stronger relatives, leaving no pure specimens. ''People are familiar with a large black and white currawong found in eastern Victoria, but this was a form of currawong that was completely dark.'' 'They've been overwhelmed by the genes of their relative who adapted more successfully to human pressures and moved west. That's one of the paths to extinction.'' The study concluded that most of the lost species could have been saved at little cost had their plight been known earlier. Professor Garnett said it had taken a long time to recommend the six birds be listed as extinct because bird watchers had kept hoping that survivors would be found. *Age