Monday, January 3, 2011

Wildlife Bytes 4/1/11

Lead Stories

The Opposition says the Federal Government should seek an interim injunction to stop Japan from whaling while Australia's legal challenge to the program is ongoing. Japan's Fisheries Agency has reprimanded five officials for accepting gifts of whale meat from a fishing company operating a government-funded whaling program. The powerful agency has apologised and vowed to stamp out corruption in the whaling industry. Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt says the episode again reveals that Japan's scientific whaling program is a sham. "Now we have confirmation that it's a sham, this is the moment the Government can come true on its promise of five years ago to take action on whaling," he said. "This is the moment for an interim injunction. Any later than this and the slaughter will commence for this season." Prime Minister Julia Gillard has condemned the actions of the Japanese officials who accepted the gifts. But she says the revelations reinforce the Government's legal action against Japan's whaling program.

"The Australian Government is completely opposed to whaling. That's why we're taking appropriate action through the international court system," she said. "We view whaling as unacceptable, so I'm opposed to it in every circumstance, including [this] circumstance." The Greens also say the Government's legal action will be bolstered by the recent revelations. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says the episode demonstrates that so-called scientific whaling is a farce. "To claim it's scientific whaling - the whole world knows it's not true and this has highlighted it yet again," she said. "It's such a complete fraud that's been perpetrated on the world to say it's scientific whaling - it's commercial whaling and this highlights it once again." Six months ago the ABC broadcast allegations by two whaling crew members that officials and crew were illegally taking thousands of dollars worth of whale cuts. At the time, the Fisheries Agency denied the allegations, but it has now reprimanded officials for taking more than $3,000 worth of whale meat.

"I deeply apologise for this act in which officials took whale meat," said agency spokesman Toyohiko Ota. "It's an act for which we will lose credibility. We will take prevention measures so it will never happen again." The original allegations, broadcast on ABC TV's Foreign Correspondent program, undermined Japan's claim that its whaling program was purely for science. At the time, the allegations were dismissed by the Institute for Cetacean Research, which helps run Japan's whaling program. The Fisheries Agency also denied officials or crew took whale meat for personal consumption or profit. Although the agency now admits more than $3,000 worth of meat was taken, Greenpeace and the two whistleblowers believe that is just a fraction of the amount embezzled. Two Japanese Greenpeace activists, known as the Tokyo Two, are hoping the admission means their convictions for stealing whale meat will be overturned. They intercepted whale meat in an effort to expose the corruption, but their claims were dismissed by the authorities at the time. *ABC

Koala Habitat to be Logged

The NSW state Environment Department has approved logging of almost 2000 hectares of significant koala habitat contrary to its own guidelines, conservationists say. Since 2007, at least 60 separate logging applications on private land have been approved in areas containing ''core koala habitat'' around Coffs Harbour, according to an analysis by the North Coast Environment Council. The department does not dispute the council's figures, but said the Coffs Harbour koala plan of management, which identifies the vulnerable species' local habitats, is not officially gazetted. Because of this, the prohibition on logging that normally applies to important koala habitats under state environmental planning policies could not be enforced in that council area, the department's director of landscapes and ecosystems conservation, Tom Grosskopf, said. ''We're helping them to get their plan updated and get it going,'' he said.

But local environmentalists are appalled and have accused the department of playing word games. The environment council's vice-president, Susie Russell, said the department knew full well where the region's key koala areas were. It had been integral in mapping the habitats, but was ignoring the results and approving their destruction. The NSW Private Native Forestry code of practice prohibits forestry operations in core koala habitats. Mr Grosskopf said that despite the logging approvals around Coffs Harbour, the department protected koalas. The department could not say when the koala management plan would be officially gazetted. *Age

Please dont forget that the 'Senate Inquiry into the status, health and sustainability of Australia's koala' has to recieve all Submissions before February the 8th 2011. Anyone can submit to Senate inquiry. The more submissions the Senate Environment, Communications and the Arts References Committee receives in relation to the risks to our koala population, the better the chances of having the koala deemed "vulnerable" in accordance with the EPBC Act. If we are to protect the koala we all must act now, and you can make your submission online at the following address:

Climate Change

The CSIRO says short-term climate variations, including good rainfall on Australia’s eastern coastline, mean little in the bigger picture, as we experience a gradual warming of the planet caused by CO2 emissions and forest clearing. Long term climate trends remain a serious concern and challenge. *ecomedia

Wildlife Falling from the Sky!

The town of Beebe, Arkansas, had a nasty surprise this New Year's Eve. By midnight, more than 1,000 dead red-winged blackbirds had fallen out of the sky on to city streets. Dozens of lawns, streets and rooftops for more than a mile in Beebe, Arkansas, US, were covered with the corpses of red-winged black birds. An aerial survey showed that no other dead birds were found outside that area, and only redwinged blackbirds died. Some birds have been sent off for autopsies, but lightning, hail, and NY Eve fireworks have been suggested as the cause. There is a chemical factory in the area. *From NY Times

Meanwhile in February 2010, thousands of fish fell from the sky in a Northern Territory town. The freak phenomena happened not once, but twice, at Lajamanu - about 550km southwest of Katherine. The fish were alive when they hit the ground. The small white fish are believed to be spangled perch, which are very common through much of northern Australia.


Wildlife officials in California have seen a slight rise in the shooting of ocean mammals in recent years, and investigators often struggle to find a culprit. There are few witnesses to such shootings, making it nearly impossible to bring a case. "We always try to do an investigation, but unless there's an eyewitness to the shooting it's hard to make a case for our enforcement folks," said Joe Cordaro, a wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who tracks reports of the shootings.The NOAA said there were 43 reported marine mammal shootings in 2009 in the waters off the California coast - nine more than in 2008 and 14 more than five years earlier. Of the reported shootings in 2009, all were sea lions. And officials say many more cases likely go unreported. *U/W Times


Kangaroos are proving to be a big danger to Victorian motorists, according to data from the RACV. The data shows RACV Insurance processed more than 10,500 claims in three years from animal-related incidents and of that number 7,383 incidents related to kangaroos, an average of six a day. The damage repair costs from wildlife and other animal-related accidents during the three years was more than $35 million. In the financial year to June 30 this year, RACV Insurance dealt with 3,308 animal-related claims, 69 per cent of them involving kangaroos. RACV Insurance general manager Paul Northey said drought conditions in recent years and bushfire damage to habitat, had forced wildlife to search for food by the roadside or close to urban areas, increasing the risk of animal related accidents. "Constant awareness of the possibility of animals moving unexpectedly on roads is a vital element of accident prevention, particularly in twilight or night-driving conditions," Mr Northey said. "Motorists need to be aware that these incidents do not just occur in the country - domestic pets are also a driving danger as close to 1000 claims relating to accidents involving domestic dogs have been lodged over the three year period." RACV Insurance claims data from 2009-10 lists the major areas to look out for animals on roads with Heathcote at 59 claims, Bendigo (51), Halls Gap (40) and the urban fringe zone around Sunbury (30). "Crashing into a medium to large sized kangaroo can cause serious vehicle damage and, in some instances, injury to the driver and passengers," Mr Northey said. "Vehicles damaged in animal collisions can also cost a significant amount to repair with an average claim in 2009-10 costing more than $3500, up from $3280 the previous year." In the last year 2009/2010, 2275 motor vehicle repair calims were for kangaroos.*Weekly Times

Below is link to a disturbing video on uTube about the kangaroo Industry. The video has subtitles in 42 languages, which we think is a very clever move to allow overseas non-english speaking viewers to know how bad the kangaroo Industry really is. There are quite a few other kangaroo videos on uTube too that are worth watching.

Wildlife Pets

A town north of Edmonton (Canada) may soon ban elephants and armadillos. According to the Calgary Herald, those two animals are just two of 130 different critters expected to be officially banned by the town of Morinville. The town council is considering a new bylaw that would specifically name animals not allowed as pets. The bylaw covering it at the moment simply outlaws the ownership of animals deemed dangerous or objectionable to a medical health officer. Others on the proposed new list of animals that would not be allowed in the town as pets include, armadillos, spiders, walruses and kangaroos. *660News

Meanwhile a pet python that strangled a two-year-old girl in Florida 18 months ago had not been fed in about a month. Court documents also revealed the 260cm albino Burmese python had escaped its tank 10 times since its last meal. The snake killed Shaianna Hare in her crib on July 1, 2009. A review of investigative reports showed the child's mother and her boyfriend had kept the snake in violation of wildlife rules and apparently could not afford to feed it. The death spurred a statewide hunt of exotic reptiles and fuelled a crackdown on the imported constrictors. Shaianna's mother, Jaren Hare, 21, and her boyfriend, Jason Darnell, 33, have pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, third-degree murder and child abuse. They are expected to stand trial this year. The attack was believed to be the first in Florida of a non-venomous constrictor killing a child.


A record-breaking number of saltwater crocodiles has been pulled out of Territory waterholes this year. The largest beast was a 4.6m man-eater captured in Shady Camp on the Mary River in March. The rogue animal, killed during the complicated capture, had been causing problems among anglers at the river. It died when rangers harpooned it. A total of 305 salties were removed from Territory waterways in 2010 as part of the Government's croc management plan. Most of the animals were caught in the Darwin region while 23 were from Katherine. This year's tally broke the 2004 record of 274 captures with the largest live animal pulled out of Katherine River in August. The 4.5m monster was stuck in a trap near Taylors Park, 45km downstream from the Katherine township. Croc catcher Tommy Nichols used the high number of catches to remind people of the dangers of the animals. "A total of 21 crocodiles have been removed from Territory waterways this month, a timely reminder wet season conditions can lead to the increased presence of estuarine crocodiles," he said. "We urge everyone to be extremely cautious around all waterways and to heed safety signs." The croc management plan received a financial boost from the Territory Government with 20 additional traps placed throughout the Top End and Katherine region. A new custom-fitted croc boat Muk Muk was also added to the ranger's tools and the management zone was extended. *NTNews


Crabzilla, a gigantic Japanese spider crab who measures more than 12 feet across is getting ready to make his debut at the Scheveningen Sea Life centre in The Hague, Netherlands. The scary-looking sea beast weights more than 30lbs, and at about 40 years old is one of the largest examples of his species yet captured. The Japanese spider crab (Macrocheira kaempferi) is undeniably a big sea crab, but it seems so enormous because of its astoundingly long legs. The scary-looking sea beast weights more than 30lbs, and at about 40 years old is one of the largest examples of his species yet captured. The Japanese spider crab (Macrocheira kaempferi) is undeniably a big sea crab, but it seems so enormous because of its astoundingly long legs. Graham Burrows, curator of the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham, said: 'The Japanese Spider Crab is the largest known member of the arthropod family, which includes all invertebrates with jointed limbs. 'Crabzilla's front limbs are his feeding arms, each over five feet long and ending in sizeable claws. 'They are a Japanese delicacy and are usually salted and steamed, but eating them in the spring is banned because that is when they lay their eggs.' See photos, *Daily Mail


A $2000 concrete ramp has been built by a city council to save a local turtle population from having to trek across a six-lane road. Rockdale City Council (NSW) has approved the construction of the project, aimed at protecting a colony of eastern snake-neck turtles that have lived for years in Bicentennial Park. A man-made drain wall prevents them from reaching safety when heavy rainfalls wash them into a stormwater canal contaminated by saltwater and oil. Instead they are forced to cross busy President Ave to return to their freshwater home. A spokesman for Australian Freshwater Turtle Conservation and Research Association said a recent check of the canal revealed many of the animals to be dehydrated and close to death because they were trapped. *Daily Telegraph

Little Terns

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is preparing for a record number of rare migratory chicks at Towra Point in Sydney's south. Little terns are small birds which migrate from Siberia every year. It is hoped this year they will better the 50 chicks hatched in 2010. But Michael Shepherd from the National Parks and Wildlife Service warns crews have a hard job protecting the rare chicks on the exposed Towra Spit Island. "Feral animals and foxes in particular, particularly like to predate upon these little birds and also the parents when they are quite vulnerable on their nest," he said. "But also unintentional visitors, including people. "We do our best to manage the threats to come ashore there - it's the only location they can actually have an exposed sandy area to nest in Sydney. "Everything else has basically been developed." *ABC


An elderly volunteer penguin protector was allegedly pushed to the ground by a member of a prominent yachting family as she tried to guard Manly's endangered colony of little penguins from a dog. Police claim a 27-year-old James Oatley, of Mosman - connected to multimillionaire Robert Oatley, the owner of Wild Oats 11 which took line honours in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race - was among a number of people and a dog aboard a vessel that arrived at Manly Cove about 9pm on Saturday. The dog allegedly jumped from the boat and ran towards the penguins, causing the 72-year-old volunteer to try to head it off. It is claimed Oatley, whose family own Hamilton Island and Rob Oatley wines, got into an argument, splashing water on the volunteer and pushing her on to the sand. The head penguin warden Angelika Treichler, one of the other women on duty, said her friend has been left "frail". "We just tried to set up a barrier between the penguins and the dog, because the dog was running towards the penguin," she said. "About seven police came to help us after I called, which was a big relief as my friend is over 70 years old and has been left quite frail. "She's been in bed all day with a headache and sounds dreadful. She's told me she never wants to do the penguin duty ever again." Ms Treichler described the boat involved as a tender or runabout boat. Oatley has been charged with common assault and will appear at Manly Local Court on January 27. The 27-year-old driver of the vessel, who is from Manly, will appear in court on the same day charged with mid-range drink driving. *Daily Telegraph


The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew in the Southern Ocean has an ambitious New Year's resolution: to prevent a single whale from being killed by the Japanese harpoon fleet this season. The activist group located the harpoon ships Friday in the Southern Ocean, about 1,700 miles southeast of New Zealand, and launched 2011 with a series of clashes that reportedly involved several near collisions, water cannon blasts by whaling crews and the hurling of stink bombs onto whaling boats by the activists. It marked the first time in seven campaigns it had found the fleet before the whalers had logged a kill, the group claimed. The encounter took place in Antarctic waters, where icebergs created a surreal setting and dangerous conditions. Paul Watson, the group's controversial captain and founder, said the whalers began shooting water cannons at the group's inflatable harassment boat as he had been conducting interviews with the Associated Press. "They just turned their cannons on our Zodiac," Watson told the AP. "Right at this moment." *Underwater times


Dolphins are the latest marine mammal to delight Tasmanians with their antics as the state revels in a fantastic whale-watching season. However, coming closer to our shores as an increasing number of dolphins are doing can have dire consequences for them. Dancing dolphins, thought to be bottlenose, were spotted frolicking and jumping in the calm waters off Verona Sands in the state's South last week. The dolphins were photographed by a kayaker. Environment Department head of biodiversity monitoring Rosemary Gales said it was not uncommon for dolphins to play and feed so close inshore. "And in such calm sea conditions they are highly visible," Dr Gales said. She said summer was the peak season for whale and dolphin strandings and urged members of the public to keep their distance and report sightings to the whale hotline (0427WHALES). The call comes as eight dolphins were saved by quick-acting locals at Tatlows Beach near The Nut at Stanley on Saturday. The pod of 10 dolphins had been stranded in the shallow waters off the beach. Two of the dolphins, a female adult and a female juvenile, were dead before they were found but the others were saved. Parks and Wildlife Service incident manager Mark Fordham said there were fears the dolphins would return to the shallow waters off the beach after they were returned to deeper water yesterday. However, there had been no sightings of the dolphins since. "No news is good news," he said. "It was disappointing that we had lost two yesterday but they were dead before anyone knew they were there so there was nothing that could be done." *mercury

More Whaling

Pressure is growing on the federal government to send its new Southern Ocean patrol ship to monitor any confrontation as anti-whaling activists pursue the Japanese whaling fleet towards waters off the Australian Antarctic Territory. Customs commissioned the 4500 tonne Ocean Protector last September to replace the Oceanic Viking, which monitored the whaling in 2008. The Ocean Protector was moored yesterday in Fremantle, not due to leave port for a fortnight, as both the Coalition and Greens stepped up calls for the vessel to be used for surveillance. ''This could be an ideal platform for Southern Ocean surveillance,'' the Coalition's environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, said. ''The government needs to explain why, if it is not needed for northern border protection, it can't take on the role in independent monitoring and search and rescue.''

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, said filmed evidence should be released to the world's media to shame the whaling fleet. ''Surveillance by Australia could also prevent human lives being lost during the whale-killing season,'' Senator Brown said. Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research has called for Australia, as the anti-whaling organisation Sea Shepherd's ''virtual home port'', to take every means available to restrain the group. The Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has declined to rule out sending a ship south. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said it was primarily up to the crew of the ships involved to act carefully. Yesterday the whalers and the activists were navigating along pack ice near the Ross Sea, having sailed about 600 nautical miles since Sea Shepherd vessels encountered the whalers on New Year's Eve.

The Sea Shepherd leader, Paul Watson, said there were indications the key Japanese vessel, the factory ship Nisshin Maru, could keep running for days. ''We know where it is, about 100 nautical miles ahead of us, but they'll have to stop running before we can catch up with them,'' Mr Watson said. ''Sometimes they will run for more than a week.'' In the first close confrontation of the whaling season, on New Year's Day, activists hurled bottles of a foul chemical on to the harpoon post of the whale chaser Yushin Maru No. 3. The Japanese chaser ships are heavily netted against projectiles or boarding, and Mr Watson said it appeared they were fitted with ''spurs'' to deal with fouling ropes, which are used to entangle the rudder and propellers. One of the ropes was dropped into the path of a chaser ship without effect. *Age

Australia discussed cutting a secret deal with Japan to accept a continued whale hunt as it publicly moved to bring Tokyo before an international court, the latest WikiLeaks cables reveal. US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks show that as late as February last year, Australia was willing to compromise with Japan, but the deal had to result in a much lower level of whaling and exclude the hunt from waters near Antarctica, Fairfax newspapers report. A compromise was discussed that would see Japan kill 5000 fewer whales over 10 years and larger varieties such as humpbacks not be taken. The cables also show former environment minister Peter Garrett warned the US ambassador in Canberra on February 5 last year Labor felt boxed in by moves by the Greens in parliament to examine Japanese spy flights over anti-whaling ships. Mr Garrett said the flights had strengthened the anti-whaling mood in Australia and made it difficult for the government to compromise with Japan.

Two weeks later, then prime minister Kevin Rudd publicly called for an end to the hunt. At the same time, Australian diplomats were urging politicians to strike a deal. In January last year, Paula Watt, of the marine environment section of the Foreign Affairs Department, told the US that Japan was using tough tactics in the negotiations, but for any deal to be acceptable to Australia, it must include a minimum number of whales saved, suggesting 5000 over 10 years, Fairfax reports. But in later cables she said efforts to strike a deal had "bounced off" Mr Garrett and his staff. The revelations come as the federal government is under pressure from the coalition and Australian Greens to stop Japan's whale hunt in the Southern Ocean. Both the opposition and the Greens also want the government to take a watchdog role following clashes between anti-whaling protesters and the Japanese whaling fleet at the weekend. *

Ed Comment, Noone should be surprised that the Federal Labor government would try to cut a secret compromise deal with the whalers. The Keating Government was about to do the same when they got kicked out in 1996. The Gillard Government may now try to do the same thing, given that new Environment Minster Tony Burke is more sympathetic to farmers than to wildlife.