Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wildlife Bytes 16/2/11

Leading Stories

Wingham Brush has re-opened to the public after a temporary closure to allow removal of the bodies of 1300 grey headed flying foxes which succumbed to last week's heatwave. Volunteers from FAWNA (For Australian Wildlife Needing Aid) worked alongside National Parks and Wildlife Service staff all day Sunday and again Monday morning, filling 60 bags with the bodies of the emaciated flying foxes. After cleaning the Brush's boardwalks and forest floor, the popular tourist attraction re-opened to the public about lunchtime on Monday. "It was a matter of public hygiene," NPWS area manager Kevin Carter said of the short-term closure. Although there have been mass deaths of flying foxes at Wingham Brush before, experts have a theory that the weekend kill involved already starving mammals which left their usual summer-time camps in Queensland after the recent disastrous floods.

Having already lost condition when their feeding grounds were decimated in the north, they made the long journey to Wingham, where the current dry spell has caused a decline in flying fox food sources. Then, having lost condition, and already dehydrated, many succumbed to almost a week of temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s. By Sunday, the number of bodies falling onto the Brush's network of boardwalks and to the ground necessitated a closure to visitors. "I have no scientific explanation, but I personally believe they died as a result of heat stress and starvation," FAWNA's senior flying fox co-ordinator for the Mid North Coast, Amanda Boardman OAM said yesterday. "They were all so thin you could put your fingers on either side of their back, and your fingers would touch. It was ghastly," she said. Ms Boardman said a FAWNA carer raised the alarm on Sunday morning, after finding "heaps of them" on the ground.

Wingham Brush is normally home to anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 flying foxes, most of them the grey headed species, but also varying numbers of both black and little red flying foxes. They are among the 160 species of flying fox found widely through south-east Asia and north-east Australia where they inhabit tropical rainforests. Numbers are declining due to hunting and habitat destruction, and grey headed flying foxes are now listed as vulnerable under the Threatened Species Conservation Act. The nine hectare Wingham Brush is one of the last remaining pockets of tropical rainforest in the mammals' most southerly distribution area, and has been renowned as one of Australia's well established maternity colonies, usually with a good availability of food sources. However numbers can fluctuate from time to time, depending on weather and food conditions and other 'acts of nature'.

Seven years ago, as the Manning sweated through 17 consecutive days of temperatures above 30 degrees, and when Wingham at times reached highs of 43, 5000 flying foxes succumbed and their bodies had to be removed in an operation that began on Christmas Day. Then in December 2005, a huge hailstorm wiped out a further 5000 from the summer-time colony. "Things like this have happened before, but it's nevertheless distressing to everyone concerned," Ms Boardman said yesterday. "I believe the heat was the final factor in probably several other factors, which led to the latest deaths. "We have found recently a lot of adults have been caught in (fruit protection) nets, and that only happens when there is no natural food. "The blossoms they normally feed on have obviously dried up, and they're starving." Up till now, numbers of flying foxes in Wingham Brush this summer have been very high, she said. "But there's now just not enough food. We are getting reports of lots of starvation situations, both here and up and down the coast."

Ms Boardman, who was awarded an OAM for her volunteer service to wildlife including 21 years of work with FAWNA, covers an area stretching from the Great Lakes and Bulahdelah in the south, to Macksville in the north. She is currently caring for 40 young and/or injured flying foxes at her home just north of Taree. Many of the young ones have been orphaned or abandoned when their mothers have ceased lactating. It's an around-the-clock job for her, helped by her small band of tireless volunteers. She can see flying fox numbers constantly dropping, "and that's a worry," she said. "Mainly it's habitat loss, but climate change is not helping." Anyone needing the services of FAWNA can contact 6581 4141, and Ms Boardman warns that anyone finding a sick or injured flying fox should not attempt to touch it, but to call for assistance. *Manning River Times


The treatment of eastern greys has been a major point of contention fuelling a damaging rift in the Central West branch of the Wildlife Rescue and Information (WIRES) group. The issue dominated a long crisis meeting called by the state board of WIRES on Saturday to thrash out issues in the local branch. Several disgruntled WIRES members have claimed that all eastern grey kangaroos handed in to local wildlife carers were euthanased because the branch had failed to identify suitable release sites for the animals. WIRES Central West chairman Jim Watt last week flatly rejected that claim, but the Western Advocate has now received a copy of the minutes of a 2010 meeting that urges members to not even discuss the issue with the public. “Members are not to tell MOPs [members of the public] that the joey may be euthanased,” the minutes state during a broader discussion about the treatment of eastern grey kangaroos. And an email to members from the local branch’s macropod coordinator last August said they were “desperately short of release sites” across the Central West, and particularly around Bathurst, Orange and Blayney. “We have a number of EGKs in care at present with no release sites allocated for them,” the email says. “We cannot continue to take joeys into care if we can’t release them into suitable habitat.”

State board chairman Bill Thompson, who was in Bathurst on Saturday for a crisis meeting of the local branch, said “members’ expectations that all eastern grey joeys will always be able to be cared for and successfully released need to be matched with the reality that currently there are not enough release sites”. “To overpopulate current release sites would be a mistake,” Mr Thompson said. “WIRES will be working with the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water for better outcomes for these animals. “If local landholders would like to offer their properties for the release of native animals, WIRES would gratefully consider these as long as they meet the conditions of our licence.” Mr Thompson said the WIRES Central West branch currently had 28 eastern grey joeys in care, “with the expectation that they will all be able to be released locally”. “There is no truth to the claim that all eastern grey joeys that come into the care of WIRES members are euthanased,” he said.

A local WIRES member said she was worried about the treatment of these animals following the claims they were being euthanased. The member, who didn’t wish to be named, works in the Lithgow, Portland and Wallerawang area and said so many members were resigning because of the politics involved within the club. “Members are resigning and it is not fair on the animals. “All these people are volunteers and we are just here to help the animals and these people don’t realise that it isn’t about them, it is about caring for and releasing the animals.” The source said a number of WIRES members were resigning after harassment from other members of the wider group and their belief that they were not able to do the job they volunteered for. *Lithgow Mercury


Once again we would like to thank all the wonderful people who have already donated to help flood and storm affected wildlife in Queensland. Wildlife lovers from around the World have so far contributed nearly $40,000 to help Qld wildlife carers rescue, feed and rehabilitate Queensland flood affected wildlife. The Wildlife Protection Association of Australia Inc had several enquiries asking how people could donate to help flood affected wildlife, so we opened an Appeal. $29,000 was received in 3 days, with the Appeal now nearly $40,000, and more cheques and online donations arriving every day. Well over $30,000 has so far been distributed to hands-on wildlife carers working with flood and cyclone affected wildlife in Queensland, and more is on its way. Wildlife carer groups in Victoria and NSW have also organised donations of food and supplies to many Queensland wildlife groups. Noone will convince us that people dont care about our wildlife...it's Governments that dont care!

Most donations came from Australians, but also the US and UK, and several other countries. Several donations to WPAA were for $2000, and the Derby City Council in the UK sent 100 UK pounds.The funds have gone ( or are going) to wildlife groups and individuals that were not funded by the Government, but are using their own finances and resources to work with our injured and orphaned wildlife. There's no doubt we have lost a lot of wildlife in the floods, especially the smaller animals like echidnas, bandicoots, and reptiles, but there have been some amazing rescues as well.

Cyclone Yasi, and the Central and Southeast Queensland flooding, has done a huge amount of damage to wildlife habitat, with undergrowth flattened, and many lowland areas flooded. Flowers, fruit and berries, food for birds, gliders, possums, and flying foxes has been blown off the trees and shrubs, and most wildlife carers expect large numbers of starving creatures will need to be rescued and fed until they can be rehabilitated. It may be months before the full extent of the unprecedented weather impact on our wildlife will be known. However, it's expected that during the next six months more starving wildlife will need to fed and rehabilitated. Donations are still coming in, and tax deductable donations can also be made online. ( See below) *

Fundraising for Flood Wildlife Continues

The Australian Wildlife Protection Council Inc. is collecting funds to offer a reward for information leading to a prosecution or conviction of the person or persons responsible for running down and killing kangaroos in the grounds of Morriset Hospital, near Newcastle. All donations made in Australia are tax deductible if made out to AWPC Public Fund or just AWPC donation. Post your cheque/money order to Australian Wildlife Protection Council Inc. C/- Maryland Wilson, President, 1098 Stumpy Gully Rd Moorooduc 3933 Victoria. A tax-deductable receipt can be sent to you. OR Make a deposit straight into AWPC’s account at your local Commonwealth Bank branch: BSB 063535, Account 10090791 Please include your name and purpose as reference when making a deposit. Eg. Freda Bloggs, Morisset Reward. Also, email Maryland Wilson, kangaroo@ hotkey.net.au and leave your name and address so a receipt can be sent to you. *AWPC

Wildlife Protection Association of Australia Inc has 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 victims, 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 and cylcone victims you can donate here, tax-deductible within Australia. Donate here..... http://www.kangaroo-protection-coalition.com/floodwildlife.html

QWRC has also set up a trust fund to receive donations for wildlife carers affected by floods. Donations can be made to the wildlife disaster relief fund by direct deposit to the QWRC Trust Fund account BSB 814-282 and account number 30932248 and QWRC ask that people please use their surname as a reference. They will ensure all funds are distributed where they are most needed.

A new Fundraiser which we absolutely support has just been announced. Sydney Pet Rescue & Adoption has launched the Animal Flood Victims Emergency Appeal, and together with various other rescue groups, they are working hard to raise funds to support animals affected by the recent devastating floods in Qld. The Wildlife Protection Association of Australia is one of the organisations they have chosen to support with the Appeal. We will be using the funds they raise to support foster carers in the worst affected and priority areas, with financial support to assist with the rescue and foster care of wildlife.We thank SPRA and all the rescue groups who are working hard with them, for their support. Please click on this link to find out more about the appeal: http://www.freewebs.com/sydneypetrescueandadoption/floodappealanimals.htm SPR&A have donated $2000 to us to distibute to wildlife carers in flood and storm affected Queensland.

The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital at Beerwah is also fundraising to help cover the cost of treating an influx of wildlife flood victims. Go to the Hospital website to donate.

Wildlife Groups in Victoria are arranging for food for wildlife and otherwildlife carers supples to be sent to Queensland. If any wildlife carers need anything, please contact us at info@wildlifeprotectaust.org.au and we will forward your details to them.

Bob Irwin is calling on the public to give generously towards helping set up cassowary feeding stations and longer term habiat protection in Mission Beach and surrounding areas after cyclone Yasi hit this area hard last week. Donations collected from Bob Irwins website http://www.bobirwinwildlife.com Rainforest Rescue’s website http://www.rainforestrescue.org.au and Save the Cassowary website http://www.savethecassowary.org.au will be pooled together and donated to the cause. More about Cassowaries below...........


A woman rescued her husband from a tiger attack by hitting the beast over the head with a soup ladle. The big cat pounced on Tambun Dedin while he was hunting squirrels near his home in northern Malaysia. Luckily for the rodent catcher his 55-year-old wife Han Besau heard his screams and ran to his rescue. Armed with just a wooden spoon she had been using to cook soup, she bashed the tiger over the head, causing it to flee. Speaking from hospital where he was being treated for cuts Tambun paid tribute to his brave wife. He said: "I was terrified and I used all my strength to punch the animal in the face, but it would not budge." Tambun explained he had tried to climb a tree to try to escape but the tiger had dragged him down. He added: "I had to wrestle with it to keep its jaws away from me, and it would have clawed me to death if my wife had not arrived." Local wildlife officials said rangers planned to track down the tiger and chase it deeper into the jungle where it would not pose a threat to people. Orange.co.uk


20 countries account for 80% of the global shark catch, according to the Pew Environment Group. The top catching nation is Indonesia, followed by India, Spain and Taiwan. Japan lies in 9th place, with an annual average catch of almost 25,000 tonnes, down from 75,000 tonnes of 40 years ago. The IUCN's red list shows that 30% of all shark species are threatened or near threatened with extinction, and an internationally agreed plan to conserve sharks reached 10 years ago has had little effect. "The fate of the world's sharks is in the hands of the world's top 20 shark catchers, most of which have failed to demonstrate what, if anything, they are doing to save these imperilled species," says Glenn Sant of the pressure group Traffic, which monitors the global trade in wildlife. *


A US judge says he will not stop the slaughter of potentially hundreds of wild bison from Yellowstone National Park that had attempted to migrate into Montana. Judge Charles Lovell has issued a 72-page ruling in which he denied a request from wildlife advocates to stop the slaughter. More than 500 bison are being held in corrals along the border of the snowed-in park after trying to leave for food at lower elevations. Park officials plan to send an undetermined number to slaughter under a federal-state agreement meant to protect Montana livestock against the reproductive disease brucellosis. Lovell wrote that while the slaughter of bison may be "distasteful," it is a "time-honoured" method of dealing with the disease. Opponents say they will appeal against the ruling. *Age

Flying Foxes

Some of the world's deadliest viruses are carried by bats and Australian scientists want to know how to stop the bats spreading disease to other animals and humans. The bats themselves often don't suffer any ill-effects despite the dangerous illnesses they carry. The CSIRO says it hopes to protect the health of people and livestock through a comprehensive research program into bats. The program aims to better understand bat immunology and also to identify strategies to control the viruses. Dr Linfa Wang, the leader of a team of scientists at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, says it's important to understand the phenomenon of "host-switching", where a virus spreads from an existing host species to a new one. "In most cases these host-switching events go unnoticed, as no disease develops in the new host," Dr Wang said in a statement. "However, in other situations the virus adapts to the new species and causes severe disease and in some cases death." In the past, bats have been a key source of viruses such as hendra, ebola and SARS which were spread from bats to humans. There are many viruses that can spread from animals and cause disease in animals and humans. These diseases are called zoonoses. "Our research will assist in developing faster, more sensitive surveillance tools that may radically change the risk management of zoonotic diseases within Australia and worldwide," Dr Wang said. *CQ News

Fish Kill Spreads

A natural phenomenon that is killing fish in the Murray now stretches from the South Australian/Victorian border to Murray Bridge, south-east of Adelaide. Blackwater occurs when organic material such as leaves and bark is washed into the river by flood. The high organic content removes oxygen from the water and leads to deaths of some fish and other river life. Andrew Beale from the Water Department said it was a legacy of prolonged drought in recent years. "It's very large, it's about 1,400 kilometres long we estimate now, so it's something that's going to be with us for some time," he said. "This is a big one, but it's a perfectly natural phenomenon and we've dealt with these blackwater events in the past. "We've been in close contact with the Murray-Darling (Basin) Authority and the upstream jurisdictions as the events developed and travelled towards South Australia." *ABC

Tuna Quota Increase

Conservationists are in uproar over an increase in the permissible catch of Pacific tuna. Jemima Garrett reports the Australian Fisheries Management Authority has announced an increase in the allowable catch of some of the Pacific's most vulnerable tuna stocks. Conservation group Greenpeace is calling on the Australian Fisheries Minister, Joe Ludwig, to step in. The fisheries authority has increased the 2011 commercial catch limit for yellowfin tuna to 2,200 tonnes. Albacore goes up to 2,500 tonnes. The authority says these species are not overfished and can sustain a catch expansion. Greenpeace says the catch limits set for yellowfin and for bigeye tuna are more than 40 per cent above what is recommended by scientists. It says the authority is thumbing its nose at the Pacific and has called on Minister Ludwig to reduce the quotas to scientifically approved levels. *ABC

Kangaroo Sausages Anyone?

A well-known Townsville butcher has been charged with illegally possessing three kangaroo carcasses during a hunting trip late last year. Owner and manager of A. Mays Inn Meats, Raymond May, was fined $300 in the Townsville Magistrates Court. Kangaroos in Queensland are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. The commercial harvesting of marsupials, including kangaroos and wallabies, in Queensland is subject to measures designed to ensure native animal numbers remained sustainable. Queenslanders need a licence or permit, or the authority to harvest kangaroos, for recreational or commercial use. Mr May, 59, pleaded guilty to illegally taking three carcasses from a property on Herveys Range Rd last October, after driving through a pack of large eastern grey kangaroos, killing three. When approached by police, Mr May claimed he was unaware of the legal ramifications associated with taking a protected animal run over by a vehicle.

Defence solicitor Rhianna Batt said her client was unaware it was an offence to keep the kangaroos, but he acknowledged that was not a defence to the charge. "My client instructs (that) he hit the kangaroos on the road and planned to pull them to the side of the road but decided to keep them," Ms Batt said. Mr May opened his Townsville venture more than six years ago and has part-owned a Charters Towers shop for about 25 years. He has been a qualified butcher for more than 42 years after starting his apprenticeship at the age of 13. Magistrate Howard Osborne questioned the reasoning behind the decision. "You must have had some idea that it wasn't the right thing to keep those animals," he said. "I will not be recording a conviction given your lack of criminal history and your current position in business in the community." *Townsville Bulletin

NMIT Kangaroos...the Plot Thickens

Kangaroos have been a part of Nancy Worland’s Eden Park home for the past eight years. She loved to gaze out her window and watch families of eastern grey kangaroos bask in the sun near her front garden. Mrs Worland, 71, lives 10km from her daughter’s Tenth Ave property, which adjoins the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE’S 320ha Northern Lodge, where a kangaroo cull is taking place. Shooting over the New Year broke Mrs Worland’s heart. “It sounded like a war zone and I was a shaking mess by the end of it,” she said. But Mrs Worland laughed as she told of one male kangaroo that used her bird bath to cool down during the heat of the day: “He was light grey and had blue eyes. He was a real dag ... he just sat there for hours with his head in my bird bath, next to the cat, of all things. “The families would come along and you’d get to see the little ones get out of the pouch for the first time; they’re funny little things, jumping all over their mothers.” Her daughter Nicole Biasizzo was notified by the TAFE institute last year of the Department of Sustainability-approved cull of up to 300 kangaroos, to continue until October 18 this year. “NMIT argues that the kangaroo population has flourished this year because of good rainfall, but this is unlikely as kangaroos do not breed like rabbits,” Ms Biasizzo said. “NMIT also argues that the kangaroos are presenting a risk to the safety of motorists. “With regular driving around Eden Park, my husband and I have never hit a kangaroo. “The DSE have failed to respond to my inquiries. They are not managing their relationship with the Victorian community.”

Whittlesea Mayor Rex Griffin has fought off claims of council inaction over the culling approval of 300 kangaroos at Eden Park. At the council meeting on February 1, Cr Griffin said the cull at the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE’s Northern Lodge farm was a matter for the Department of Sustainability. The Australian Society for Kangaroos said the mayor’s response wiped away all responsibility for the killings. Cr Griffin said he wanted to resurrect the kangaroo working group, which included the department, wildlife groups and the RSPCA, and deliberated on wildlife culls. But society spokeswoman Fiona Corke, who was part of the working group, said it was “a waste of time”. She said the group was formed over a kangaroo management issue in South Morang and folded in 2009. “The (department) ran the whole thing and the kangaroos were killed in the end,” she said. “If they’re going to do that again there needs to be more community input.” Eden Park resident and former Whittlesea Councillor Allan Cann said he had not seen a kangaroo near his home for the past two weeks. “It is my belief that the (NMIT) application (for the cull) is faulty and that the (department) has issued this permit on the basis of a faulty application,” he said. “I’ve tried very hard to get the NMIT application but no one will give it to me.” Mr Cann said one of the biggest problems was that nobody can challenge the department’s decision to grant the permit. A department spokesman, who did not want to be named, said the department was satisfied that the permit was appropriate. NMIT spokesman James Gardener said the TAFE had no further comment.

Nine hundred kangaroos could be slaughtered over three years at the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE’s 320ha Northern Lodge farm in Eden Park. The Whittlesea Leader has obtained a copy of the TAFE’s kangaroo management plan, prepared by wildlife management and conservation group Ecoplan Australia last September, despite the Department of Sustainability refusing to make the document public. The plan says that Northern Lodge, the TAFE’s $4 million thoroughbred racing and viticulture centre, has been unable to grow stock feed for several years “due to the pressure of grazing by kangaroos”. It recommended a cull of 300 kangaroos each year for the next three years, and the possible destruction of up to 50 animals every year afterward. The document states the roo population at Northern Lodge bushlands and immediate surrounds is 710, give or take 70. The population should be slashed to 250 initially within the next three years, with estimates showing about 300 roos will be killed each year when taking reproduction levels into account. The population will then be allowed to fluctuate between 50 and 250. A re-count of the roos should be done every June or July, the document states.

On October 18, 2010, the Department of Sustainability and Environment granted NMIT a 12-month permit to shoot 300 eastern grey kangaroos at the farm. The permit states that animals can be destroyed by shooting only, and that young must be killed by destroying the brain. Neighbours and police are to be given 24 hours’ notice of shootings. The cull will be carried out by a contractor. It is not clear how the carcasses are being disposed of. The management plan says dead kangaroos should be turned into blood and bone recycling or that natural decomposition should occur above ground using fly-proof cages. The management plan and DSE permit were acquired through Freedom of Information by the Australian Society for Kangaroos activist Fiona Corke and forwarded to the Leader. The DSE rejected requests by Leader for the documents, saying it was an NMIT matter. NMIT refused to comment.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment and the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE have refused to answer our questions about the culling of 300 kangaroos. The Whittlesea Leader asked more than 35 unanswered questions. The department refused to provide a copy of the cull permit for Eden Park, saying it was an institute matter. It also would not reveal who would be carrying out the cull, what alternatives had been tried and whether it had any evidence the kangaroos were causing damage to the environment. The institute also refused to say if any kangaroos had been killed and, if so, how many. The Leader also did not receive answers on: Whether anyone from NMIT was willing to meet wildlife groups to explain the situation; If it was likely that there will be more culling in the future; and If the tertiary education provider had been issued similar cull permits in the past. *Whittlesea Leader
Should these kangaroos be culled? Post your comment below. http://whittlesea-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/eden-park-roos-in-firing-line/

After a formal complaint was rejected by DSE on the grounds of protection of biodiversity at NMIT, Australian Society for Kangaroos is now seeking a review by the Victorian Ombudsmen. With current legislation in Victoria and across the nation impeding our ability to protect wildlife, ASK is encouraging everyone to contact their state Ombudsmen for the review of decisions around killing our so called protected kangaroos. *

Three dead kangaroos - butchered and mutilated beyond belief - were finally removed from the foreshore of Brisbane Water at Point Clare today. They had been rotting in the mud since Monday despite several complaints from residents to various authorities. A Gosford Council crew finally removed the decomposing carcasses this morning after being shown the site by Point Clare resident Peter Hofman yesterday. Mr Hoffman along with Empire Bay couple Phil and Kaye Matchett, who initally reported the gruesome discovery on Monday afternoon while walking their dogs, hit a wall of bureaucratic inaction trying to have the dead animals removed. Mr Hofman said he was initially told it was the responsibility of NSW Maritime as the animals were in the water. "But they told me, sorry, we don’t have the resources,” he said. He said eventually a Gosford Council officer at the Woy Woy depot agreed to send a crew to look at the situation but they couldn’t locate the kangaroos. “Yesterday afternoon they rang and asked if I could show them the where the kangaroos were, so I did,” Mr Hofman said. “They said they would send a crew this morning to remove them.”

Mr Hofman said he checked the site just after 10.30am and the roos had been removed. Mr and Mrs Matchett had earlier also been fobbed off when trying to get the situation fixed. They had been shunted between Gosford Council, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Climate Change. Mr Matchett was appalled at the cruelty inflicted on the animals. “They have been butchered for no good reason, they haven’t taken any meat,” he said. “It looks like they were transported and dumped here.” Two of the kangaroos were missing heads and one was missing a tail. A paw and tail were nearby. One was partially skinned. “It really makes you wonder what happened and how they got here,” Mr Matchett said. * Express Advocate

Stingray Killed

Adored by holiday-makers and locals alike, no visit to picturesque Hamelin Bay was complete without patting Stumpy the stingray. The friendliest ray in the bay, affectionately dubbed Stumpy because it had no barb, was a hit with families and particularly children, who would stroke and feed it. That was until two young fishermen speared the creature and hacked it to pieces in front of distressed and screaming beachgoers last month. Angry locals are now mourning the loss of Stumpy and are demanding more protection for the bay's remaining stingrays - a key tourism attraction. Authorities were powerless to act because the bay, 30km south of Margaret River, is open to recreational fishing. A management plan penned in 2006 for coastal waters between Geographe Bay and Augusta, which could better protect the stingrays, is still sitting on government desks. Stumpy was one of the oldest, friendliest and biggest of the black and eagle rays in Hamelin Bay. It was more than 1m across.

Hamelin Bay Holiday Park worker Kate Silverwood said some guests had to be restrained from attacking the fishermen. "They (the fishermen) cut off the wings of Stumpy while he was still alive," she said. "People were absolutely mortified, kids were standing there crying. A lot of people have been coming here for so long and they were just devastated." Ms Silverwood said there were about 40 people on the beach at 9am when the slaughter occurred. More than 600 people have signed a petition calling on Fisheries Minister Norman Moore to turn the area into a marine park sanctuary zone to better protect the rays. Mr Moore has declined to be interviewed on the issue. In an emailed statement he said he unaware of any move to create a fish habitat protection area to protect stingrays in and around Hamelin Bay, but would consider the issue if and when it is raised.

“Like others in the community, I am saddened by the killing of Stumpy I note however, that stingrays are not protected and fishers can spear or take them by line in Hamelin Bay," Mr Moore said. “More detailed signage in the area would be a positive step to letting newcomers know about the conservation importance of the area to the community and encouraging a conservation ethos." But beach signage already urges fishermen in the area to release stingrays "carefully if they are accidentally caught while fishing". Augusta-Margaret River shire president Ray Colyer said he didn't condone the killing of stingrays and he was concerned tourism would be affected by the actions of the fishermen. A Department of Fisheries spokesman said his office would meet with the local community to discuss the matter.

A statement said: "The department, when possible, discourages people from killing stingrays at Hamelin Bay. In this case, the spearing of the stingray was an unfortunate incident that occurred as a result of someone being ignorant of the history of the presence of the stingray at Hamelin Bay and the local community's attitudes and conservation values. "Stingrays are not a protected species and can be speared, or taken with a line, in Hamelin Bay." Save Our Marine Life spokesman Tim Nicol said other fish were suffering because the Government had failed to introduce marine sanctuaries. "These areas should be abundant with big old fish like one-metre 80-year-old blue groper, dhufish or snapper, but these species are largely absent from near-shore waters because there's no protected areas," Mr Nicols said. Opposition environment spokeswoman Sally Talbot said the Government had dropped the ball on marine parks. "They run away from the issues where they think they can score better political points by not acting," she said. *WA Sunday Times

Climate Change

While Queenslanders deal with a summer of natural disasters, climate scientists are warning that Australia faces a future of more frequent extreme weather events. The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry is scrutinising the preparation and response to the 2011 floods, but planners are already looking ahead to minimise the loss of the past. According to new modelling, Australia can expect 25 per cent more rain than was seen in the Queensland floods by the end of this century, as well as larger, more frequent storms. "The modelling that's been done by CLIM Systems in New Zealand has shown that in 2100 there could be a 25 per cent increase in rainfall," sustainability consultant Stella Whittaker said. "Now what that means is that the large storms which we currently describe as one-in-100-year storms, they are going to be more likely and it really means that people can see this type of event happening more than once in their lifetime."

And in the wake of events like last month's floods, Ms Whittaker says governments and companies have put climate change at the forefront of their decision-making, despite the warnings it is not yet widespread or routine. "There are lots of companies who are planning for 2100 across all of the sectors. The property sector has probably been the first ones to actually do detailed assessments of bushfire risks, sea level rise and extreme events. That work is really only just beginning," she said. "[There] might be a change to levels of where infrastructure is built or bridges. It might be a different sort of material that is used, it might be looking at a different route entirely so that is beginning to be factored in."With that in mind, the advice for Queensland from scientists is to build in the resilience that is needed to withstand a future of extremes."If you build houses or if you build infrastructure such that it is not vulnerable to the observed variability in climate over the last 50 or 100 years, I think you will build in a lot of the resilience you need for the future that climate scientists are projecting," said Andy Pitman, a climate scientist from the University of New South Wales. "Not all of it, but you will have built enough resilience to give us a reasonable chance of dealing with the economic impacts of climate change in many of the regions of Australia." *ABC