Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wildlife Bytes 20/4/11

Leading Stories

Flying Foxes

The state's new Agriculture Minister is calling on the federal government to reassess the vulnerable species listing of the grey-headed flying fox. Regions such as Young, Orange, Bathurst and Tumut have had significant numbers of the foxes over the last few years. The Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson said something must be done to stop the destruction of valuable fruit crops like apples and stone fruit. She has commissioned a report into the species. "The options paper raises the possibility of calling on the Federal Government to reassess the listing o the grey-headed flying fox as a vulnerable species under the Threatened Species Conservation Act," she said. "Also the options paper invetigates the extension of netting grants and also financial assistance for NSW fruit producers." An environmental group says any review of the vulnerable species listing of the grey-headed flying fox would need to consider its population nationally. The President of the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Orange, Neil Jones, said while the flying foxes are a local problem, the animals are a national treasure. "The current evidence is that their populations are still declining despite what might appear to be the contrary locally," he said. "Any change to that status would require a very careful audit nationally.

"It's not just an issue for New South Wales, it's Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and probably other states as well." The Primary Industries Minister has halved the time it takes to get a license to shoot flying foxes. Ms Hodgkinson said she has fast tracked the issuing of shooting licences from 48 hours to 24 hours and the application and approval for relocating camps if required. I'm determined this will not happen again next year," she said. So I'll be looking at whatever it takes to make sure we get this issue under control. "I'm working very closely also with Environment Minister Robyn Parker. "We've had a discussion about the bat problem and also the need to ensure we have food security here in New South Wales. "Together we're also working with the Premier to make sure we get a proper solution to this problem." Mr Jones said shooting will have little impact, and nets are the only way to protect crops. "All the evidence indicates that it is the only way that you can guarantee that you won't have damage by flying foxes," he said. "The other issue is too is an assessment of just how significant the damage is this year. "We know last year the amount of damage, I believe this year it's not as great and I that needs to be carefully considered in relation to the cost." *ABC

Uranium Leak

More than 10 million litres of "radioactive contaminated" water is sitting in ponds at the Territory's only uranium mine, an indigenous leader said yesterday. Northern Land Council chief executive Kim Hill said a CSIRO study estimated 150,000 litres a day leaked into Kakadu National Park from the Ranger mine. He called on Energy Resources Australia to guarantee that the "environmental monitoring process" would not suffer during the shutdown of the mine. Ranger will be closed until July because the heavy wet season has almost filled the tailings dams. Mr Hill said ERA would "cut cost wherever possible" because of its falling share price and "disastrous environmental record". "The World Heritage-listed environment that surrounds the mine mustn't suffer further as the company looks to protect its bottom line," he said. Mr Hill said the troubles at Ranger added weight to his calls for an end to self-regulation in the Territory mining industry. But Ranger is unusual because it is not self-regulated it is monitored by the Federal Government-appointed Office of the Supervising Scientist and is often described as the most highly regulated mine in the world. ERA spokeswoman Shannon McRae said Ranger was independently monitored and the Supervising Scientist had confirmed in all its reports "that the surrounding environment has remained protected". She said additional water monitoring stations were being set up. "The water is confined to the mine site there has been no evidence of contamination of Kakadu National Park," Ms McRae said. "The Supervising Scientist has a comprehensive chemical and biological monitoring program which demonstrates that Ranger continues to have no detrimental impact on the environment of Kakadu. Any review of costs will not compromise any aspect of environmental protection." *NT News


A boy who chopped off the head of a deadly taipan snake after it bit him will escape prosecution. Walker Dudman, a curious Year 6 student on Easter holidays in Townsville, had picked up the nearly two metre-long black taipan and was carrying it to the family home in Bluewater, 30km north of the city, when it bit him on the hand on Sunday. The 12-year-old chopped off the snake's head with an axe, but collapsed minutes later from the highly venomous snake bite. The boy was rushed to Townsville hospital where he has been in a serious but stable condition for three days suffering vomiting, dizziness and eyesight loss after the envenomation by one of the world's most lethal creatures. It is illegal to kill the protected species, but the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday confirmed they would not be prosecuting the child. "I had it around the neck," Walker told The Courier-Mail from his hospital bed on Monday. "I was holding it tight, but its head could move, and it got me. I was carrying it up to the house to show to my grandad." He said he had learnt his lesson "not to pick up and play with big black snakes". *Courier Mail

Bob Irwin Arrested

Veteran wildlife campaigner Bob Irwin reckons his late famous son would have been proud of his arrest at a coal seam gas protest in Queensland. Mr Irwin has been charged with ignoring police orders to remove himself from a road blockade aimed at stopping the construction of a 16km gas pipeline in the state's south. The father of the late "crocodile hunter" Steve Irwin, along with Greens spokeswoman Libby Connors, joined the protest at the Tara Estate, south of Chinchilla, but within hours were in police custody. Protesters have been manning the blockade since last month trying to frustrate construction of the pipeline, which will take CSG from five wells on the estate to the nearby Kenya gas processing plant. Opponents fear the expanding CSG industry will contaminate groundwater, present risks to human health and devalue land. Read more ... http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/bob-irwin-arrested-at-gas-protest/story-e6freon6-1226037843372

White Rhinos

Australia Zoo has a cute new addition to its family - a baby white rhino. She's about 60kg and a bit wobbly after being born at 3.15am yesterday. Zoo spokeswoman Manu Ludden said the female calf was doing well and had already started feeding from proud mum Caballe. "Our little rhino calf was on the move immediately after being born and she has already had at least three good long feeds," Ms Ludden said. "Mum is also doing well. She is super relaxed and she seems quite content." The calf will not be on display until September to give her and her mum time to grow and bond. Caballe was brought from Hamilton Zoo in Auckland, NZ, last year. She is a southern white rhinoceros. One of Africa's "big five" animals, wild white rhino numbers are estimated at 20,150, with a further 780 in captivity. They are close to being listed as threatened but compare well with Queensland's northern hairy nosed wombat of which only about 140 survive. "White rhinos are doing the best of all the rhino species, numbering more than all the other species put together," Ms Ludden said. "This hasn't always been the case though, with numbers dropping to less than 100 individuals at the turn of the century, so they are a great success story. "Poaching remains the rhinos' biggest threat but through intense anti-poaching strategies, numbers have climbed. However they are still highly at risk." This is Caballe's fourth calf and is the first rhino born at the zoo. The far more endangered wombats also are celebrating a birth in the wild, with a population set up by Environment Department scientists near St George just having recorded its first birth. Australia Zoo is offering the public to name the rhino via auction website eBay. All money will go to conservation projects in Africa. *Courier Mail


The "scales of justice" will have new meaning for a Winnipeg man charged with illegally keeping snakes and other reptiles in his apartment on Assiniboine Avenue. Police discovered the cache of critters after a panicky call from a 72-year-old neighbour who found a huge snake under his bathroom sink. Police and animal services officers captured the 5 to 6 foot long animal. “In the middle of the night I heard a glass break,” says Morley Wilson. He thought there was an intruder in his apartment, somewhat relieved to discover what he describes as a black an orange python. Police eventually discovered the reptile had slithered its way from another suite in the same building, and found the 33-year-old resident was keeping 50 more snakes and lizards. Nine snakes were seized as they are believed to be prohibited, and the owner is facing charges under the City of Winnipeg Exotic Animal By-Law. But officers say there’s no evidence the animals were mistreated. “It appears that these animals were very well looked after,” Cst. Jason Michalyshen told a news conference Tuesday. “He described himself as a hobby breeder or someone that certainly has significant knowledge with regards to snakes and other reptiles.” *WinnipegNews


Honeybees are taking emergency measures to protect their hives from pesticides, in an extraordinary example of the natural world adapting swiftly to our depredations, according to a prominent bee expert.
Scientists have found numerous examples of a new phenomenon – bees "entombing" or sealing up hive cells full of pollen to put them out of use, and protect the rest of the hive from their contents. The pollen stored in the sealed-up cells has been found to contain dramatically higher levels of pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals than the pollen stored in neighbouring cells, which is used to feed growing young bees. "This is a novel finding, and very striking. The implication is that the bees are sensing [pesticides] and actually sealing it off. They are recognising that something is wrong with the pollen and encapsulating it," said Jeff Pettis, an entomologist with the US Department of Agriculture. "Bees would not normally seal off pollen." But the bees' last-ditch efforts to save themselves appear to be unsuccessful – the entombing behaviour is found in many hives that subsequently die off, according to Pettis. "The presence of entombing is the biggest single predictor of colony loss. It's a defence mechanism that has failed." These colonies were likely to already be in trouble, and their death could be attributed to a mix of factors in addition to pesticides, he added. * Guardian Read More .. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/04/honeybees-entomb-hives


US Congress for the first time is directly intervening in the Endangered Species List and removing an animal from it, establishing a precedent for political influence over the list that has outraged environmental groups. A rider to the Congressional budget measure agreed to last weekend dictates that wolves in Montana and Idaho be taken off the endangered species list and managed instead by state wildlife agencies, which is in direct opposition to a federal judge’s recent decision forbidding the Interior Department to take such an action. While the language on the Rocky Mountain wolves was a tiny item in budgetary terms, environmental groups said it set an unnerving precedent by letting Congress, rather than a science-based federal agency, remove endangered species protections. * NY Times


North Queensland authorities have received reports of hundreds of cassowary sightings across the Cardwell Ranges through to Innisfail after Cyclone Yasi. Residents and the Environment Department have set up almost 100 feeding stations for the endangered birds after some of their habitat was affected by the cyclone. Environment authorities say they may have to leave cassowary feeding stations in parts of far north Queensland for up to a year to help the endangered species. Wet Tropics operations manager Andrew Millerd says rangers are monitoring the birds' droppings to find out how much forest fruit they are eating. "There's two reasons for that - one is to actually have a look at what is passing through the gullet of the cassowary to see what sort of food resource they're feeding on," he said. "That's giving us some information about whether their diet is heavily made up of foods that are going into feed stations or whether it's native fruits or a combination." Mr Millerd says the birds' activity is also being captured on film. "There's quite a lot of cassowaries being sighted, many adults, quite a few chicks and juveniles are readily apparent from the sightings and from the camera data," he said. "They are actively using the feed stations, so were able to ... identify those things and help to confirm that the effort that we're putting in is being effective." *ABC


Recreational fishing group Sunfish says net fishing should not be used in areas near Gladstone after turtles were found washed up on central Queensland beaches. The bodies of 15 green turtles have been found south of Gladstone over the past week. The Department of Environment and Resource Management says turtles may have become entangled in nets after recent flooding. Sunfish spokeswoman Judy Lynne says she does not want a blanket ban on using nets in Australia but it is an issue which needs to be addressed in the Boyne Island and Tannum Sands area. "I don't have any issues with the way the commercial lines fishermen run their businesses but Sunfish does have a problem with net fishing in principle," she said. "It's non-selective, most things that get caught in those nets die, whereas a commercial lines fisherman is a lot like a recreational catch, if he's got something he doesn't want, it's released." *ABC

Wildlife Hero

Not many people knew what environmental activism was when Jill Chamberlain took up placards and hit the pavement to lobby developers and the government of the time - 30 years on Jill has worked consistently and tirelessly behind many causes to save the environment and ultimately improve the lives of residents living on the Sunshine Coast. Now living in Mooloolaba, this proactive 77-year-old has been instrumental in preserving wildlife and conservation in Queensland. Awarded with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2010, Jill also has a 48-hectare bush reserve named after her at Caloundra and is set to become an Honorary Senior Fellow of the University of the Sunshine Coast. "I want to get more people interested in the importance of our environment" Jill laments, "I'm trying to save as much of our natural bush as possible from development for the sake of wildlife." Currently Jill is campaigning to protect the sensitive Pumicestone Passage catchment from degradation as the proposed Caloundra South development progresses. "A lot of the creeks and waterways running through the proposed development go into the Pumicestone Passage - which is an extremely sensitive waterway. In fact, in the last Healthy Waterways survey it went from a rating of C down to a D and that's very concerning. *ABC

4WD runs over tent

A 71-year-old man is in a serious condition at Nambour hospital after being run over while sleeping in a tent in a State Forest south of Maryborough yesterday. The elderly man was camping with a 26 yr old companion at Tuan State Forest, 7km south of Maryborough, when, at about 1.00am, another man drove his four-wheel-drive ran over the tent . The older man suffered a suspected broken pelvis and internal bleeding and was flown to Nambour General Hospital for treatment. Police said his condition was critical. The 26-year-old man who was also in the tent was admitted to hospital but was not critically injured. Forensic Crash Unit police are investigating. *Sunshine Coast Daily


Young penguins in the Antarctic may be dying because they are having a tougher time finding food, as melting sea ice cuts back on the tiny fish they eat, U.S. researchers suggested on Monday. Only about 10 per cent of baby penguins tagged by researchers are coming back in two to four years to breed, down from 40-50 per cent in the 1970s, said the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Chinstrap penguins, known for their characteristic head markings that resemble a cap with a black line just under the neck, are the second largest group in the area after the macaroni penguins, and are at particular risk because their population is restricted to one area, the South Shetland Islands. "It is a dramatic change," lead researcher Wayne Trivelpiece, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division, told AFP. "There are still two to three million chinstrap pairs in this region but there were seven to eight million two decades ago," he said. *GlobalNews Read more .. http://www.globalnews.ca/technology/Young+penguins+dying+lack+food+Study/4596766/story.html

Kangaroo Bow Shot

The National Parks and Wildlife Service says it holds little hope of finding the kangaroo that was shot with an arrow at Maloneys Beach this month. NPWS spokesman Stuart Cohen said the male eastern grey kangaroo, which has not been seen since April 4, had most likely succumbed to its wounds. “It would be very nice to catch it, remove the arrow, give it a couple of doses of antibiotics and let it go, but the chances are it’s not alive anymore,” he said. WIRES representative Jeanie Miller explored the tracks that are frequented by kangaroos in the Maloneys Beach area on Sunday and failed to find the animal. She has come to the same conclusion. “Unfortunately I think he would have died by now,” she said. Ms Miller is hoping that the perpetrator or perpetrators will not return during the holiday period. “We will just have to wait and see what happens,” she said. *Moruya Leader


Hunting in 29 national parks, relaxation of gun licensing laws and shooting as a school sport: these are some of the demands the Premier is about to be confronted with by the Shooters and Fishers Party, which now shares the balance of power in the NSW upper house. As the make-up of the Legislative Council was decided yesterday, documents obtained by the Herald reveal the extent and cost of the shopping list likely to be presented to Barry O'Farrell as he tries to negotiate his legislation through the new Parliament. They show the Shooters and Fishers want access to at least 29 national parks for shooting of feral animals and deer. ''These are just a few to start with,'' the party's MP Robert Brown writes in one of the documents used in negotiations with the former government. ''Some are big reserves out west where it would be great to get acces [sic] to pigs, goats, foxes & cats.'' The wish list includes no more national parks or marine parks and removal of the 28-day cooling off period for licence renewals for firearms of the same category. Introducing shooting as an official school sport is estimated to cost $1 million a year and the creation of private game reserves has a price tag of $500,000 attached to it. The documents were used in negotiations between Mr Brown, the late Shooters Party MP Roy Smith and the Labor government. The cost of the policies was estimated at $94.3 million between 2007 and 2011. *SMH

Meanwhile, police are investigating the fatal shooting of a man near Wagga Wagga. A group of four men were preparing to go for a night-time shoot last night when one man's rifle discharged while he was loading it, hitting a 36-year-old man in the chest. He was rushed from the Borambola property to Wagga Wagga Hospital where he died during surgery. Police set up a crime scene at the rural property on the Sturt Highway about 25km east of Wagga Wagga.

Polar Bears

Thanks to the efforts of a conservation group tied with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, open season for hunting polar bears has been canceled in Russia this year. A Russian-U.S. commission last year agreed to restrict polar bear hunting to 29 animals per year for each country, reports the Associated Press. But the Polar Bear program, established under Putin's patronage, said this week that Russia had waived its quota for bear hunting. In 2010, the U.S.-Russia Polar Bear Commission met in Anchorage, Alaska to lift the 50-year ban on polar bear hunting for the benefit of indigenous peoples in Alaska and in far-eastern Russia across the Bering Strait. At that time, the Commision decided the annual take would be limited to 19 females and 39 males per year (it has been estimated that hunting and poaching accountsfor 100 polar bear deaths a year). It was also agreed that quota numbers would be re-evaluated every year based on scientific data. "Measures taken by Russia will ensure that the United States will be killing at least 70 polar bears fewer than before, which, according to Russian specialists, will help to sustain and boost the population of this beautiful Arctic animal," members of The Polar Bear Program said in a statement posted on Putin's official website. Last year Putin, a longtime defender of large endangered animals, helped Russian scientists put a tracking collar on a sedated male polar bear. Before leaving the bear, he patted the animal affectionately, shook his paw and said "take care" (AP). According to Polar Bear International (PBI), "scientists have concluded that the threat to polar bears is ecological change in the Arctic from global warming. Polar bears depend on sea ice for hunting, breeding, and in some cases, denning. Summer ice loss in the Arctic now equals an area the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined." *Care2


The ranking Queensland Police officer attending the blockade of the coal seam gas giant QGC has told protesters sitting in a tree in the path of bulldozers they could be charged under the state's anti-terror legislation. Friends of the Earth spokesperson and blockade organiser Drew Hutton said he was outraged by any suggestion the peaceful protesters would be targeted by Police anti-terrorism action. "We have never used anything other than strictly non-violent action," Mr Hutton said. "We have been courteous and co-operative with Police and QGC and have not allowed the slightest hint of anti-social behaviour among our group. "If these two young men sitting six metres up a gum tree are terrorists, then so so am I and so is that great Australian, Bob Irwin." Mr Hutton said the two in the tree were fine young men who were simply trying to protect the last mature tree in a bulldozed corridor. This corridor is forty metres wide instead of the ten metres stipulated in QGC's environmental authority. "The real law breaker here is QGC which is breaching section 804 of the Petroleum and Gas Act by causing "unreasonable interference" to the landowner's property but the police are more intent on focusing on a couple of lads in a gum tree," Mr Hutton said. *Chronicle

Meanwhile coal seam gas company QGC has been fined $20,000 for illegally clearing trees at its project site near Tara in October.

Barbed Wire

Tasmanian wildlife carers are pleading with property owners to reconsider using barbed wire in fencing after a spate of fatal injuries to native animals. Bonorong Wildlife Park owner Greg Irons said that since late last year there had been an increase in animals reported trapped in barbed-wire fences. All the injured animals have had to be put down, including rosellas, an eastern quoll, a pademelon, a Tasmanian devil, and two tawny frogmouths. Mr Irons said night hunters like the tawny frogmouth were especially vulnerable to barbed wire. Birds caught were likely to suffer broken wings and deep cuts as they flapped their wings in a panicked attempt to free themselves. "Tawny frogmouths hunt with their mouth not their talons, they're often chasing a moth or insect with their mouth open and they're focused on an insect and they run into barbed wire," he said. "It's one of those things that's cropping up again and again." Mr Irons said barbed wire was a hazard for endangered devils. A healthy young female devil had to be put down this year after being caught in a fence. "We see the ones that get stuck and that people find. How many more are out there? We're only seeing a very small percentage of the animals that are being hurt by barbed wire," he said. "Barbed wire is designed so that once it goes in, it won't come back out again. If the injuries don't kill them, the stress will be enough to kill them." He said there were many alternative fencing materials. *Mercury


The government of Palau says it is reconsidering an agreement to have the conservation group Sea Shepherd patrol a marine sanctuary in its waters. The group had offered to patrol - at its own expense - an area designated as the world's first shark sanctuary. But the Japanese government, which describes the conservationists as "terrorists", objected to the plan and has offered to send its own patrol vessel instead. Sea Shepherd has regularly clashed with Japanese whalers and this year forced them to cut short their annual hunt in the Southern Ocean. *NetworkNews

Fish Vanishing

A new study suggests that more than 40 fish species in the Mediterranean could vanish in the next few years. The study released Tuesday by the International Union for Conservation of Nature says almost half of the species of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean and at least 12 species of bony fish are threatened with extinction due to overfishing, pollution and the loss of habitat. Commercial catches of bluefin tuna, sea bass, hake and dusky grouper are particularly threatened, said the study by the Swiss-based IUCN, an environmental network of 1,000 groups in 160 nations. "The Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic population of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is of particular concern," said Kent Carpenter, IUCN's global marine species assessment coordinator. He cited a steep drop in the giant fish's reproductive capacity due to four decades of intensive overfishing. Japanese diners consume 80 percent of the Atlantic and Pacific bluefins caught and the two tuna species are especially prized by sushi lovers. *NetworkItem

Swan Killer Fined

A Gold Coast teenager who used a jet-ski to run down a black swan that later died has been fined more than $11,000 and ordered to perform 180 hours of community service. Kale Francis Falchi, 19, had no conviction recorded against him and escaped a jail term when he appeared before Southport magistrate Brian Kucks for sentencing today. However Mr Kucks ordered Falchi, who will soon be on a full wage after completing a carpentry apprenticeship, to repay Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary $11,060 compensation for costs. The sanctuary spent four months trying to save the swan after it was severely injured on Boxing Day last year. The magistrate told Falchi he had shown a "callous disregard" for the swan's welfare, and owed a debt to society. In a statement to the court, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary vet Dr Michael Pine said that, despite their best efforts, Cassie the swan had to be euthanased on April 4. "Her will to live captured the emotion of all the staff who treated her," he said. Mr Kucks said the teenager probably would not have been caught if it wasn't for the fact that the attack was filmed on video. *AGE

King Crabs

It's like a scene out of a sci-fi movie – thousands, possibly millions, of king crabs are marching through icy deep-sea waters and up the Antarctic slope. "They are coming from the deep, somewhere between 6,000 to 9,000 feet down," said James McClintock, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham Endowed Professor of Polar and Marine Biology. Shell-crushing crabs haven't been in Antarctica, the Earth's southernmost continent, for hundreds or thousands, if not millions, of years, McClintock said. "They have trouble regulating magnesium ions in their body fluids and get kind of drunk at low temperatures." But something has changed, and these crustaceans are poised to move by the droves up the slope and onto the shelf that surrounds Antarctica. McClintock and other marine researchers interested in the continent are sounding alarms because the vulnerable ecosystem could be wiped out, he said. * Underwater Times
Read more ... http://www.underwatertimes.com/news.php?article_id=62741005319

Rights for Wildlife?

Giving animals legal ownership of their habitat and affording them standing before the courts may hold the key to protecting biodiversity, an Australian researcher says. Australia is one of only 17 countries recognised as being mega-diverse, but it also has one of the highest extinction rates, with around 126 species of plants and animals sent to extinction in the past 200 years. Doctor John Hadley from the University of Western Sydney says land clearing is the leading cause of biodiversity loss. "We have this policy that allows farmers to offset any habitat they destroy. So they are allowed to remove habitat if they promise to restore habitat elsewhere," he said. "It is essentially saying [to animals] it's OK if we destroy your home because we will build you another one nearby, but in the interim you have to fend for yourselves." Dr Hadley says under his idea, certain animals would be afforded legal property rights, and human guardians would be appointed to advocate for them in court. "We have a system in place now for human beings that are unable to manage their property due to some sort of mental impairment, known as guardianship," he said. "So I was thinking, could we extend this idea to animals and would this be a way of bolstering protection for habitat?"

He says guardians would be registered with an independent tribunal and people who wanted to modify habitat on their land would have to negotiate with the guardians before taking any action. "I'm not saying that this is something that animals are owed as a right. It's not going to apply to all animals everywhere," he said. "The idea would be that somebody comes forward - say an NGO or it could even be a private individual - who agrees to represent a group of animals whose home is impacted or potentially about to be impacted by land clearing." Dr Hadley says there is a "groundswell around the world" to secure legal rights for animals, including cases like 'Cetacean Community v George W Bush' in the United States. In that 2004 case the whales, porpoises and dolphins of the world sought the right to sue Mr Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and the US Navy for destruction of habitat caused by the Navy's use of sonar as part of submarine navigation systems.

While the case was unsuccessful, Dr Hadley says the idea of property rights for animals has been successfully floated in other parts of the world. "In Austria there's a system of animal solicitors where each state has to have a designated solicitor representing animals," he said. He says is time to "think outside the square and do something different", but admits that for his idea to ever become reality, it will take a "courageous government". "Probably not in my lifetime, but I think something like it down the track is inevitable," he said. "Native Title was similarly radical. 150 years ago people would have said that that would never work," he said.

But Dr Malcolm Caulfield, the principal lawyer at the Animal Welfare Community Legal Centre, says the legal system is highly unlikely to recognise any push for property rights for animals. "I honestly think it's kind of out in the realms of silly legal academic points," he said. "The loss of biodiversity... is nothing to do with the rights of the animals. It has to do with the respect for the environment and biodiversity. "It's the march for progress and the demand for development that is the issue here, not the legal rights of animals." Dr Caulfield says the law is already clear that animals must be considered before clearing land. "The Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act is a huge umbrella-type legislation that makes huge references to animals, and animal welfare acts apply equally to wildlife as to any other form of animal," he said. "And I would argue that animal guardianship is almost where we are anyway." Dr Hadley says he is working on a case study involving a dingo population in Western Sydney. He hopes it will show that his idea can mesh with existing laws. "Hopefully my framework will be practical and useful enough for entertaining on a small scale and then it would grow from there," he said. "This is an option, if we care about biodiversity and saving habitat, that we might be interested in exploring." *ABC

NMIT Kangaroos

Four out of five local MPs have promised to lobby the State Government to stop the Northern Metropolitan Institute of TAFE’s kangaroo cull at Eden Park. Despite growing protests, Environment Minister Ryan Smith has refused to stop the cull and is supporting the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s approval of the Authority to Control Wildlife permit granted last October. Mr Smith’s response to the Whittlesea Council’s letter, appealing for a moratorium on the cull, failed to answer any of the council’s questions. At last week’s meeting, councillors voted to write back to the minister requesting he answer their questions. The council will seek clarification from police about how residents can best obtain information about the cull. The council will also approach the Interface Councils Group to help form a collaborative arrangement between them and the DSE in relation to the department’s management of kangaroos in semi-rural municipalities. McEwen federal Labor MP Rob Mitchell demanded the minister come clean about his decision and has written to the Ballieu government asking for answers.

“What justification is there for such a large number of kangaroos to be culled?” he asked. “I support those in our community who are concerned and outraged with the lack of information they are receiving and commend them on their passion and hard fought campaign.” At the April 6 Parliamentary sitting, Yan Yean state Labor MP Danielle Green called on Mr Ryan to suspend the cull and revoke the DSE-approved permit. “It is extremely disappointing the DSE has issued cull permits in this instance without consulting the local community,” she said. Ms Green said a protocol was adopted by former environment minister John Thwaites five years ago, following a similar kangaroo cull in Nillumbik. But a DSE spokeswoman, who did not want to be named, told the Whittlesea Leader that the protocol agreement Ms Green referred to was never formalised. Thomastown state Labor MP Bronwyn Halfpenny said there was disturbing evidence that the cull had been carried out ineptly, causing needless suffering to the roos. Mill Park state Labor MP Lily D’Ambrosio said the minister’s disregard of the issue was concerning and called on the RSPCA to investigate the treatment of the Eden Park kangaroos. Scullin Federal MP Harry Jenkins did not respond to the Leader’s questions. *Leader
Ed Comment; There has to be something really weird going on here. Its rare that a public facility like a TAFE College would so consistently ignore the objections of so many local residents...and the local Council, and the local State politicians. One day it will all come back to bite the TAFE College where it hurts the most....lack of local support for it. Something very peculiar is going on here.

Ending the Eden Park kangaroo cull remains an uphill battle for Whittlesea council, which has ruled out restricting firearms use around NMIT’s Northern Lodge property by claiming the area a populous place. Residents living near the 320ha horse stud say they are living in fear as the culling of 300 eastern grey kangaroos proceeds. Land owners say gunshots have rung out unexpectedly and without notice. After talks with police, Whittlesea’s acting director of planning and development, Griff Davis, said the populous place title did not apply to Eden Park. “We received advice from the police as to the definition of what a populous place is,” Mr Davis said. “We, as a council, do not have the authority to respond to this issue through these means.” Epping firearms safety officer Leading Sen-Constable Simon Busuttil said although a number of residents lived close to the NMIT property, it could not be classified as a populous place. “Just because there are people on the boundary doesn’t mean it’s a populous place,” Sen-Constable Busuttil said. He said not all shooting around the property was cull-related. “They can still shoot on that property because it’s rural; it’s not a criminal offence,” he said. “If they (residents) call the police every time they hear a gunshot, what a waste of police resources.” Sen-Constable Busuttil said permits were a Department of Sustainability and Environment responsibility. “All permit issues relating to police have been complied with,” he said. * Leader

Kangaroo Industry

With John Kelly’s rural Australian drawl, it is almost startling to hear him use Chinese cooking terms. “The Chinese have a strong culinary tradition in using wild foods, not just meat, but a wide range of wild foods called yaemei in Cantonese and yewei in Mandarin,” said Mr. Kelly, executive director of the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia, a lobbying group. “Kangaroo will to a large extent just slot right into that existing tradition in much the same way it has in the European markets.” Or so he hopes. Soaring Chinese demand for other resources, like iron ore and coal, has helped to keep the Australian economy growing even through the worst of the global financial crisis. China has surpassed Japan to become Australia’s largest trading partner, accounting for 52.3 billion Australian dollars ($55.2 billion), or nearly 21 percent of this nation’s exports in the financial year that ended last June. Now, people like Mr. Kelly are hoping that Chinese demand can revive Australia’s kangaroo meat industry, which has been struggling since a food-safety import ban was imposed in 2009 by Russia, the former leading importer.

Within Australia, kangaroo meat has always been a tough sell, either because the animal is a national symbol, whose slaughter animal rights activists oppose — or because of its gamey, pungent flesh. A 2008 study showed that just 14.5 percent of Australians had knowingly eaten kangaroo more than four times in the preceding year — compared with 80 percent of Australian households that had eaten beef at least once a month. The bigger opportunity has long been exports of meat from kangaroos, which are widely considered pests in the country’s parched hinterlands, blamed for problems like soil erosion and nighttime road accidents. As recently as 2008, Australian kangaroo meat exports totaled 10,010 tons — worth 36.4 million Australian dollars, or $38.4 million, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Russia accounted for at least 58 percent of that market, until an E. coli outbreak linked to the meat in August 2009 led Moscow to ban the imports. Australian kangaroo exports plummeted, to 2,920 tons worth 11.7 million Australian dollars ($12.3 million) in 2010.

With Russia’s ban, the European Union has became the largest importer, buying 64 percent of the kangaroo meat that Australia sold overseas in 2010. The United States bought just 2.2 percent. Meat for human consumption makes up about 80 percent of total kangaroo exports, which also include meat for pet food and skins for clothing. Those sectors, too, have been affected, falling by about half since the Russian ban. And so Mr. Kelly’s group is looking toward China, which last December sent a government delegation to Australia to investigate the health and sanitary conditions of kangaroo producers. While an import framework has already been agreed upon, Beijing is awaiting the results of its review, according to Joe Ludwig, an Australian senator who is the minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry. “A number of steps still remain before trade can commence,” Mr. Ludwig said, “including agreement of an export health certificate and approval of kangaroo processing establishments in Australia.”

Fang Xi, an economic official at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, suggested the remaining steps were mere formalities. “We hopefully will see the Chinese people enjoy kangaroo meat very soon,” he said. It is not a welcome prospect for groups like the Australian Society for Kangaroos, which asserts that besides being unfit for human consumption, the animals are in danger of being hunted to extinction. Australia’s kangaroo population “can’t even deal with the domestic and European consumption,” said Nikki Sutterby, the society’s coordinator. “How would it deal with a country as large as China starting to eat kangaroo meat?” According to government statistics, kangaroo populations have held steady for nearly a decade. There are at least 25 million kangaroos living within commercial harvest areas — more than one for each of the 23 million people in Australia — which would seem to undermine claims of imminent extinction. But Ms. Sutterby asked potential consumers to put ecology before appetite. “If the Asians want to preserve our iconic population in the wild,” she said, “I recommend that they don’t agree to the importation of kangaroos.” Mr. Kelly, meanwhile, fairly salivates at the prospect of shipping kangaroo to the kitchens of the world’s potentially biggest consumer market. “I’d expect us to be putting product into China at some time this year,” he said, adding that he expected China “at some stage to be a larger market than Russia ever was.” *NY Times