Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wildlife Bytes 14/6/11

Leading Stories

ACT Government planners fear any attempt to make money from culled kangaroo carcasses could unleash the fury of animal rights protesters and endanger the whole control program. And the Government would have to kill at least 8000 of the animals each week to establish a viable trade in meat or hides, according to a Territory and Municipal Services report. TAMS planners wrote that the next option, joining the NSW trade in kangaroo products, would cost $250,000 in the first year for a return of just $25,000. But the real fear is the reaction of animal rights activists to any perceived attempt by the Government to generate revenue from the carcasses produced during its annual culling program. More than 3400 kangaroos, the largest number in several years, are expected to be shot this month in six nature reserves around Canberra with the carcasses disposed of by the usual method of burial. The officials that wrote the report, in response to a motion in the Legislative Assembly, also fear that a commercial element to the cull might weaken the Government's case if protesters mounted a legal challenge.

The report's authors wrote that the culling program had a ''a clear easily defensible objective'', the protection of the territory's grasslands by managing grazing pressure. 'If the program was perceived by animal rights groups as having a secondary objective of revenue generation it would likely be subject to more intense scrutiny and protest action, threatening the delivery of the program,'' the authors wrote. The TAMS officials are worried that selling carcasses or products might make the ACT the focus of the national animal rights movement, which is bitterly opposed to trade in kangaroo products. ''Commercial kangaroo harvesting is a strong focus of animal rights organisations opposed to any killing of kangaroos,'' the officials wrote. ''A commercial operation in the ACT would be likely to draw publicity out of all proportion to the numbers involved as the national capital provides a symbolic location to project opposition to the industry.'' The officials also believe that the main method of disposal in NSW commercial operations, with the animal's head and intestines removed and left on the spot where the kangaroo has fallen, would not be acceptable in the ACT.

The commercial prospects of going into the kangaroo business are even less promising for the government, according to TAMS, with the international market in kangaroo meat collapsing after the withdrawal of Russia, previously the biggest export market, from the trade. Commercial kangaroo shooters in NSW are now being paid about 70c a kilogram for carcasses and fewer than than 400,000 animals were harvested in the state last year under a system that allows one million of the beasts to be slaughtered. An attempt to join the market would have to involve becoming part of the NSW South-East Commercial Harvest Zone. The officials also believe that the main method of disposal in NSW commercial operations, with the animal's head and intestines removed and left on the spot where the kangaroo has fallen, would not be acceptable in the ACT. *Canberra Times

Ed comment; What a lot of nonsense! The Blame Game continues. The real reason they cant get a commercial Industry up in the ACT is because it would be very difficult for the following reasons:
1. Under the EPBC Act to export wildlife products, there would be two difficult and lengthy community processes to go through, one for the ACT itself, and another for the Federal Government, who would in the end have to approve a commercial kangaroo Industry in the ACT. Both consultation processes would be very bitterly opposed by the animal welfare groups. In the unlikely event that the Feds approved such an Industry at the end of the day, it would be appealed by the community groups, firstly in the Federal AAT, then if necessary in the Federal Court. The ACT Government planners know this.

2. The Labor/Green ACT Government is very unpopular with the Labor/Green Federal Government because of the very bad publicity given to previous kangaroo kills, which reflected badly on the Feds. who could have stopped the kills at Belconnen and Majura, but chose not to. The ACT Greens are also very unpopular with the Federal Greens, for the same reasons, their support for the kangaroo killing has badly impacted on the Federal Greens too.....many people have told us they will never vote Green again after the ACT Greens supported the ACT kangaroo killing. Under these circumstances, neither the ACT Greens or the Labor Federal Government would make any effort to facilitate an ACT commercial kangaroo Industry. But its easier for the ACT Government to blame the Animal Welfare groups!

3. Some poeple have said the kangaroo carcases from the kill should be fed to the big cats at Canberra Zoo, but our understanding is that big cats in Zoo's have to fed meat approved for human consumption...the Canberra Parks kangaroos are being shot from utes, and not from vehicles approved for human consumption kills, which would make the whole process much more expensive. And the Canberra Zoo has said it doesnt want the kangaroo carcases anyway. But, congratulations and good luck to the local groups and individuals who are protesting and putting the heat on the whole unnecessary, bizarre, and disgusting ACT kangaroo kill program.

ACT Kangaroo Activists

Animal Liberation ACT will be holding a candle light vigil outside the legislative assembly in the city in Canberra on Wednesday the 15th at 5pm to demonstrate against the kangaroo kill. Please come along and show your support. For more information contact Bernie on 0427 777 044 OR Lara on 0402 599 293. Ed Comment; Good work everyone, I'd love to be there, but I can't be everywhere unfortunately. *

Animal Liberation activists disrupted a government contracted cull of kangaroos in the Mount Painter region in Canberra last night. A member of the public spotted an ACT ranger vehicle entering the park and escorting a 4 WD vehicle. Activists were alerted and entered the park after shooting began about 7 pm. The shooters were using night vision equipment. A group of activists approached the shooters in darkness, while another group used spotlights to disrupt the shooting. Activists encountered two men in a 4wd vehicle parked on a hill. They had been shooting downhill close to the suburbs. When the men were disturbed they called the police. A large contingent of ACT coppers searched the area for activists without success, and the cull was called off for the night. The ACT government has ordered the cull of 3500 kangaroos in ACT Nature Parks over the coming three weeks. Now it appears that they (the ACT Government) counted kangaroo scats to arrive at a total estimated number of kangaroos in the ACT Parks, arguably the single most inaccurate method of determining kangaroo numbers. It's now known that the ACT Government has also decided to kill all these kangaroos because they consider that there should only be one kangaroo per hectare....any more than that is a plague......according to them! *Network Item

As shooting is reported to have started in Canberra last night, The Australian Society for Kangaroos is calling on the ACT government to publicly reveal the science behind their slaughter of thousands of kangaroos and joeys on public land. Nikki Sutterby from Australian Society for Kangaroos announced; “Around 10,000 kangaroos and their joeys have been killed on public land in the ACT in the last three years alone in the name of science, yet the ACT government has failed to provide any science to prove this is necessary”. “I have been through every reference in their Kangaroo Management Plan, and the ACT government has no credible science to support these culls, and the Canberra public deserves to know this”. In an ABC 666 radio interview with ACT Parks and Conservation district manager Daniel Iglesias last week, Mr Iglesias refused to answer questions about the number of kangaroos actually in ACT nature parks currently closed for shooting and how the joeys of shot females would be killed. “Why wouldn't Mr Iglesias answer the question about the actual number kangaroos in these nature parks? Does the ACT government not know how many kangaroos are in the nature parks, or are they killing a significant proportion of the population and hiding this from the public,”
said Ms Sutterby today. "Mr Iglesias also avoided questions about how the joeys will be killed this year. If he claims kangaroos have bred a lot, there will be a lot of joeys, and therefore a lot of joeys being killed. So we are looking at around 1000-1500 joeys being decapitated, shot and orphaned, on top of 3427 kangaroos this month alone. So in fact the ACT government will destroy close to 5000 kangaroos in public nature parks in Canberra this month in the name of science, but in the absence of science.” said Nikki Sutterby today. You can listen this 666 radio interview below:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/06/02/3233396.htm?site=canberra *ASK Media Release

New Species

A new species of worm has been found at a goldmine in South Africa living 1.6 km underground. The worm, a nematode, lives in deep hot dark areas, living on underground bacteria on rock walls. Four species of worms have so far been found. Another unknown nematode species was discovered living 3.6 km underground, in temperatures of up to 48 degrees C. *WPAA

Central Queensland Waterways

Anyone who lives or works in the Fitzroy Basin (Central Queensland) is being asked to take 10 minutes to share their views on local waterways. This vital feedback will help FBA coordinate the development of a new monitoring partnership that will provide better public access to information about the health of the local waterways.
Link to survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JTMP68Z

Mary River Turtle: yesterday, today, tomorrow...

Tiaro Landcare is funding 10 tracking devices which were attached to one year old Mary River turtles (endangered) and their movements are being monitored by researchers from the University of Qld. After 10 years of working to increase the juvenile population, we have the opportunity to learn about their behaviour in the river. You can follow the project by checking out the 'turtle blog' on Tiaro Landcare's website: http://.www.maryriverturtle.com To help fund Tiaro Landcare turtle research activities, the group have published a book called "Mary River Turtle: yesterday, today, tomorrow..." by Samantha Flakus and Marilyn Connell. This publication can be purchased from the Landcare Queensland bookshop via the link below and all proceeds will go towards supporting landcare in Queensland. * Landcare


''You could say Australia's first real export commodity was its natural history,'' says Richard Neville, the Mitchell librarian at the State Library. ''The First Fleet ships returning to England were stuffed full of natural history specimens and Aboriginal artefacts.'' Take the first live kangaroo that survived the long sea voyage to London, Mr Neville says. ''That was in 1790 and it was said to be worth £500. By 1800 so many kangaroos had been shipped to England, the price had fallen to £10.'' Considering that the average salary for an experienced specimen collector in NSW was then only £95 a year, ''you get a sense of the excitement and curiosity'' such discoveries of exotic wildlife created in the markets of Europe. Even a humble Australian parrot would cost a London collector two guineas (£2 and 2 shillings) in 1798.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/early-birds-which-fly-off-the-page-20110606-1fpdy.html#ixzz1OZAB27q3

A concerned Coffs Coast animal lover has urged motorists to make sure they have the WIRES hotline number in their mobile phone in case they hit native animals on our roads. Linda Boudain’s plea comes after an incident last week, where a kangaroo was hit by a car in Heritage Park, and the driver simply drove off. “I just couldn’t believe someone could leave this poor animal in the middle of the road,” Ms Baudain said. “For me to watch that animal drag itself helplessly off the road, it was just a pain to watch, the poor thing. “All it took was one phone call to Wires and they had carers on the scene 13 minutes later. “Nothing could be done to save the poor kangaroo, but at least it wasn’t left to suffer anymore,” she said. Distressed by the incident, Ms Baudain was invited to the home of WIRES carer Arlene Hope to see some of the many eastern grey joeys she raises. “Unfortunately we see kangaroos hit by cars almost weekly,” Ms Hope said. “A lot of our joeys are removed from the pouches of female kangaroos that are hit. “That’s why it’s so important people phone us if they are involved in an accident with a kangaroo,” she said. To report an incident call 1300 WIRES or 1300 094 737. *Coffs Coast Advocate


The extreme ill-treatment of animals, which is routine in factory farming, does not make those who care for animals "extreme", says Brian Sherman, co-founder and managing director of animal protection think tank Voiceless. Mr Sherman made the comment during a speech at a fund-raising function, Voices of Art 2: An Evening Of Art For Animals, held by the group on Wednesday. To laughter from the well-heeled audience, he referred to a speech by Shooters and Fishers Party MP Robert Borsak in the NSW Parliament on May 11 in which Mr Borsak referred to Voiceless as an "extreme animal rights group". "I'd like to frame my talk tonight with a reference from a recent speech in the NSW Parliament by Shooters and Fishers Party MLC, Robert Borsak," Mr Sherman said. "Mr Borsak referred to Voiceless as an 'extreme animal rights group'. The sad irony is that Voiceless works to alleviate a phenomenon that really is extreme: the terrible suffering of billions of our fellow sentient beings in intensive animal factories." Mr Borsak had told Parliament that there was "a growing practice of extreme animal rights organisations trying to buy credibility for their views by exploiting universities' reliance on private sector funding". "Sadly, we need look no further than the University of Technology, Sydney - my old alma mater, though I studied in the faculty of business studies, a faculty that dwells in the real world of commerce, money and employment - to see how this duplicitous practice is spreading," Mr Borsak said. "The University of Technology, Sydney, now harbours a so-called think tank for research into kangaroos, which sounds like a laudable undertaking. But who is behind the group? Let me tell the House. This so-called think tank is funded by none other than Voiceless, one of the most well-funded and extreme animal rights groups in the country."
Read more ... http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/national/national/general/sherman-fires-back-at-borsak-over-extreme-label/2170102.aspx?storypage=0


A 4.1m saltwater croc has been captured in a creek in Litchfield National Park. The beast was removed from the permanent crocodile trap located in Cascade Falls Creek by rangers yesterday. The upper section of Cascades is a designated safe swimming area open all year around as its location at the top of Cascade Falls prevents saltwater crocodiles entering the area. "It would be hard for them to climb into those areas," said NT Ranger Robbie Risk. But, the creek where it was captured is not accessible for swimming, Mr Risk said. *NTNews

Fraser Island Dingoes

The State Government is using satellite tracking collars to help manage dingoes on Fraser Island off south-east Queensland. As many as 20 dingoes will wear the collars during the eight-month study. Andrea Leverington from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service says the collars will help track numbers and movement patterns and to locate dens. "If we can tell from the tracking that a dingo seems to be in trouble, we can automatically release that collar," she said. "In terms of its weight, the collars are less than 5 per cent of the body weight of a dingo, so this is best practice wildlife management that we're using." However, Fraser Island tour guide Mark Norman believes the collars are too heavy for the dingoes. Mr Norman recently saw one of the dingoes wearing a collar. "With the battery packs and so on and the antennas I thought wow this ... certainly looks very uncomfortable," he said. "The way the dingo was holding its head, it was fairly low and it was sort of moving along fairly slowly and it just looked like it was being restricted - its movements were being inhibited." *ABC

Ed Comment; there has been a lot of controversy over these collars. DERM claims they want the dingoes left alone, not fed or interfered with, but then they trap them, tag them, and put these stupid tracking collars on them...and for what purpose? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2uTqL68V20 Watch this video of a dingo caught in a leg trap and ask yourself what the heck the Government are doing. And you ask yourself why the RSPCA condone this as acceptable " worlds best practice, " as Minister Kate Jones keeps saying.

Pet Reptiles

40,000 confirmed cases of human salmonellosis are reported every year in the U.S., resulting in nearly 400 deaths. And pet reptiles, with their ability to carry about 200 different types of salmonella (all of which can make you sick), are a known source of human exposure. Unfortunately, while reptiles often carry salmonella around in their guts, knowing whether they’re liable to infect you isn’t easy. So you can’t know whether any bearded dragon you might buy at the pet store has it or not before taking it home. And if it does carry salmonella, there’s no way to be 100 percent safe from its ability to shed the bacteria in its feces. That’s because salmonella bacteria are not always identifiable when you test a given animal. *Network Item
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/11/2260254/leaping-lizards-could-this-birthday.html#ixzz1P2erWRHN


It is a shocking sight to break the heart and raise the hackles of Coast koala crusader Murray Chambers – a logged native forest, which he believes is vital to the survival of Peregian's local population of struggling marsupials. On private land just west of the Emu Mountain Rd motorway section north of Murdering Creek Rd, large trees have for weeks lain where they were cut down in this koala habitat area. For Murray, who makes up one half of Sunshine Coast Koala Wildlife Rescue with brother Ray, the tangled swathe of sawn and broken tree trunks and limbs is a possible koala death sentence. “Any clearing around here should be a no-no – these are koala food trees,” he said, after inspecting logged trees he estimated to be decades old. The land is believed to be part of 155 hectares private parcel on either side of the roadway, which was knocked back as a site for a 1200-lot residential development in 2008. Clearing on the other side of the road attracted concerns from Sunshine Coast Council and Noosa MP Glen Elmes in 2009. “One of the big blokes there has got to be an 80-year-old tree – they have cut down the really big trees,” Mr Chambers said. “Noosa is in big enough trouble now with their koalas without this. “Noosa is special because it still has what a lot of other places on the Coast have lost – its koalas. But that is not going to last long at this rate. “Whoever gave permission for this to happen should be sacked. They should be picking up papers on the beach.” Mr Chambers said this apparent sanctioned logging operation was a demonstration of how governments at all levels were ignoring the plight of the koala. *Sunshine Coast Daily

Another Kangaroo Kill Mooted

Moyne (Victoria) Shire mayor Jim Doukas has hopped into an environmental minefield by suggesting kangaroos and wallabies at Tower Hill be culled to reduce overpopulation. He said there were too many of the native animals being killed on the perimeter road around the reserve. Dozens of kangaroos and wallabies feed on grass beside the road from dusk each evening. One local resident estimated there could be hundreds there some evenings. "They are overpopulated - it's as simple as that," Cr Doukas told The Standard yesterday while commenting on numerous road crashes involving native animals and livestock. "There's so much feed outside the fence the roos and wallabies just hop over. "We wrote to Parks Victoria a few weeks ago asking them to do something about the situation, but I haven't seen a reply yet. There needs to be better fencing and reduced numbers of the animals." His comments followed questions by The Standard about the shire's responsibility in making sure farmers keep livestock from escaping onto roads.

Last Wednesday night a person was taken to hospital after two cars hit at least six cattle on the Cobden-Warrnambool Road near Laang speedway. On May 27 a Koroit woman was injured after hitting 12 head of cattle on the Princes Highway at Illowa and there was another incident involving livestock on May 16 near the Penshurst-Hamilton Road intersection. Police said it was the responsibility of shire bylaws officers to prosecute farmers who allowed stock to escape. Cr Doukas said there was sometimes difficulty in determining ownership of livestock. “Most farmers take care to keep fencing in good order and I don’t think are going to deny their responsibility,” he said. “If you look at the number of farms and livestock in this district incidences of vehicles hitting stock is fairly small. “There are just as many accidents with roos and wallabies, but who’s going to be accountable for that?

“The government should be held responsible for its animals. “With roos, drivers know there’s nothing they can do to seek damages and just limp away or call a tow truck. “One day there will be a fatality around Tower Hill if a driver swerves into another vehicle to avoid an animal or they go over the side.” Wildlife Victoria regional co-ordinator Tracey Wilson of Koroit, suggested the shire do more to press for a speed reduction from 100km/h to 80km/h on the southern end of Tower Hill road. She agreed better fencing may help contain native animals within the reserve, but she did not want to enter into debate on Cr Doukas’ call for culling. Ms Wilson has been alerted to numerous instances this year of wildlife being hit by passing vehicles around Tower Hill, but said yesterday the accident rate seemed to have declined recently. * Warrnambul Standard

Climate Change

Climate change will deliver a death sentence for millions of birds in southwest Queensland and the loss of other species in the Wet Tropics, the Gulf of Carpentaria, Mulga Lands and central Queensland. A disturbing report prepared for the Environment Department by independent scientist Tim Low, on Queensland's biodiversity and climate change, found those regions were particularly vulnerable to changes in rainfall and temperature. The Courier-Mail understands that as a consequence of the report, Climate Change and Queensland Biodiversity, about $4 million will go towards preparing a biodiversity strategy. The measure will be announced in Tuesday's State Budget. The strategy will help various groups build connected ecosystems for threatened species, such as cassowaries. Mr Low said deaths in heatwaves were a natural event but they would become worse with climate change, and particularly if high temperatures coincided with drought. "A heatwave striking after drought-induced dieback of trees could cause catastrophic loss of birds and mammals because there would be little shade to provide shelter," Mr Low said in the report.

He warned that if critically important eucalypts were to be protected, Queensland had to save long-range pollinators such as flying foxes, lorikeets and migratory honeyeaters. Eucalypts could not adapt like northern hemisphere species, so although planting bush corridors helped, it should not be seen as the main strategy in ensuring their survival. Mr Low said Queenslanders had to radically alter the way they thought about helping species adapt. "A mistake we have made is relying too much on northern hemisphere thinking," he said. "We get a lot of our ideas out of Europe and they are not always appropriate for our conditions." Eucalypts did not spread much during past ice ages but survived in pockets, unlike trees in the northern hemisphere that tended to "march" back and forth as the climate changed, he said. Environment Minister Kate Jones said it was obvious many ecosystems, plants and animals would be under threat if climate impacts were not managed. "This report is a reminder that we all share the responsibility of ensuring our wildlife and environment is protected," Ms Jones said. *Courier Mail
Ed comment, The report is welcomed, but getting the Queensland Government to act on it is another thing!

Two Headed Fish

An investigation has found no definitive link between farm chemicals and two-headed fish at a Queensland hatchery. The government set up a taskforce in 2009 to investigate fish health problems, including deaths and deformities, at the Sunland Fish Hatchery near Noosa. On Wednesday, the 20-member taskforce delivered its final majority view that there was not enough evidence to prove the chemicals had caused deformities, including three-tailed fish, and other problems. But two vets who were part of the taskforce disagreed, and believed there was a link. Fisheries and Agriculture Minister Tim Mulherin told reporters such investigations were always complex and it was difficult to identify a specific cause. "It was alleged that these issues, and broader problems associated with the Noosa River, were caused by chemical spray drift from an adjoining macadamia farm," he said. "Overall, the investigation found that there was no definitive link between chemicals and the events that occurred at the hatchery or in the Noosa River.

"While agricultural chemicals may be a contributing factor in some of the events that were investigated, other factors like fish diseases and parasites, water quality, past environmental contaminants and hatchery management practices cannot be ruled out as the primary cause." Hatchery owner Gwen Gilson has blamed chemical drift from the nearby macadamia farm for the deformities. She has been unavailable for comment. However, macadamia farmer Troy Ziesemer has said chemical use on the property always complied with best practice, and denied it was to blame. Dale Cliff, Mr Ziesemer's lawyer, told AAP the report "entirely vindicates" his client. "From the report there's no direct causal connection," he said. "Nor the quantity of chemicals sprayed by my client, were of such a level that in the view of the taskforce, caused any of the issues at the hatchery." "He has taken all reasonable measures to prevent any of his chemicals going onto the hatchery." *Courier Mail


Tasmanian researcher Shannon Troy had some high-tech gadgets at her disposal as she trapped and then tracked the rare spotted-tailed quoll at Woolnorth this year. But the main tool she needed was patience. The University of Tasmania zoology department PhD candidate caught a lot more Tasmanian devils than her target species in the 10 weeks. But eventually, she trapped enough mature adult female quolls to study the foraging and denning habits of the second largest of the world's surviving carnivorous marsupials, using a VHF transmitter and GPS locators. Ms Troy said the aim of her study was to learn more about critical quoll habitat and potential threats to its survival, such as loss of vegetation and the establishment of a fox population in Tasmania. "The best estimate we have is that there were about 6000 mature adult spotted-tailed quolls in Tasmania in 1996," Ms Troy said. "The quoll, which is bigger than the Eastern quoll, is listed as rare in Tasmania but endangered on the mainland.

"While the local quoll population has to deal with habitat loss and the poisoning of animals it does not have to deal with an established fox population." An adult quoll weighs up to 2.7kg and is a little larger than a domestic cat. Ms Troy hoped what she has learned would bridge the gap in knowledge about the solitary marsupials. In the first project of its kind in Tasmania, Ms Troy caught and then slipped a collar on the quolls. A VHF transmitter attached to the collar sent a signal that allowed the animals to be tracked to their dens. Nineteen male quolls were trapped before Ms Troy and her research team of a French intern and two volunteers one Canadian and one American caught a female big enough to collar. Ms Troy found that while spotted-tailed quolls shared their food with devils and smaller quolls, there was a lot of prey to go around in Tasmania and a lot of tree hollows and burrows for dens. She said every effort was needed to stop further loss of quoll habitat and local populations joining interstate counterparts on the endangered list. *Mercury

GBR Webcam

Marine scientists are hoping the installation of a permanent underwater camera on the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland will give them an insight into the daily life of coral and other sea creatures. Researchers plan to use snapshots of life underwater to answer questions about the real time effects of rising temperatures and coral bleaching. The pictures are not just for science, as anyone can view them online here:

At Davies Reef in the waters off Townsville in north Queensland, a cluster of coral and the fish that swim past it are set to become famous. Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) have set up an unmanned webcam to study what is happening beneath the surface. AIMS spokesman Dr Ray Berkelmans says it is a technological first. "It's trained on a coral bommie with some lovely plate corals and really the idea for this camera is to give us real time feedback as to what the conditions of the corals are," he said. "We've been very good at and very sophisticated at predicting coral bleaching but what we don't have is real time feedback of what the corals are actually doing so this is kind of closing the loop for us." The area is photographed every 15 minutes and the images are then made available online.

Dr Berkelmans says those photos will help scientists to verify the direct effects of coral bleaching. "You can have warm temperatures but very cloudy days and it won't bleach nearly as quickly as when there is no cloud and lots of sunlight coming in," he said. "There's a multitude of factors and this will help us improve our predictions." He says it is not just the coral which are under the lens, as tropical fish are sharing the limelight too. "There is a certain colony and individuals of fish that seem to hang around that bommie a lot," he said. "Pretty much those fish are in the picture all the time so I think we'd be able to build up a good database about fish behaviour. "It's the sort of thing that's very hard to do on scuba." *ABC

Camels for Climate Change?

An Australian land management consultant has proposed killing large numbers of wild camels in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a major contributor to global warming. The proposal, one of several in an initiative to be debated in the Australian parliament next week, posits that eliminating the camels would generate carbon credits, which industry could then purchase to offset their carbon emissions. Northwest Carbon proposes to shoot the animals or round them up for slaughter, with the resulting meat processed for animal or human consumption. Camels were imported to Australia in the mid 19th century, where they were used for transport across the vast, arid interior portions of the continent. When no longer needed, they were set loose. Nature took her course and now there are about 1.2 million feral camels in the country. The ruminants are highly destructive "pests" and each camel emits about 100 pounds of the greenhouse gas methane each year.

Because of its high reliance on coal-powered energy, Australia has one of the highest per capita greenhouse gas emission levels of any country, and the nation is looking at many ways to address the issue. But is camel-culling a costly diversion from more effective measures? Bloomberg quotes Tony Owen, academic director of University College London’s School of Energy and Resources in Adelaide, Australia:“It sounds like a high-cost way of curbing emissions. We’ve really got to move into the big league where we look at life changing technology.” The Australian legislature is engaged in a fierce debate over the Labor government's proposal to introduce a fixed price on carbon emissions--a carbon tax--on large industrial polluters by July 2012. Polls show Australians are bitterly divided on the subject; many fear the tax will further harm the economy, while thousands rallied in support of the tax around the country last Sunday. *Care2
Go here to vote no to kill camels ... http://www.care2.com/causes/global-warming/blog/carbon-credits-for-camel-killing/

Wildlife Smuggling

A Californian reptile salesman who attempted to smuggle 15 live Australian lizards into the US by strapping them to his chest should be jailed for 10 months, prosecutors have told an American judge. Michael Plank, 41, was stopped by US customs officers at Los Angeles international airport moments after he stepped off his United Airlines flight from Sydney on November 17, 2009. A pat-down search found money belts strapped to Plank's chest "stuffed" with two geckos, two monitor lizards and 11 skinks. Plank entered a guilty plea to a smuggling charge last year and US District Court judge Otis D Wright will sentence him on July 11. "There is simply no better way to discourage wildlife smugglers than to send out the message that smuggling wildlife will result in prison time," US prosecutors submitted in a filing to the judge yesterday. Prosecutors labelled Plank's smuggling attempt as "animal cruelty" and asked for a 10 month jail sentence, a $US2000 fine and three years probation. Australian customs officials estimate the 15 lizards are worth between $20,000 to $25,000. Plank, owner of US-based Big Game Reptiles, made 12 trips to Australia between November 2006 and November 2009, raising suspicions he had smuggled other Australian animals. The illegal trafficking of wildlife is estimated to be worth $US20 billion a year and ranks as the fourth most valuable illicit economy in the world behind drugs, arms and human trafficking, prosecutors told the court. The lizards are being held at San Diego Zoo.

Stuffed into four suitcases at Bangkok international airport last week were 450 rare and endangered turtles - and they were immediately seized by officials. But the discovery highlights growing concern over animal poaching in Asia. A previous find at the same airport included four leopard cubs, a bear cub, a monkey and a red-cheeked gibbon. In a separate case, a Bengal tiger cub was seized. Further arrests have been made across the border, where Laos and Cambodia have struck deals with Vietnam in an effort to curb poaching and protect what is left of their wildlife. Scientists are warning that up to half South-East Asia's wildlife will disappear this century if authorities fail to curb the smuggling rackets. It appears that the warnings are being heard, and understood. Malaysia is leading a bid to save the Sumatran rhinoceros - in serious danger of extinction, with perhaps just 15 to 30 left on the east coast of north Borneo. Tony Lamb, who has worked the Malaysian agricultural and horticultural departments for 40 years, told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific: "There were people who came in unseen, unnoticed and would camp for three months in the forests and find the territories of the rhinos and then dig traps. "And basically they would sell everything - the rhino hide, the horn. So that's why rhinos are now down to something like 15 or so."

Malaysia has achieved much in rescuing orang-utans and pigmy elephants from extinction. Shark fishing has also been banned and many Chinese restaurants are refusing to sell shark fin soup. But hundreds of other species are still in a precarious position. Lamb said: "It's been a matter of demand for their parts especially in China and Thailand. "So the sun bears for their gall bladders were hunted very, very heavily and they're now really threatened. "The same for the pangolins. that were exported out for medicine in China and other parts of Asia. "I think the dugongs were a similar thing that they were also prized for their tusks for medicinal purposes." Sridhar Lakshmana, managing trustee for the Base Camp Social Research Foundation, said south-eastern Indian marine life is under threat, with dugongs, turtles and sharks popular among poachers who on sell to China and Japan. He said: "What I think the international community can do is to have a much more coordinated effort, to see who are the final end consumers." The poachers were only local fishermen, and hard to apprehend, he said. "I don't think it's possible to achieve any of this without the contribution of the community and raising awareness levels within the community that I would say should be the focus if you really want to clamp down. "Just looking at it as a law and order problem and putting people behind bars will just make the trade more secret."

Tuna Wars Update

Tuna fishermen confronted environmentalists on the Mediterranean on Saturday, as activists attempted to disrupt illegal tuna fishing under the no-fly zone north of Libya. The fishermen attacked the Steve Irwin, owned by the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, by hurling heavy metal chain links aboard. They also attempted to lay a rope in front of the activists' boat, hoping to disable it. Environmentalists responded with water from fire hoses and stink bombs. Several hundred feet above the fray circled a French fighter jet, summoned by the fishermen -- who claimed, falsely, that activist divers were trying to cut their net. The 59.5-metre Steve Irwin, named after the Australian conservationist who died in 2006, left the Sicilian port of Syracuse early Friday, heading for a rendezvous with a smaller, faster sister ship, the Brigitte Bardot, just north of Libyan waters. The Bardot had traversed the area and reported that more than 20 purse seiners were operating there. Purse seiners are boats that deploy large nets that draw closed like a purse, ensnaring the tuna. The fish are then sometimes put in floating net-cages and slowly towed to port.

Sea Shepherd is on a mission to disrupt boats that are fishing illegally or have exceeded their quotas. The stock of bluefin tuna, which spawn in the Mediterranean and then swim out to the North Atlantic, has been depleted to the point that some experts fear it will soon collapse. The confrontation began to take shape at first light as the sun lifted and blazed a bright white stripe across the sea. Ten purse seiners floated several miles from the Steve Irwin in one direction, with five floating in the other. The ship's crew are true believers in their cause with vegan fare solely served on board. Yet Captain Paul Watson, the Sea Shepherd founder, and other ships officers say they only go after boats that are fishing illegally -- if they are not allotted a quota by ICCAT, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or have exceeded it -- or their catch includes too many juveniles.

As the Steve Irwin approached the group of five boats to determine their identities and inspect their catch Saturday, high stakes maneuvering began at close quarters. The boats were Tunisian, at least one was not licensed to fish -- according to the Irwin's crew -- and they did not respond to radio calls. The Sea Shepherd environmentalists -- who have no official enforcement powers -- deployed a small launch to inspect the cage, while the Tunisians suddenly scrambled two, then three small dinghies to protect their net. Others tried to cut off the Steve Irwin or chase it away. Fishermen in the larger boats threw heavy links of chain at the environmentalists -- hitting no one, but eventually forcing the dinghies to retreat without being able to determine if there were tuna in the cage. A larger Tunisian boat pulled along the port side of the Steve Irwin and the crew pelted the environmentalists with chain links. The crew of the Irwin responded with stink bombs containing, they said, rancid butter.

A Tunisian dinghy also towed a rope in front of the Steve Irwin, hoping it would get tangled in the propeller and disable the ship. Meanwhile, the cries of the Tunisians could be overheard radioing the French military for help, saying environmentalist divers were in the water trying to cut their nets. That was not the case. However, the Sea Shepherd volunteers are prepared to do exactly that to free the tuna, if they determine the fishing to have been illegal -- and they have done it in the past. The Irwin's officers deemed sending in divers at this point too dangerous. The Tunisians were aggressive, and they had deployed divers to protect their cage -- which could have led, in effect, to hand-to-hand combat in the sea. A French military jet appeared on the scene in short order and flew over the area at an altitude of a couple of hundred feet as the drama unfolded below. Eventually, the Steve Irwin broke off contact so it could continue to research whether the fishing was illegal. Ships officers said at least one of the boats had no quota assigned. Watson and other officers on the Irwin said they found the Tunisian's behavior suspicious. The crew of the environmentalists' ship was making more inquiries and coordinating with the Brigitte Bardot, and at midday Saturday, the possibility of more confrontation loomed. *CTVNews