Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wildlfie Bytes 27/7/11

Leading Story

Environmentalists have again warned of an ecological disaster at the southern end of Queensland's Great Barrier Reef, following the discovery of a dead dugong. It was found washed up on a beach in Gladstone Harbour, the fourth dugong, along with three dolphins and 40 turtles that have been found washed up around the harbour since May. Friends of the Earth spokesman Drew Hutton said he had seen first-hand the destruction around the harbour since construction of the LNG facilities had started. "Gladstone is the end-point of the export coal seam gas/LNG industry in Queensland and liquification plants, pipelines and port facilities are being built in this part of the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area," Mr Hutton said. He said the harbour might be a dugong sanctuary but at the moment it is full of shipping and loud noises and the only dugongs being found are dead ones.

Mr Hutton said that what was currently happening at Gladstone revealed the hypocrisy behind both state and federal governments' assertions that the conditions they placed on these developments would protect important environmental values. "How do you develop an environmental management plan that allows you to sensitively dredge your way through sea grass beds, removing 50 million cubic metres of spoil?" Mr Hutton asked. The Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) said six dugongs have died since the start of 2011 in the Gladstone area, compared to just two in 2010 and one in 2009. Turtle deaths have also increased in the same period to 48, from 26 last year and 24 in 2009. DERM said it takes the increase in the number of reported deaths very seriously The specially convened Scientific Advisory Committee for Marine Strandings has reported a number of reasons for the deaths including boat strikes and the loss of seagrass habitat following the floods.

DERM has told AAP that, based on evidence from previous floods, it is likely there will be more deaths later in the year between August and November. Health checks have been carried out on turtles and the results will help DERM plan the most appropriate way of managing the issue. Mr Hutton acknowledged that the floods were part of the problem. However, he has backed calls by the Worldwide Fund for Nature for a halt to dredging work on Gladstone harbour until an inquiry can determine what is causing the animal starvation and deaths. "Even if the work in this harbour is not directly killing marine animals, it is at least helping to create a situation where they are slowly being forced out of their traditional habitat to die of starvation," Mr Hutton said. *Courier Mail

Maria Island

Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service has begun its annual cull of wallabies and kangaroos on Maria Island, off the state's east coast. They say the cull in the national park aims to prevent problems from overpopulation. About 650 animals will be shot between now and Sunday, mostly forester kangaroos, bennetts wallabies and tasmanian pademelons. Parks' southern manager Ashley Rushton says without the cull, animal numbers would increase by about 30 per cent by the end of the year. But Nikki Sutterby from the Australian Society for Kangaroos says shooting the animals is unnecessary. "Nearly 12 months ago, the Australian Society for Kangaroos offered a full team of experts to come down there and carry out a large scale vasectimisation program on the male wallabies and kangaroos on the island, but they have failed to take us up on it," she said. "They have taken the cruel, cheap and quick option of shooting again." *ABC

Ed Comment; To read more about the terrible Maria Island killing program, go to http://www.kangaroo-protection-coalition.com/mariaisland.html
You can be a voice for these gentle creatures about to endure another massacre by writing/calling:

Tasmanian Premier, Lara Giddings 03 6233 3464 lara.giddings@dpac.tas.gov.au http://www.premier.tas.gov.au/contact

Minister Environment Parks and Heritage, Mr Brian Wightman Brian.Wightman@dpac.tas.gov.au PH 03 63365221

The Mercury (Tasmanian newpaper) mercuryedletter@dbl.newsltd.com.au

Crazy Ants Found in Hervey Bay

A dangerous ant that sprays acid at animals and humans is proving difficult to wipe out in Hervey Bay. One of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, the yellow crazy ant, was found at an industrial estate near Booral Rd in 2007 and a quarantine zone was set up to wipe out the colony. But nearly four years later, the ants are still making their home in the scrubby patch of land. Biosecurity Queensland Control Centre director Neil O’Brien said the yellow crazy ant was a difficult pest to eradicate in the natural environment. “This infestation is located in a heavily vegetated area, how-ever with ongoing operations we expect to eradicate it,” he said. While the ants initially colonised 77 hectares before being discovered, Biosecurity Queensland staff managed to kill most of them until the infestation was contained to two hectares. During 2010/11, two very small areas of infestation were detected,” Mr O’Brien said. “We are treating approximately two hectares around these infestations to destroy the remnant infestation.” Mr O’Brien said treatment and surveillance would continue to destroy the pest, which sprays formic acid that may cause burning or irritate the skin and eyes of animals and people. It is known as the “crazy ant” because it moves its legs and antennae erratically when disturbed. “The risk of further spread of the pest from known infested areas is managed through quarantine notices and movement controls,” he said. “Biosecurity Queensland officers work with industry, local council officers, conservation volunteer groups and land owners to successfully deal with this pest.” He said three rounds of treatment and surveillance were carried out during 2010/11, and another three rounds of treatment and further surveillance would be conducted in 2011/12. It is believed the ants were unleashed on the Fraser Coast by human error, possibly through transportation of infested timber. “These pests can cause significant environmental damage, but may also create a public nuisance,” Mr O’Brien said. “Hazards are managed through quarantine notices restricting the movement of high risk materials, such as plants and timber.” Sunshine Coast Daily

Climate Change

Time could soon run out for the north Queensland’s own Golden Bowerbird. The tiny yellow bird - the smallest bowerbird in the world - is found only in the mountain tops of Queensland’s sub-tropical rainforests. Climate modelling has indicated the high-altitude habitat of the Golden Bowerbird could shrink dramatically, forcing the bowerbird to seek shelter and food higher and higher up the mountains, until there is nowhere else to go. However, pioneering framework developed by Queensland ecologists could save it, and many other species, from the effects of climate change.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/why-saving-a-species-is-a-mathematical-matter-20110725-1hwce.html#ixzz1T9VuZBzn

Flying Foxes

Fraser coast families are living in fear of flying foxes after a Hendra virus outbreak – but for many, their concerns are unfounded. Esplanade clothing store owner Mandy Maurer said the bats often fouled her shopfront and their smell was overpowering. But her main concern was for safety, after a Hervey Bay horse contracted the virus last week. “The Hendra virus is really scary, especially with horses in this area already affected,” she said. “If there is a threat to human life by them being here they should be culled or moved else- where before someone catches the virus.” But Hervey Bay veterinarian Greg Podger said many people were panicking unnecessarily, and he had fielded dozens of calls from people concerned for their own safety or that of their pets. “People are becoming fearful of Hendra, but it is a very rare disease of horses and humans,” he said. “There are no known cases of cats or dogs catching it; it is impossible for people to catch it from bats; and you cannot catch it from a healthy horse.” Local councils can apply to the Department of Environment and Resource Management to remove the bats if they are believed to be causing a hazard, but a Fraser Coast council spokesman said it was not necessary in Hervey Bay. “The colony of flying foxes generally inhabiting Tooan Tooan Creek area has dispersed and only a small number of animals remain at the site at any time,” he said. * Fraser Coast Chronicle


Fox baits laced with 1080 will be laid in bushy Hobart suburbs from today. The areas being peppered with the baits as part of the fox eradication program include Mt Nelson, Tolmans Hill, Taroona and Bonnet Hill. Last week the southern suburbs of Blackmans Bay and Tinderbox were targeted. It is the first time the baiting program has come so close to the city. The laying of the baits, which are buried, has sparked anger from residents concerned about the welfare of pets and other wildlife. Veterinary pathologist David Obendorf also has criticised the baiting so close to suburbs. "It beggars belief. I am surprised they are continuing to do this ridiculous baiting program without any evidence of foxes out there," Dr Obendorf said. He said dogs were highly susceptible to 1080 baits and any dogs that ate them would die within four hours. Native animals were also at risk, despite government assurances, with species that liked to dig, such as quolls, bettongs, bandicoots and potoroos, in the most danger.
Read more ... http://www.themercury.com.au/article/2011/07/25/248071_tasmania-news.html

Small Fish in Decline

The growth in demand for small fish for feeding pigs, poultry and farmed salmon, could lead to the collapse of some fisheries. Marine scientists around the world have called for fishing effort to be halved for those fisheries at risk. The research, lately published in the journal Science (July 22, 2011) models future populations of forage fish including sardine, herring, mackerel and anchovy. They're vital food sources for seals, whales and seabirds. A global team of researchers looked at fishing off Peru and Chile, California and in the North Sea. Dr Beth Fulton of the CSIRO's Wealth from Oceans Flagship, is a co-author on the paper on forage fish. "They end up in fertiliser, fishmeal, they get fed to fish in aquaculture, if you've got tuna out in in a pen, pet food. "Three of them are some of the world's biggest fisheries for these kinds of fish, and the reason we were doing the work is the Marine Stewardship Council which gives eco-certification to fisheries, they wanted to know the safe rules for these kinds of fish." Their models showed if fishing continue at this rate, marine mammals and seabirds will decline, and the fishing effort needs to be halved. *ABC Read more .... http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2011/s3278132.htm

New Frog Species

Researchers have discovered a new miniature frog species in Western Australia's remote Pilbara region. The Pilbara toadlet is thought to have gone unnoticed for a million years and has adapted to the harsh desert conditions. The finding was made by researchers from the University of Western Australia, the West Australian Museum and the Australian National University. ANU PhD student Renee Catullo says the two centimetre toadlet is unique. "It has big glands and it has brown spots all over it, it also has a different call from all the other species," she said. "It actually lives in rocky landscapes instead of sandy soils, so it's a burrowing frog that's adapted to live in a different type of landscape." Ms Catullo says researchers had thought very few amphibians lived in the Pilbara region. "The deserts of Australia are often believed to be empty regions with few species," she said. "However genetic work on reptiles and amphibians has shown that there are large numbers of species in what looks like a barren landscape to most people." Ms Catullo says genetic testing confirmed the discovery. *ABC

Become a Wildlife Warrior

By making a one-off donation or joining our monthly giving program you can become part of a global wildlife force that is working hard to preserve our natural environment. Monthly Giving Program; Sign up to become a regular giver for wildlife conservation! Donations start from as little as $2.50 a week and can go to helping our native wildlife at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. Nearly 100 wildlife emergency calls are received every day at the Hospital, Up to 30 different species are admitted to the hospital every day, Currently around 80 koalas undergoing treatment, Approximately 70% of patients are victims of car accidents or domestic pet attacks, The cost to treat one animal ranges from $100 to thousands of dollars To sign up or find out more please visit http://www.wildlifewarriors.org.au


The Evans Head Fishing Classic is an “ecological massacre masquerading under the banner of sustainable sport”, and urgent action should be taken to ensure “some sanity” prevails, says Evans Head Fishermen's Co-op. The co-op general manager, Gerry Morgan, says the event should be cut back to three days and entries limited. Mr Morgan highlights his concerns in a scathing letter to The Northern Star, also addressed to organisers of the Classic, Page MP Janelle Saffin and Clarence MP Steve Cansdell. “The number of tickets historically sold have ranged from 500 to well over 1000,” he wrote. “This is far too many for a small, fragile reef ecosystem. “We can prove on record that after a ‘successful' Classic, the local fish stocks are absolutely depleted and the three full-time pro hand-line fishermen do it tough for a few weeks,” he said. Mr Morgan said there appears to be no concern for the fact most bream, mulloway, luderick and other species are spawning or will be and that the snapper have moved inshore as a preamble to their spawning season. Fishing Classic president Peter Leeson conceded a large number of jewfish were caught, but said: “NSW Fisheries enforced bag limits over the course of the classic and they and the waterways people were very vigilant and they were happy with the way people conducted themselves and the way they stuck to the rules.” *Northern Star


“..they are the only australian native classed as vermin, how sad that such a noble and loving companion is now regarded as a pest, it is not just cruel but a betrayal of the highest order”
The Save the Fraser Island Dingo website is here ... http://www.savefraserislanddingoes.com/ with lots of info about the FI dingoes......*


Just as one dangerous weed gets under control, Fraser Coast residents are asked to be on the lookout for another invasive weed that threatens farms and waterways. Weed removal works have just been completed in storm detention basins around Hervey Bay to remove the weed Azolla (Ed. actually a native waterplant that thrives in nutrient rich water) but residents will have to turn their attention to a new threat, hymenachne. Hymenachne is the latest in a long list of weeds that could potentially impact farmers on the Fraser Coast and Biosecurity Queensland has warned canefarmers to watch their fields closely over the next few months. The long weed is invasive and is known to take over canefields, swampy areas or areas that flood frequently. It is a green grass with long leaf blades which can grow in water up to 2m deep. Biosecurity Queensland National Hymenachne co-ordinator Craig Magnussen said the weed may have been spread across the area by recent flooding and wet weather. Mary River Catchment Co-ordinating Committee spokeswoman Eva Ford said the group had found outbreaks of the weed in Boompa, west of Biggenden. Burnett Mary Regional Group has labelled hymenachne a target species in its Mary River Catchment weed management strategy. Hymenachne also impacts fisheries by creating a barrier for aquatic animals, preventing territorial movements and breeding. To report a suspected hymenachne infestation, contact Mr Magnussen on 4661 6612. Hymenachne is a green grass that can grow up to 2.5 metres. It thrives in riverbanks and seasonally flooded areas and can grow in water up to 2m deep. It can be identified by the base of the leaves, which clasp around the stem. Flower heads can be up to 40cm long but are less than a cm wide.

Ed Comment; Hymenachne was introduced to Queensland illegally in the '90's by the Queensland DPI as a potential cattle stockfood for ponded pastures. It has now widely displaced native water plants throughout tropical and sub-tropical Queensland, and is now considered a noxious weed. As the native water plants are displaced by Hymenachne, so is the wildlife also displaced that depends on them.


Ecuadorean authorities have seized 357 dead sharks from a boat that was fishing illegally in the protected waters of the Galapagos Islands national park. The government news agency says criminal proceedings will be pursued against the crew of the Ecuadorean fishing boat. The report says the boat was detained on Tuesday southeast of Genovesa island inside the marine reserve. The Galapagos area has been a United Nations natural heritage site since 1979 because of its unique marine and land species. It is prohibited to catch, sell or transport sharks in the reserve. * 9News

New Kangaroo Study

A new study has revealed surprising results: kangaroos with joeys in their pouch almost double their food intake and significantly reduce the time they spend resting to meet the nutritional needs of their rapidly growing babies. The bigger the joey became, and the more of the mother's milk it drank, the more time she had to spend foraging. But, by increasing their food intake, the mothers also increased the risk of gastro-intestinal parasite infection because it is harder to avoid faecal-contaminated pasture while consuming so much more forage.
Read more http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/roo-study-finds-mums-are-kept-on-the-hop-20110725-1hwrm.html#ixzz1TBgJwY1C

Kangaroo Industry in Victoria?

The Southern Grampians Mayor, Bob Penny, says kangaroo meat processing would create jobs in the region. The council has asked neighbouring municipalities to support its appeal to the Victorian Government to lift the ban on processing culled kangaroos. The Moyne Council will vote on the request tonight. Councillor Penny says new businesses are needed. "It most certainly would create jobs and our structure plan in Hamilton, we're looking for local businesses to be created and it creates employment and creates an increased population but it does make sense," he said. "I do emphasise that this is not about culling kangaroos for the sake of culling kangaroos, it's about keeping kangaroos at a level which is containable." *ABC

Another Kangaroo Processor Bites the Dust!

The kangaroo meat sector has copped a further blow with another processing facility shut down in western Queensland. Several plants have closed across Queensland in the past two years. Game Meat Processing says it had no option but to mothball the Blackall business, south-west of Rockhampton. Company spokesman Rex De Vantier says the export ban to Russia and the high Australia dollar have put enormous pressure on the company and 20 people have lost their jobs. "There's been a number of plant closures, probably five," he said. "This is the last plant operating in regional Australia - or regional Queensland - but the headwinds have just continued to strengthen." But Mr De Vantier says he is still optimistic about the future. "We have got faith in the opportunities of the kangaroo business going forward and we just hope this is a small blip," he said. Blackall Mayor Jan Ross says she is devastated. "It's a big blow to our community which is struggling after the wet year of 2010," she said. "I'd describe it as a micro-depression."

The company's plant in the south-east is still operating and it says it will keep Blackall ready for a reopen if conditions improve. "Longreach no longer has a works, St George no longer has a works, Charleville - it's been closed, and now us," Ms Ross said. Kangaroo harvester Tom Garrett says the closure of the Blackall facility will make it more difficult to find work in the industry. "Out in western Queensland at the moment, unless you in the resource sector for a mining or an oil or a gas company, you rely on any work you can get," he said. "I'd like to think that I've been able to earn an income from the commercial harvest of kangaroos and other game meat, but it's getting harder and harder." He says he is confident the industry will recover despite the closure of the Blackall facility. "You're always optimistic when you live in a rural area and your industry's attached to the land," he said. "Our industry is no different to any other rural industry - it has its ebbs and its peaks. "Unfortunately, at the moment, we're in one of our ebbs." *ABC

Morriset Kangaroos

Hunter New England Health will restrict access to the grounds of Morisset Hospital at night after a kangaroo was shot through the head with an arrow in the latest incident of animal cruelty at the site. Staff from the hospital discovered the animal with a 60-centimetre arrow lodged in its head yesterday morning and informed officers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, who euthanised the kangaroo. Evidence suggests the animal was hit on Wednesday night and suffered hours of pain before it was discovered in poor condition the next morning. A spokeswoman for Hunter New England Health said plans were well advanced to restrict access to the site at night. "Security gates are being installed on the two main access roads into the site and it is hoped to have the security upgrade finished and operational next month," she said. The attack is the latest in a string of incidents of cruelty to kangaroos on the hospital grounds in recent years. Reports of groups of people entering the grounds in cars to run down animals have been common with the Native Animal Trust Fund estimating more than 100 kangaroos had been killed there in the six months to December last year. National Parks Lakes area manager Bronwyn Conyers said she was seeking assistance from the public to help identify those responsible for the attack. "I find it very hard to believe that someone did this without knowing they had harmed an animal," she said. Ms Conyers said she would discourage anyone from feeding the kangaroos in the area as this may be setting them up as targets.*Newcastle Herald

Kangaroo Meat not a viable Industry

Nikki Sutterby is a co-ordinator for Australian Society for Kangaroos. She is writing in reply to a recent blog by John Kelly, executive officer of the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia. Kangaroos are the victims of the largest land-based wildlife slaughter in the world. Every year millions of kangaroos and their joeys are killed in the wild for their meat and skins by the kangaroo industry. Contrary to popular belief this large-scale “cull” of our national icon is not about crop protection, damage mitigation or population control. It's about profit for an industry that supplies meat to pet food companies and meat processors, and skins to sports shoe companies.

Despite claims that kangaroos need to be "controlled", are overpopulated, and wreaking havoc on our agriculture, government data shows kangaroos have declined by 55 per cent since 2001, and are at critical densities of less than five per square kilometre across most of Australia. Research by the University of New South Wales and the CSIRO also shows kangaroos rarely compete with sheep and cattle for pasture, or damage crops. In fact there are five times as many sheep and cattle in Australia compared to kangaroos, and according to the Australian State of the Environment Report 2006, kangaroos exert a grazing pressure of just 5 per cent on low intensity grazing land (60 per cent of Australia) compared to sheep and cattle, at 95 per cent.

The massive push by the kangaroo industry to eat kangaroo is also misleading, claiming that eating kangaroo will save the planet and reduce greenhouse emissions. According to scientists at the THINKK tank at the University of Technology, Sydney, if everyone in Australian ate just one small portion of kangaroo meat per week, the entire kangaroo population would be wiped out within a year. This point exposes the fact that there just isn't enough meat on kangaroos, or enough kangaroos for that matter, to support our requirements.

Claims by the kangaroo industry that slaughter practices are humane are also misleading. The RSCPA in its 2002 report clearly states that the way in which kangaroo joeys are killed by the industry is inhumane. When a mother kangaroo is shot, the industry will decapitate or bludgeon to death the pouch joey. The report also found that a proportion of at-foot joeys, orphaned when the mother is shot, will die a horrible death from starvation, predation and exposure. What should also be considered is that kangaroos have complex social structures and close family bonds, and are known to suffer significant stress and grief when one of their mob dies. Australians have never been asked whether they approve of their national emblem being killed on a massive scale for pet food and sports shoes, but they at least deserve to know all the facts about the kangaroo industry, so they can make conscious choices at the checkout. *Sydney Morning Herald

Kangaroo Attack

Back in the days of Phyllis Johnson's childhood, kangaroo boxing was a common sideshow attraction. But never did the 94-year-old imagine she would end up going a round or two with a big red roo. A giant red buck bounded into her Charleville backyard as she was hanging out the washing on Sunday, knocking her to the ground and kicking her several times. The plucky bushie tried to beat the massive kangaroo off with a broom, but was outclassed when it came to sheer size, strength and bulk. Bruised, scratched and bleeding, she commando-crawled along the backyard until she reached a post on the side of her granny flat where she could pull herself upright and escape her attacker by retreating indoors. "I thought it was going to kill me," Ms Johnson told The Courier-Mail from her bed at Charleville Hospital yesterday. "It was taller than me and it just ploughed through the clothes on the washing line straight for me. "I happened to have a broom nearby and I just started swinging at it. I bashed it on the head but it kept going for me, not even the dog would help, it was too frightened."

Ms Johnson said the raging roo maintained a vigil outside her Old Cunnamulla Rd home, until her son, who lived upstairs, arrived. Despite wielding a big stick for protection, Ms Johnson's son couldn't get the kangaroo to hop along and the frightened duo were forced to call in the police. Charleville Police OIC Sen-Sgt Stephen Perkins said two police officers arrived at the property, only to have the enraged roo barrel towards them. Police were forced to use capsicum spray to subdue the frightened kangaroo, he said. "One officer had to deploy his OC spray on the animal and it ran away and saw the other police officer out of the corner of its eye," Sen-Sgt Perkins said. "The other officer also had to deploy his spray to keep from getting hurt. It's one of the many unusual calls we get out here."

Ms Johnson said she hadn't planned to go to hospital as a result of her injuries, although conceded it was the best place to be. "I wasn't going to go but I was pretty bruised and scratched up," she said. "My son made me. I'm okay, although the roo took a chunk of flesh out of my leg and there's a chance they'll have to operate." Ms Johnson said she'd always had a soft spot for kangaroos. "I used to feed them next door, give them some bread, and they've always been so gentle," she said. "They weren't as big as that one though and they've never gone for me like that. This one seemed to target me, it was putting it's feet into me and kicking." Officers from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services and the police worked together to trap the large kangaroo and are investigating how the animal came to be in the vicinity. *Courier Mail

It later appears this kangaroo is a "misunderstood" pet raised in captivity. "Eddie" escaped from his enclosure on Sunday and went on a rampage through Phyllis Johnson's yard in Charleville in western Queensland, knocking her to the ground and repeatedly kicking her. The frightened buck was caught by officers from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service later that day and is now facing the prospect of being put down. Eddie was orphaned as a joey and was brought up in captivity by a local wildlife carer. When Eddie was first released into the wild he was injured - either hit by a car or attacked by dogs - and returned home to recuperate in the Charleville neighbourhood where he had grown up. Eddie's injured hip never healed properly and he was kept in captivity for his own safety. Somehow the gate was left open on Sunday and he escaped. His carer said "He's really gentle, he grew up with people and he will follow you and come when you call him. It may be he was misunderstood. *

Turtles and Dugong

Green turtles and dugongs have been on the global ''red list'' of threatened species for many years, but the situation is looking up for Australian populations as a community-based protection approach evolves. Hunting is one reason numbers have dropped in parts of Australia. Both species enjoy legal protection nationally but indigenous communities are able to hunt dugongs and turtles for cultural and economic reasons. "Urban development, fishing impacts and hunting are some factors, but remember indigenous people have a right to hunt and people in Torres Strait Islands have been harvesting dugongs for 4000 years," Helene Marsh, professor of environmental science at James Cook University, said. Research suggests that harvests in some areas are unsustainable but indigenous communities are key to the solution, joining James Cook University and the government to protect marine life.

"The Australian government has invested large amounts of money in the indigenous ranger programs, and they not only provide valuable training and employment opportunities in remote communities but they also have species conservation benefits," Professor Marsh said. One example is community development of the Traditional Use of Marine Resources Agreements in the Great Barrier Reef region, which guides sustainable hunting. "I think a huge amount of progress is being made and it will evolve over time. This is truly the way to go because most hunting occurs in remote areas and, in order to manage it effectively, you need the help of the local people," Professor Marsh said. "I don't think we have an imminent conservation crisis for either the dugong or turtle in Australia. We're lucky we have good stocks, so we need to look after them." The Department of Sustainability and Environment estimates the dugong population in Australia to be about 5700, based on figures from 1995 to 2008, but a department spokesman said there were no definitive figures on dugong or turtle numbers. "The Australian government is part of a national partnership approach for the conservation and protection of turtles and dugongs," the spokesman said. ''There is also state and Northern Territory legislation in place to protect turtles and dugongs." *Age

Cuttlefish Gone

South Australia's Giant Cuttlefish breeding colony - regarded as a natural marvel - has disappeared. Experts and tourism operators say they are at a loss to explain why the tens of thousands of Giant Australian Cuttlefish have not appeared for their annual breeding migration. They fear the species is in danger, saying less than a quarter of the usual numbers have made it to the shallow, rocky waters off Whyalla and those that have are smaller than usual. This is the only place in the world that the cuttlefish gather in such large numbers to breed. No government department, however, claims responsibility for monitoring their numbers. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Environment Protection Authority and Primary Industries and Resources SA all told the Sunday Mail they were not responsible for counting cuttlefish to ensure the species was safe. Adelaide University ecologist Professor Bronwyn Gillanders said the cuttlefish looked to be in danger. "I have heard reports the numbers are way reduced," she said. "Initially it was thought they were coming in late this year, but they should have been at their peak abundance in mid-to-late June. It's really hard to tell whether this is a natural phenomenon or something else."

She said more research was needed to determine the cause. "I don't think anybody has any idea about what could be causing it," she said. "The reason it is so concerning is that cuttlefish die after mating. A species like snapper can have a bad recruitment year but the same fish can still come back and lay more eggs. "The cuttlefish can't come back and breed again." Whyalla dive boat operator Tony Bramley believes they are being fished by boats targeting an area just outside the Point Lowly exclusion zone. "We are very, very concerned because the numbers this year are disastrously low," he said. "There is a tiny little finger of coastline out near Point Lowly outside the zone. "I believe that's where they access the reef from the deep water. They should close that. It's been described as the best marine spectacle in the world and we're risking losing it. The cuttlefish have turned up (this year) - it's just the fisherman took them all. "In other years the bottom was a carpet of them. "The reef was covered but if you go out there now, there's hardly any."

Shayne Grant, a former tour operator and local diver, said locals were concerned a major tourism drawcard and ecological wonder could disappear. "Last year they were everywhere but this year they haven't moved in at all," he said. "Tourist numbers seem to be dropping off, too. People are finding out about it." In an emailed statement to the Sunday Mail, a DENR spokeswoman said: "PIRSA protects the cuttlefish aggregation with a fishery closure across False Bay. "DENR is considering advice from the local community to develop a marine park sanctuary zone in the area that will provide extra protection to both the cuttlefish and the habitat they depend upon. DENR has heard the concerns expressed by tourism operators that there are fewer cuttlefish near Whyalla this year, but does not monitor their numbers and is not aware of concerns around a particular fishing location." *Adelaide Now