Monday, August 22, 2011

Wildlife Bytes 23/8/11

Leading Story

Giant Cuttlefish at Risk

There's more signs Whyalla's giant cuttlefish are in danger, with hundreds of their eggs floating in the ocean. Whyalla Diving Services owner Tony Bramley said the cuttlefish, which should be stuck safely under rocks, wouldn't hatch once they were detached from rocks. "Once they're floating, that's the end of them," Mr Bramley said. "They can't take the sunlight, they have to be under a ledge to survive." On Thursday, Mr Bramley had to collect 50 eggs for an Adelaide University research project. "I had to dive for 40 minutes, it should have taken one minute," he said. "It was really depressing to go out there. In that 40 minutes we only found two small egg masses and we turned over hundreds of rocks." Adelaide University marine biologist Professor Bronwyn Gillanders said the lack of eggs was concerning. "They breed and then they die so if the eggs don't survive they're not around to come back and breed again," she said. "And anecdotally we have a decreased abundance of adult population. "It's a recipe for disaster."

Neither Prof Gillanders or Mr Bramley knew what was causing the laid eggs to come away from the rocks. "The large ones that normally come in lay about 90 eggs but this year the few cuttlefish that have turned up are smaller and lay more like 15 eggs," Mr Bramley said. Meanwhile, fourth generation Moonta professional fisherman Noel Kemp has told the Sunday Mail he believes an enormous school of salmon is responsible for the decreased cuttlefish numbers. Mr Kemp said since the number of salmon netting licences was reduced in 2005 and closure areas were introduced, the salmon population had swelled. "Stocks have gone out of balance now," Mr Kemp said."We've got four to five years' build-up of fish. I'm seeing a lot more salmon than I used to. "I was working an area in early June for six days and I saw a large school of huge salmon cruising near Whyalla. Cuttlefish are natural food for them." Prof Gillanders said salmon were one of many predators for cuttlefish.

In a statement released to the Sunday Mail, the Department of Primary Industries and Resources SA said: "the Government has committed to establishing a more robust and comprehensive monitoring program (of cuttlefish) with particular reference to population biomass, water quality and habitat condition". However they said in the statement there was "no evidence available to support that assumption" that salmon were responsible for the decreased cuttlefish population. "A South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) dive team will commence a survey of Giant Cuttlefish in the closed area next week," the PIRSA statement said. *SA Sunday Mail

White Cockatoo to be Caged

An 85-year-old cockatoo who has been a Coburg pet shop mascot for as long as anyone can remember has been kicked off his perch and ordered to live behind bars. "Cocky" has enjoyed years of freedom greeting and amusing customers from his stand in Monika Jarosz's pet store. But this month inspectors from the Department of Sustainability and Environment told her the elderly bird must be confined to a cage. Ms Jarosz said Cocky had been a mascot of the Bird City store for the 15 years she had owned it, and probably much longer. "He's well-known in the area and we have lots of kids coming in during the school holidays just to see him," Ms Jarosz said. She said the outspoken bird became lonely when he wasn't around people. Because of his advanced age Ms Jarosz said it was difficult for Cocky to adjust to living in a cage. She said he had started self-mutilating, a sign of stress in cockatoos. "How do you explain to a bird 'You've been out for years now you're not allowed out?' " she said. "It's not fair. (He's) never attacked a person or done anything to compromise his position or mine." A DSE spokeswoman said under the Wildlife Regulations Act 2002 all wildlife had to be kept in suitable enclosures to prevent their escape. "The enclosures are also necessary to protect the wildlife from predators, and to resist access by people not authorised to handle that wildlife," she said. *HeraldSun


The environmental group World Wildlife Fund is warning Cambodia's river dolphin population faces extinction unless the government takes urgent action. WWF says there are just 85 Irrawaddy dolphins left in the Mekong River, and almost all are in north-eastern Cambodia. The organisation wants a conservation area established and a ban on fine-mesh nets - known as 'gill nets' - which it says are drowning the dolphins. But the government's dolphin specialist, Dr Touch Seang Tana, says WWF's figures are too low. He believes there are about 170 dolphins left - twice the environmental group's estimate. He does, however, agree with the requirement to ban gill nets and says the ban should be in place by the end of the year, as should a dolphin preservation area. Cambodia's critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins are an increasingly popular tourist drawcard. *ABC

National Parks

An Alice Springs-based botanist says the Northern Territory doesn't have enough parks and wildlife staff or resources to properly conserve the natural environment. Thick buffel grass is causing a high wildfire danger in much of central Australia after heavy rain last year. The grass was introduced in the 1860s for cattle feed and there's a thick cover of it in the region. Peter Latz spoke about the best way to tackle the introduced grass at an Eco-Fair in Alice Springs at the weekend. He says Parks N-T should be doing much more to reduce the weed, but is held back by a massive shortage of staff. "Tourism is our biggest industry and we have only just got enough rangers to keep the tourists happy," he said. "There is just nothing getting done in terms of looking after the ecology of our parks. "If we are going to have lots of buffel grass and lots of fires, we could lose our hollow trees and our ecology. "Everything would go downhill." Mr Latz says efforts to reduce buffel grass are held back because local people are taking holidays at the best time to spray. "It is just damn hard work at the moment," he said. "The only way to control buffel grass is to spray ... at the right time, which is only a very short period. "Unfortunately (this is) when most people are on holidays. "That is the biggest problem actually, being around to spray at the right time." *ABC

Sea Shepherd

One lone observer closes down a stall promoting endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna sales, and were also offering free samples to wholesale trade buyers at Asia's biggest food expo. * WPAA
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Green Energy

As California attempts to divorce itself from fossil-fueled electricity, it may be trading one environmental sin for another -- although you don't hear state officials admitting it. Wind power is the fastest growing component in the state's green energy portfolio, but wildlife advocates say the marriage has an unintended consequence: dead birds, including protected species of eagles, hawks and owls. "The cumulative impacts are huge," said Shawn Smallwood, one of the few recognized experts studying the impact of wind farms on migratory birds. "It is not inconceivable to me that we could reduce golden eagle populations by a great deal, if not wipe them out." California supports roughly 2,500 golden eagles. The state's largest wind farms kill, on average, more than 80 eagles per year. But the state is set to triple wind capacity in the coming years as it tries to become the first state in the nation to generate 33 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2020. *FoxNews
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Did you know that dn the United States in 2004, 74,000 reptile owners were struck down by salmonella poisoning. Veterinarian Dr Carmel says most, if not all, reptiles carry salmonella in their gut and kissing one is like eating gone-off chicken. Owners are also at risk if they eat or smoke while handling their reptiles, and should wash their hands well before putting anything in their mouth. And he says young children, people with compromised immunity and the frail elderly are most at risk.
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NMIT Kangaroos

Australian Society for Kangaroos (ASK) together with Victorian volunteers and Eden Park residents have now maintained their vigil at NMIT Eden Park Victoria for 5 months. Every night and day activists and residents have prevented the shooting of hundreds of Eastern Grey Kangaroos and their joeys for five months. NMIT's permit runs out in just eight weeks so we're on the home straight now. Thank you to everyone who has helped in every little way. We could not have done this without you. With particular thanks to Val, Lisa, Leanne, Brian, Bernie and the residents who have hung in there for this final home stretch and made it possible for us to save these kangaroos with our health and sanity intact. THANK YOU!! *ASK

Wind Farms

As California attempts to divorce itself from fossil-fueled electricity, it may be trading one environmental sin for another -- although you don't hear state officials admitting it. Wind power is the fastest growing component in the state's green energy portfolio, but wildlife advocates say the marriage has an unintended consequence: dead birds, including protected species of eagles, hawks and owls. "The cumulative impacts are huge," said Shawn Smallwood, one of the few recognized experts studying the impact of wind farms on migratory birds. "It is not inconceivable to me that we could reduce golden eagle populations by a great deal, if not wipe them out." California supports roughly 2,500 golden eagles. The state's largest wind farms kill, on average, more than 80 eagles per year. But the state is set to triple wind capacity in the coming years as it tries to become the first state in the nation to generate 33 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2020. *FoxNews
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An extensive investigation by the National Parks and Wildlife Service into the culling of joeys at Mount Panorama in 2009 has cleared Bathurst Regional Council of any wrongdoing. The Australian Society for Kangaroos (ASC) had claimed 88 joeys were illegally killed as a safety precaution before the Bathurst 1000. ASC conducted a Freedom of Information investigation in 2010 which it said revealed a professional shooter killed the joeys, which resulted in the cull quota of up to 140 of the marsupials being exceeded. As a result ASC lodged a formal complaint with the Department of Environment and Climate Change regarding the alleged breach of the NSW Parks and Wildlife Act. But a National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesperson said yesterday they issued council a licence to cull kangaroos for the Mount Panorama race track in 2009 to protect the safety of drivers and spectators. “Vehicle collisions with kangaroos have occurred in the past,” the spokesperson said.

“The NPWS reviewed the implementation of the licence and found the council and its contractor had carried out the culling in accordance with the expectations of NPWS and in compliance with the National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos. The NPWS will not be taking any further action.” The spokesperson said council was developing a long-term Kangaroo Management Plan for the site and has reported that for the 2011 race it will implement measures similar to 2010 which involve strategic fencing and personnel on site. Council general manager David Sherley said yesterday council was always confident it had followed the correct protocols relating to the cull. “We have worked closely with the National Parks and Wildlife Service at all times,” he said. “We are currently in the process of developing a precinct fauna management strategy for the Mount Panorama area. *Western Advocate

Backyard Wildlife

More and more people are getting up close with wildlife, prompting complaints about everything from flying foxes, to possums, ticks, mosquitoes and foxes. And it must say something about us that we are regularly outwitted by scrub turkeys - creatures with a brain not much bigger than a few peas, but the capacity to rearrange a landscaping project overnight. Griffith University urban wildlife specialist Darryl Jones said yesterday that part of the reason for this burgeoning urban warfare was because many creatures had bred up after two good seasons. Increased housing density and land clearing was resulting in humans pushing into wildlife habitat and animals such as flying foxes were being forced into suburbia. Many urban wildlife interactions occurred because people inadvertently supplied animals with food and lodging. If people left gaps in eaves, a possum, bird or carpet snake would make a home faster than it took a scrub turkey to move a truckload of mulch. And when people converted back yards into trendy rainforest patches, it became a gilt-edged invitation to a turkey to move in.

Peter the Possum Man, aka Brian "Peter" Vernon, said his business had increased because of natural fluctuations in animal populations. "Years ago, you'd only get one possum in a roof. Now it's not unusual to find two or three or even more," he said. Mr Vernon has a permit to remove animals such as possums but they have to be released within 25m. This is because they usually had other dens they could move into. People who illegally removed possums virtually ensure the animal dies a slow death of hunger or is attacked by other animals. "Unfortunately we've been knocking down the big old gums and they have hollows for animals like possums and birds," he said. Professor Jones said he was disappointed that some residents illegally move or harass animals. This was cruel, unethical and ecologically silly because they immediately tried to return or their niche was soon filled by another creature. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service senior ranger Adam Northam said the maximum penalty for taking a native animal, such as a possum or brush turkey, was $10,000.

Prof Jones argues it's more entertaining to see a scrub turkey strutting down George St than a politician, and people should be proud of Brisbane's wildlife, which was extraordinary by world standards. "The next thing people will complain about is crows because the mums will soon be kicking young out of the nest," he said. "These teenagers will gather at schools and McDonald's where they get scraps. They are simply trying to make a living." Mr Northam said that if problems arose with an animal, people should contact the department or a licensed handler. "If you have room, why not let a turkey have a mound?" he said. "If you are mulching, don't do it in spring when they're nesting." Another tip is to get rid of cocos palms as they attract bats, despite making them ill. Mr Vernon said scrub turkeys were difficult characters, and he once saw a bird kick compost up a driveway, across the road and into a neighbour's yard. "With scrub turkeys, things can get a little chaotic," he said. They cost about $200 to remove and possums from $300 to $500, depending on what is involved. Prof Jones said that as Australia became more urbanised, generations were growing up with nature deficit syndrome - no connection to the bush or animals. "A lot of people are really worried that kids' only connection to wildlife is via TV," he said. "I wonder, will these kids feel any compulsion to protect animals in the future?"
Ed Comment; Amazing, some people spend a lot of time and money making their backyards wildlife freindly, while others just want to get rid of backyard wildlife....

Kangaroo Genome

AN international team of researchers say they have sequenced the first genome of a kangaroo, a project aimed at pinpointing the genes that give the marsupial its remarkable abilities to hop and smell. The DNA code of the tammar wallaby is presented in Genome Biology, published by British-based open-access science publisher BioMed Central. The pint-sized 'roo measures only 45 centimetres from head to tailtip and has long intrigued biologists. It has a 12-month gestation of which 11 months is a period of suspended animation in the womb. At birth, the young weigh only half a gram, and spend nine months in the mother's pouch for protection as they grow. The wallaby joins more than other 130 organisms whose genome has been unravelled. They include humans, the chimpanzee, dog, rat, mouse and rabbit, as well as valuable crops, fungus and the fruit fly, a standard model for lab research. *

Prehistoric Eel Found

A new species of eel found in the gloom of an undersea cave is a "living fossil" astonishingly similar to the first eels that swam about 200 million years ago, biologists reported. The strange find was made last year in a 35-metre-deep fringing-reef cave off an island in the Western Pacific state of Palau, they said on Wednesday in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The small brown fish has very few of the anatomical characteristics of modern eels, a vast range whose 819 species are grouped into 19 families. In contrast, it has many hallmarks of primitive eels which lived in the early Mesozoic era, back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. The similarities include a disproportionately large head, a short compressed body, collar-like openings on the gills, rays on the caudal fin and a jawbone tip called a premaxilla. The find is so exceptional that the eel has been honoured as a separate species, Protoanguilla palau. *Age
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Wildlfie Trafficking

As shady and lucrative as drug trafficking, the illegal trade of Australian wildlife is a growing form of organised crime in WA. Animal smugglers are ramping up their cruel operations in WA because of the State's many unique and rare fauna. Reptiles, such as lizards, geckos and snakes, are the most common creatures smuggled out of WA and can fetch $12,500 each on the black market overseas. Wildlife officers in WA are using DNA profiling, similar to that used by police on humans, to confirm whether animals have been poached from the wild. Department of Environment and Conservation wildlife officer Matt Swan said they relied heavily on tip-offs from the public. "It's like drugs and guns coming into the country," he said. "We act swiftly on information when we can get it. "Wildlife crime is certainly a growing trend." Mr Swan said reptiles were a common target because they were small, relatively easy to transport and those unique to WA or Australia made them valuable overseas. Hong Kong national Ho Wong, who lives in Thornlie, appeared in Perth Magistrate's Court yesterday charged over attempting to take four Western blue-tongued lizards, a threatened species, out of WA in May. Last month, 12 bobtail lizards were allegedly found wrapped in masking tape and stitched inside teddy bears to be exported illegally by post. "It's unbelievably cruel," Mr Swan said. "We believe the bobtails were fetching around $7500 in Asia." Last August, eight pygmy spiny-tailed skinks, reportedly worth $3000 on the black market, were found in a raid on a NSW home by customs officials who suspected they were poached in the Pilbara. The skinks could not be released in case they contracted diseases in captivity. Perth Zoo took them in but they were in poor health and all but one died. Mr Swan said a rare lizard unique to Rottnest Island was being targeted and smugglers were trying to sell them on a Japanese website for $12,500 each. To report wildlife crime, call 9474 9055. *WAnews

A surprising variety of endangered Australian wildlife is up for grabs on the black market. Native green tree pythons (Morelia viridis) can sell fo r $2000-10,000 on the black market. (Credit: Wikimedia) he didn't think he was doing anything wrong; it seemed a harmless act. When, in 2008, wildlife officers from the WA Department of Environment and Conservation came knocking at his house in Morawa, east of Geraldton, the man was surprised to see them - not because the game was up, but because he didn't realise he'd broken any laws. The wildlife officers were following up on a tip from someone who'd spotted the then 55-year-old swiping a chick from an endangered black cockatoo's nest hollow, high in a nearby salmon gum tree. "He literally didn't think he was doing the wrong thing," says Nicole White, a conservation scientist studying black cockatoos at Perth's Murdoch University who identified the bird species. "He was saying: 'There are plenty of them around. Why can't I have one?'." Then the officers heard squawking coming from the neighbour's yard where, upon investigating, they found a further 14 red-tailed black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus banksii), Carnaby's cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) and galahs - most of which require a licence. The neighbour, 59-year-old Herbert Edward Kenyon, was illegally trading thousands of dollars worth of birds and was caught red-handed. Wildlife theft is a massive, complex and nebulous beast. It ranges from individuals taking the odd bird as a pet, through to organised trafficking by international crime syndicates. .........

Dingo Killed

A DINGO has died after being struck by a 4WD on Fraser Island’s Eastern Beach. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Great Sandy Marine Regional manager Ross Belcher said the dingo “veered into” the tourist’s vehicle as it travelled along Eastern Beach near Dilli Village on Wednesday. “There were two dingoes on the beach – one veered away from the vehicle and one veered into the vehicle and was struck in the head and killed instantly,” he said. Mr Belcher said the dingo was about four years old and was one of 18 collared dingoes. The collars send GPS signals every two hours. “Tracking information confirms that it spent most of its time on Eastern Beach between Dilli Village and Cathedral Beach, which indicates it was likely to be a habitual animal. “Statistically, the more time a dingo spends in high traffic areas, the greater risk of being hit by a vehicle.” Mr Belcher says the dingo was in excellent condition, weighing 22 kilograms. The average weight of an adult dingo is 15kg. “It was collared in May when its weight was recorded as 19.5kg, which means it had put on a healthy 1.5kg since it had the collar attached.” There was no indication that the dingo, the second to have been hit and killed by a car in the past two years, was pregnant. According to dingo conservationists, only 60 to 80 dingoes remain on Fraser Island. They are the last pure strain of dingo left and qualify as an endangered species. The GPS collar project was aimed at gathering information about the movement of dingoes. QPWS hopes it will give them a better understanding of the prey species that are on the island. *FC Chronicle


The powdered testicles of the great red kangaroo are the latest victims to Asia's insatiable appetite for aphrodisiacs. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating claims made by Australian companies who are illegally selling the product in duty-free stores and pharmacies known to be frequented by Asian tourists. The Therapeutic Goods Administration lists two approvals for Essence of Kangaroo for "export only" yet found several outlets in Australia selling the product domestically in breach of TGA conditions. One pharmacy supplier at Surfers Paradise said the product had sold out as they had just had a busload of Asian tourists visit. Another outlet - a gift store in Ashfield - freely sold the product to Manufacturers of Essence of Kangaroo claim the product can improve sexual prowess. “Made from Australian Red Kangaroo Testis. This large, powerful animal is the most magnificent of all the Kangaroos. It can leap up to 3.6m into the air and has a top speed of 65 km/hour. It alone illustrates the Kangaroos amazing strength and vitality,’ the website claims.

Linda Stoner from Animal Liberation was outraged that kangaroos were being killed for yet another unproven claim. “It’s really sickening that people are killing kangaroos and preying on the naivety and gullibility of people and it’s disgusting people in Australia are profiting from the misery of kangaroos,” Ms Stoner said. “There is no substantiated claim that any body part of any animal from tiger penis to rhino horn will enhance sexual performance,” she said. Professor John Dwyer, who is an advisor to the NSW Interagency Committee on protecting consumers from health fraud, said no herbal or animal part concoction had even been proven to assist libido. “They have been proven time and time again to be nonsense and it is a tragedy that animals like tigers (hunted for tiger penis) and rhinoceros poached for their horns are endangered when there is no effect on libido,” Professor Dwyer said. understands the ACCC is investigating any inflated claims made by manufacturers and written in Mandarin and Cantonese as potentially fraudulent. Jane Sun from Nature’s Naturals based in Brisbane said their Essence of Kangaroo product could only be sold as a food product in Australia but her main market was Taiwan and China. She said the product was made from the testicles and penis of the kangaroo which she bought from kangaroo meat producers. “It works very slowly, but Asian people believe it works,” Ms Sun said. A spokesperson for the TGA said the product in question was listed on the register of therapeutic goods as an "export only medicine" and was not to be supplied in Australia, including Australian duty-free outlets. “Breaching of a condition of listing may result in cancellation or suspension of a product,” the spokesperson said. *

Crocodile Shot

A much-loved giant crocodile has been killed - shot between the eyes at close range in Arnhem Land. The 5.1m "boss croc" - known as the Black Crocodile - was "of high cultural importance", elder Goldie Blyth said. Its home for at least 40 years was in and around the Murrkan, Murgenella and Wark billabongs on the Coburg Peninsula north-east of Darwin. Ms Blyth said "this latest victim of new-age technology, avarice and intolerance" appears to have been "murdered" from the Murgenella Creek Crossing last Sunday. The croc was found floating two days later. "He (once) came up with a large barramundi, he threw the large fish around in his mouth as if to say, 'I got this barramundi' - waving it to us and showing us his catch; he then ate it front of us. It was a very special moment," Ms Blyth said. "The crocodile's death is a very sad and a significant loss to traditional owners and the wider community. "Cultural respects were paid on each visit to the site and the resident boss crocodile would seem to respond in kind, by showing itself and then swimming off to tend to its business. Traditional owners would regularly talk to the large crocodile.

"People had an enormous respect for the animal and the relationship goes back well over 40 years. "On some occasions, people would talk to the crocodile before fishing or entering the water to hunt file snakes." Ms Blyth called for signs to prevent stopping at the creek by "hoon shooting individuals". She has also called for Parks and Wildlife rangers to be reinstated at Murgenella - and wants the the culprit prosecuted. Ms Blyth last visited the croc about three weeks ago. "In recent times, the Black Crocodile did not like the sound of quad bikes and appeared to be agitated when he heard their sound," she said. "The crocodile was well-known to the old people and his killing is a loss of an important link to past generations that have passed on. "The crocodile was always present or in close proximity to the crossing and was well known to both locals and some visitors." Anyone with information about the shooting of the crocodile should contact Parks and Wildlife. *NT News