Monday, August 29, 2011

Wildlife Bytes 30/8/11

Leading Story

Morriset Kangaroos

A spate of gruesome and sadistic attacks on kangaroos has led Hunter New England Health to install steel security gates to restrict overnight access to Morisset Hospital. Unauthorised access to the site would be restricted from 6.30pm to 6am, mental health general manager Jude Constable said. The new security arrangements began operating last night. Ms Constable said the restrictions would help protect kangaroos and increase safety for patients and staff. The Newcastle Herald reported last December that more than 100 kangaroos had been slaughtered in six months in the hospital grounds. *Newcastle Herald

A $1000 reward has been offered for information leading to the conviction of violent criminals found slaughtering kangaroos at Morisset Hospital. The slaughter of up to 200 kangaroos in the hospital grounds in the past year led the Australian Wildlife Protection Council to post the reward. The council’s Hunter spokesman, Les Hutchinson, described the offenders as ‘‘bullies with guns, bows and four-wheel-drives’’. Mr Hutchinson organised the reward, for which people donated amounts of $50 to $100. He said the reward would extend to information leading to the conviction of offenders killing kangaroos unlawfully anywhere in the Hunter, including Walka Waterworks wildlife reserve at Maitland. The Newcastle Herald reported yesterday that a spate of gruesome and sadistic attacks on kangaroos had led Hunter New England Health to install steel security gates to restrict overnight access to Morisset Hospital from 6.30pm to 6am.

Native Animal Trust Fund president Audrey Koosmen, whose organisation has cared for kangaroos injured and orphaned in attacks at the hospital grounds, wanted to thank the health service. ‘‘They and the National Parks and Wildlife Service have been very responsible in taking this action,’’ Ms Koosmen said. ‘‘It’s a wonderful step forward. ‘‘It’s taken a long time and a lot of animals have died – up to 200.’’ Mr Hutchinson organised the reward because of his love for native wildlife. ‘‘I love to see creatures in the bush, but nowadays every piece of bush you go to is shot out,’’ he said. He said the Hunter and Australia in general was ‘‘losing its bush wildlife’’. ‘‘When I go to Barrington Tops, walk in the rainforest and swim in the river, I want to see paddy melons, swamp wallabies and other creatures, not just bloody trees and dirt,’’ he said. He said kangaroos were ‘‘gentle creatures’’. ‘‘All they want is a bit of grass for boy kangaroos to chase girl kangaroos and joeys to hop around and have fun,’’ he said. *Newcastle Herald


We didnt expect to be able to send out Wildlife Bytes this week, as we intended to be out in the field....way out in the field. However, bad weather has forced us to postpone our field trip for a few more weeks. Meanwhile, as we predicted, proposed changes to the EPBC Act will have little effect on protecting wildlife, and are more about facilitating and fast-tracking development. The ACF agrees with us, and you can read their Media Release further below.


In the UK, wildlife experts have come up with an ingenious low-tech method of transferring, and providing living quarters, for rare ladybird spiders. They are using empty plastic water bottles, which are an ideal shape and size for the spiders to make their nests in. They fill the bottles with heather and moss, partly bury them, and the spiders make their homes in there, spinning their webs, and living on ants and beetles. *

Wildlife Smuggling

Madagascar officials foil smuggling plot of rare tortoises. A shipment of extremely rare and threatened Malagasy tortoises has been seized by officials in Madagascar as smugglers attempted to board a flight with around 200 specimens. Two men, one a native of Madagascar and an Indian national were arrested. The haul of rare creatures was made up of 27 ploughshare tortoises, 169 radiated tortoises and one spider tortoise. The animals were divided into three suitcases and a number of boxes and following the Kenyan Airways flight to Nairobi the consignment was due to continue on to Dubai before reaching the final destination of Jakarta. The animals are worth tens of thousands of pounds in the illegal pet trade, where they are highly sought after. The reptiles, believed to range in age from babies through to adult were not picked up on the airport scanning system, and it was as the luggage was loaded onto the aircraft that the authorities became suspicious and the illegal haul was discovered. The tortoises are currently being held at secure quarantine centres while the case is being investigated. * Wildlife Extra

Wildlife Pets

The world's biggest rodent has been spotted at a water treatment works in California. The giant South American capybara, weighing at least 100lbs, has since disappeared into the brush "If you think a giant guinea pig is cute, then you probably would like it," said Todd Tognazzini, a lieutenant with the California Department of Fish and Game. The capybara - believed to be an escaped pet - was seen at a waste-water treatment facility in Paso Robles, northwest of Los Angeles. An employee at the plant took photos of the animal, which is estimated to stand 2ft tall, as it crawled out of a pond. The animal spotted in Paso Robles was found near the Salinas River and a hot spring, a watery habitat similar to the regions where capybaras live in South America. A capybara can hold its breath under water for up to five minutes, and spends much of its roughly four-year lifespan near the water. The latest spotting of the capybara comes two years after another sighting of a capaybara a mile away. Officials believe that was the same animal seen at the waste-water treatment facility in Paso Robles. *

In another incident, a US man has been arrested for stealing exotic snakes from a pet shop - by hiding them down his shorts. Eric Fiegel was allegedly caught on camera trying to smuggle five snakes from a store in Mesa, Arizona. The 22-year-old wandered round the store for "about an hour" with the snakes stuffed down his shorts before leaving, the shop's owner said. Christian Kaleta said: "He hangs out here for an hour with the animals in his pockets he doesn't just take off with them he hangs around. Really bold. "Who steals a snake of all things?" One of the snakes allegedly stolen by Fiegel was a rare baby albino boa constrictor, worth about £500, reports the Arizona Republic. Police say Fiegel took the snakes to another pet store where he traded some of them for cash and a large reptile tank.

EPBC Act Review

THE federal government has announced a major overhaul of Australia's environmental laws, which it says will better protect the environment while also being kind to business. Environment Minister Tony Burke on Wednesday formally outlined his plans to rework the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, which was created in 1999. He said the changes, the act's first major overhaul, will cut red tape and improve environmental impact assessments, so they're quicker and covered by a new set of national standards. The government has committed to setting up a single national list of threatened species, rather than having multiple jurisdictional registers. It's also vowed to improve the regulation of heritage listings and the international trade in wildlife. "These reforms will help to ensure Australia's national environmental laws remain effective in protecting our unique environment," Mr Burke said in a statement. "It sets out a new national approach to the protection of Australia's environment and biodiversity." It's a win-win for the environment, businesses and regulatory services, he said. The changes adopts either fully or in part 56 of the recommendations handed down in Allan Hawke's independent review, and rejects 15. Dr Hawke completed his review in December 2009. *

Getting Fired Up

There is irony in the ACT Government considering bringing forward the start of the fire season owing to the threat of wide-scale grassland fires (''Growing fears grass to fire up summer'', August 26, p1). According to the ACT Emergency Service Agency Commissioner the grass loads across the region are as heavy as they have been in 20 years and could pose a risk. Yet only 10 weeks ago Territory and Municipal Services decided to kill off thousands of grass-eating kangaroos on the basis they were eating and destroying the grassland habitat of endangered species. A great deal of wildlife has been killed off over the last few years on the dubious advise of Government that we need to protect the ACT grassland. But it appears there was never a problem. Now we are to burn off large areas of grassland. In the same article TAMS claims they '' are looking at the big picture''. If only they would. * Philip, Letter in the Canberra Times

Wildlife Hospital Funded

Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital will be given $50,000 a year for three years as part of a council grant. The hospital treated more than 8600 animals last year. Care for each of those could amount to thousands of dollars. Appeals manager Murray Monro said the new funding would allow the wildlife hospital to pay for medical supplies and rehabilitation of the animals. “The funding allows us peace of mind, knowing it's budgeted,” he said. Cr Anna Grosskreutz said the State Government so far had contributed nothing to the animal rescue group. “We will now spend $150,000 over three years,” Cr Grosskreutz said. “It's also about going to the state to look at what funding it can provide.” Each day, the hospital receives almost 100 wildlife emergency calls and 30 different species are admitted. At any time, the hospital is treating about 80 koalas. According to the wildlife hospital, about 70% of all animals admitted have been attacked by domestic pets or struck by cars. Although Australia Zoo is a major sponsor, the hospital requires donations to survive. *SC Daily

Huge New Wasp Found

The new species of wasp, discovered by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, is one of the world's largest wasps. The jaw-dropping, shiny black wasp appears to be the "Komodo dragon" of the wasp family. It's huge. The male measures about two-and-a-half-inches long, Kimsey said. "Its jaws are so large that they wrap up either side of the head when closed. When the jaws are open they are actually longer than the male's front legs. I don't know how it can walk. The females are smaller but still larger than other members of their subfamily, Larrinae." Kimsey discovered the warrior wasp on the Mekongga Mountains in south-eastern Sulawesi on a recent biodiversity expedition funded by a five-year grant from the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program. The insect-eating predator belongs to the genus Dalara and family Crabronidae. "I'm going to name it Garuda, after the national symbol of Indonesia," Kimsey said. Garuda, a powerful mythical warrior that's part human and part eagle, boasts a large wingspan, martial prowess and breakneck speed. *Wildlife Extra

Fraser Island Dingoes

More about the sad state of the Fraser Island dingoes here .....

Seal Kill Oppposed

Eco-Action Kangaroo Island is concerned about recent reports advocating the culling of New Zealand fur seals. A spokesman said the New Zealand fur seal population in SA “is a native species living within its natural range and not an introduced species as suggested by the proponent of a cull”. “This species is protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (SA). Little penguins are prey for seals - including New Zealand fur seals, Australian fur seals and Australian sea lions but these seals prefer fish, squid and rock lobster. Seal populations were drastically reduced in the 19th century and are still making a recovery. Today their numbers are reduced by drift nets and possibly by illegal shooting.” The spokesman said it was likely other factors were at play in relation to the penguin populations at Penneshaw and Kingscote including the cumulative effect of artificial illumination on the sea surface and feral cat predation. “There is no scientific equivalency in pointing to the koala cull elsewhere. Penguin populations are decreasing world-wide so it is irresponsible and premature at this time to call for any intervention. “Saner heads will prevail at today’s (Monday’s) KI Natural Resources Management Board meeting when [DENR regional manager] Bill Haddrill will announce that the board has met with experts and received strong advice against any direct action toward the fur seals and that he will lobby for additional funds for research for monitoring seals and penguins and their interactions,” the spokesman said. *Kangaroo Islander

Gold Coast Road Kill

A wildlife carer says there has been a large increase in the number of kangaroos being hit and killed on suburban roads on Queensland's Gold Coast. The director of the Wildlife Trauma Clinic, Trish Wimberley, says she has had to euthanase 42 roos in the past 10 weeks. Ms Wimberley says it is because suburbia is taking away the animals' natural habitat. "The furthest I've gone would probably be Oxenford but Pacific Pines, Oxenford, Southport, Helensvale, Helensvale Road, Sanctuary Cove - I just don't want to think of how many I've done there," she said. "So of course when you think of Hope Island, around that area, Gilston Road, you've got all those new developments. "That's just kangaroos I've euthanased, that's not any other animals, not bats or possums or anything else I've euthanased, that's just kangaroos. "I just went through my book, I was horrified, I knew I was doing a few, I knew I was doing some but I didn't know it was that many. "Have a look at some of the development going on around here. "What happens each time you do a development is that it pushes these animals into another area where you have other animals and henceforth they've got to cross roads and what have you and also, we're not being careful on our roads at night, these people aren't even stopping for these animals." *ABC

Sea Turtles

Five young sea turtles have been released near Exmouth after they washed up on Perth beaches. The three loggerhead turtles, one flatback turtle and one green turtle were cared for by the Naragebup Rockingham Regional Environment Centre and the Aquarium of WA before their release at Jansz beach last week. Department of Environment and Conservation Exmouth wildlife officer Renae Gibbs said the green turtle was found in Lancelin last month and the flatback turtle was found in Warnbro this month. The loggerhead turtles had been in rehabilitation for more than three years. "When they were found they were quite small," she said. The turtles were thought to have been carried south by the Leeuwin current and washed ashore in strong winter winds. *The West

Happy Feet to go Home

Hundreds of people have visited Wellington Zoo to bid farewell to an emperor penguin who washed up on a New Zealand beach in June. Nicknamed Happy Feet, he is being returned to Antarctica on Monday after recovering from surgery to remove 3kg (6.6lb) of sand from his stomach. The bird is thought to have eaten the sand, having mistaken it for the snow penguins swallow to stay hydrated. He is to be transported four days out to sea by a fisheries survey vessel. Happy Feet, named after the popular animated film about a tap-dancing penguin chick, has been fitted with a tracking device so the zoo can monitor his progress. His unexpected appearance on Peka Peka Beach - north of Wellington and 3,000km (1,860 miles) from his Antarctic colony - stunned wildlife experts who said he was only the second emperor ever recorded in New Zealand. Hopes he would make his own way back were dashed when he became ill and his subsequent recovery, on a diet of "fish milkshakes", has captured the public's imagination. Hopes he would make his own way back were dashed when he became ill and his subsequent recovery, on a diet of "fish milkshakes", has captured the public's imagination. The zoo's veterinary science manager Lisa Argilla said: "Everyone's been really curious to see what happens. It was touch-and-go there for a while but he's doing really well now." A webcam set up in his small, ice-filled room at the zoo attracted an online following of more than 120,000 people. A public campaign raised more than NZ$20,000 (£11,000) towards the costs of his recovery. However, the total spent saving and returning him is estimated to be at least three times that. Some, like Wellington's Victoria University biologist Wayne Linklater, writing in Wellington's Dominion Post, have questioned the use of money on an animal whose species is not endangered. *BBC


Scenes of pedestrians and startled cyclists ducking for cover have started to unfold across the Coast. The culprits? Magpies. While the magpie breeding season began in July, it is at its peak from now until October. Patrons of the Mooloolaba Bowls Club have been ducking for cover for weeks, while an unsuspecting cyclist was swooped while riding down First Ave in Caloundra on Friday. Traditional hotspots include Buderim State School on Main St, opposite Montegos at Double Bay Park on Kawana Island, Peregian at Stint St and near the roundabout at the University of Sunshine Coast in Sippy Downs. Swooping magpies are generally males protecting an area usually 100m surrounding a nest. Magpies are not usually relocated, so residents are encouraged to take the necessary precautions to live with magpies during the nesting season. If you must enter the area, move through it quickly, but do not run. Wear a hat and sunglasses or carry an umbrella. Cyclists should dismount and walk through the territory, which will reduce the chance of falling off the bike or swerving if a bird does swoop. Cyclists can also attach large cable ties to the back of their helmet – use two black ties, sticking up like antennae. A council spokesman said officers were not authorised to capture or relocate overly aggressive magpies, but complaints about swooping birds on council land would be assessed and a decision made on an appropriate response. “This may include further monitoring of the site, erection of signage, and-or engagement of a licensed private wildlife contractor,” he said. Reports of swooping magpies on private land should be referred to the Department of Environment and Resource Management. *SC Daily

National Parks

Labor will push to have new federal oversight powers of national parks by October to head off the next round of a controversial Victorian cattle trial in the Alpine National Park before the grazing season starts. The Age understands the federal Environment Department has started to draw up regulations giving Environment Minister Tony Burke the ability to stop new grazing, mining, logging and land-clearing projects in most national parks, which are currently controlled by the states. The Victorian government has indicated it is preparing to push ahead with the next phase of the controversial grazing trial - setting up a stand-off between the two governments - though the timing is not yet decided. In a letter responding to Mr Burke's plans, state Environment Minister Ryan Smith is understood to have said there is a lack of evidence for the move, that Victoria manages its parks well, and the issue should be referred to the council of state and federal environment ministers. Mr Smith said yesterday he would need to see the regulations put forward by Mr Burke ''in order to get advice on its impact or legitimacy''.

Mr Burke said yesterday ''all the evidence I could ever need was on display in the Alpine National Park last summer''. Cattle grazing was first banned in the Alpine National Park in 2005 by the Bracks government, with compensation paid to grazing families. But the Baillieu government has allowed trials in the park, which it says will study whether cattle grazing reduces bushfire risk. Last year's trial sparked the anger of the federal government because Victoria had not sought approval for the project under national environment laws. The changes do not mean the Commonwealth would manage national parks day-to-day or have control of their boundaries. Federal Environment Department insiders say without the changes Victoria would have likely been able to design a new grazing trial that did not fall foul of national environment laws by avoiding areas where endangered species are present. The changes put forward by Mr Burke would mean that just holding the trial in a national park would be contrary to federal laws. *Age

Biodiversity Lost

The Federal Government's response to a major review of Australia's key environmental laws will not reverse the rapid decline of Australia's biodiversity, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today. "The environment is Australia's natural life support system and all the indicators of its health are heading in the wrong direction," said ACF's Healthy Ecosystems program manager Dr Paul Sinclair. "The government's response to the independent Hawke Review of the Environmental Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) falls short of what’s needed. "Delegating power to the states to approve projects that affect matters of national environmental significance would be a backward step – if business wants a one-stop-shop, it must be a federal shop. "The decision to expand protection under the EPBC Act to Ecosystems of National Significance is welcome, but protection plans and more strategic assessments means little if the regulatory powers and resources needed to implement these plans are inadequate.”

ACF is concerned the Act has too much wiggle room in it already and the Minister's rejection of the Hawke Review recommendations on mandatory decision-making criteria and judicial review will not improve the community's confidence in the law. ACF believes it is critical Australians have legal standing to question decisions made by the Minister about their environment. "The Montara spill, which leaked 400 barrels of oil into the ocean off the Kimberley coast every day for 10 weeks in 2009, shows what happens when governments fail to adequately assess the risks of development proposals," Dr Sinclair said. "ACF supports reforms that will prevent damage in the first place, but it's also vital the government gives adequate resources to those responsible for enforcing laws. "All members of the Federal Parliament should be looking to protect our life support systems by strengthening our national environmental laws and committing the resources required to implement them effectively." *ACF Media Release

Bathurst Kangaroos

A wildlife lobby group says it will seek legal advice about what action to take over the culling of kangaroos in central western New South Wales two years ago. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has finished and investigation into the cull on Mount Panorama before the Bathurst 1000 motor race in 2009. It is alleged a contractor for the Bathurst Regional Council killed 88 joeys without a licence during the cull. The NPWS says its investigation has found the council and its contractor acted in accordance with the licence conditions and no further action will be taken. Lindy Stacker from the World League for the Protection of Animals says neither the council nor the NPWS have been forthcoming with the public. "What we have done is we've gone and we've sought legal advice," she said. "So it will be interesting now to see what will happen. "Because I think that's really unsatisfactory and that the public need to know. "We had many people from Bathurst ... ringing our organisation at the time and saying they didn't want that to do ahead."

She says there are still unanswered questions. "If they're really serious about their claims that it was all absolutely above board and everything was done according to the Wildlife Act, why haven't they given us more information?" she said. "Why have they just been trying to pass the buck onto council, council onto [the] parks service and no-one's been forthcoming when several groups, not just us, have been asking for this information." However, the Bathurst Regional Council says information about the cull has always been publicly available. General manager David Sherley says the council understood the joeys were classified separately under the licences. "Council has always believed that it acted in accordance with the permit conditions that were required," he said.

"When we were looking at actions needed to be taken up in that precinct, the first thing we did was put in an application for the appropriate permits. "We worked closely with the National Parks and Wildlife Service who provided really good assistance during that time." He says the groups have had access to council documents about the cull. "Council through the gentleman who took action for us, clearly made available how many joeys were involved and it was in all our documentation and that was how the groups who had issues with us were able to pick it up," he said. "It wasn't anything hidden it was always there, made clear to the public." The council says it is now developing a flora and fauna management plan for the precinct and will use fencing and herding to control kangaroos at this year's race. *ABC

Creekbank Destruction Continues

The Environment and Natural Resources Department faces charges of hypocrisy for not stopping the bulldozing of creeks in the Lockyer Valley despite its own website warning landholders against such practices. Tens of kilometres of creeks, wooded banks and in-stream logs have been removed, with the excuse that it had to be done because of January flood damage. Despite this, the Environment Department website warns that "riparian (creek-side) vegetation stabilises banks, reduces erosion and can minimise flood peaks". It says flood velocity can be slowed by large woody debris, which also provides fish habitat. Ironically, the department warns that banks with low slopes or flat benches - such as that achieved with bulldozing - are likely to accumulate more organic matter than steep natural banks. Queensland Conservation Council chairman Simon Baltais said it was appalling the department had supported such destructive practices.

Such work was considered so damaging by the NSW Primary Industries Department that it was listed as a key threatening process to streams."Perhaps DERM are a little behind the times," Mr Baltais said. "(This) amounts to hypocrisy and a waste of public monies and is contrary to protecting waterways' health." Australian Rivers Institute deputy director Jon Olley also warned against clearing, saying that over the past 100 years, the practice had resulted in faster and more destructive flows. "While ... slowing the movement of water may slightly increase flooding and delay drainage ... it will also increase recharge of the groundwater aquifers, providing more water for production during droughts," he said. A Environment Department spokeswoman said work in Blackfellow and Tenthill creeks occurred under Water Act emergency provisions to restore access to flood-affected communities and did not need to be approved. Work was carried out by the Main Roads Department at Tenthill and Blackfellow creeks and by Lockyer Valley Regional Council at Left Hand Branch Rd on Tenthill Creek and by landholders. Transport Minister Rachel Nolan will meet the waterways group, SEQ Catchments, about the bulldozing this week. Lockyer residents Diane and Mark Bruhn said Tenthill and many streams did not suffer in the floods yet had faced substantial clearing for months. This was hardly urgent work to allow access, they said. *Courier Mail

Climate Change

Researchers have discovered that plants and animals are responding up to three times faster to climate change than previously estimated; as wildlife shifts to cooler altitudes and latitudes. Reuters newsagency says scientists have previously reported on individual species moving towards the poles or uphill as their traditional habitats shifted due to global warming. However, a new study analysed data on more than 2000 species to get a more comprehensive picture. This new analysis has shown researchers that on average, wildlife moved to higher elevations at the rate of about 12.2 metres decade. They are moving toward the poles at an average rate of 16.6 kilometres a decade, scientists reported in the journal Science. The altitude shift is twice what scientists had estimated as recently as 2003, according to Dr Chris Thomas, a professor of conservation biology at the University of York in Britain, and the leader of the project. The average latitude shift is triple earlier estimates, says Dr Thomas.

At the same time he notes that not all species move toward the poles as quickly as that, some don’t move much at all and others actually move slightly toward the Equator, depending on what they need most to survive. What became clear in this study, according to Dr Thomas and colleagues, was that species moved furthest in places where the climate warmed most, an unambiguous link to climate change over the past 40 years. The key finding, said Dr Thomas, was the “huge diversity of responses” observed in different plants and different locations. “Because each species is affected by different things, when the climate changes, they will have different availabilities of new habitat that they might be able to move into,” he said. Not every animal or plant shifts to a cooler place when its habitat heats up, because of pressure from other factors like rainfall, human development and habitat loss.

For example, a British butterfly, the high brown fritillary butterfly, might have been expected to move northward if the only factor affecting it was climate warming. Instead, the species declined because its habitats were lost, the researchers report. The comma butterfly, however, was able to make the leap from central England to Edinburgh, a distance of about 220 kilometres, in two decades. In Borneo, moths shifted 67 metres upward on Mount Kinabalu, the study found. This area has been protected for more than 40 years, so habitat destruction was not a factor in the move, says Thomas. Because of different species diverse reactions, he says, “it’s very hard to predict what an individual species is going to do, and that means that if you want to manage the world in some way, save species or whatever, unfortunately it looks as though a lot of detailed information is going to be required in order to take practical action.” * Eco-News


Sharks more than two metres long are homing in on waters off North Queensland, cementing Townsville's reputation as a hot spot for the deadly creatures. A bull shark from Sydney has made its way to Townsville with 25 more of the deadly species on their way, according to the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries which is tracking the creatures after a number of attacks in Sydney Harbour. The bull shark, tagged along with the 25 other bull sharks, abandoned southern waters in March for their journey north. A great white shark named "Rachael" - the first shark embedded with a satellite tag by the Queensland Government's Large Shark Tagging Program - however, travelled south to Victoria. The great white is among 49 sharks with acoustic or satellite tracking devices. The department plans to tag 150 large bull, tiger, great white and dusky sharks between Cairns and the Gold Coast. The latest tracking paths show Townsville is Queensland's second most popular spot for big sharks, after Rainbow Beach. The research is being done to improve shark control programs and better protect swimmers. Experts have been trying to work out the reason for the movements so the animals could find warmer waters, or if they were following food.

Queensland shark scientist Dr Jonathan Werry said it was already known that the movement of sharks was not random but it was difficult to determine the exact reason for the paths they took. "Things like water temperatures and currents can affect their movement," he said. "They can move from where the schooling fish are sparse to a place where they were more abundant." Queensland Fisheries Minister Craig Wallace said satellite transmissions showed "Rachael" had travelled to northern Victoria, but was now back in New South Wales waters.he said. "This research is about understanding where along the coastline dangerous shark species like to visit, how long they stay, and how often they go there," he said. Dr Werry said the species in the program had very different migratory patterns. "Great whites generally move from Victoria all the way up the Queensland coast, across to New Zealand and up into the bottom of New Caledonia," he said. "Tiger sharks can also migrate up to thousands of kilometres, but we're still learning more about their patterns over these distances." Mr Wallace said the tagging technology also tracked the movement of sharks into rivers and canals, which would help to address swimmer safety in these areas. Safety is our number one priority in Queensland and this project will improve our knowledge of shark movements for inshore waters," he said. Shark control equipment is in place off 85 Queensland beaches. *Townsville Buletin

Tiger Farm Horrors

An american diplomat posed as a Korean tourist to investigate a notorious tiger breeding centre in southern China, where he saw animals whipped, made to perform ''marriage processions'' and reportedly sold to be used in traditional medicines. As a result of the undercover visit to Xiongsen Tiger and Bear farm, the US government was notified of doubts about China's conservation efforts, according to a diplomatic cable recently released by WikiLeaks. The investigation was inspired by a flurry of foreign media reports in 2007 alleging the farm offered tiger meat in its restaurant and tiger bone wine in a shop. In a cable sent from the Guangzhou US consulate headed ''Devouring Dragon, Disappearing Tigers'', an un-named economics officer said he was initially treated with suspicion by the sales personnel in the facility. But once he convinced them he was Korean, they became eager to do business. ''The staff stated that up to three tour groups of Koreans came a day, numbering more than 30 in each group.The Koreans were among the most enthusiastic purchasers of both the black bear bile and the tiger wine.'' The price of the bottles ranged from 80-896 yuan ($12-$134). China says it has nearly 6000 tigers in captivity, but only 50 to 60 are left in the wild. In the 1980s, China set up tiger farms to try to preserve the big cats. But conservationists have criticised the farms, accusing them of seeking primarily to produce tiger parts, which some Asians regard as aphrodisiacs.

The visitor to the farm - which has more than 1000 tigers in its cages - described the spectacle of a tiger killing an ox in a ''training cage'' purportedly set aside as a training area for animals that are to be introduced to the wild. But most of the animals appeared tame and some were used in circus-like entertainment shows, where they were beaten. Black bears - kept for their bile - were also made to join a mock Chinese marriage procession where they acted as bride and groom, he wrote. Locals told him that the farm served tiger meat and sold tiger skin, but this was denied by staff. Nonetheless, he concludes in the cable dated July 12, 2007, that: ''The commercial nature of the farm was troubling. The large number of endangered tigers and bears present with no current plans to reintroduce them into the wild raises concern regarding the motivation of such a farm.'' Four years later, these concerns remain valid. Reports earlier this year suggest the tiger population of the farm has grown. *Guardian News & Media