Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wildlfie Bytes 16/9/11

Kangaroo Chiller Boxes

Mark Pearson from AL NSW and myself landed in Broken Hill Friday night around 10 pm. Early next day saw us driving around Broken Hill looking for kangaroo chiller boxes. We wanted new contamination evidence to be presented at a meeting with one of the major supermarkets. Here we located four chiller box sites, all were closed and not working, with a total of 8 boxes. One site had two large chillers, the other sites had three. While looking at the 3 box site a vehicle pulled up and the driver demanded to know who we were and what we were doing. The police were on their way he said, and we would be charged with trespass.

After some argie bargie, he admitted that the chillers were owned by Macro meats, and he was the manager. When we questioned him why they were empty, he said the kangaroo Industry was about to get very busy, and they were just waiting. (Presumably for the Russian market to restart.) It appears the Federal government are now trying to blackmail Russia into starting imports of kangaroo meat again. Russia has asked Australia to grant it 'market economy status' before it joins the WTO, which the Australian government has said it will consider if Russia opens up its markets to kangaroo meat!

After that episode we headed to Wilcannia, a dead town with two empty chiller boxes found, then to White Cliffs, then to Wanaaring, Hungerford, through the dingo fence (which should be pulled down) and to Cunnamulla. We found three chiller sites in Cunnamulla, one with six chiller boxes, and one with two larger boxes, both brand new and "state of the art", and another site with two boxes. Of all of them, only one box was working. We headed off to get some food, but before we got out of the vehicle, a truck loaded with dead wild pigs went past. We followed it, but there was some other traffic, and in the dark we lost it. It didn’t go to the chiller boxes like we thought it would have. So we went back to the cafe, ordered some food, then went across the road to the pub for a drink. We were told by the only other drinker in the bar that he had just come back from a weekend’s pig shooting, brought the pigs to Cunnamulla Chillers only to find that chillers were closed. So his son had taken the 30 pigs out into the scrub to dump them on the side of the road!

Goats are the big money earners at the moment, followed by pigs, and kangaroos are not worth shooting we were told. Goats are attracted to a penned area by saltlicks, then trapped, and transported by truck to an abattoirs.

I have to say that generally the wildlife was plentiful. The vegetation has had quite bit of rain, and looks superb. Lovely country. We saw lots of emus, including a flock of 100 or so, very good to see. We also saw a large flock of Major Mitchell parrots, probably around 60 birds, but only a couple by themselves. We saw some kangaroo and emu road kill around Eulo and Cunnamulla, but not as much as we expected to see, and not much on the dirt roads. We only saw a few wedgetail eagles, one high up, and one feeding on road kill, and one being harassed by 50 or so crows. A few letterwinged kites and small raptors were seen. Not many kangaroos seen, but zillions of goats. Very little mobile phone coverage except at major towns.

From Cunnamulla we headed West towards Thargominda, Nocundra and towards Tibbooburra. We found two empty chillers at Thargominda, long unused, and nothing at Nocundra. The drive South through extensive natural native grasslands was stunning. For a hundred kilometers or more, native grasses spread as far as the eye could see, on both sides of the road, with vegetation and trees along the creek lines. We never saw much wildlife here, except for lizards on the road, and a couple of lonely wedgetails up high, looking for those lizards. No kangaroos, emus, or roadkill. After we drove through the dingo fence at Warri Gate into Sturt National Park, we started to see kangaroos, including quite a bit of roadkill. Which suggests to me that the kangaroos on the extensive grasslands that were being grazed by cattle and sheep, had been shot out. In the '70's, Dr John Auty produced a paper showing his model found that prior to white settlement, Australia's natural grasslands could support up to 400 million kangaroos. After driving through some of Queensland’s and NSW's natural grasslands, and seeing them myself, I think his model was a bit conservative.

Unfortunately, like the indigenous people before them, the kangaroos have been removed to facilitate the beef and sheep grazing Industry. We were amazed at the Sturt National Park though, another extensive area of native grasses. We drove the 60 or so kilometres through the Park towards Tibbooburra as the sun was about to set, and the colours were nothing short of spectacular. Here at Tibbooburra (of all places) we found five chiller boxes, two had not been used for yonks, and one was running with something in it. There was a pool of blood outside where someone had washed their vehicle. In 2008 when activists inspected these chillers, they were packed with kangaroos, all tagged with the date they were shot, and some at the back of the chiller had been there for 13 days.

We drove over 2000 kilometres in 5 days, through some of the most spectacular dry landscapes in the country, perhaps in the World. Out of around 22 chiller boxes, we only found 3 working and, they may have held wild pigs. We didn’t enter any of the boxes for that reason, and we didn’t want to raise any alarm bells within the Industry, although they do know we are watching them very closely.

Maintenance of most of the chillers we inspected was poor, with gaps in the doors, broken seals and rusty hinges, etc. Still, there has been significant investment within the Industry, new chillers, some upgrading of old chillers, and we saw one brand new shooter’s vehicle. Both the State and Federal government have created an illusion that the Russian market will soon reopen, and the Chinese market is imminent, so they are really responsible when the Industry dies properly, and these investments are lost.

We know where the chillers are now, and in the remote chance that the Russian markets open up, we can monitor them very closely. As Mark said to me, we are cataloguing a dead Industry, but one that still twitches now and again! * Pat O'Brien


A NZ teenager who beat seals to death using a galvanised pole near Kaikoura has been jailed for two years. Jason Trevor Godsiff, 19, of Renwick, previously admitted wilfully ill-treating the protected seals at Ohau Point, north of Kaikoura. He appeared before Judge Ian Mill in the Blenheim District Court today. A charge of possession of an offensive weapon was dropped. Godsiff's co-accused, Jamaal Peter Roy Large, 36, from the Wairau Valley, has denied the charges. More than 20 fur seals were beaten to death late last year in what the Conservation Department described as a "callous and cowardly" attack. Some were just a few days old. The dead seals included 13 females and two bulls. Seals in the area had injuries that suggested they had also been hit. *


You have to take your hat off to one of Australia's most embattled icons. Yesterday was National Bilby Day, an occasion used to promote the cause of the plucky little marsupial. Officially listed as threatened, there are only 400 of the big-eared animals left in the wild in Queensland. There is also a population in the Northern Territory, but it has disappeared from every other Australian state. On the Gold Coast, theme park Dreamworld is taking part in a unique breeding program aimed at bolstering the shy animal's numbers. More than 20 bilbies have been born at Dreamworld, with 13 released into a predator-proof park in southwest Queensland. Dreamworld's general manager of life sciences Al Mucci said: "The ones that have been released out west are not only surviving, but they are thriving. *Courier Mail


Abalone fishers face new restrictions this season after a rare marine heatwave devastated stocks north of Perth. Fisheries Minister Norman Moore has ordered a total ban on abalone fishing north of Moore River this year. Abalone fishers near Perth will be allowed to fish between 7am and 8am, one Sunday a month from November to March. The season south of Busselton jetty starts on October 1. South West bioregions manager Kevin Donohue said sea temperatures in some spots north of Perth were 3C higher than average. Fisheries has flagged prohibitions next year to allow stocks to recover. *

Fraser Island Dingoes

With Fraser Island dingoes rearing their pups during September, visitors and residents are urged to take extra caution and stay in fenced campsites. Environment Minister Vicky Darling said the September whelping season was an important time for dingoes as their pups were weaned and left their dens to learn how to hunt, find water and socialise. "More dingoes may be seen at this time, they may be more determined and aggressive in their search for food and adults will aggressively defend their young," Ms Darling said. "Learning to hunt is a vital part of the pups' rearing and it is important to conserve the natural behaviour of dingoes by not interfering with them during this crucial stage of their lives." Ms Darling said an overlap between the dingo whelping season and the holiday camping period could lead to an increase in human-dingo encounters. "Families with children are strongly urged to camp in fenced campgrounds at Central Station, Dundubara, Lake Boomanjin, Dilli Village and Waddy Point. "Parents should ensure children are supervised at all times and should never allow them to walk alone as attacks could happen very quickly." Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service rangers will be on duty across the island during the holiday period, ensuring visitors are aware of these important safety messages. They will visit camp grounds and tourist spots each day to talk to visitors about dingo safety. To report a dingo incident contact a ranger as soon as you can, or phone 4121 1609 or email dingo.ranger@ *Fraser Coast Chronicle


Research into giant cuttlefish in South Australia's upper Spencer Gulf will receive $105,000 in federal and state funding. SA Fisheries Minister Michael O'Brien says a monitoring and evaluation program will look at population biomass, water quality and habitat. There has been some recent concern that fewer cuttlefish are in the upper Gulf. Concern also has been expressed about the possible effects of discharge if a desalination plant is built in the area. *ABC


Dolphin colonies in Victoria's Port Phillip and the Gippsland Lakes have been formally recognised as a new species. The dolphins, named Tursiops australis, have a combined population of about 150 and were originally thought to be one of the two existing bottlenose dolphin species. Monash University PhD researcher Kate Charlton-Robb discovered they were unique by comparing skulls, DNA and physical traits with specimens dating back to the early 1900s. The new species will commonly be known as the burrunan dolphin, an Aboriginal name meaning large sea fish of the porpoise kind. The findings, published in the latest PLoS ONE journal, show that the dolphins of the southern Australian coast differ greatly from other dolphin species. "This is an incredibly fascinating discovery as there have only been three new dolphin species formally described and recognised since the late 1800s," Ms Charlton-Robb said. "What makes this even more exciting is this dolphin species has been living right under our noses, with only two known resident populations living in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria." Ms Charlton-Robb said more research was needed to determine whether there were other populations of the burrunan dolphin in Australia. * AAP


They spend their days looking half asleep while gorging on gum leaves. But the seemingly lazy ways of Australia's iconic koalas need to be preserved under federal laws, the Australian Greens say. Greens senator Larissa Waters will push for the marsupials to be listed as a nationally-threatened species in the Senate on Wednesday. "The koala is not listed as nationally threatened because there are clumps where there are quite a lot of them," she told reporters in Canberra. "But there are areas where there are very few." Such areas include Queensland's "koala coast", which encompasses the bayside portions of the Redland, Brisbane and Logan local government areas. With fewer than 5000 koalas left in south-east Queensland, Senator Waters believes koalas along the koala coast may become extinct during the next 10 years. "I don't know what they will call it if there are no koalas left," she said. If the koala were listed as a nationally threatened species (under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act), it would be an offence to injure the creature. "It also means that any development that is going to have a significant impact on koalas needs to get federal approval," Senator Waters said. "So it basically brings in an extra layer of protection, that might mean a development has to be stopped, or there can be conditions." Such conditions might include the retention of important habitat trees. Loss of habitat was one of the greatest pressures driving species to extinction, Senator Waters said. "If we're going to stop the decline on biodiversity we should put the brakes on development in the only areas (that) threatened species still exist." *

Wildlife Care

The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital has entered to win $5,000 to purchase essential orthopaedic equipment through the Sunsuper DREAMS grant. The DREAM with the highest vote wins so PLEASE cast your vote to help them win this funding. Many of us have had injured wildlife in care that have been saved and returned to the wild because of the special orthopaedic surgery that the wildlife vets at the Hospital have been able to perform. This equipment is very special. To vote go to:- You will then receive an email where your vote will be authenticated.
PLEASE pass this onto your friends and family to vote! * Wildcare Australia Inc.

Flying Foxes

Hendra virus is one of a number of recently emerged viruses which has spilled over from its usual wild-animal-hosts to domestic animals, and then to us. Hendra’s repeated appearance this year has caught public attention. Sadly much of that attention has not focused on the rarity of the disease or that transmission to humans occurs from exposure to sick horses. Instead, it has focused strongly on control of the reservoir host of the virus: flying foxes. Flying foxes are large bats found in forests along the whole of the east coast of Australia. They are important pollinators, and disperse the seed of native trees and shrubs. In many environments, they are better at these tasks than birds, insects or the wind. In the wet tropics of northern Queensland, flying foxes help maintain the world heritage values of the tropical rainforest. *The Conversationalist
Read more


New research shows Australia has lost 99per cent of its old-growth mountain ash forests, with ''catastrophic implications'' for bushfire control, water harvesting and wildlife conservation, a leading scientist says. Australian National University ecologist Professor David Lindenmayer has called for an urgent review of all federal and state regional forestry agreements, blasting the joint agreements as an outdated and ''lazy system, designed to gag forestry debate with red tape''. The Australian Forest Products Association and Australian Greens have backed his call for a review, but Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has defended the 20-year agreements, which set sustainable logging limits for native forests in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia. Mr Burke said an assessment last year by the former Bureau of Resources Sciences found that 73per cent of all old-growth forests in areas covered by the agreements were in protected areas. A spokeswoman for the Federal Forestry Minister Joe Ludwig said the agreements ''were already regularly reviewed.''
*canberra Times Read more

Wildlife Poaching

Thai authorities have seized nearly 3,000 rare animals in the biggest wildlife trafficking bust reported in the Southeast Asian country this year.Thai customs officials say they stopped a truck on Tuesday night in the southern province of Prachuap Khiri Khan. Inside the vehicle, they found more than 2,700 monitor lizards, more than 700 rare terrapins, 44 civets and 20 snakes. The animals are protected by a convention on international trade in endangered species, called CITES, of which Thailand is a signatory. Chris Shepherd, the deputy Southeast Asian director from the animal welfare organisation Traffic says it's not a rare occurrence. *ABC

Toxic Birds

The hooting, squawking ibis that haunt rubbish bins and landfill sites are one of the best barometers of pollution, a detailed study of the toxic chemicals carried in their eggs has shown. Researchers from the University of NSW tested ibis eggs in 11 locations across eastern Australia and found that eggs in city-based nests carried seven to nine times as many artificial chemicals as those of country-dwelling birds. Traces of the synthetic pesticide dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, or DDT, were found in some eggs, indicating that the substance is still working its way through the food chain after being banned in Australia in 1987. A new batch of feathered sentinels ... Camila Ridoutt and Professor Richard Kingsford with ibis chicks at Centennial Park. Photo: Kate Geraghty 'The eggs get contaminated through the ibis parents' diets,'' said the study's author, Camila Ridoutt. ''The white ibis will be foraging in landfill sites, typically in urban areas, where they pick up a lot of pollutant levels from electrical products and old cooling agents that are left in the tip. Inland, their diets are more natural and they're feeding on worms and yabbies, so their pollution levels are typically lower.''

Ms Ridoutt gathered single eggs from clutches in Australian white ibis nests, froze them, and analysed the contents at the dioxin analysis unit of the National Measurement Institute. The Sydney samples, taken from Lake Gillawarna west of Bankstown, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Lake Annan in Camden, carried much higher readings for dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs - toxic compounds used in paint, adhesives and fire retardants - than eggs in country areas. However, chemical levels in cities were generally lower than levels revealed by similar tests in the United States and China. The director of the Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre, Professor Richard Kingsford, said the presence of chemicals in bird eggs was a problem, because they would accumulate in species higher up the food chain, such as sea eagles, which eat ibises.

The presence of the bird all over eastern Australia meant it could play a ''canary in the coalmine'' role in detecting contamination. 'This is a species that occurs in all our capital cities, and so it's really a sort of sentinel on the background pollution that we're getting in our environment in our cities,'' Professor Kingsford said. ''But also we find the same species inland, so it's a great opportunity to standardise the species and look at city populations and compare those to inland populations. ''We did find one egg that had high levels inland, and that was in the Macquarie Marshes, which is of some concern. We did have a pesticide death in ibis populations in the mid 1990s, but we're really not sure what caused this.'' *Age

Fire Ants

The sky is an unlikely place to fight ground-based fire ants yet the Biosecurity Queensland are using helicopters to destroy the tiny pests. The chopper plan, which uses thermal imaging to detect hot ant nests, is aimed at wiping out the invaders. Biosecurity Queensland boffins have been working on the idea since 2009, which will be rolled out in rural and semi-rural areas such as south and west of Ipswich. Last year fire ants were found near Grandchester, about 80km west of where the first outbreak occurred at the Port of Brisbane in 2001. It puts them on the fringe of prime food production and grazing country, where they might get a chance to establish before being discovered. So far $215 million has been poured into eradicating the pests, small change compared with their estimated $43 billion impact on the economy. Agriculture Minister Tim Mulherin said the new helicopter-mounted cameras use thermal, near-infrared and high-definition imaging to detect ants' nests from about 150m. "Their nests are significantly hotter than the surrounding area, so they can be seen quite clearly with this new thermal technology," Mr Mulherin said.

"The (US) cameras arrived in Brisbane yesterday and were mounted on to a helicopter straight away." One chopper could check 750ha a day, much more than the department's foot-sloggers. Mr Mulherin said data was downloaded to a computer and ground crews despatched on a confirm-and-destroy mission. Test flights would be conducted over the next few weeks around Ipswich, an infested area. Results were expected next month. Biosecurity Queensland acting fire ant control centre director Craig Jennings said nests were still being found, mostly in an arc from the Redlands to the Lockyer Valley. Mr Jennings said an aerial baiting program would soon begin too. "They tend to move more in spring, especially after rain when there's a light breeze and humidity," he said. "Now's the time we will see them around, so we really need people to keep an eye out. "I firmly believe we can still eradicate them." About 560ha, particularly to the south and west of Brisbane, are infested with fire ants, and a total of 118,000ha in buffer zones - where plant and soil movements are restricted - surround these hot spots. *Courier Mail