Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wildlife Bytes 28/3/12

New Qld Government

As everyone knows, we now have a new Government in Queensland, elected by a huge majority. While this change will have some positive impacts for wildlife, we do expect some disagreements on some issues. The one thing the previous government did years ago was to stop talking to community conservation groups, and to stop listening to what they were saying, so hopefully this government may be different. So as soon as we know who the respective LNP Ministers are, we will be contacting them about wildlife issues. Primary issue for us at WPAA is the issueing of Permits to kill wildlife, but there are other wildlife matters we want to talk to them about as well. *WPAA


For the first time there is new hope for manged wombats in Victoria. A small group of highly experienced and very dedicated wildlife shelters led by Jenny Mattingley, a well known Victorian wombat carer, have recently received official sanction to treat wild wombats in situ suffering from the insidious and painful mange infestation. The program initiated by Jenny and modeled on the successful NSW program is the first of its kind attempted in Victoria with trials already completed with great success. Jenny and her husband Reg along with their mange management team hope to expand the program throughout other areas of the state together with Interested landowners and wildlife carers. This project is totally voluntary and came about by a small group of experienced and incredibly caring wildlife carers devoted to wombats wanting to make a difference. *Network Item
For further details see: http://www.mangemanagement.org.au


Four White Rhinos have died at Dubbo's Taronga Western Plains Zoo in central NSW, leaving staff shocked and saddened. The four rhinos died suddenly after showing signs of neurological abnormalities. The zoo said its vets were consulting with rhinoceros specialists in Africa and North America, as well as virologists and other experts to try and pinpoint the cause of the deaths. "So far the investigation has ruled out exposure to toxins, bacterial infection, snake venom and organ failure as causes of death,'' the zoo said in a statement. The zoo is also investigating possible viral causes but several types including Hendra virus and West Nile virus have already been ruled out. General Manager Matt Fuller said staff were supporting each other and focusing on the remaining rhinos. "Obviously the rhino keepers and veterinary staff know and care for every individual in the herd, so this has been a huge shock and we're all very sad and supporting each other through this difficult time,'' Mr Fuller said in a statement. "Our focus is on continuing this investigation to pinpoint the cause and to care for the remaining animals in the herd.'' *Herald Sun. Meanwhile the Australian Greens are calling for an independent inquiry following the death of the four white rhinos. *


Conservationists have marched on Parliament calling on the State Government to stop logging in native forests. "Stop the damage in our state forest, stop the damage to our threatened cockatoo habitat," the protesters chanted. An alliance of conservation groups used World Forest Day to present the Environment Minister Bill Marmion with more than 5,000 letters urging action to protect endangered species. They say the number of Carnaby's cockatoos and numbats are dwindling due to the Government's failure to protect wildlife. The Wilderness Society's Peter Robertson says they will become extinct if the logging program is not changed. "Unfortunately, we have a Premier who is completely clueless about Western Australia's unique natural environment and our wildlife and all he is concerned about is development and mining and he needs to change his priorities very quickly," he said. Mr Marmion told the protesters the Government would consider the arguments put forward in the letters. "We're going through a forest management plan review," he said. "I would urge all those people to make sure they put in a submission." The protesters said they were disappointed at the Government's unwillingness to act so far. * ABC


A new method of killing young kangaroos orphaned during harvests could be introduced to Australia. A research program run by the Department of Primary Industries is looking at the suitability of spring-loaded bolt guns. Dr Steven McLeod from the DPI said the department is keen to explore humane ways of killing young animals. "This is something that hasn't been used before in Australia, we source them from Europe, where they're used for rabbit sized animals and poultry," he said. "From a report that was done by the RSPCA in the 80s and a later report that was done in the 90s, they identified this as an important issue, and they wanted the use of a captive bolt gun or a device like that tested." The DPI held an information session in Broken Hill yesterday with roo shooters to discuss ways of putting down the animals. Dr McLeod said the research program will continue for another year, and is looking at ways of improving processes. "Now when it's done properly, all our data indicates that things are pretty good, that the currently used methods are a good technique," he said. "But that also doesn't mean that there's not scope for some improvement, because, when we're talking about taking the life of an animal, we want to make it as stress free as possible and as painless as possible." *ABC
Ed Comment; they are not the slightest bit interested in what's "stressfree and painless," they are only looking to resolve an unresolvable issue, the cruel death of the joey when the mother is shot. They think that if they resolve this issue, more people will at kangaroo meat.

AZWH Patient of the Week

Daisy the Eastern Tube-Nosed Bat was found caught on a barbed wire fence at a property in Maleny. Daisy was transported to The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital by the concerned home owner. Dr Bec checked over Daisy and found two large holes in the membrane of her right wing. X-rays confirmed no fractures, and she was otherwise bright and responsive and eating well. Dr Bec administered Daisy pain relief and antibiotics and applied a hemorrhoid cream to help the wing membrane heal. She was then set up in a dark humidicrib in ICU for rest and observation. Daisy is now in care with a registered local bat carer, and will remain in care over the coming weeks while her wing heals. Once she is fully recovered, Daisy will be released back into the wild. AZWH Statistic: Daisy is quite a special case, being only the fifth tube-nosed bat admitted for treatment since our opening in 2004!


A property developer has been fined $127,500 for illegally clearing a koala habitat south-west of Sydney. Kyluk Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Land and Environment Court to clearing 12 hectares of endangered bushland, amounting to thousands of trees, near Appin. The Office of Environment and Heritage said the fine was one of the biggest issued for a land clearing offence in many years. The judgment said trees were cut down for commercial gain, to provide more space to graze cattle, and the company expressed no remorse. The bushland, which is habitat for koalas and microbats, formed part of a wildlife corridor and is expected to take 20 years to recover. *SMH

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 *


Environmentalists have lost the battle to save the habitat of the endangered Leadbeater's possum in the central highlands of Victoria. In the Supreme Court yesterday Justice Robert Osborn refused to grant permanent orders that would restrain loggers from harvesting timber in three coupes, Gun Barrel, Freddo and South Col, northeast of Toolangi. But Justice Osborn also called for an urgent review of the reserve system that is supposed to protect the Leadbeater's possum's habitat within the central highlands forest management area. "The 2009 bushfires have materially changed the circumstances in which the existing system was planned," Justice Osborn said. The judge ruled the Leadbeater's possum action statement made under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act did not stipulate the creation of exclusion zones to protect the possum independently of the forest management plan for the area. "MyEnvironment has not established that the very limited logging now proposed within Gun Barrel by way of variable retention harvesting constitutes a threat of serious irreversible damage to the environment," the judge said. * Herald Sun

Australia will witness the ''managed extinction'' of one of its rarest mammals, Leadbeater's possum, unless the federal government intervenes to save its old growth mountain ash habitat, a leading scientist says. Australian National University ecologist Professor David Lindenmayer has written to federal Environment Minister Tony Burke this week, requesting the possum's conservation status be upgraded urgently from endangered to critically endangered under federal biodiversity protection laws. ''Unless we move quickly, we'll see this animal go extinct within 25 years. If governments do nothing, then Leadbeater's possum is stuffed,'' he said. The possum, named after Victoria Museum taxidermist John Leadbeater, was thought to be extinct until the mid-1960s, when a colony was discovered living in forests near Marysville - one of the areas hardest hit by the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/animals/leadbeaters-possum-faces-managed-extinction-without-action-20120326-1vuxe.html#ixzz1qGABeBKd


'Callaway' the coastal carpet python is feeling a bit below par. He has two uncomfortable lumps in his stomach after swallowing two golf balls he thought were eggs. A resident from Kyogle in northern NSW had put the balls in his chicken coop to encourage his hens to lay. But Callaway - named after the famous brand of golf balls - thought the 'eggs' were the real thing and duly swallowed them. The snake has been brought to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary's animal hospital where he will undergo surgery later today. "If we didn't get the golf balls out, Callaway would eventually starve to death," vet Andrew Hill said. Dr Hill said Callaway should make a full recovery and be back in the wild soon. It's not the first snake with a bad case of indigestion to be treated at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. In 2008, four golf balls were surgically removed from another python which thought they looked like eggs. They were later auctioned on eBay, attracting a winning bid of $1400. *Courier Mail


Scientists say a large jellyfish species that has been washing up on Darwin beaches in recent weeks can give a painful sting. The lobonema jellyfish can reach up to half a metre in diameter. Dr Michael Hammer from the Northern Territory Museum says beachgoers should take care because the lobonema jellyfish sometimes wash ashore with the more dangerous box jellyfish. "They are pretty big jellyfish," he said. "They are ... quite a widespread species that occurs offshore. "We don't often see them but under the right conditions at the right time or year, and the right weather, they can be blown on to the beaches. "I guess they are semi-dangerous. "They do have a painful but non-threatening sting." *ABC


Through the ages, the basic crocodilian plan for dispatching prey has been simple but effective - chomp hard and hang on tight. The plan works largely because the animals have evolved a ''design for generating really amazing bite forces'', says Greg Erickson, an assistant professor of anatomy and vertebrate paleobiology at Florida State University. ''And they didn't mess with that,'' he said. ''It has worked for 85 million years, and it is still working today.'' But questions remain about the evolution of different snouts and teeth, which scientists assume are related to bite strength. Not so, Erickson and his colleagues have reported in the journal PloS One. In an interesting evolutionary twist, it seems that snout shape, teeth and size evolved along separate paths and the only factor that affects the bite strength is the size of the animal.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/environment/animals/croc-smile-comes-with-scariest-of-bites-20120321-1vjy2.html#ixzz1pupW4qyA


Human hunters were mainly responsible for wiping out Australia's megafauna, a study has concluded. The reasons behind the demise of the giant animals that once roamed the continent – such as rhinoceros-sized diprotodons, towering kangaroos, marsupial lions and birds twice the size of emus – have long been hotly debated, with hunting, the human use of fire, and climate change blamed. Chris Johnson, of the University of Tasmania, said his team had solved the extinction mystery by studying fungi that thrive in the dung of large herbivores. The team examined two cores of sediment from Lynch's Crater, a swamp in north-east Queensland, dating back 130,000 years. They counted the spores of these fungi and looked for pollen and charcoal in the sediments as indicators of vegetation change and fire. Professor Johnson said the research showed megafauna numbers were stable until about 40,000 years ago, despite several periods of drying. "This rules out climate change as a cause of extinction," he said. *SMH

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/scientists-get-to-the-bottom-of-what-wiped-out-australias-ancient-gentle-giants-20120323-1vnrk.html#ixzz1puraaWvG
Ed Comment, Not surprisingly, this study has been attacked as "inconclusive." We find it hard to swallow that a few hundred early hunters could wipe out a species of very large and formidable animals.


Reintroducing predators such as dingoes and Tasmanian devils into landscapes may help protect Australia's diminishing biodiversity, say researchers. A new paper to be published in the May edition of Trends in Ecology and Evolution suggests dingoes and Tasmanian devils could control invasive species, such as cats and foxes, as well as overabundant herbivores. "We need to be quite bold and allow predators back into the landscape and see if they can reverse some of the damage we've done," says Dr Euan Ritchie, ecologist at Deakin University in Melbourne and lead author of the paper. Since European settlement, humans have drastically altered the Australian environment, resulting in one of the highest rates of species loss in the world. Cats and foxes have wreaked havoc on small wildlife species, while larger natives, such as kangaroos, have multiplied. Ritchie says the traditional approach to conservation is to manage species in isolation instead of considering the whole ecosystem. "We are constantly trying to poison foxes to reduce their populations and we are constantly culling kangaroos to keep their numbers low. But the reason why these species are problematic is that there is nothing controlling them," says Ritchie. "In a true wild system, larger predators would control both of these species." Read more .. http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/03/27/3464743.htm

Ed Comment; One has to wonder where these academics get their info from. There is no evidence that kangaroos have multiplied since white settlment, early writings show there were large numbers of kangaroos right across Australia, and we dont cull kangaroos to keep their numbers low. We cull kangaroos because our governments are too stupid to stop the killing, and it supports an "Industry" and a few jobs. But we do need to protect our native dog the dingo, they definately do keep introduced foxes and wild cat numbers down.


The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) welcomes the unprecedented numbers of seal pups born to Australian and New Zealand fur seals living on Montague Island. NPWS Discovery Coordinator for Montague Island Cassandra Bendixsen says the seal pups are proving a hit with visitors. “With their big black eyes and playfulness, this year’s seal pups are keeping cameras snapping as boats arrive at and depart from Montague Island,” she said. “Little Penguin spotting is only available at dusk when the birds come ashore, but nobody has ever visited Montague Island without having an up close experience with seals.” Far South Coast ranger Ross Constable says Montague Island, located off Narooma, is mainly home to male seals, but the population is always changing and pups have recently been spotted frolicking near the shore. “Montague Island is rocky and has little shelter on its shoreline, so it’s fairly treacherous for young seals and not colonised as a breeding ground,” Mr Constable said.

“This year, however, we have spotted more than a dozen seal pups on Montague Island, compared to just a handful say five years ago. “Male fur-seals reach sexual maturity after nine years of age and may have a harem of up to 12 females. “In the Bass Strait breeding colonies, less mature and less competitive males are driven to distant bachelor colonies like Montague Island. “Seals born here do have a high mortality rate due to the ocean swells, rocky shoreline and the risk of being crushed by fighting males. “Those pups that survive either stay on Montague or move between the haul-out or breeding colonies in Bass Strait, or off south-eastern Australia. Another shift on Montague Island has been increased numbers of New Zealand or long nosed fur-seals, which tend to be more aggressive and less communal compared to their Australian cousin. “New Zealand fur seals also predate on little penguins, which nest on Montague, but the annual sea bird census indicates that this is not adversely affecting Little Penguin numbers,” he said.

“Unlimited commercial hunting of Australian Fur Seals began in 1800 for their oil, meat and skins, and more than 200,000 animals were taken before they became protected in 1974 under the National Parks & Wildlife Act. “The south-eastern populations of Australian Fur Seals are still recovering from intensive hunting but it is encouraging to see signs that populations are slowly increasing,” Mr Constable said. The Australian fur seals are concentrated on the northern tip of the island, while their New Zealand cousins haul out along the western edge and southern tip. NPWS is aware of interactions between seals and anglers targeting kingfish and is keeping an eye on the situation. * NaroomaNews


GREENS MP Cate Faehrmann is calling on the NSW Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, to intervene in a "revenge killing" of kangaroos in Grafton after approval was given by Ms Parker's department to kill three male kangaroos following an attack by a male kangaroo on a resident last week. Ms Faehrmann said that under the minister's watch, the streets of Grafton were to become the stage for a pointless act of revenge as officers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service armed with guns and an identikit of a male kangaroo execute an order to kill three kangaroos. "Killing kangaroos because one of their own hit someone is as pointless as killing a shark because it bit someone," Ms Faehrmann said. "These are wild animals and sometimes, as damaging and distressing as it can be, clashes between humans and wild animals happen. "Kangaroos have been an almost permanent feature on the fairways of nearby Grafton Golf Course for many years. "Local residents understand the risk and the more support they get from authorities like the National Parks and Wildlife Service to improve their knowledge and ability to avoid clashes the safer both people and kangaroos will be." Ms Faehrmann said she had sent an urgent request to the NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker requesting her to intervene to stop the killings. * Daily Examiner

Cane Toads

Scientists have already put crocodiles on treadmills, now they're putting Australia's most notorious pest through its paces. Researchers have been trying to find out why cane toads at the invasion front appear to be stronger and tougher than those that have been well-established in North Queensland, where they were first introduced into the continent in the 1930s Previous studies have shown toads appear to be growing larger, faster and smarter as they hop across the country. University of Melbourne physiological ecology lecturer Dr Chris Tracy, who lead a research team from across Australia, said they wanted to find out why this was so. "We wanted to see whether there was some sort of difference in the endurance and physiology of the animals that were out on the invasion front, compared to the toads that had been around for a long time," he said. To do this, it involved running toads on tiny treadmills.

The scientists gathered toads from the invasion front on the Western Australia/Northern Territory border, and from established populations in Cairns. Each of the amphibians was placed on to the 50cm long, 20cm wide treadmills and motivated to hop in the opposite direction. The scientists encouraged the athletes by tapping their rears. "If you've ever done that with a toad, you know that they hop away," Dr Tracy said. James Cook University researchers recently tested the breathing ability of saltwater crocodiles, by using a similar treadmill test. Dr Tracy said the Far North Queensland toads appeared to be far more energetic than their western cousins. "They almost ran us into exhaustion," he said. "The toads that were from the invasion front actually didn't run for that long." He believed this meant the toads' physiology may be the last thing to evolve.

The extent to which behaviour, body structure and physiology evolve together within an animal such as a cane toad, remains unknown. "The first thing that changes on such things is behaviour, and often the next thing is a combination of morphology and physiology and in some cases, it's one of those and in some cases it's both," Dr Tracy said. "With the toads it seems the morphology has changed a bit and the physiology hasn't changed at all. But the behaviour has changed quite a bit, too." Townsville Bulletin