Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wildlife Bytes 26/4/12

Book Review Here at WPAA we read a lot of fiction. For some decades now, we have read hundreds of Government reports, white papers, green papers, orange papers etc, etc. Everyone knows that the government departments write the World's best and worst fiction, and we've read it all. So it was with great pleasure that we recently had an opportunity to read a fiction novel that focuses on the environment. Titled "Arctel; The Planet Only Children Could Save" by Menkit Prince, the story starts when a space traveller from Arctel and his family witness the explosive demise of the Planet Tarjez. Using technology unknown to Earthlings, the family can scroll back through history and watch as uncontrolled Industrial development on Tarjez bring the Planet to ruin. So the children decide that Arctel is facing the same degradation, and decide to campaign to slow the mad industrial growth on Arctel. How the children save Arctel is an amazing story of courage and enthusiasm, hope and realism. They run into the same problems human activists on Earth face daily....threats, legal threats, ridicule, even violence towards them. We wont spoil the story for you by giving the plot away, but it's a book every child (and every adult) should read. It's well written in large text, has some great illustrations, and is easy to read. More info is available here or at Planet Arktel, PO Box 3410, Uki NSW 2484, Australia *WPAA Fraser Island Dingoes Qld's Premier Campbell Newman has promised a new Peer Review for the Management of the dingoes on Fraser Island. Save the Fraser Island Dingoes would like to hear from anyone who visited Fraser Island in the 1950's to 1992 when the Island was World Heritage Listed. Please could you e-mail your experiences to Thank you for your participation, kind regards, Malcom Kilpatrick President SFID Inc *SFID Birds A new colony of one of Australia's rarest birds has been discovered on Bruny Island, off south-east Tasmania. It is estimated there are only a few hundred breeding pairs of the forty-spotted pardalote left in the wild. Drought and habitat loss has taken a toll, halving numbers over the past decade. The bird feeds almost exclusively on white gum tree. Conservation manager Sally Bryant says after planting the gums in new areas 20 years ago, the project is finally proving successful. "Obviously some now are reaching good heights and providing good foraging habitat so it demonstrates again how important it is to keep connectivity in the landscape." Robert Graham from the Bruny Island Environment Network says there is now a push to get landowners on the island to plant more of the gums to secure the birds' future. "This colony is significant because it's the first new colony we've found in a while; and secondly because it gives us some hope that we might be able to replicate what's happening here," he said. Seedlings are being made available to landholders. *ABC Kangaroos in the ACT Our general meeting is tomorrow April 26th (Thurs) 6pm at the Griffin Centre Canberra City. This month’s key theme for the meeting will be “Kangaroos”. In previous years Kangaroo kills have been announced the last week of May. Although there has been no news regarding a possible kangaroo kill in the ACT (as of yet) ALACT would like to discuss this matter a month ahead with members and volunteers to plan and build a solid campaign this year. We will also be discussing the regulatory framework governing non-commercial kangaroo kills in general. If a cull is announced again this will be the 5th year in a row that thousands of kangaroos are killed. Having large populations of kangaroos killed in the same nature parks repeatedly is of grave ethical and ecological concern for the future conservation of kangaroos in these reserves. If you’re particularly interested in this campaign, and/or want to learn more, come along so you can find out what you can do to help this year. There will be yummy food as usual! *AL ACT Climate Change Antarctica's massive ice shelves are shrinking because they are being eaten away from below by warm water, a new study finds. That suggests that future sea levels could rise faster than many scientists have been predicting. The western chunk of Antarctica is losing 23 feet (seven metres) of its floating ice sheet each year. Until now, scientists weren't exactly sure how it was happening and whether or how man-made global warming might be a factor. The answer, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, is that climate change plays an indirect role — but one that has larger repercussions than if Antarctic ice were merely melting from warmer air. Hamish Pritchard, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, said research using an ice-gazing NASA satellite showed that warmer air alone couldn't explain what was happening to Antarctica. A more detailed examination found a chain of events that explained the shrinking ice shelves. Read more: AZWH Patient of the Week...Rowan the Bearded Dragon Surrendered to a local wildlife carer by a family from Morayfield, who had taken Rowan from the wild and kept him as a pet for the last two months. Rowan was transported to The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital by the carer, after the family became concerned about Rowan’s health and wellbeing. Dr Amber assessed Rowan and found an insufficient diet had resulted in the tiny reptile suffering calcium deficiency. Dr Amber placed Rowan in a warm tank in Reptiles ICU, and has prescribed a calcium supplement to be included with food. Future: Rowan will soon be transferred to a registered local reptile carer, and will remain in care until strong enough for release and big enough to feed on live prey. AZWH Statistic: Over 240 animals were confiscated or surrended to the hospital between 2005-2011. Native animals require specialised care and skilled handling, and do not make for suitable pets. Our wildlife belong in the wild! *AZWH Elephants A veterinarian has been crushed to death by an elephant at Franklin Zoo south of Auckland, according to reports. The zoo is home to just one elephant, a former circus elephant called Mila, One News reported. TV3 reported that the elephant sat on the keeper then, acting protectively, would not let anyone else enter the enclosure to help the woman. Police said they were called to the incident at the zoo shortly after 4.30pm. No further information was to be available until next-of-kin had been notified and the matter had been referred to the coroner. A fire communications spokesperson said they had limited information, but confirmed the brigade were asked to attend the Franklin Zoo in Ridge Road to assist where a person had been attacked by an elephant. "Upon arrival, the elephant had been secured and paramedics were working with the patient," they said. The Fire Service were called just after 4.30pm and stayed at the scene for up to 40 minutes. Ambulance Communications relief team manager Louis Rapihana told TV3 ambulance staff were called around the same time. "A person was attacked by one of the animals, by an elephant,'' he said. Franklin Zoo is at Tuakau, south of Pukekohe. Mila, a 40-year-old African elephant, has been at the zoo for the past three years after formerly being part of a circus. * *NZ news Potoroos The Victorian Government's timber agency says cameras have spotted the endangered long-footed potoroo in areas beyond its known habitat range. VicForests says the potoroo has been seen three times in an area of forest just east of the Bemm River in East Gippsland. Spokesman David Walsh says the discovery will lead to an additional 50 hectares of long-footed potoroo habitat being protected from forestry. "If we we find the potoroo in an area where we're planning to harvest, we then say we've found this species in the area, we then won't harvest the 50 hectare of best habitat for that species within the proximity of that area," he said. *ABC Cape York Bauxite miner Cape Alumina is preparing to mine the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve on Cape York after pre-poll promises by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman that he would repeal Wild Rivers legislation. Wilderness Society spokesman Glenn Walker said yesterday the company was moving to kick-start mining prospects in the remarkable Wenlock River area on Cape York. This was based on Mr Newman's promise that in his first 100 days in office he would begin winding back Labor's conservation legislation. "The Wilderness Society is aware that the company last week listed an investor presentation on the ASX website noting that the new Queensland LNP Government would soon repeal the Wild River declaration for the Wenlock River," Mr Walker said. The Cape Alumina bauxite project northeast of Weipa has been hotly opposed by scientists, conservationists and Murris because of unusual springs and for its proximity to the Wenlock River which has more fish species than any other in Australia.Labor enlarged setback provisions for the mine to protect the river and springs but Cape Alumina has argued that mining can go ahead much closer to the water bodies without causing environmental harm. Ironically, former prime minister John Howard had conservation in mind when he used taxpayer funds to help buy the property for Australia Zoo owner Terri Irwin and family after her husband Steve Irwin died in 2006. No Cape Alumina spokesman could be contacted for comment but the investor presentation carries the headline "Wenlock Wild River declaration to be lifted". *Telegraph 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 * Polar Bears Scientists now say polar bears diverged from their closest relatives 600,000 years ago, far earlier than previously thought. The research suggests they face more challenges in the face of climate change, which could threaten their survival. Previous genetic analysis of polar bears had determined the species was only about 150,000 years old. In fact, it took five times longer for the polar bear to adapt to arctic conditions, according to the study by Dr Frank Hailer, a conservation and evolutionary biologist, and colleagues. In turn, the bears may not have enough time to adjust to a rapidly changing climate, the study suggested. The earlier study had focused mainly on mitochondrial or mtDNA, which only accounts for a small portion of the entire genome and is passed from a mother to her offspring. This had led to the conclusion that polar bears were a recently evolved type of northern brown bear. Dr Hailer’s study, published in the journal Science, examined data from many independently inherited regions of the nuclear genome that showed that both polar and brown bears are much older, genetically distinct species of their own right. The species’ earlier origin “implies that polar bears as a species have experienced multiple glacial cycles and had considerable time to adapt to arctic conditions,” the study said. “However, the low genetic diversity in polar bears suggests that changes in the environment, such as warm phases, caused population bottlenecks.” It warned that changes in habitat, hunting, toxic substances and other “stressors” caused by humans “could magnify the impact of current climate change, posing a novel and likely profound threat to polar bear survival.” * EcoNews Koalas Authorities have defended the death of several koalas in a recent controlled burn in the Otways. The Department of Sustainability and Environment said five injured koalas were discovered after a controlled burn near Wye River. The department said three koalas were euthanased and two taken to shelters. The department's Otways district manager, Andrew Morrow, said the risk of wildlife injury or death during a planned burn was very low compared to that of severe bushfires. "Across the whole burn program in the Otways about 40 burns per year there are very few reports of injured wildlife," he said. "The Wye-Kennett Jeep Track burn is the only planned burn in the Otways in the past three years where injured koalas have been reported." Mr Morrow said low-intensity fires with "limited canopy scorch" were conducted in areas known for high wildlife populations. He said the department also deployed a wildlife officer to monitor planned burn sites to address animal welfare needs and contact wildlife shelters, when required, for injured animals. "A DSE wildlife officer was tasked to monitor and respond to any wildlife welfare issues associated with planned burn at Wye River-Kennett River recognised as an area with a high koala population," Mr Morrow said. "The Wye-Kennett Jeep Track burn was completed successfully, with unburnt gully areas of high quality fauna habitat and refuge value retained. "The limited scorch of trees ensured minimal impact on koala food sources within the burn area." Mr Morrow said autumn provided suitable conditions for the planned burning program, and the Otway district had completed planned burns over approximately 4000 hectares for 2011-12. He said further burns were scheduled this week near Aireys Inlet, Deans Marsh and Forrest. Carlisle River Wildlife Shelter's Ron Anstis yesterday questioned the value of controlled burns. "My wife did a course into the topic of whether it was worth having these burns and she couldn't come up with an answer," he said. "Opinion is divided ... the chief fire bloke in NSW said, 'Forget it, it's not worth it'." Mr Anstis said that kangaroos, wallabies and possums were also often caught up in controlled burns. *Weekly Times New SA Environment Boss The Environment Protection Authority's new boss has pledged to restore public confidence in the controversial agency. Professor Campbell Gemmell told The Advertiser he had completed an assessment of the agency and its performance since taking up his appointment three months ago. "I have found some areas that we are doing reasonably well and some we could make significant improvements on," he said. Prof Gemmell said already under his management the EPA had launched three prosecutions, compared to one conviction during the previous 12 months. "Currently we have 30 cases of illegal dumping which we are investigating and about 20 of these are likely to go forward to more serious consequences," he said. Prof Gemmell has been briefing government and community organisations about the new course the EPA will be taking, including greater transparency. "A lot of people have been concerned about what information has been available to the public and one of the good things we have done is put more information out on the website," Prof Gemmell said. "We are moving the public register of information which used to be kept in a dusty room on to the website for greater transparency. "Information will be presented in a digestible form for the public. People have a right to know and want to know, but a lot of the technical information doesn't make immediate sense to people and we need to try and explain it to people." The EPA has been criticised in recent years over its handling of groundwater contamination at several industrial sites, failure to warn residents about dangers close to housing developments at Port Adelaide, and failure to warn residents about the dangers of methane gas leaking from former dump sites. Prof Gemmell said one of the most significant challenges for Adelaide was the expansion of housing into former industrial sites. The EPA had also suffered from perceptions that it "made development difficult" which he also hoped to address. "The EPA needs to be seen as an enabler of good development, we want to help make good developments happen," he said. But Prof Gemmell warned the business community that those who broke environmental laws faced an increased change of being prosecuted. "I am a firm believer in following up the breaches of permits very robustly," he said. *Adelaide Now Whales Sighting in waters off Kamchatka peninsula is believed to be first time an adult white orca has been spotted in wild. Scientists have glimpsed a pure white adult orca, or killer whale, while on a research expedition off the far eastern coast of Russia. The sighting in waters off the Kamchatka peninsula is believed to be the first time such a whale has been seen in the wild. Researchers said the marine mammal, which they nicknamed Iceberg, was swimming with its mother and siblings and appeared to be fully accepted by its 12-strong family. White whales are not unheard of, but only young white orcas are thought to have been recorded by marine conservationists before. The whale was seen by scientists on a research cruise co-led by Erich Hoyt of the Far East Russia orca project. "We've seen three white orcas in the past few years, but this is the very first time we've seen a mature animal that is all white," Mr Hoyt, a senior research fellow at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, told The Guardian. The team is returning to the same waters next month to try to track it down again. The scientists hope to confirm whether or not Iceberg is an albino by photographing its eyes. "If we can get a full close-up of the eyes and they are pink, it would confirm Iceberg is an albino, but we don't know much about albinism in orcas," Mr Hoyt said. Fully albino orcas can have weak immune systems and die young, but partial albinos can live into adulthood. Iceberg appears to be white all over and, judging by its two-metre dorsal fin, is at least 16 years old, Mr Hoyt said. "We've photographically identified 1500 orcas in the region in the past 12 years there," he said. "If we see any of his pod and he's not there, we'll know he's gone." During the expedition from May to September, researchers will lower hydrophones into the sea to record the sounds the whales make. There are believed to be three to four "clans" of whales in the waters the team surveyed, each with its own distinctive dialect. *Guardian Frogs A Tasmanian wildlife centre is hoping to breed a frog "insurance population" as a lethal fungal disease wipes out amphibians around the state. Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary has five young Tasmanian tree frogs that were collected as tadpoles in the South-West. The tree frog is among 11 species in the state, three of them found only in Tasmania and all of them at risk from chytrid, which is wiping out amphibians around the world. "We have five little frogs, all close to fully grown now," Bonorong director Greg Irons said. "We've been asked to help find out if an insurance population is possible. People don't realise how important frogs are. They're like bees if we lose them, the world ends." He said the extent of the plight was not certain, but in some surveys researchers struggled to find any frogs where they were once common. Mr Irons said two of the tree frogs, which are all in quarantine, were probably female. "There isn't a lot known about their breeding they might only be able to breed in water of a certain depth. These have started 'calling' and it's suggested that's a sign of maturity," he said. The green and gold frog and striped marsh frog are listed under threatened species legislation. There is growing evidence that many more are in serious decline, with Tasmania given federal funding to help. Veterinary pathologist and wildlife disease researcher David Obendorf said the chytrid had hit as frogs struggled with habitat loss and climate change. "All frogs are susceptible to chytrid, although a few appear to be more resilient, but these can still carry the fungus," Dr Obendorf said. "In wetlands where you could hear seven frog species in chorus, now there are two or three." He said the green and gold frog, also called the growling grass frog, was at serious risk. "We have evidence of the Tasmanian tree frog being affected, with declines in southern Tasmania and South-West areas, in the Cradle Valley and Mt Field and high mountain lakes," Dr Obendorf said. He said he expected the moss froglet, or the little pingpong frog, which lives in sphagnum bogs, to be highly susceptible. This Saturday is Save the Frogs Day. *Mercury