Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wildlife Bytes Australia 25/6/12

Editorial; Croc Trophy Hunting

"It disgusts me that the Australian Government is considering allowing Crocodile hunting in the Northern Territory.  I've just written this letter to Tony Burke - Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water Population and Communities.  I would urge you to do the same.  His address is: "  * Bob Irwin

Bob has written a great letter to Tony Burke about the NT trophy hunting proposal. You can read it here  ..

And there's more. A 1997 Senate  Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee into the Commercial Utilisation of Native Wildlife Committee headed up by Senator John Woodley ( Woodley was among the Democrat Senators who voted with Meg Lees to introduce the GST )  examined the so-called "sustainable commercial use" of wildlife. Of course the Committee was stacked with those who wish to profit from wildlife exploitation. Committee findings were that trophy hunting, along with the farming and harvesting of dugong, turtles, flying foxes, and other species, for food to export, would bring financial benefits to NT and Nth Queensland Indigenous communities, etc, etc, etc. So croc trophy hunting is just the thin edge of the wedge. If croc trophy hunting is approved, it won't take long for the Senate Committee report to be unearthed, and proposals would surface to trophy hunt other native species, including large kangaroos and birds, as the Senate Committee Findings recommended. *

Sign a petition here  ..

GBR Management Condemned

A United Nations report has declared Australia had failed to properly protect the Great Barrier Reef and called for a panel of overseas experts to review the natural wonder and safeguard its future. Development in Queensland was out of control and about 35 projects scheduled for approval in the next year had put the Reef at further risk, according to a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. In the report, a detailed and sometime scathing version of a draft released earlier this month, UNESCO says urgent measures must be taken to protect the World Heritage Area and warns against any further development before a critical assessment is completed by 2015. "The scale and pace of development proposals appear beyond the capacity for independent, quality and transparent decision-making," the report released yesterday stated. It said few developments are refused, some overlap and no development limits have been set by governments. It added that decision-making had been reactive and driven by short-term economic benefits. "Once approved, there is a lack of enforcement of conditions attached to approvals ... and few or no penalties for non-compliance," the report said. UNESCO says the 35 developments that will threaten the Reef include major mining projects, port expansions along with minor wastewater and sewerage treatment projects. *Courier Mail
Read more  ..

Queensland Nickel is seeking approval to dump millions of litres of contaminated water from its Yabulu refinery into the ocean in a move which could threaten the Great Barrier Reef.It's understood a crisis is developing at the Clive Palmer-owned Yabulu Nickel Refinery where tailings ponds are dangerously high and at risk of catastrophic failure. The situation has developed over several years largely because of the wet weather. Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has been briefed on the matter and is monitoring the situation. The Yabulu refinery recently requested the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority allow it to pump water out the ponds for 370 days. The water in the ponds is believed to equate with the treated sewage of a city of several million people. After discussions with GBRMPA that request was revised down to just 40 days but Mr Palmer has continued to ask GBRMPA to allow him to dump all the tailings pond water immediately. It's believed the refinery then wants to discharge the refinery's effluent, temporarily, straight from the refinery into the ocean while the situation is sorted out. *townsville Bulletin
Read more  ..


Whale sightings in the Fleurieu Peninsula could be affected if seismic surveying for oil off Kangaroo Island goes ahead, an environment group says. The news comes as Bight Petroleum and British Petroleum (BP) look into potentially mining around Kangaroo Island in the Great Australian Bight.  Kangaroo Island Dolphin Watch representative Tony Bartram said the effects, long and short term, of oil and gas exploration through seismic surveying, are little known and understood. * Times


A critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros has been born at an Indonesian sanctuary, only the fourth birth in captivity in more than a century, boosting survival hopes for the species, say conservationists. "Ratu gave birth to a male baby on Saturday. Both the mother and the baby are all very well," conservationist Widodo Ramono, who works at a sanctuary on the southern tip of Sumatra island, told AFP. The last three in-captivity births for Sumatran rhinos took place in the United States at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio. The father of the new born, Andalas, was himself the first Sumatran rhino delivered in captivity in 112 years. He was born in September 2001, according to the zoo. Andalas was brought to Indonesia to mate with Ratu, a female who grew up in the wild but wandered out of the forest and now lives at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park. Sumatran rhinos have suffered a 50 per cent drop in population numbers over the past 20 years, largely due to poaching and loss of tropical habitat. There are now believed to be fewer than 200 alive. Most reside in isolated pockets in south-east Asia. Poaching is one of the biggest killers of Sumatran rhinos, whose horns are reputed to have medicinal properties. But rhinos have also suffered from the destruction of their habitat and, according to environmentalists, 2 million hectares of forests are lost every year in Indonesia. * AFP


Capturing the Holy Grail of Australian reptiles turned out to be something of an anti-climax for Gavin Bedford. The Northern Territory herpetologist had spent almost a decade trying to get permission to collect and breed the elegant Oenpelli python, one of the world's rarest snakes and the only legally unobtainable python species. He had spent more than 1100 hours searching for it, dropped by helicopter into remote and rugged sandstone country near the East Alligator River in Arnhem Land.

Read more:


The WA Opposition claims rats on board asylum seeker boats are further endangering wildlife in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Coalition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan asked acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan to confirm that a boat carrying asylum seekers had arrived on the island, bringing with it a breed of rat that would “eat the eggs and kill the chicks of the world’s last remaining population of these Cocos Buff-banded Rail birds”. "What is the acting Prime Minister’s plan to protect the Cocos Island from further biosecurity threats given that four illegal boats have arrived here in less than one month?” he asked in parliament today. The birds are listed as an endangered species with official Government information saying they are only found on the North Keeling Island. Mr Swan said he could not confirm the rat’s presence. * WA News

Koala Petition

A Petition to save  koalas affected by the Moreton Bay Rail Link* Network Item

Wild Law Alliance

AWLA’s mission is to promote the understanding and practical implementation of Earth Jurisprudence and Wild Law in Australia. Wild Law is a new legal theory and growing social movement.   It proposes that we rethink our legal, political, economic  and governance systems so that they support, rather than undermine, the integrity and health of the Earth. AWLA’s activities include research, education, promotion and advocacy.  All our work is driven by our members’ interests and commitment – so become a member and get involved! AWLA is a founding member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, which brings together more than 60 organisations around the world, who support Earth Jurisprudence and rights of nature.


The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill today that would make it easier for Northwest states and tribes to kill California sea lions that eat salmon and other fish, including fish not listed under the Endangered Species Act.  House Bill 3069, spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., passed 232-188 as part of a package of 14 natural resource bills. Since 2008, the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho have pursued killing California sea lions that gather at the base of Bonneville Dam to munch on adult salmon returning to spawn. But that program, which his killed or relocated 50 animals to date, has been stalled periodically by lawsuits from the Humane Society of the United States. A lawsuit is proceeding now.
Read more  ..


The tiger may be king of the jungle, but its writ does not extend to the wild mangrove swamps of West Bengal where a 15-foot crocodile claimed the title earlier this week. Forest officials in the Sundarbans national park said the crocodile had made jungle history by becoming the first in living memory to kill a tiger. A post-mortem examination of the carcass of an eight-year-old male tiger discovered by rangers on the banks of a jungle river on Tuesday has confirmed that he was killed and eaten by a crocodile. The tiger had been attacked as it swam across the river and was killed in what they believed had been a fierce struggle. Bivash Pandav of the Wildlife Institute of India's Endangered Species Department said attacks by tigers on crocodiles were common – a crocodile was killed recently in Ranthambore tiger reserve. "However, this is the first time we have heard of an attack by crocodiles on a tiger," he said. While it was rare for large predators to confront one another, he said, crocodiles have an advantage in water. "Salt water crocodiles are very powerful. Tigers cross creeks to move from one island to another in the Sundarbans and a crocodile in water is definitely much more powerful than a tiger," he said. *Telegraph

Turtles and Dugongs

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hunting methods, which cause turtles and dugongs unnecessary suffering, will become an offence in Queensland. Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister John McVeigh introduced legislation into Parliament on Tuesday to protect the marine animals from inhumane hunting tactics. The amendment to the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 will protect dugongs and turtles from unnecessary and unreasonable pain and suffering. Currently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are exempt from animal welfare obligations under the Act but that will be changed. Mr McVeigh said the change would bring Queensland's animal welfare laws into line with other states. "For at least 10 years, animal welfare interest groups and others, including some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have voiced concerns about the cruelty of some hunting of sea turtles and dugongs," he said. "(They have voiced concerns about) the immunity from prosecution for animal cruelty that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are afforded by the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 if they are hunting in accordance with tradition or custom." Mr McVeigh said the current exemption of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to hunt dugongs and turtles was "too easily exploited by some rouge hunters who have no regard for animal welfare". Under the National Title Act 1993, traditional owners are allowed to hunt turtles and dugongs for non-commercial use. That will not change. *Fraser Coast Chronicle

Ed Comment, It needs to change too. Maybe that's the next step in the battle to save turtles and dugongs. Many groups won't touch this issue, because it's too sensitive and they dont want to upset Indigenous communities. But the issue is whether we want to save turtles and dugongs from becoming extinct.....or don't we care......because if the hunting doesnt stop, the turtles and dugong will doubt about it. Meanwhile, a proposed end to exemption from animal cruelty laws for traditional hunting in Queensland .... has upset Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities. The state government says it will now consult indigenous groups over the move which could impact on native title rights. Torres Strait islanders say the issue could end up in the High Court. Watch here  ...

New Book

I thought you might be interested in a most fascinating book written by wildlife advocate author, Menkit Prince, which is titled  ‘Arktel-The Planet Only Children Could Save’. This is a wonderful story which makes one think about the survival of a planet like our own and what can be done to save it. Appropriate for both adults and children, this would be a great Christmas gift! This book is one that you won’t want to put down, as Menkit’s brilliant ability with words draws the reader in as the story unfolds. Her incredibly amazing imagination went into overdrive when she invented the names for the characters, which fit perfectly to the beings from another galaxy. I urge you to read this book and share the message that only people like us can appreciate.

Flying Foxes

One lonely flying fox from Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens has made the 1175 km journey to the Fraser Coast since a relocation program was introduced earlier this month. Satellite tracking data returned from a monitoring device attached to the creature promoted the discovery, after measures were introduced to push the animals from the heritage site. The relocation plan involves industrial noise played from a stereo in Australia's oldest garden each dawn and dusk to ward flying foxes from the area. Wildlife officer at Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, John Martin, said information returned from 100 bats attached with devices revealing surprising results during the early stages of research. "(It showed a flying fox) was in Maryborough on June 10. We get data every four days so more should be in shortly," Mr Martin said. "There were a number of fixes of this individual in the Maryborough region on June 10...but there's a couple up in Queensland." Mr Martin said the planned relocation had shifted flying foxes from Sydney's botanic gardens as far south as Eden in NSW, and north into Queensland, to areas of the Wide Bay. He said one adventurous little devil had been tracked 100 km north-west of Bundaberg, and another two signals were being monitored from the Gympie region. But while it may seem unusual to some people for flying foxes to travel alone, Mr Martin said it was more common than many people thought. The larger sample being taken would allow staff to look at it in greater detail. Transmitters were attached to flying foxes a month ago and relocation has been going on for two weeks. * Fraser Coast Chronicle

ACT Kangaroos

The ACT Greens have called for Chief Minister Katy Gallagher to investigate if the government's own guidelines for humane shooting of kangaroos were breached during recent culls in Canberra's nature reserves. In a detailed letter to the Chief Minister, ACT Greens environment spokesman Shane Rattenbury has also questioned science underpinning the cull, suggesting some data is more than 20 years out of date. Mr Rattenbury has also raised concerns over ''serious safety risks'', citing claims in his letter that night-time shooting went ahead at one nature reserve, despite protesters being on-site. The letter also seeks to clarify reports that quad bikes were used to herd kangaroos during the cull, and suggests such ''herding'' does not comply with the ACT's Animal Welfare Act.

But a spokeswoman for Ms Gallagher said a number of claims outlined in the letter were inaccurate. In an emailed statement, the spokeswoman said ''all elements of the culling operations were quality tested'' against the ACT Code of Practice for the cull ''from the training of the marksman, the weapons and ammunition used''. She said an independent vet was engaged to audit the performance of the marksman, and the RSPCA was also ''invited to send their inspectors to overview the cull but elected not to do so''.

Australian Society for Kangaroos spokeswoman Fiona Corke said the ACT government had breached its own animal welfare laws by using quad bikes to herd kangaroos toward shooters. Herding may also be potentially in breach of a National Code of Conduct developed by federal and state governments for humane shooting of kangaroos and wallabies.'We had reports that quad bikes were used during the cull at three reserves. In one case, a cyclone fence was battered and damaged as a result of panicked kangaroos being herded up against it,'' Ms Corke said. Both the federal code and the ACT animal welfare laws state shooters must ensure each animal has died ''a sudden and humane death'' before moving on to shoot another. Both codes state animals ''must not be shot from a moving vehicle or other moving platform''.

The Chief Minister's office has confirmed quad bikes were used during the recent cull. ''Quad bikes were not used at any time to herd kangaroos during this cull. Culling operations do not involve the herding of animals. Quad bikes are used for riding around nature reserves to locate the kangaroo mobs,'' the office said in a statement. ''Once mobs are sighted they are approached no closer than 60 to 80 metres. Lights on the quads are off, night vision is used, speed is slow and the aim is to approach quietly so animals are not disturbed or startled to enable a clean shot.'' In recent weeks, the ACT government culled 1154 eastern grey kangaroos in nine nature reserves as part of a mangement plan to protect Canberra's grassland ecosystems. * Canberra Times


The kangaroo industry is in dire straits as Russia's 'temporary' ban on roo meat imports stretches into its third year and trade talks with China remain stalled. Adding to the problem is South Australia's strict operating conditions, which has the highest licensing and compliance costs in the nation. The tangle of red tape is threatening the future of the nation's largest game meat exporter - based in Adelaide. SA company Macro Meats Gourmet Game is the largest kangaroo exporter and responsible for pushing the development of the fledgling industry. Despite trade talks with Russia and China in limbo for a number of years, Macro Meats chief executive Ray Borda is quietly optimistic these two lucrative markets will soon be accessible, boosting roo meat production again and creating up to 300 jobs. But he says unfortunately these new jobs are likely to be interstate as heavy State regulations and costs force Macro Meats to shift more and more operations there. Mr Borda is a "born and bred South Aussie" and passionate about the State and its quality, unique produce, and wants to keep the bulk of his business here if possible.

But Macro Meats has already shed 60 processing jobs, and shooters are leaving the industry in droves. "We used to have 250 shooters in SA and we are now down to 60, and of these, only about half are active," he said. "Five years ago, we sourced 100 per cent of our supply from SA but difficult operating conditions and drought forced us to look further afield and now we source 90pc from Queensland and New South Wales." He said he pays upwards of $4m each in compliance costs to meet the highest processing standards in the world before even "shooting a roo". "We are a clean, green, environmentally friendly, sustainable and healthy industry," he said. "But it seems the government at State and Federal levels - and parts of the public - do not recognise the worth of the industry socially and economically. "This meat industry is the most carbon neutral, and even though the government is promoting carbon reduction, we are not getting the support we deserve." Mr Borda said urgent diplomatic negotiations - similar to efforts to patch up relations after the snap ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia - could get the ball rolling to open trade "once and for all". Russia placed a temporary ban three years ago citing health concerns on harvested wild animals. * Stock and Land

ICUN Red List

Scientists warn the source of our food, medicines and clean water may be at risk with the rapid decline of animal and plant species. The latest update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species shows that, of 63,837 species assessed, 19,817 are threatened with extinction. That number includes 41 per cent of amphibians, 33 per cent of corals, 25 per cent of mammals, 13 per cent of birds and 30 per cent of conifers. Released on the eve of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world's biodiversity. More than 2000 Australian species feature in the list , including central Queensland's northern hairy-nosed wombat, the southeast's Coxen's fig parrot and north Queensland's mahogany gliders and cassowaries. Two weeks ago, BirdLife Australia announced that birds were in crisis, with at least 50 species endangered or critically endangered and many of these in Queensland. Federal Environment Department figures show 23 birds as extinct.IUCN director-general Julia Marton-Lefevre said sustainability had become a matter of life and death for many people.

"A sustainable future cannot be achieved without conserving biological diversity," she said. Millions of people around the world depend on wild species for food. In some places up to 90 per cent of coastal populations obtained most of their food and income from fishing, yet over-fishing had reduced some commercial fish stocks by more than 90 per cent. Dr Jane Smart of the IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group said moving to a green economy was the only way to go because so many species cleaned soil, air and water and acted as carbon sinks. Freshwater ecosystems also were under substantial pressure from expanding human populations and exploitation. Invasive species were one of the most rapidly growing threats, with Queensland's chief biosecurity officer Jim Thompson and the Australian Weeds Committee warning yesterday of the impact of the deadly bellyache bush. Introduced as an ornamental shrub, it has spread through the Burdekin, Fitzroy, Walsh, Palmer, Flinders, Leichhardt and Gregory River catchments, as well as the headwaters of Lake Eyre Basin and central Queensland. The bush is poisonous to people and stock. *Courier Mail

Ed comment; The species figures quoted above would be much higher, except that for many species there is no data. *


Superb lyrebirds have become so good at copying other avian songs that not even the birds being mimicked can tell the difference. Just like many contemporary bands, lyrebirds don't mind doing covers of some classic performers, such as the grey shrike thrush. To find out how good superb lyrebirds are, Australian National University scientist Anastasia Dalziell recorded their songs and then played them back to the experts  the birds that were being mimicked. Ms Dalziell chose the thrush, which has a beautiful and complex song and is often found in lyrebird habitat. Surprisingly, shrike thrushes approached the speaker that was broadcasting mimicked songs just as if the calls were their own. Ms Dalziell, who describes lyrebirds as nature's kings of karaoke and complete show-offs, said not even birds being mimicked were always able to tell the difference between lyrebirds and the real thing. Male lyrebirds have a repertoire of 20-25 species of bird songs during the breeding season, and have even found a way to save space in their repertoire. They accurately replicate the structure of songs, but sing an abridged version containing fewer repeated notes.

The reason male lyrebirds have developed this repertoire is unclear. Scientists think that, as it might be difficult to be an accurate mimic, female lyrebirds may get an idea of a male's quality by assessing how accurate he is. Superb lyrebirds will also copy other noises such as car engines and barking dogs.  Males also whistle and make cackling noises and loud shrieks which can be heard through the rainforest. Females also will mimic, but are much quieter. "Lyrebirds are incredibly loud, sometime painfully so when you are near them,'' Ms Dalziell said. But lyrebirds are not born good mimics  young birds were hopeless at imitating the grey strike thrush, but improved after years of practice. The research has been published in the journal Animal Behaviour. *Courier Mail

Silvereye songbirds in Sydney and other Australian capitals not only sing higher and more slowly to be heard above the urban din. They also sing in a different ''dialect'' than their nearby country cousins, new research shows. Dominique Potvin, of the University of Melbourne, and her colleagues studied the common little green birds in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide, and in rural areas outside each city. They found city birds used different syllables, or words, in their songs to those of the country birds, and this pattern was similar even in capitals that were far apart. ''The dialect or accent in these cities is quite different than in rural areas,'' Ms Potvin said. ''And the birds in Melbourne seem to use a similar language to the birds in downtown Brisbane.'' It is not necessarily a problem that the city dwellers have culturally evolved and changed their tune in an apparent bid to prevent their communication being distorted by the low rumble of transport and people. 'At the moment it just seems like a very good, flexible coping mechanism that songbirds can use,'' she said.

But the research demonstrated how big an impact a noisy human-made environment could have on bird behaviour. In future it could also become an issue if country and city birds were no longer able to understand each other. ''Maybe they will start to not mate with each other, or maybe they will not be as attractive to each other.'' Ms Potvin said the find could explain why some species disappeared when noisy urban sprawl reached their habitat. ''Perhaps if a bird is not quite as flexible, it is much more at risk of becoming extinct if you're going to build a giant roadway in the middle of its territory.'' It showed there was a need to consider the acoustic impact of developments on local wildlife. The new study on city accents will be published soon. *Age