Monday, July 30, 2012

Wildlife Bytes Australia 31/7/12

Koala Summit at Noosa

CQUniversity, Noosa Sheraton Noosa Resort and Spa, Cnr Eumundi-Noosa Road & Goodchap Street River Lounge, Noosaville, August 7th to 8th. Representatives from four koala conservation organisations that are active in the Sunshine Coast region are co-hosting this event - Sunshine Coast Koala Wildlife Rescue, Koala Action Pine Rivers, Moreton Bay Koala Rescue and Koala Diaries. These groups recognise that, without a high level, well co-ordinated management approach, functional extinction of the koala on the Sunshine Coast will be a reality. The purpose of the Summit is to provide a forum for invited koala experts, Sunshine Coast Council personnel, and community groups to share information and, together, identify actions that will preserve wild koala populations on the Sunshine Coast and form the basis of a regional approach to koala management. Accordingly, it is intended that the programme will explore (1) the status, trends and threats to koalas; (2) the scope of high level strategic and holistic planning; (3) regional and local strategies for koala conservation (conserving koalas hand-in-hand with good development); and (4) key priorities for the Sunshine Coast region. The Summit will draw from examples of issues, trends and real, action-focussed projects that are working in other regions. For all registration enquiries, please contact Anika Lehmann, Moreton Bay Koala Rescue Telephone: 0401 685 483

In Deb Tabart's latest eZine she states, "In my discussions with the United States lawyers who support the AKF totally with our desire to have a Koala Protection Bill I learnt a great deal. One is that the new legislation must not link to the EPBC Act, because for one, it is going to be watered down (is already by the sounds of things) and two, because it has too much ministerial discretion. This is key and I keep saying to both them and to legal people here, we must see the Koala, like the Bald Eagle is to the United States; so important that it needs its own legislation. In my meetings in DC and with a huge flu making me lose my voice it was frustrating and exhilarating all at the same time to hear the discussions about what we can and will do for the future of this legislation. There are some tremendous minds in Washington DC on such matters." * Deb Tabart

Ed Comment; At WPAA we couldnt agree more. The EPBC Act is useless to protect wildlife. It has been so watered down by succesive Federal Labor and Liberal governments so that only in very few instances has it been sucessfully used to protect habitat, and only in obvious instances, like the illfated Traveston Dam proposal. All our wildlife needs its own legislation, the EPBC Act just doesnt cut the mustard, the Act is designed more to facilitate development than to protect wildlife. *

Two koalas have been killed on Sunshine Coast roads over the past two days, in another savage blow to the dwindling local koala population. One adult koala was killed on Sunday afternoon on the Bruce Hwy near Noosa, and the other, a male joey, was struck on Monday night near Sunshine Beach. Sunshine Coast Koala Rescue's Ray Chambers is saddened but not surprised by the loss of two of the Coast's koalas. "It's not unusual for us to receive four or five calls around Queensland about dead or injured koalas in a weekend," he said. He said the Coast's koala population was in severe decline. * Read more  ..

Shooting in National Parks

Shooters’ arrogance.....The arrogance of power is clearly shown in the Shooters and Fishers Party’s website Q&A about Barry O’Farrell’s sleazy deal to allow them access to our national parks for recreational killing. One of the most telling Q&As is this one: ‘Will parks really be closed to other users while hunters hunt, and will NPWS staff have to supervise them, or will it be like in state forests?’ Answer: ‘It will be as it is in state forests. National parks will not be closed and there will be no close supervision by NP staff.’


So the shooters are to be allowed into our parks unsupervised by those we pay to look after them? This shows how badly cobbled together this deal is and how totally corrupt the whole Liberal National Party have become when it comes to doing sleazy deals for their state asset sale agenda – you know, the one they kept secret during the election campaign. The  facts are that the NSW Liberal/Nationals coalition government has made our beautiful national parks into private game-hunting estates for these weirdos with their blood lust and desire-to-kill psychosis. Wanting to kill animals for pleasure is surely that, a mental disease and  psychosis; just ask any psychologist. The people of NSW must be feeling very insecure knowing that the state is in the hands of a bunch of gun-toting pleasure killers whose only agenda is to get their own way no matter what, even selling off the assets your grandparents and parents worked hard to amass. This is the sad and sorry state of conservative politics in this nation nowadays and must cause people to pause and think if this is where we want to go, especially as we see constant mass shootings all over the world by psychotics who would not have been able to do as much damage and murder if they simply did not have access to guns. *

Wildlife Trade

"Last year, more rhinos were killed in South Africa to supply demand in Vietnam than have ever been killed before - it was the absolute peak last year. This year, it's looking to be worse."
Last year, 448 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Conservationists have pointed to demand from Asia, in particular Vietnam. According to Traffic, Vietnamese made up 24 of the 43 arrests of Asian nationals for rhino crimes in South Africa this year, reported The Guardian last Monday. *
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Environmentalist Ian Kiernan has joined a campaign against a proposed $47 million pipeline that opponents say will threaten native wildlife in central western NSW. Orange City Council (OCC) wants to build the pipeline from the Macquarie River to secure its future water needs. But the Clean Up Australia founder told a meeting of the Orange and Region Water Security Alliance at NSW Parliament House on Thursday that OCC needed to find a plan with a smaller environmental footprint. "To be contemplating pumping out of the Macquarie River is just not on," Mr Kiernan said. Karl Schaerf, a spokesman for local recreational fishers, said the pipeline would an huge risk to the "iconic" native animals living in and around the river, including platypuses. "I am deeply concerned about the impact on other inhabitants of the river, in particular water rats, platypuses, water dragons," he said. He said endangered trout cod, quoll and black swan populations along the river would also be threatened. NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham, a former Orange City councillor, said the plan to pump 1.665 megalitres annually from the Macquarie River into Burrendong Dam was irresponsible and should not be paid for from NSW coffers. He said he would attempt to bring a motion to parliament ruling the project out. OCC spokesman Nick Redmond told AAP the pipeline would have minimal environmental impact and would help drought-proof the city. "This project will deliver the greatest amount of water security for Orange with the least impact," he said.*PerthNow

New AntiPrivacy Laws

These next few weeks are crucial to community groups as the Government's computer AntiPrivacy discussion paper is debated in committee and reported on to Parliament. With such a short time allowed for consultation, the Attorney-General and the Government are trying to rush these laws through Parliament and avoid public scrutiny. This is particularly important for community groups who may come under unwanted Government scrutiny. Add your name to the petition and tell the Government to protect our civil liberties:


A nature-lover's paradise, Kangaroo Island off South Australia is renowned for its native fauna, which includes penguins, koalas, sea lions and New Zealand fur seals. But now the wildlife is getting a little too wild for some locals' liking: the seals are eating the penguins.Local tourism operators, who run nightly tours of fairy penguin colonies, say bird numbers have halved around the island's rocky coastline. They are calling for the fur seals - which, despite their name, are native to Australia as well as New Zealand - to be shot with beanbag rounds, a riot control method, to keep them out of penguin habitats. John Ayliffe, manager of the Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre, said five penguins had been taken by seals near the town of Kingscote recently. He warned that the fur seal population was booming, and said that unless drastic measures were taken the penguins could become extinct on the island and the nearby Fleurieu Peninsula. *Read more  ..


The RSPCA has slammed a brazen act of animal cruelty after a crocodile was found speared with an arrow in the Ross River.  Boaties spotted the 1m freshwater croc struggling to move on the upper reaches of the river on Sunday afternoon and found it had been punctured in the stomach. Emma Sprunt, who was cruising the river with friends, told The Townsville Bulletin she was horrified by what she saw. "I was absolutely disgusted, it is a shame to know that it was a human being that did that," she said. "It made us feel quite sick that somebody could do that to an animal and if they have done that to a crocodile, what other animals have they done it to?" RSPCA Inspector Frank Bebernitz said it was a serious crime under the animal cruelty act and the offender could face a $10,000 fine. "It is very disappointing and it makes me want to question people's ethics towards animals, particularly native wildlife," he said. Department of Environment and Heritage Protection wildlife management director Dr Ashley Bunce said any attempt to harm a protected animal would be fully investigated. "The arrow is likely to be causing severe pain to the small crocodile and could lead to painful complications and death," she said. "The arrow will be recovered and will assist in investigations." *Townsville Buletin


The secrets of one of Sydney's most mysterious creatures - tiny insect-eating bats - have been revealed. A three-year study has found the greatest number of species inhabit the less-developed suburbs of the city where the soil is good, rather than the sandy national parks. Western suburbs including Penrith, Blacktown, Liverpool and Cabramatta are particularly attractive to the microbats, most of which live in the hollows of old trees. A few species live in caves and can use man-made structures, such as old sheds, roofs or stormwater drains to roost. But only one species, the most common one - Gould's wattled bat - can tolerate highly urban areas, such as central Sydney.
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Conservationists and Parks Victoria will investigate a fresh tiger quoll sighting in the Otway Ranges. There was a confirmed sighting of the critically-endangered carnivore in the ranges for the first time in a decade in May. Lizzie Corke of the Conservation Ecology Centre at Cape Otway says cameras will be used to try to confirm the latest sighting and sniffer dogs are being trained to find faeces. She says a family has given an accurate description of a tiger quoll. "The quoll was sighted not too far away from where the last scat was found and the description that was given of the sighting was just beautiful, really spot on and it certainly sounds like this family did see a tiger quoll," she said. *ABC


"They can basically wipe the sheep out." "They take little lambs, they'll pull down full-grown sheep, they'll bite goats and rams and then they'll just get infected and die. "They'll even take down calves and attack cows if they're hungry enough and there's nothing else for them to eat." Michael Trant, a co-owner of a sheep station at Yalgoo in the state's Mid West, describes the devastation wild dogs can cause. His property is on the borderline of wild dog territory. Fortunately, he has managed to protect the majority of his flock of 10,000 sheep. "Our neighbours have lost a lot but we haven't got huge numbers of dogs yet, but they're certainly building up," he said. There is some help on the way with more landholders now able to apply to use 1080 bait. Previously, access to the bait was restricted to a limited number of people. Landholders had to wait for organised baiting days where an accredited injector would prepare 1080 oat baits.
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One of the world's rarest tortoises has been giving a lifeline in the swamps of our northern suburbs. More than 30 juvenile western swamp tortoises were released into Twin Swamps Nature Reserve in Perth’s northern suburbs in a conservation milestone. Environment Minister Bill Marmion said the release of 34 tortoises was part of the State’s recovery plan to increase the chance of survival for Australia’s most endangered reptile. “The plan has exceeded all expectations with more than 570 captive-bred tortoises released since the recovery program commenced in 1990,” he said. “We have certainly come a long way from the 1960s to the early 1980s, when there were only two known and monitored wild populations of the species at Twin Swamps and another near Bullsbrook at Ellen Brook nature reserves.” The release at Twin Swamps Nature Reserve was the 12th translocation at the reserve since 1994.
Fact File
* Before release, tortoises weighed, measured and marked to ensure their growth and progress in the reserve could be monitored
* Captive-bred western swamp tortoises were previously released at Twin Swamps Nature Reserve from 1994 to 2002; in 2005 and in August 2011
* Western Swamp Tortoise Recovery Program co-ordinated by DEC, in partnership with Perth Zoo, The University of WA and the Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise community group.

Outback Australia is battling an ecological disaster. According to today's estimates, 750,000 feral camels are roaming wild, and there's a warning they could change the environment so fundamentally that dust clouds could envelope Sydney. In fact, some estimates put the number of camels at 1 million, maybe even more. Whatever their exact number, for traditional owners they're destroying sacred sites, and farmers are finding it hard to manage their stock. While it's agreed feral camels are changing life in the centre, a row's brewing between pastoralists and traditional owners about managing the pests. Conor Duffy filed this report for Uluru for Lateline. And a warning, the story contains some coarse language. *
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Ed Comment; This is a pretty interesting article. Our governments have spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars aerial shooting and poisoning camels, and there are now more camels than ever before! We have to wonder when governments will get serious about eradicating misplaced exotic animals rather than just throwing money at inhumane and ineffective bandaid strategies that dont actually reduce the numbers.......but do make good media releases for the government departments.


Monarch butterflies with dark orange wings fly further than those with light orange wings, new research has found. Animal ecologist Dr Andrew Davis, of the University of Georgia, and colleagues, report their findings today in the journal PLoS One. "Up to now there's been a lot of research done comparing one species of butterfly to another in terms of their wing colour, but very few people have actually looked at individuals within the same species," says Davis. "I hope that this paper will pave the way for a new line of inquiry." Davis says there are subtle differences in the orange colour between monarch butterflies, even though they are raised on the same type of host plant. "I was interested in knowing what the biological significance of all of those different shade was," he says. North American monarch butterflies breed in summer and some generations later migrate thousands of kilometres south to Mexico for the winter.
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A German tourist played dead and then climbed a tree to escape dingoes that savagely mauled him as he slept on a Fraser Island roadside after becoming lost at night. The man, aged 23, is understood to have drunk a considerable amount of alcohol before getting up to go to the toilet about 2.30am on Saturday. He became disoriented and took a wrong turn onto Woralie Rd, walking about 800m away from the K'Gari campsite before he sat down and went to sleep - only to be startled awake some time later as dingoes sank their teeth into his limbs. After attempts to fight off the animals failed, the man tried to play dead in hope they would leave him alone. However, the unprovoked attack continued and the man ran from the scene with two or three dingoes in hot pursuit. Covered in dingo bites, scratches and blood, the man climbed a tree to escape , and waited until the animals left before trying to climb down. But his ordeal was not over - he fell from a branch, and lay on the ground before going to sleep again. Just before 6.30am, he recovered enough to walk back into the camp, where his tour guide arranged medical help.

The man's worst injuries were three deep puncture wounds that tore flesh from his right calf, and deep lacerations to his scalp and eyelid. While almost his entire body was covered in scratches, bites and bruising, only his throat and abdomen were left untouched - suggesting the animals may not have tried to kill him. "To have been attacked while no-one else was around, by at least two dingoes, he is very fortunate to be alive," Department of National Parks regional manager Ross Belcher said. "It may have been two sub-adult dingoes being aggressive and guarding their turf." While dingoes that attack people are usually euthanased, the German tourist could not identify the animals involved so none will be put down. Rangers later found the jacket the man had been wearing, that had been ripped to shreds After undergoing minor surgery, the man is in a stable condition in Hervey Bay hospital. The man was on a tour with the Rainbow Beach Adventure Company, which did not answer telephone calls yesterday. Rangers have increased patrols on Fraser Island as a result of the incident. *

There are a number of strange things in this story. Firstly you need to replace the words aggressive dingo's with the words "hungry/starving dingo's". Then you have to ask yourself about the tourist that was attacked. This person was so smashed, so drunk that after being attacked once and then falling out of a tree onto the ground, unbelievably.....he fell asleep on the ground AGAIN. This person was so intoxicated that he would have little memory of any of the events. I would suggest that this attack would not have happened at all if this person had not of been so heavily intoxicated. A starving dingo could not be blamed for thinking it had found a dead carcass on an island where food is scarce for the dingo's. When you consider the dingo's being hungry and on their own territory they really just reacted as a wild animal would and then we have to wonder what this person did and how he reacted. *Online Comment.


Police have been called in to investigate the discovery of nine dead kangaroos at Wharparilla near Echuca, in Victoria's north. Local resident Amanda Grundy found the two adult kangaroos and seven joeys on the side of a road at the weekend. She says some had gun shot wounds. "We were driving into town and we came across them, so I stopped just to make sure there were no baby joeys alive still in pouches," she said. "Then I found that there were gloves and some rope and over a dozen stubbies with the kangaroos and even some kangaroos had stubbies under their heads as pillows," she said. * ABC

Twelve months after security gates were installed at Morisset Hospital to stop vandals killing local kangaroos, more are being killed and injured after the gates were illegally removed.
In the past three weeks four injured kangaroos have been treated by animal rescue staff. Hunter Health says the gates have been broken by vandals on a number of occasions and mobile security units are now making regular patrols while repairs are underway. Margaret Howley from the Wildlife Rescue Service says the attacks on the animals are difficult to comprehend. "We have had four casualties come in which is unusual compared to what's been happening in the past 12 months," she said. "All suspicious injuries. "One of them was a very tiny baby inside the mother's pouch. "The mother was dead and unfortunately that baby didn't make it. "A large female and she was very concussed and the other was a 10 kilo male with very similar symptoms." Ms Howley from the Wildlife Rescue Service says the animals appear to have been injured during a time when the gates are undergoing repair. "My rescuer told me the boom gates on the Bonnells Bay entrance was not there and he made inquiries and realised it was away being fixed," she said. "So something has happened to that gate and it is during that timeframe that we got those injured roos in. *ABC


A prehistoric reptile, half snake and half lizard, which lived 70 million years ago, has been unveiled by scientists. The two foot-long creature, known as Coniophis, was a ‘transitional snake’ with a snake’s body and a lizard’s head. New analysis of its fossilized remains shows snakes evolved their modern skulls on land - reigniting a long running dispute over whether they are marine or terrestrial animals. It was discovered over a century ago embedded in rocks in mountainous Wyoming in the west of the US but palaeontologists took another look at long neglected remains to get new clues to how it looked and lived. Dr Nick Longrich, of Yale University in Connecticut, said: ‘The snake would have been about two feet long - so it was fairly small. It was non-venomous - venomous snakes evolved after the dinosaurs went extinct. ‘But it’s possible it constricted its prey like many primitive snakes do today. ‘Coniophis lived alongside a number of familiar dinosaurs - it would have slithered beneath the feet of animals like T. rex and Triceratops

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Wildlife Pets

The illegal reptile trade is booming on the Gold Coast with almost one a month being seized by authorities. Of most concern is a king cobra which is on the loose after escaping from a home in Helensvale, on the Gold Coast. Veteran snake catcher Tony Harrison has told The Gold Coast Bulletin he was warned in a late-night phone call to watch out for the aggressive and highly venomous snake. Mr Harrison is on the hunt for the creature. It comes after a similar incident in Robina a few months ago when Mr Harrison captured a Burmese python - a monster that can grow to 15 metres and weigh more than 100kg. "People like to have these types of reptiles because they're unusual, but the problem comes when they escape from enclosures or get too big and people let them go," Mr Harrison said. "I was called by an anonymous bloke the other month who said 'keep an eye out for a kingy in Helensvale', I asked if he meant a king eastern brown and he said 'no a king cobra'. "King cobras are not something you want in suburbia and they could thrive in the Australian climate."

Cobras grow up to 5m or more and while their venom is not the most potent among venomous snakes, the amount they can deliver in a single bite is enough to kill 20 people, or even an elephant. When confronted, they can raise up to one-third of their bodies straight off the ground and still move forward to attack. They will also flare out their iconic hoods and emit a bone-chilling hiss that sounds almost like a growling dog. Mr Harrison added: "Some exotic are harmless, like the Burmese python, but it can grow to 15m and weigh over 100kg, which is not something you want to find slithering around.'' He said he recently found a Burmese python in Robina.  "The main concern is the diseases these snakes can bring in and the destruction they can cause to the environment if set loose." Biosecurity Queensland confirmed to the Bulletin it has confiscated 20 illegal animals from the Gold Coast in the past two years, four of them snakes. Anyone caught with an illegal animal faces an $88,000 fine. Exotic animals are either bought on the black market or smuggled into Australia from overseas. American corn snakes, red-eared turtles, tortoises, chameleons and boa constrictors are all popular illegal pets. *GoldCoast Bulletin

Climate Change
The Greenland ice sheet is melting at an "unprecedented" rate, according to NASA satellite data that shows 97 per cent of the vast mass is undergoing some form of melting. "This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?" a NASA researcher, Son Nghiem, said. About half the ice sheet usually shows signs of melting in a northern hemisphere summer, but the satellite data shows that between July 8 and July 12 the melt extended to cover almost all of Greenland. A crescent shaped crack in the Petermann Glacier in Greenland. Photo: AFP PHOTO / NASA  It follows the breaking off of a giant chunk of ice, about twice the size of Manhattan, from Greenland's Petermann Glacier, this month. "For several days this month, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations," NASA researchers said in a statement. "Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its two-mile [3.2-kilometre] thick centre, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analysed by NASA and university scientists."

They described the event as being without precedent because such a massive loss of ice has not been observed by humans before, although estimates derived from studying old, compressed ice suggest that melts on this scale happen about once every 150 years. "Researchers have not yet determined whether this extensive melt event will affect the overall volume of ice loss this summer and contribute to sea-level rise," NASA said. About one-fifth of the annual sea-level rise experienced globally is attributed to the melting of the ice sheet. The manager of Australia's climate monitoring section at the Bureau of Meteorology, Karl Braganza, said the observation was a disturbing development. "In terms of just one event taken in isolation, you can't tell much from it. We had a similar event back in the 1800s so it does happen from time to time," Dr Braganza said. "But clearly there is a trend going on in the Arctic this century. We have warmer ocean temperatures, now what looks like particularly large reductions in sea ice, and large chunks of glaciers breaking off."

The Arctic appears to be locked in a vicious cycle, where rising concentrations of greenhouse gases meant higher temperatures, and more melting ice, which meant that, in turn, less of the sun's incoming heat was reflected away from the Earth. "What's alarming to scientists is that we know the Arctic ice is a key feedback, and the warming in the Arctic has been slightly faster than was predicted 10 or 20 years ago," Dr Braganza said. "This year, we measured CO2 emissions in the Arctic at above 400 parts per million for the first time. That's the first time it's been at that level in 3 million years. Back then during the Pliocene period, the Greenland ice sheet wasn't a feature. Now we've taken the atmospheric chemistry back to that territory." The NASA statement said the huge melt had been driven by an unusual "heat dome" of relatively warm air that travelled across Greenland this month. The warm patch spiked just before July 18, and has now dissipated, they said.
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Kimberley Refuge
It’s been described as the land that time forgot and Australia’s last great haven for native species at threat of extinction – and it’s right here in WA. Last year, a generous private benefactor gifted the Australian Wildlife Conservancy almost half of the 300,000ha Charnley River Pastoral Station in the Kimberley to create a kind of modern-day Noah’s Ark. The 140,000ha Artesian Range – a maze of steep rainforest-filled gorges, sandstone cliffs and dramatic escarpments – is not only beautiful, but has proved a safe haven for native species being ravaged by feral cats and fires elsewhere in WA’s north. AWC scientists have found the area teeming with rare animals, including Monjon Rock Wallabies, Northern Quolls, Golden-backed Tree-rat and Golden Bandicoot. North of the Gibb River Road, it is believed to be one a handful, perhaps the only, part of Australia where there have been no mammal extinctions since European settlement.

Across the range, feral cats now prowl the charred edges of devastating wildfires which rage out of control in the Kimberley in the dry season, decimating the landscape and leaving native animals starving, burnt to death or vulnerable to predators. Over the NT border at Kakadu, 75 cent of native mammals have died out in the last 15 years. Unless something is done to reverse the tide in northern WA, its native animals could similarly face extinction in WA within 20 years. AWC chief executive Atticus Fleming said the range was home to more than 30 species found nowhere else on Earth and several were on the brink of extinction. With funding from the State Government, strategic prescribed burns were now being carried out at the sanctuary and across more than 4 million hectares of the Kimberley to protect the area from wildfires.

AWC’s highest priority was culling feral pigs and fencing key points outside the range to stop feral cattle, donkeys and other large herbivores getting in, he said. “It really is a battle to protect our threatened wildlife and AWC field staff are the frontline troops in the campaign,” he said. “We must do everything in our power to protect the Artesian Range.” Channel 7 Sunday Night reporter Alex Cullen, who recently visited the sanctuary to see the scientists’ work first-hand, said the scenery was almost unreal and it was like “going back in time". “Seeing a Monjon Rock Wallaby high up on a cliff moving so effortlessly and quickly was pretty special … it’s heart warming to see these animals close up but its heartbreaking because they’re slowly dying out,” he said. * AGE

Giant Claw Found

Scientists in Central Australia say the discovery of a prehistoric claw at a fossil deposit is baffling. The claw is about seven centimetres long and was found at the Alcoota Scientific Reserve, about 160 kilometres north east of Alice Springs. The reserve is home to the largest and most concentrated fossil deposit of its kind in Australia and scientists say bones at the site could be millions of years old. Dr Adam Yates from the Museum of Central Australia has told the ABC's Country Hour the claw may belong to a reptile. "We don't know what animal this comes from," he said. "Similar claws have been found in the past and they've been suggested to have come from a large goanna. "That's a pretty big goanna. "We're looking at something much bigger than a modern komodo dragon, so a really giant goanna. "But we haven't found any other bones that we can attribute to a goanna of that size, so really we're scratching our heads." The specimen will be brought to the Museum of Central Australia in Alice Springs for analysis. Dr Yates says the team has dug up plenty of other fascinating specimens, including the shin bone of a giant flightless bird called dromornis stirtoni. "It was three metres tall, weighing about half a tonne. "It's quite probably the largest bird that ever lived." Dr Yates believes the site is evidence of a mass extinction event. "We think all these animals died at the same time, around a waterhole during a really nasty drought." *ABC