Tag Archives: feral

No rabbits this Easter!

Small mammals in this country under the 5kg weight range are being decimated by introduced cats and foxes, but how many of us understand this is a part of a global extinction event that is underway?

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Yellow-footed antechinus, recently photographed on Goulburn river bank amongst fallen logs and flood debris. This species is one of the few small marsupials still seen in the wild in Victoria (and can be active in daylight hours). Each year ALL the males die after mating.  

squirrel glider in hand

Squirrel gliders are rarely seen however. This little chap was found in a bad way on a road and brought to the Bohollow Wildlife Centre, Kotupna Vic and was my first chance to see one close up….a truly beautiful creature. These gliders are capable of a 90meter ‘flight’ and are mainly found in non-fragmented dry sclerophyll forest on inland slopes of the great divide. We have all but destroyed such places, hence Petaurus norfolcensis’s increasing rarity.

A human devised technologically based system has replaced the natural system. This pie chart shows how humanity and our domestic animals now dominate the planet’s biomass.

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Fossilized carbon has been used to make this change and has heated our planet.

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Carnaby black cockatoo’s dead from heat stress. This bird has decreased 50% in 45 years! I went to school in Albany WA and these birds were a daily part of my world, I walked through a pine forest on my way to school, they love pine trees.

Red-tailed black3 Bourke

Red-tailed black cockatoos in WA (race Naso) are now classed as ‘near threatened’ and only 500-1000 Vic birds (race graptogyne) still exist, and are listed as endangered. 

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It is likely your children and their children will be living in a much reduced biome. So don’t teach your kids about fluffy rabbits and cats, Aussie kids need to know about Aussie warm and fluffies.

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Sniffing out Warru (black flanked rock wallaby) poo, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands

I’m on my way home from Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara or ‘APY’ Lands in northern South Australia after spending a week working with Dr John Read counting warru cuna (scats). John’s ongoing research is the fine thread securing isolated populations of this threatened South Australian species. 

I first had to learn how to identify warru from euro scat, then learn to climb the rocky summits with a heavy lensed camera in one hand. EJohn and Delek

Dr John Read records scats with Delek. 

The Musgrave Range appears as a series of rock outcrops studded into an enormous plain, the sense of timelessness is overwhelming. We were climbing the ancient bones of an even more ancient mountain range.

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I was glad I wasn’t there by myself. Climb one peak and there’s another the same behind and another in the distance. Get lost here and whiteboy is cactus.

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But to the people who live here it’s their backyard. Climb into the Toyota they’ll take you around any of the Musgrave features. Our last scat count took us to the West Australian border and spitting distance to the Northern Territory.

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Try gowing your veges in this….

 

 

Ewurra habitat

Prime Warru habitat

Warru live in rock crevices away from plains predators such as cats. Try climbing this on a cool 36 degree day!  Understanding and documenting Petrogale lateralis is not for the faint hearted.

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Me with daypack & enthusiasm, but not much breath

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John and Matthew exchanging notes…I’ve no idea what about

 

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Jacob takes a picture with West Australia as a background.

Thanks to the people of APY who kindly allowed me to see their country first hand, also to John Read my host. Helen, Jacob and Matthew at Kalka I will definitely not forget, and a special thanks.

 

 

Big spiders and big snakes in the Big Desert

I’ve just returned from a field trip to the Big Desert National Park with research scientist Tim Doherty(Deakin University, Melbourne) surveying small mammals in long unburnt Mallee vegetation. Seven days without a shower! My job was to grab a handful of very smelly fish, carry them 100 meters into the bush and bury them near our infra-red night video cameras. Hot days, copious flies and rotting fish is not a fun combination. Now add, no shower…. I was walking blowfly nirvana!

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The trip enabled me to see much of the park which though named “Big Desert” was semi-arid bushland, very much burned and now fire scarred in most places. Finding areas which were not burned for many years took much of our precious time.

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Working from sand tracks near the South Australian border.

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Recently burned mallee

Brown Snake Big Desert

A large brown snake with no manners

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a billy buttons, probably an asteraceae

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A bit too friendly arachnid near my open tent door after dark, probably a brush-footed trapdoor Idiommata blackwalli?

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Common bronzewings lining up to drink at Big Billy Bore soak

lasiopetalum behrii

lasiopetalum behrii

 

white-eared honeyeater

white-eared honeyeater, common but beautiful.

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Dr Tim checks out the vegetation, note the soft sand.

Increasing our understanding of small mammal vegetation preference aids  our scientists’ efforts in limiting extinction. This study is related to what you can see here:

Feral Cat Device

For some years I have been discussing ideas for a remote ‘feral cat device’ with Dr John Read, University of Adelaide. Cats cause immeasurable damage to wildlife in this country and others.

Do I have to add the sad part?
Infra-red photo of bilby at burrow, cat emerges from  same burrow the following night.

Infrared night photos kindly supplied by Dr John Read,  http://www.ecologicalhorizons.com/

John was granted funding for development of a prototype and now in trial. Results so far look encouraging. The device relies on cat grooming behavior, so no trap, bait or cage is used. The device uses infrared sensors to isolate non-target species from feral and a new much more humane toxic agent is used. Having ingested the required dose, the animals falls into a drowse before passing away. Currently there is no place on mainland Australia where cat-threatened mammals can be re-introduced into the wild from fenced sanctuaries, hence the need for such a device. Here’s John’s document for the detail;

Dying to be clean

Trapped Behind Wire

Rufous Hare-wallaby or Mala Largorchestes hirsutus

Mala, the smallest surviving hare-wallaby, now extinct on mainland Australia but once common in spinifex country.

Mala, the smallest surviving hare-wallaby, now extinct on mainland Australia (except behind wire)  but once common in spinifex country.

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The beautiful coat of Mala

Boodie or burrowing bettong Bettongia lesueur:   now extinct on the mainland (except behind wire) once lived in communal burrows over most of southern Australia. At Lake Mungo (NSW) huge circles of exposed light coloured earth indicate how large these systems once were. Invading rabbits simply moved into the bettong warrens displacing the marsupial owners.

Boodie young being weighed and measured, rudely interrupted from slumber by ecologist

Boodie young being weighed and measured, rudely interrupted from slumber by ecologist!

Ecologist Felicity L'Hotellier at work, Scotia Sanctuary NSW, winter 4am after starting at midnight. These people are dedicated. Understanding the biology and requirements of these animals is the first step in helping them survive in a fragmented and warming future Australia.

Field Ecologist Felicity L’Hotellier at work, Scotia Sanctuary NSW, winter 4am after starting at midnight. These people are dedicated. Understanding the biology and requirements of these animals is the first step in helping them survive in a fragmented and warming future Australia.

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The indignity of having one’s tail measured!

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Adult Burrowing bettong

Bridled Nailtail Wallaby Onychogalea fraenata: photographs do not do this animal justice. Adults present as both beautiful and tender. Joeys are even more beautiful, to my eye they have the proportions of the red kangaroo in miniature, the result is a fine and delicate creature which contrasts with its arid preferred home.

nailtail young Nailtail joey, a bucket of cuteness

By the 1950’s this wallaby along with their cousins the crescent nailtail were considered extinct everywhere but were rediscovered by an alert bushman in 1973. Once common it is now restricted to a tiny area of Qld, and also behind wire.

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