Australian bats’ heatwave problems


This video from Australia says about itself:

‘NO ME, NO TREE! – THE GREY-HEADED FLYING FOX

20 Dec 2012

Grey-headed flying-foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) are highly environmentally significant. Sydney Wildlife carer Sonja Elwood describes their increasingly perilous situation.

From Wildlife Extra:

Australia parks staff give a helping hand to grey-headed flying foxes affected by extreme heat

January 2014: The Australian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) and Parks Victoria staff are working alongside dedicated wildlife volunteer groups to monitor and treat grey-headed flying foxes at Yarra Bend Park as the extreme heat wave continues in the country.

Up to 500 flying foxes from the Yarra Bend Park colony have died as a result of heat stress and that number was likely to increase greatly without measures being taken.

DEPI Incident Controller, Mark Winfield, said staff and volunteers were on site doing everything they could to keep the animals cool.

“Grey-headed flying foxes, as native animals, have evolved to deal with very high temperatures but only for short periods of time,” he said. “Heat stress incidents of this scale in the colony do not occur frequently, but into our fourth successive day of extreme heat, we saw the flying foxes really struggling to cope.

“The younger animals are particularly vulnerable to heat stress as they are unable to fly down to the river to drink alone and may just drop from their trees with dehydration and exhaustion.

“Volunteers have been spraying the animals with a fine mist that they can lick off their wings and are also trying to separate them as they tend to bunch up in the heat, which only exacerbates the problem.”

“There is also a vet on site assessing them and providing rehydration when appropriate.”

Over summer the established colony, which can be seen from the Bellbird Picnic area off Yarra Boulevard, can swell to over 30,000 flying foxes.

Members of the public have been advised to avoid contact with stressed, injured or dead flying foxes but to contact DEPI. All wildlife volunteers assisting with the heat stress event are trained and vaccinated.

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Good Australian tiger quoll news


This video from Australia is called Tiger Quolls at the Conservation Ecology Centre. It says about itself:

5 Sep 2012

A collection of videos of the resident Tiger Quolls (Spotted-tail Quolls) at the Conservation Ecology Centre on Cape Otway.

From Wildlife Extra:

First Tiger quoll spotted in Australian National Park for 141 years

Victoria‘s Grampians National Park spots Tiger quoll after 141 year absence

October 2013. Presumed locally extinct for 141 years, a Tiger Quoll has been caught on remote digital camera in Victoria’s Grampians National Park in Southern Australia. The animal was captured on cameras set up to monitor the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby population. The Tiger Quoll, also known as the Spotted-tail Quoll, is a carnivorous marsupial native to Australia.

Parks Victoria‘s Manager of the Grampians Ark fox control program, Ben Holmes said: “I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes when the photos were sent through from our field crew. There is no mistaking the spotted body colour, which can only be a quoll.”

The sighting is the first confirmed live record of a Tiger Quoll in the Grampians National Park since 1872, after an animal was killed at the headwaters of the Glenelg River.

Grampians National Park Ranger in Charge Dave Roberts said this was is an exciting find for all staff who had worked on conservation programs in the Grampians over the years.

“We have been undertaking extensive fire management, fox control and other conservation works for decades and this sighting adds to our knowledge and importance of our work to conserve these species,” said Mr Roberts. “Having a native predator in the system is a great sign that the park is supporting a healthy, functioning ecosystem.”

Endangered in Victoria

Tiger Quolls are endangered in Victoria, with the south-east Australian population endangered nationally and listed as ‘near threatened’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list. Tiger quolls are more common in Tasmania and New South Wales, and a few still inhabit parts of Queensland too.

Parks Victoria will now refine camera monitoring techniques to hopefully build a better picture of how widespread the population is across the Grampians National Park, following several unconfirmed sightings over the years.

Parks Victoria Chief Executive Bill Jackson said: “This is an extremely exciting rediscovery after such a long time, which highlights the critical role parks play in conserving Victoria’s unique biodiversity.”

“Victoria’s parks conserve examples of over 80% of Victoria’s plants and animals and this rediscovery confirms the Grampians National Park as stronghold for biodiversity conservation.”

A comment about this article from Britain:

Congratulations Ozz

This is incontestably superb and heartening news.

I do hope that it spurs on Australians to nurture and cherish their wonderful natural heritage, even if they see fit to elect politicians who sound like they’re living in cloud cuckoo land (no names, no pack drill – oh ok, your current prime minister – in fact thinking about it, OUR prime minister is idiotically detached environmentally too ! ).

Please be rightly delighted and hugely encouraged.

Posted by: Dominic Belfield | 18 Oct 2013 15:51:35

Australian scientists plan to relocate wildlife threatened by climate change: here.

Rare Australian lizard research


Guthega Skinks enjoy basking on rocks in the Bogong High Plains. Photo: Mike Swan

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare Australian skink seems unaffected by fires

Guthega Skink gives up a few of its secrets

July 2013. A threatened species of alpine skink has given up some big secrets on how they survive bushfires that will provide vital information to help its survival. The Australian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) has partnered with La Trobe University to uncover some of the secrets behind the survival of one of the Australian State of Victoria‘s rarest reptiles.

La Trobe University zoology student Zak Atkins has been studying the nationally endangered Guthega Skink (Liopholis guthega) in the isolated rocky outcrops of the Bogong High Plans [sic; Plains]. The Guthega Skink is listed as Threatened under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna (FFG) Act.

2003 wild fires

“A big part of my research focused on the impact of the 2003 wildfires in the Alpine National Park on Guthega Skink populations. I found that this species may be more tolerant to wildfires than previously thought,” Mr Atkins said.

“Wildfire had been thought to be the biggest immediate threat to the survival of this species, given their restriction to high altitude habitats and small geographic range. However, the Guthega Skink probably survives fire by sheltering in burrows in rocky areas. I discovered that burrows in areas that were burned in 2003 were more likely to be under rocks than shrubs, with burrows under shrubs more common in unburnt areas. Skinks inhabiting burrows under rocks were more likely to be protected during the fire.”

Little difference in populations between burnt and unburnt areas

“After comparing Guthega Skink abundance, age structure and morphology in populations at both burnt and unburnt areas, I discovered there was little difference between lizards in these two areas, suggesting that, ten years after the fire, this disturbance had no discernible effect on this species. However, my study occurred a decade after the fire, so the Guthega Skink has had time to recover from any immediate impacts. Before we can draw robust conclusions on the effects of fire on this species it will be necessary to conduct similar studies immediately after a fire.”

Climate change threat

“The effects of climate change could have a major impact on the future of Guthega Skink populations. The limited and specific habitat characteristics of this alpine skink may not withstand the warming effects of climate change, as this species is reliant on alpine conditions to survive.”

Senior Scientist at DEPI’s Arthur Rylah Institute Nick Clemann said: “Zac Atkins’ research made a vital contribution towards conservation planning for the Guthega Skink.”

“This is the first detailed study of this species’ biology and ecology in Victoria. The knowledge gained from this study has taught us a great deal about the Guthega Skink’s diet, foraging behaviour, reproduction and vital habitat attributes,” Mr Clemann said.

“This will help us to protect their habitat and it also contributes valuable information that will help with the captive program at Healesville Sanctuary, where the Guthega Skink is one of Zoos Victoria’s ‘Fighting Extinction’ species.”

Good Australian bird news


This video from Australia is called Regent Honeyeaters at Chiltern National Park, 14 July 2011.

From BirdLife:

Regent Honeyeaters on the loose

Thu, May 23, 2013

The captive-breeding-and-release program formulated to boost the population of Regent Honeyeaters in Australia has just set 38 more birds into the wild, where they have become reacquainted with an old friend.

The Regent Honeyeater is a Critically Endangered bird endemic to Australia. It feeds on nectar and insects within eucalyptus forests. Recent genetic research suggests it is closely related to the wattlebirds.

Australia’s national Regent Honeyeater recovery team recently released 38 captive-bred Regent Honeyeaters in the Chiltern–MtPilotNational Park in north-eastern Victoria in a project being led by BirdLife Australia (BirdLife Partner), the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (Vic), Taronga Zoo and Parks Victoria. This is the third such release, and now brings the total number of Regent Honeyeaters released in Victoria since 2008 to just over 100.

The birds were bred and nurtured at Taronga Zoo, and then flown south in aeroplanes before being acclimatised to their new surroundings for two days.

Of the 38 birds released, 25 were colour-banded and fitted with radio transmitters so that researchers can follow their movements throughout the region, with the remainder fitted with colour bands only.

Within minutes of release the Regent Honeyeaters were foraging and behaving like veterans of life in the wild, hawking insects from mid-air and indulging in the blossom in the canopy of ironbark trees. As with previous releases, a team of volunteers are assisting project staff to radio-track the birds to assess their habitat use, movements and welfare. For the first few days, most of the birds stayed within a kilometre of the release site, with few birds venturing much further, but within three weeks, many of the birds had dispersed over an area of several kilometres. Thanks to their radio transmitters, we know that at night they have been congregating at communal roosts in the treetops.

As yet the captive-released birds have not interacted with any wild birds, a honeyeater that was released in the park in 2010 has been seen back again this year, and has become integrated into a flock of recently released birds. This bird, nicknamed “Blue-Mauve” (thanks to the bands he is wearing), was last seen in 2011 and has now thrived in the wild for three years after being released! As the long-term survival of captive-bred birds and their integration into the wild population is the aim of the program, Blue-Mauve adds another feather in the cap of the captive-release strategy.

The release is being conducted under BirdLife Australia’s Woodland Birds for Biodiversity project, which is funded by the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country program.

Saving an Australian hooded plover


This video from Australia says about itself:

Hooded Plovers have 3 new chicks.

From BirdLife:

Hooded Plover rescue in Oz

Tue, Feb 26, 2013

News, Pacific

Hooded Plover rescue in Oz

Monitoring threatened species takes on many forms — not only keeping an eye on populations or nesting attempts, but also looking after the individual birds themselves.

Recently, at Point Roadknight, Anglesea, on Victoria’s Surf Coast, Geoff Gates, one of BirdLife Australia’s (BirdLife Partner) volunteers assisting the Beach-nesting Birds Project, noticed a Hooded Plover — marked with ‘KM’ on its leg-flag — in a bad way. It was hopping on one foot and having trouble keeping up with a small flock of six other Hoodies foraging on a nearby rock platform. Although Geoff watched the bird for 15 minutes, he could not see what was troubling it, but photographs subsequently revealed that something tight was caught around its ankle, cutting into the bird’s flesh and restricting its movement.

Geoff immediately contacted Grainne Maguire, the Beach-nesting Birds Project Manager, and together they hatched a plan to rescue KM.

While Grainne hastily travelled down to the coast from Melbourne (with family in tow and a special plover-catching trap in the boot), Geoff contacted Liz Brown, a local vet from nearby Aireys Inlet (the next town along the coast) who was keen to help.

Within minutes of arriving at the beach, Grainne had quickly and skilfully separated KM from the rest of the flock, which made it easier to trap the injured bird.

Hooded plover help

With KM in the hand, the nylon fibre tangled around its leg was easy to see, and Dr Liz quickly removed the offending strand, applied antiseptic ointment to the wound and administered an antibiotic injection.

The bird’s metal identification band was then removed from the injured and swollen leg, and a new band was fitted onto the bird’s healthy leg.

With the ordeal over, KM was released — accompanied by an indignant squawk — and flew straight back to the flock. Watching through binoculars, Grainne and Geoff were both glad to see that although KM was limping a little, it was, nevertheless, using its injured leg.

Thank you to all who assisted.

This tale serves to remind us that by keeping a close watch over our threatened birds, BirdLife Australia’s band of volunteers and staff are making a real difference — making a brighter future for Australia’s birds. There is no doubt that if KM had remained untreated, it would have lost its foot and probably died as a result. The loss of a single Hooded Plover may not seem too drastic, but when the population is so small, the effects of the loss of even one bird can be magnified greatly.

Anyone visiting Point Roadknight over the next few weeks should keep an eye out for KM and let us know how it is faring.

Much marine wildlife still undescribed


This video says about itself:

Some of the best underwater footage illustrating the beautiful marine life found in the southern waters of Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne, Australia.

From Phys.org:

At least one-third of marine species remain undescribed, study says November 15, 2012 At least one-third of the species that inhabit the world’s oceans may remain completely unknown to science. That’s despite the fact that more species have been described in the last decade than in any previous one, according to a report published online on November 15 in the Cell Press publication Current Biology that details the first comprehensive register of marine species of the world—a massive collaborative undertaking by hundreds of experts around the globe.

The researchers estimate that the ocean may be home to as many as one million species in all—likely not more. About 226,000 of those species have so far been described. There are another 65,000 species awaiting description in specimen collections. “For the first time, we can provide a very detailed overview of species richness, partitioned among all major marine groups. It is the state of the art of what we know—and perhaps do not know—about life in the ocean,” says Ward Appeltans of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. The findings provide a reference point for conservation efforts and estimates of extinction rates, the researchers say. They expect that the vast majority of unknown species—composed disproportionately of smaller crustaceans, molluscs, worms, and sponges—will be found this century. Earlier estimates of ocean diversity had relied on expert polls based on extrapolations from past rates of species descriptions and other measures. Those estimates varied widely, suffering because there was no global catalog of marine species. Appeltans and colleagues including Mark Costello from the University of Auckland have now built such an inventory. The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) is an open-access, online database (see www.marinespecies.org/) created by 270 experts representing 146 institutions and 32 countries. It is now 95% complete and is continually being updated as new species are discovered.

“Building this was not as simple as it should be, because there has not been any formal way to register species,” Costello says. A particular problem is the occurrence of multiple descriptions and names for the same species—so called “synonyms,” Costello says. For instance, each whale or dolphin has on average 14 different scientific names. As those synonyms are discovered through careful examination of records and specimens, the researchers expect perhaps 40,000 “species” to be struck from the list. But such losses will probably be made up as DNA evidence reveals overlooked “cryptic” species. While fewer species live in the ocean than on land, marine life represents much older evolutionary lineages that are fundamental to our understanding of life on Earth, Appeltans says. And, in some sense, WoRMS is only the start. “This database provides an example of how other biologists could similarly collaborate to collectively produce an inventory of all life on Earth,” Appeltans says. More information: Appeltans et al.: “The Magnitude of Global Marine Species Diversity”, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.09.036

See also here.

Australian clerical child abuse


Unfortunately, not all news from Australia is as fine as the news about the blue whale.

This video is called Australian Catholic Church admits child abuse.

From Al Jazeera:

Australian Catholic Church admits child abuse

State of Victoria confirms that more than 600 children have been sexually abused by Catholic priests since the 1930s.

Last Modified: 22 Sep 2012 09:57

Australia’s Roman Catholic Church has confirmed that more than 600 children have been sexually abused by its priests since the 1930s in the state of Victoria.

The archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, described the figures as “horrific and shameful”.

The admission came in a submission to a state parliamentary inquiry into the handling of abuse cases, however campaigners say the true figure could be up to 10,000 victims.

The church said the 620 cases went back 80 years with the majority taking place between the 1960s and the 1980s, with another 45 cases being investigated.

In a statement, Archbishop Hart said it was important to be open “about the horrific abuse that has occurred in Victoria and elsewhere“.

“We look to this inquiry to assist the healing of those who have been abused, to examine the broad context of the church’s response, especially over the last 16 years, and to make recommendations to enhance the care for victims and preventative measures that are now in place,” the statement said.

Abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests has been a major issue in Australia recent years.

In view of new shocking disclosure of few hundred sexual abuse cases involving children in Victoria (Australia), Hindus have asked the Vatican to come up with a detailed worldwide White Paper on the global child abuse scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic Church: here.

Australian government announces inquiry into institutional child sex abuse: here.

Saving Australia’s orange-bellied parrots


Neophema chrysogaster male

From Wildlife Extra:

Critically Endangered Orange-bellied parrot mystery

The ‘Orange’ Pimpernel? – Disappearing parrot intrigues recovery team

September 2012. With a wild population of less than 50, it’s not surprising that the location of a summer hide-out used by a male Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) is of great interest to the team trying to save the species from extinction.

Where does the bird go in the breeding season?

In its 2012 update, the Orange-bellied Parrot recovery team has revealed that an eight year old male bird, seen during winter around Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay, has not been seen for several seasons at the only known breeding site for the species at Melaleuca on Tasmania’s west coast.

Recovery Team member Peter Menkhorst, from the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s (DSE) Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) said: “We have been aware of this bird since he was banded as a juvenile at Melaleuca in the summer of 2004/05 and he has been seen in Victoria over several winters, but we still don’t know where he goes during the breeding season. With such small numbers in the wild it is of great interest to the recovery team to find out if there is another, previously unknown, site where this species breeds,” Mr Menkhorst said.

No undiscovered population

“Unfortunately, no matter where he is going, we know from the small numbers coming to the winter feeding grounds in Victoria and South Australia that there is no large undiscovered breeding population of these birds.”

Wild birds breeding

“The other news during the 2012 breeding season was encouraging, with all known adult females participating in breeding at Melaleuca and at least 14 young fledging. The team decided it wasn’t necessary for any more wild birds to be taken into captivity this year as part of the Captive Breeding program.”

Captive breeding

“The successful captive breeding program, based at Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, as well as at other facilities in Tasmania, NSW and South Australia, now has more than 200 birds and the team is considering the possibility of a release of captive-bred birds in the near future.”

The Orange-bellied Parrot National Recovery Team consists of representatives of the Commonwealth, Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian governments, Zoos Victoria, Adelaide Zoo, Birdlife Australia, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and threatened species experts.

Rare whale beaches in Australia


This video says about itself:

In a lucky encounter, the Australian Antarctic Division research team spotted a group of extremely rare Shepherd’s beaked whales off the coast of Australia.

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare whale stranding a first for Victoria

Shepherd’s beaked whale found on Australian beach

July 2012. After a public report of an unidentified dead whale at Marlo in Victoria, Australia, an exciting addition has been made to the knowledge of Victoria’s marine wildlife, which will improve our understanding of the species’ biology and evolution.

The whale has been identified as a Shepherd’s Beaked Whale and it is the first stranding record of the species in Victoria, with fewer than five individuals stranded in all of Australia.

The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment’s Biodiversity Officer Tony Mitchell visited the site and realised immediately that he had never seen a whale like this on the Gippsland coast.

Mr Mitchell said “Given there has only been a handful of confirmed sightings of live animals anywhere in the world, it’s quite incredible to have found this species washed up on Gippsland’s shores. The 6.6 metre whale has a long, dolphin-like beak and is dark brown with pale sides and belly. It is distinguishable from other species by teeth in both its upper and lower jaws.”

Members of the Australian Antarctic Division spotted a small pod of Shepherd’s beaked whales off the coast of Victoria in February … .

One of the least understood cetaceans

This species remains one of the least understood cetaceans (whales and dolphins), largely because of its deep water offshore habitat.

A joint operation by DSE and Museum Victoria performed a post-mortem examination and spent three days preparing the body for transport back to Melbourne for further research. Dr Karen Roberts, Collection Manager at Museum Victoria said the whale stranded at Marlo represents the first example of this species to be added to the museum collection.

“Given the rarity of Shepherd’s Beaked Whale, the study and preservation of this specimen at Museum Victoria is vitally important to developing our understanding of the deep-diving lifestyle, habits and evolution of this mysterious species,” Dr Roberts said.

“It is great to work with the Museum on finds like this, as it’s not often a specimen like this comes our way,” Mr Mitchell said.

An evolution story showing ‘Why Whales are Weird': here.

July 2012. The sight of a single large pilot whale close in to the coast off Lybster on the Caithness coast in Scotland during the closing hours of the National Whale and Dolphin Watch had marine mammal experts holding their breath: here.

Anti whaling charities harpooning each other rather than fighting for conservation: here.

Endangered honeyeaters released in Australia


This video from Australia is called Helmeted Honeyeaters road to recovery.

From Wildlife Extra:

Critically Endangered Honeyeaters released into the wild in Australia

Helmeted Honeyeaters released to save species

May 2012. Fifteen critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeaters were released into the wild as efforts by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) (Australia) and Healesville Sanctuary continue to save the bird from extinction.

Survives at just 2 sites

The release will boost the numbers to an estimated 100 in the wild at just two sites; Bunyip State Park, 20km south-east of Gembrook and Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, 18km south of Healesville.

DSE’s Senior Ornithologist Bruce Quin said this is the first time Helmeted Honeyeaters have been released in this section of Bunyip State Park. “The park was burnt by the Black Saturday fires; however, wild birds moved into the site once it started to regenerate. They are surviving here with no supplementary feeding that suggests ideal habitat,” Mr Quin said.

“The birds were fitted with transmitters, for tracking purposes, and transferred to aviaries at Bunyip State Park earlier this week to allow them to get used to their wild environment without danger of predation, especially from birds of prey. All released birds are also leg banded making it easier to track them.”