2013 Issue 01 A message to FAME from Devil Ark’s Founder, John Weigel AM I want to thank FAME and your wonderful donors for the incredible support you’ve given to Devil Ark. It is no overstatement that there would be no Devil Ark if not for FAME’s contribution right from the start. Your latest effort, to fund new food storage facilities at Devil Ark, will make it possible for us to secure a safe and healthy food supply for our precious Devils through the hard winter to come. It’s hard to believe that we have entered our third breeding season at Devil Ark. Following on from the success of the two previous years, we are justifiably optimistic about our ability to continue achieving our dual aims: to increase the numbers of animals through captive breeding and by bringing
What’s Inside… • Mountain Pygmy Possum • Leadbeater’s Possum • The Quoll’s last stand • Mt Rothwell Sanctuary • Mallee woodlands • Orchids in Wimmera
For more information on all projects supported by FAME visit our website at www.fame.org.au
This family of Tasmanian Devils will benefit from Devil Ark’s new food storage facilities. [Photo courtesy Devil Ark]
in more healthy animals while we can, at the same time encouraging and preserving wild-type social and behavioural traits. Quite simply, after more than six years of planning and development, the Devil Ark ‘experimental model’ is working – and it is working well! The early success of the project has led to recognition in Australia and internationally that Devil Ark will provide a linchpin role in the combined efforts to ensure the long-term survival of the Tasmanian devil. A recent report from the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group recognised Devil Ark as a fundamental element in its insurance population strategy. An exciting year lies ahead for Devil Ark. We have started construction of an interpretation centre. This building will assist in our efforts with local Government and the regional tourism bodies to not only increase
visitation to the Upper Hunter region, but to raise broader awareness to the plight of the Tasmanian devil, and the pivotal role of Devil Ark to ensure its survival. We have a rare and genuine opportunity at Devil Ark to contribute in a critical way to averting the extinction of an iconic Australian species. I urge you to not only read this newsletter, but to help us spread the underlying message: With help, we can save the Tasmanian devil by establishing and maintaining an essentially ‘wild’ population of disease-free devils with the aim of an eventual reintroduction to the Tasmanian landscape. I look forward to sharing another successful year with you! Sincerely, John Weigel AM Founder, Devil Ark
Editor’s Note: FAME’s campaign to raise the funds to provide a new food storage system for Devil Ark has almost reached its target. We’ve provided the freezer, and now we’re building up the fund for the cool room. Sincere thanks to you if you’ve already helped! If you haven’t, now is your chance. Please send your tax deductible donation to the Devil Ark Food Storage fund today, in the envelope with this newsletter, or via the secure site at www.fame.org.au/donate.
Great early results for Mountain Pygmy Possum genetic rescue project FAME supporters will remember that the genetic rescue project for the Mountain Pygmy Possum aims to increase the health and breeding rate of the tiny, shrinking Mt Buller population by bringing in ‘fresh blood’ from other populations such as Mt Hotham.
Above left: Pygmy Possum genetic rescue survey at Mt Buller. [Photo courtesy Andrew Weeks]. Above centre: Mountain Pygmy Possum. [Photo courtesy Andrew Weeks] Above right: Dr Broome placing traps for moths, a favourite food for the Mountain Pygmy Possum. [Photo courtesy Nick Moir]
We’re delighted to report that the project is already succeeding: during the recent annual count 47 adult possums were captured. Of these 47, 13 had a mix of genetics from Mt Buller and Mt Hotham. The really exciting result is that all mixed blood females checked had 4 pouch young, compared with an average 2.9 for non-hybrid Buller females. From this we expect even more significant improvements in population size next season.
FAME NEWSLETTER is published by the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species Ltd ABN 79 154 823 579 PO Box 482 MITCHAM South Australia 5062 Tel: 08 8231 2233 Email: email@example.com Web: www.fame.org.au Articles in this publication can be reproduced with acknowledgement.
36 juveniles were also captured - double the number trapped at the same time last year (juveniles are young that have not yet reached breeding age). Genetic results have shown that 24 of the 36 juveniles carry genes from the translocated Hotham males. The results we have seen this spring/ summer - a significant difference in the number of pouch young between hybrids and Buller full bloods and a large increase in hybrid juvenile numbers - suggests strongly that we are on track for a significant population increase, and solid proof of the profound positive effects of the gene pool mixing strategy. We’re delighted that things are going so well. We’re also very pleased to report that a second strategy aiming to establish a captive breeding program for Mountain Pygmy Possum will provide extra insurance for the species.
What happens to the possums if the snow cover disappears? FAME supporters will be aware that the blanket of winter snow that protects possums from freezing temperatures in the Snowy Mountains during their six month hibernation is shrinking. ‘’It’s possible that just a couple of years of no snow could wipe out the possums left in the wild,’’ says University of NSW naturalist and palaeontologist Mike Archer. Estimates suggest there are just 2600 possums living in three distinct genetic populations throughout Kosciuszko National Park and
alpine regions of Victoria. This includes the Mt Buller population that is the subject of the genetic rescue project. In an extra attempt to save the species, Professor Archer and Dr Linda Broome, from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, want to establish a breeding population away from the species’ present habitat, in an environment where its ancestors once thrived. Evidence from fossil deposits reveals the ancient relatives of the possum, including one that lived 25 million years ago, occupied vast areas of low-lying, temperate rainforest. ‘’We think it probably followed the rainforest up the mountains in previous warmer conditions and got stranded on top of the mountains in rock piles,’’ Professor Archer said. The research of Dr Broome and Professor Archer’s PhD student, Hayley Bates, confirmed the species can cope in other environments. “While snow was vital for populations living close to the mountain peaks, it was less important for a new population of possums that were discovered living on the edge of the snow line in 2010,” Ms Bates said. The team plans to establish a colony of possums in the Blue Mountains, with a rock wall that mimics the boulder fields and keeps the temperature about 4 degrees during winter. ‘’We need to know if there are a few bad years we can breed them up quickly,’’ says Dr Broome, who has studied the species for 27 years.
Concern increases for Leadbeater’s Possum In response to increasing community alarm about the future of the state’s endangered species, the Victorian government has quietly dumped controversial proposed changes to the state’s timber code that would exempt logging from laws protecting endangered species. Instead, larger changes to rules covering endangered species and logging are being foreshadowed under a yet-to-be-finished ‘’forest biodiversity project’’. FAME understands that under the ‘’forest biodiversity project’’ a new ‘’landscape approach’’ to the management of threatened species is being developed that would take into consideration the range of endangered species, identify important areas for protection across the landscape, and providing greater connectivity in protected areas. The dumping of the proposed changes and the new ‘’forest biodiversity project’’ come amid increasing alarm about the health of
endangered species in Victoria, especially Leadbeater’s Possum. 40% of prime possum habitat was lost in the 2009 fires and as few as 2000 individual possums remain. In the midst of arguments at government level about the best way forward, the local Friend’s of Leadbeater’s Possum group continues to provide hand’s on volunteer effort to protect the species. FAME assisted the group with funding to construct nest boxes destroyed by fire, and we are well aware that the quality of habitat is key to the Possum’s future. We share the view that forestry activities and Possum survival, especially in critical areas of habitat, are just plain incompatible.
The quoll’s last stand
For more information on all projects supported by FAME visit our website at www.fame.org.au
Adapted from an article by Marea Martlew
Undeniably charismatic, the Northern Quoll’s big black eyes and impossibly long whiskers belie the face of a feisty, nocturnal predator that has – as conservation biologist Dr Jonathan Webb discovered – very sharp teeth. “I received a nasty bite from a Northern Quoll ... ironically it was a female and they’re normally much calmer and less aggressive than the males,” says Dr Webb, of the School of the Environment at UTS. What the quoll couldn’t know was that she had just bitten the hand of the very person whose research could save her and the entire critically endangered species. Like many of Australia’s small marsupial mammals, the Northern Quoll is under serious threat of extinction from habitat destruction, feral cats and changing fire management. However, it is the newest pest on the block, the lethally poisonous cane toad, which jumped across Kakadu National Park boundaries in 2001, that has decimated quoll numbers. “Quolls die after trying to eat large toads. In many parts of the Top End quolls have disappeared completely since the arrival of cane toads,” says Dr Webb. However, he and colleagues from the University of Sydney have shown that quolls reared in captivity can be trained to avoid eating the toads – training known as taste aversion therapy. In a 2010 project, researchers cut up dead toads, skinned the legs and discarded the poisonous parts of the toad. A small, non-
lethal amount of toad was mixed with a nausea-inducing chemical and then stuffed into the leg skin creating what can only be described as a cane toad sausage. The sausage was fed to the quolls leaving them feeling mildly sick. Presented with a second helping of sausage the next day, many of the normally rapacious carnivores rejected the bait. Some of the trained quolls also refused to attack live cane toads. The subsequent release of “toad-smart” quolls into the wild (in a study also involving the Territory Wildlife Park and Kakadu National Park) will hopefully show that the quolls can teach their offspring to exclude cane toads
from the dinner menu, and therefore help ensure the quoll’s long-term survival. “Training quolls to avoid eating toads is not a 100 per cent solution but it offers some hope that we can keep this small, beautiful marsupial carnivore in the landscape,” says Dr Webb. “If we can keep the mums in the system long enough so they can reproduce and even pass on their knowledge to their daughters we may be able to prevent more local extinctions.”
Editor’s note: FAME is one of a range of organisations supporting Sydney University’s five year cane toad research project. Page 3
Right: Melbourne University recording results of the Biodiversity Blitz at Mt Rothwell. Far right: Bush Stone Curlew habitat at Mt Rothwell. [photos courtesy Mt Rothwell]
Mt Rothwell is a partially cleared former grazing property that includes remnant plains grassland, herb rich grassy woodland and granitic hills habitats. Since 2000 the property has been actively managed to restore and enhance its biodiversity values.
Mt Rothwell Sanctuary: best practice conservation in Victoria’s remnant grasslands. Many of Victoria’s most endangered species, animals and plants that existed in this particular area for thousands of years, have been re-established at Mt Rothwell. Today visitors can glimpse a volcanic grassland environment closely resembling that of preEuropean settlement. Less than 1% of Victoria’s volcanic plains grasslands have survived. Mt Rothwell includes some of the most significant remnant patches of this critically endangered ecosystem. Approximately 34 important native grass species are present. In addition no less than 99 species of native birds, 7 species of bats, 7 frogs (including the endangered Growling Grass Frog), 10 reptiles and 16 mammals have been recorded at Mt Rothwell. These numbers may change soon, thanks to Melbourne Museum’s Biodiversity Blitz which in 2013 is surveying reptiles, insects and small mammals to identify new species and provide information and up to date records for the site. With 400 hectares maintained as a conservation and research centre Mt Rothwell is Victoria’s largest predator free ecosystem. Conservation management and research is carried out in consultation with a number of government wildlife agencies and research organisations. FAME is Mt Rothwell’s longest standing conservation partner.
The secret to Mt Rothwell’s success is the Feral-Proof Fence, underpinned by a skilled and dedicated staff and volunteer team.
European Historical Timeline at Mt Rothwell
1830s - 40s – Settlers arrive in local region. Original stocking rates were unrealistically high, impacting severely on native vegetation, especially in drought. Selective grazing, the use of agricultural chemicals and practices, and changes in fire regimes radically altered plant communities. 1850s - 60s – Further degradation via widespread felling of trees for fuel, fences, buildings, gold rushes, ringbarking trees for better livestock forage, plus removing fallen timber and dead trees.
1802 – Matthew Flinders climbs tallest peak in the You Yangs, now known as Flinders Peak, as part of his exploration of Port Phillip Bay.
Mt. Rothwell’s conservation success is due to the feral-proof fence that surrounds and protects areas of good habitat. The fence saves native wildlife by excluding foxes, feral cats and dogs, plus rabbits and other introduced herbivores. Past and present volunteers have been an important part of the development and maintenance of Mt Rothwell and continue to play a major role. The fence-line is checked visually, metre by metre, every day to ensure there are no holes in the wire netting or incursions under the wire skirting at ground level. Each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the volunteer team works above and beyond the call of duty to eradicate weeds, install and repair fencing, plant trees and shrubs, build sheds, maintain tracks and roads, conduct surveys, collect seeds, grow and sow seeds and pretty much fix anything and everything they can. Revegetation over the years included planting trees and shrubs in the grasslands, including a Koala forest with over 10,000 seedlings of 7 different species of indigenous Eucalypts and an ‘Amphitheatre’ planting of 7,000 flowering Australian natives.
Plans for the future at Mt Rothwell 1. Bush Stone Curlew re-introduction. In the first known reintroduction of a high-profile endangered bird on a feralproof site, two pairs of curlews will be released into the old remnant open grassy woodland habitat at Mt Rothwell. Once these pairs are established the scene will be set for further reintroductions. 2. Quoll Breeding for 2013. Quoll breeding season is approaching and quoll pairs and enclosures for nesting are being prepared. To ensure the best physical condition for procreation male Quolls are on a strict diet to reduce their weight and food for the females is almost doubled. Staff will be watching for the cold snap that usually hits in early May as this will be the trigger to create compatible pairs. This year at Mt Rothwell the captive breeding program will include six quoll pairs with the capacity to produce 36 young in June/July. Melbourne University geneticist Andrew Weeks has been advising the team (comprising the Eastern Quoll Mainland Working Group) on the best pairings. Genetic auditing has identified the need to introduce new bloodlines. As a result five new males from Tasmania will be added to the mix, leading to stronger, more viable and healthier stock.
1859 – Land purchased by Robert Chirnside at Little River. Later, the Chirnside family joins the Acclimatisation Society, a group who were responsible for the introduction of exotic plants and animals, supposedly to be of benefit to the new settlement.
1860s – European Rabbit introduced which further exacerbates grazing pressure, as little natural regeneration of native plants is possible where rabbits are present.
Eastern Quoll – Dasyurus viverrinus Australia once had four species of quoll: Eastern, Northern, Western and Tiger Quolls. All four species are now either endangered or severely reduced in number.
3. Facility upgrades. Mt Rothwell offers unique educational and visitor experiences. With a new interpretation centre, research centre and most importantly flushing worm-compost toilets Mt Rothwell now has the capacity to take on more students and visitors and bookings are flooding in. The research centre has been converted to a multi-use building. It is not only used by students as part of their Diversity in the Biosphere trapping program but also has a section allocated to on-call vet Dr Peter Holz. Peter provides expertise and 30 years of experience across all native threatened species and specifically the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby hybrid program and Eastern Quoll breeding program. Melbourne Museum used the Mt Rothwell Interpretation Centre recently for their Biodiversity Blitz program. 10 professional staff, curators and the Head of Science Dr Mark Norman turned rocks, climbed mountains, lifted bark and plunged through the grass in an attempt to catch and identify as many invertebrates as possible. Some of the species found include a funnel web spider, numerous unidentified colourful beetles, iridescent blue ants, wolf spiders, butterflies and moths. Reptiles, small mammals, bats and frogs will be the subject of a second Biodiversity Blitz in October. Mt Rothwell’s species list will be brought completely up to date in the near future thanks to this work – and who knows, it might reveal a greater level of biodiversity than expected.
1870s – Arrival of Red Fox, a highly efficient predator of small and medium sized animals. Farm cats and dogs also went feral. Presence of rabbits leads to higher population densities of feral predators, resulting in even more predatory pressure on native fauna. 1872 - 73 – Mount Rothwell homestead constructed for Chirnside family.
Quolls were an important part of the Australian environment, preying largely on insects and small mammals. Eastern quolls once lived in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. They still live in Tasmania but disappeared from the wild on mainland Australia a long time ago, partly due to predation by foxes, and partly due to the affect of toxoplasmosis, a disease carried by domestic cats. The last time an Eastern Quoll was seen in the wild in many parts of Australia was over 100 years ago. Quolls are nocturnal. They are marsupials and have a pouch just like kangaroos, koalas and other Australian animals.
The Eastern Quoll has a wet pink nose, large ears and black or brown fur with beautiful white spots. Mt Rothwell’s Eastern Quoll captive breeding program was established in 2001, with FAME’s help. Since then, hundreds of quolls have been born. Some have been translocated to other captive breeding facilities. Some have made their way into the wider sanctuary at Mt Rothwell and are playing their natural role as part of the protected ecosystem there. Rumour has it that some adventurous animals have completely escaped and the occasional Eastern Quoll has been seen in the You Yang ridges adjacent to the sanctuary.
Above: Eastern Quoll family at Mt Rothwell. [photo courtesy Mt Rothwell]
1885 – Armytage family (nearby farmers at Wooloomanata Station) releases 300 cats into the You Yangs to try to control rabbit numbers. Feral animal control programs inadvertently killed many thousands of other native animals.
Late 1800s - Conversion to crops and grazing almost complete. Real impact on vegetation communities probably will be never known because flora had already disappeared before botanical inventories could be compiled. Remaining native vegetation remnants isolated; only capable of supporting small populations of animals. Small numbers and isolation of animals restricts their ability to recolonise or disperse, or recover from drought, fire or predation. Inbreeding depression occurs. Isolated populations become less fit through loss of genetic diversity. Local extinctions occur.
Early 1900s – Rufous Bettongs last sighted in Victoria. 1930s – Red-bellied Pademelons last sighted in Victoria. 1950s – Eastern Quoll last sighted in Victoria
Mallee woodlands: a unique and disappearing Australian ecosystem The term Mallee comes from the Aboriginal name ‘mali’: a eucalyptus tree whose roots chopped and drained into vessels provided a bounty of potable water. Mallee trees are truly remarkable trees, perfectly adapted to a harsh climate. They grow to a height of 2-9 metres and have many stems that grow from a swollen woody base known as a lignotuber. Shaped roughly like an umbrella, the Mallee canopy shades up to 70% of the ground below it. Rain is generally scarce in Mallee country, and the unique shape of the canopy and arrangement of leaf and branch ‘funnells’ the moisture down to the root zone, making sure not a drop is wasted. Mallee habitats are widespread throughout Australia from Western Australia across Southern Australia, Northern Territory and into northern Victoria and south-western New South Wales. In total they comprise almost one-fifth of mainland Australia’s landmass. Today a range of threats from soil degradation, extinction of species, salinity, impacts of mining and tourism, feral animals, invasive weeds and impacts of agriculture and grazing place the survival of remaining sections of Mallee in jeopardy. Since European settlement about threequarters of Mallee country has been cleared. As a result one third of all mammal species have disappeared and more than a dozen plant species are considered threatened or rare. Mallee habitats are complex ecosystems with a great diversity of organisms. Ground
Distribution of Mallee Shrublands Mallee shrublands occur in southern Australia.
(Australian National Botanic Gardens 2004 Mallee plants – surviving harsh conditions.)
Mallee areas Areas where some mallee cover occurs
dwelling birds such as the Malleefowl and Bush-stone Curlew, a range of small mammals such as the Silky Mouse and the Woylie, and plants like the Metallic Sun Orchid are all under threat and need help to survive. Over the years FAME has funded many projects to
protect Mallee species, and we are delighted to see that the work of Dr Noushka Reiter (see article on page opposite) may save the Metallic Sun Orchid from extinction.
The endangered Numbat once had a special place in Mallee woodlands right across Australia, but now survives in the wild only in the south west of Western Australia, and behind the safety of the feral-proof fence at Yookamurra Sanctuary in South Australia and Scotia Sanctuary in western NSW. Numbats live in and around Mallee trees, using the hollow stems and branches as shelter for themselves and their young, and sometimes as a safe highway from one place to another. Numbats also feed on the termites that live on dead wood. By digging and scratching in their search for this rich food Numbats aerate compacted soils and help seeds establish. The loss of the Numbat from most Mallee woodlands means one more break in the fragile cycle of life in this unique Australian ecosystem. Page 6
Above left: Dr Noushka Reiter with petri dishes of baby Caladenias at the Wimmera Orchid Conservation facility in Horsham in western Victoria, halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne. Above right: Dr Noushka Reiter and long-time Wimmera volunteer and passionate orchid conservationist Mary Argall from Kiata prepare to plant Metallic Sun-orchids at the Kiata Reserve last June. [Photo courtesy Paul Carracher, Wimmera Mail-Times]
Wimmera orchid lab saving federallyendangered species On the edge of the rural city of Horsham, halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide, is a small nondescript laboratory filled with tiny seeds and petri dishes that has the potential to grow thousands of native orchids. Dr Noushka Reiter, Orchid Conservation Project Manager at the Wimmera Orchid Conservation Facility based at Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, is passionate about conserving federally-endangered orchids. Hers is no ordinary job: one day she might be in the lab, the next up to her waist in a swamp, the next on her knees in freezing winter conditions reintroducing fragile orchids into the wild, the next making a formal presentation to government officials in Melbourne or Canberra. Noushka believes she has the best job in the world, and refers to the orchids as you would refer to close friends. “I just love the pink candy spider orchid which we’ve reintroduced in the Grampians National Park. It’s a very girly one, very cute, one of my favourites,” she says. Last year was a major milestone when Noushka and volunteers undertook Australia’s first largescale reintroduction of an endangered orchid species. The Metallic Sun-orchid, of which only 30 are left in the Wimmera and 1000 worldwide, was the first federally-endangered species
to benefit from three years of laboratory research into propagation and mycorrhizal associations. 1500 Metallic Sun-orchids were reintroduced last year in the Little Desert National Park, Kiata Reserve and in south-western Victoria. This winter a further 1500 orchids, known for flowering in a variety of vibrant metallic colours such as red, blue, purple, green and yellow, will go into the ground. The reintroduction and propagation of 30 different endangered orchid species using similar methods are part of the Wimmera CMA Orchid Conservation Project. For instance a new project with Alcoa/Portland Aluminium will see the lab grow and reintroduce Caladenia hastata (Melblom’s Spider-orchid) over the next five years to reduce the orchid’s listing from endangered to vulnerable. “This is very exciting, and is just one of many new projects we have on the go at the moment,” Noushka said. The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources in South Australia has also contracted the Wimmera lab to grow five federally-endangered orchids for reintroduction.
These species are Pterostylis tenuissima (the Swamp Greenhood), Caladenia formosa (the Elegant Spider-orchid), Prasophyllum frenchii (Maroon Leek-orchid), Caladenia richardsiorum (Little Dip Spider-orchid) and Thelymitra epipactoides (Metallic Sun-orchid). “This is a new collaboration sponsored by the Biodiversity Fund and Caring for Our Country and we are just so rapt to be taking this on,” Noushka says. “Through hand pollination and seed collection, and wading into various swamps and other strange places to isolate the mycorrhiza, we are now germinating these orchids in the lab. “Our work is recognised as the ‘holy grail’ for long-term conservation and protection of Australia’s endangered orchid species. It’s quite exciting times.” The Wimmera Orchid Conservation Project team includes the Australian Orchid Foundation, Australasian Native Orchid Society, RMIT University, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Department of Primary Industries, Wimmera CMA, Parks Victoria and many enthusiastic volunteers. Page 7
WHY I SHOOT DUCKS – one man’s experience of conservation in Australia When I grew up in the 1930’s and 40’s animals were not respected as they are today. Horses were often overloaded; dogs beaten. Many farmers were rough on stock and violence was not uncommon in families. Unusual animals or birds were shot first and studied after. Maybe it was because people had experienced the Depression, followed by the terrors of World War II. You were tough, or you didn’t survive. From about 1951 I began to tidy up the bush, learning about the animals and the environment. In 1954 while living in Alice Springs I gave some help to Olive Pink and her followers. She was an oddball schoolteacher who studied the arid country and its vegetation and worked to undo the damage which had been done (through ignorance) to Australia’s unique environment. In 1958 The Victorian Field and Game Association was formed by people concerned about what they were seeing: swamps drained, trees cleared, wildlife disappearing. The soil was blowing away in dry years, and erosion eating into prime land. Our slow-moving rivers were becoming more like polluted drains, with water often undrinkable. The founders of Field and Game were determined to undo the ills of our past. A substantial fee was charged for duckshooting licences, and the money used to purchase old swampland which had been drained, cleared, and sown with pasture.
The first FGA members set about regenerating the degraded swamps: not just pulling out a few weeds, but huge scale earthworks and planting of indigenous vegetation. The cost is borne by member’s funds and donations and the constant hard yakka undertaken with gusto. I joined the Association in 1959 and became actively involved in FGA conservation projects. My family have joined me over the years, helping to restore the environment. During that time I have been constantly trying to convince others, especially young people who become shooters, to respect the land, its needs, and its wildlife. We teach firearm safety, ethical hunting, respect for others and for this great land of ours. Thanks to FGA, I and countless others have a new understanding of nature. I asked international conservationist Dr David Bellamy a few years ago if I should still shoot ducks. He said he had seen the thousands of nest boxes FGA has installed and swamps we have saved in Gippsland and elsewhere. He had studied hunting worldwide, and stated that without hunters there would be no wildlife to speak of. I lived in the Outback in a time when no refrigeration or fresh food was available. Fresh
Above: The volunteer team at Mt Rothwell with Paddy standing on the far left.
wild food like fish, wallaby or bird was essential. It is organic, nourishing, has no fat, and has lived on a natural diet. The taste is unique. In my 80’s, I still hunt when possible. I am just an ordinary bloke, without academic studies, and views are based on knowledge gained with an open mind. I still volunteer as much as I can, but age does catch up. I try to explain my attitude and ideals to those prepared to listen; radical people without a true understanding are a lost cause. They only believe in their own views, with insufficient knowledge and closed minds. Einstein’s theory of relativity roughly states. “The view you see depends on where you view from”. Paddy Maguire, January 2013
Editor’s Note: Paddy has been volunteering at Mt Rothwell Sanctuary since its establishment and is well respected for his efforts and his attitude to conservation. Paddy knows that not everyone agrees with him, but more and more people are coming to accept that the role of the shooter in bringing back some balance to the Australian environment is increasingly important. Of course it must be controlled, but ongoing culling of feral predators and competitors like foxes and goats provides a breathing space for vulnerable wildlife and even makes it possible to reintroduce some endangered species to their original range. Some environment departments are forming partnerships with shooter’s associations for this purpose. Paddy is a FAME supporter and member of long standing.
From the editor’s desk
In Australia cats and other introduced species have been largely responsible for the extinction of 28 species and subspecies of Australian mammal, mostly marsupials, since colonisation. Anecdotal evidence (there’s no formal study to date) indicates that an estimated 5-18 million feral cats in this country could be killing 75 million native animals each and every day. Cats probably entered Australia by ones and twos when the occasional boat reached our shores before colonisation. How ironic that they only really took hold when 300 cats were released in 1885 near Gippsland – to help local farmers control the rabbits that had been introduced to the area in 1860’s. Feral cats have now penetrated every corner of the Australian mainland. Page 8
It’s generally accepted that cats are here to stay. The dingo is no longer present in enough numbers to keep the invaders in check, and to give them their due cats (and foxes) are great survivors. Control strategies like baiting and hunting of foxes are used in many places, but cats are harder to locate and prefer live prey to baits. Various cat control methods including tracker dogs have been tried with little success. At the moment the only guaranteed way to keep endangered mammals like potoroos or quolls safe is to confine them to a feral free area like an island or a fenced sanctuary. Nevertheless conservation experts plan to keep trying. Recently FAME was alerted to a new computer controlled device that can differentiate between cats and native
mammals, can be used in remote and inaccessible areas, and has the potential to humanely deliver a lethal dose of tranquilliser to passing cats. This is the most exciting feral control development I’ve seen and I’ll report more as news comes to hand. FAME will be watching its development closely, and providing support where possible. The ability to remove feral cats from the Australian environment is a conservationist’s dream – and what a wonderful legacy for FAME if after 130 years we could help remove the cat from the list of threats to our wonderful wildlife!
Cheryl Hill, Editor and CEO
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In the latest edition of Australian Geographic magazine Editor John Pickrell quotes a new study from the Smithsonian Institution and the US Fish and Wildlife Service showing that ‘free-ranging pet and feral cats in the USA kill perhaps 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals each year, most of which are natives, rather than introduced species such as brown rats’.