8 May 2018

Page 12


Estuary alert for the retiring rakali SCOTLAND’S Loch Ness has its monster and Balcombe Estuary at Mt Martha has its . . . rakali. The elusive rakali is the Australian equivalent of an otter or water rat. While argument still rages about the existence of Nessie, there is no doubt about the rakali which weighs up to 1.3 kilograms, has a distinctive white-tipped tail and lives in burrows or hollow logs on creek banks. Sue Brabander, the former information ranger at The Briars historic property at Mt Martha, is aware of four sightings since 2015 in Balcombe Creek and estuary. “A young family thought they had been watching a platypus in Balcombe Creek at the western boardwalk creek walk inside the wildlife sanctuary. It would most likely been a rakali because we have no platypus,” Ms Brabander said. “In another incident, a young couple kayaking in the estuary heard a splash behind them. “They saw an animal swimming near them, unafraid of the kayaks and occupants. “Third, a young man told me he had seen rakali running along the water’s edge when he fished the estuary in the evenings. “The most recent reported incident was also at the boardwalk bridge over the creek during the September school holidays last year. A rakali walked around a Briars ranger with 16 people

on a spotlight walk before jumping into the creek and swimming off.” Because she does not have photographic evidence, Ms Brabander has contacted conservation watchdog BERG Mt Martha asking its members to keep watch out for the rakali. “I’m fascinated by all our amazing, beautiful creatures and that’s why I always plead with dog owners to keep their pets on a lead,” she said. The rakali is as big as a mediumsized platypus and resembles a small otter with a blunt muzzle, dense set of whiskers, webbed and paddle-like hind feet and well-furred tail that serves as a rudder when swimming. Its scientific name is Hydromys chrysogaster – golden-bellied water mouse. It arrived in Australia about 5-10 million years ago, swimming or rafting from Papua New Guinea. The Australian Platypus Conservancy, dedicated to preserving the platypus and its freshwater habitats, is also committed to supporting the rakali. Early European settlers sometimes called this animal a beaver rat, even though it is actually much more like an otter than a beaver in its behaviour. Its name was officially adopted as rakali (an Aboriginal term) in the early 1990s. It has a website with detailed information and photos of the creature: platypus.asn.au/rakali/ Barry Morris

Greens out and about in the field WITH a state election due in November, the Mornington Peninsula Greens and its supporters are out and about in the environment. A field excursion on Saturday 28 April saw a group tour of the Tootgarook wetlands under the direction of Save Tootgarook Swamp’s Cameron Brown. Paul Saunders, the Greens candidate for Nepean, said the group was “particularly impressed with range and

diversity of animals, birds and plants supported by the wetlands, including many endangered species”. “Concerns were raised in areas of the wetlands where VicRoads owns parcels of land that permit a freeway extension from Rosebud to Blairgowrie,” Mr Saunders said. “More roads brings more cars. We want to see a pedestrian overpass at the Jetty Road freeway intersection, not a car bypass costing ratepayers

tens of millions which only serves to push the issue down the road a bit further and, in the process, encourages VicRoads to build a freeway extension through the most biodiverse and iconic land on the peninsula. “It’s damaging to agriculture, residents and the environment and we support the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council’s decision to request these offsets be scrapped.”

Cub Scouts are Sophie, Ashleigh, Leon, Noah, Jacob, Taj, Ben, Violet, Zoe, Cohen, Abigail, Sarah, Cleo, Joe, Patrick, Harrison, Emma, Nicolas, Dylan, Jack, Taya, Lillian, Riley holding the branch, Harrison, Isabella, Loki and Baron. CFA juniors are Taihere, Sam, Brady, Dane, Lachy, Suzanne, Max, Tahlia, Miah, Stephanie and Jack.

Junior CFA volunteers share skills By Barry Irving

RYE Junior fire brigade members and 1st Tootgarook Cub Scouts enjoy getting together each year to promote friendship and learn new skills. Recently, the cubs played host to the Sorrento Sea Scout Cub Pack whose members worked towards their Boomerang badges while researching and training with the Rye junior fire brigade.

The cubs, aged 7-11, benefited from the leadership and mentoring of the junior firefighters, aged 11-16. The activities highlighted the strengths of the three groups. Afterwards there was fun free time to chat and make new friends. For more information on the scouts call 0438 338 506.

Seasonal fire ‘danger’ ends FIRE danger periods in Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula finished last week. The CFA’s Andrew Turner said a lack of rainfall in CFA District 8 over summer and early autumn had kept conditions dry. “The fire danger period may be coming to an end, but I caution people to use common sense when planning or conducting any burn offs,” he said. “They should check conditions and register their burn-offs beforehand. “Every year our brigades get frustrated at the number of false alarms they have to respond to


Southern Peninsula News 8 May 2018

as a result of people not doing the right thing.” “Be aware that any calls to triple zero about smoke in the air at particular locations are crosschecked with the burn-off register. When nothing is listed firefighters are required to attend. “These calls to unregistered burn-offs take firefighters away from workplaces, families and potentially genuine emergencies.” Register burn-offs with the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority by calling 1800 668 511 or emailing burnoffs@esta.vic. gov.au