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Newsletter
No. 6
Welcome
So summer is here finally, it’s warming up and I for one am much happier whilst the sun shines but it’s not yet oven like when you step outside.

With two reported snake bite incidents recently in WA it’s worth reminding you to be careful. Fortunately as far as I have heard neither has died, both bites believed to be from brown snakes.

There has however been a fatality near Sydney recently, with the initial symptoms of collapse treated as a suspected stroke rather than snake bite.


Eastern Brown Snake Pseudonaja textilis
the species thought to be responsible for the death of a Sydney woman this month.

Animal Ark is very busy at the moment. I have just returned from Port Hedland and Roy Hill Camp 2 up in the Pilbara training Samsung people on the Roy Hill project.

The office has fielded many "Help! Snake in my garden" phone calls; our online shop is going great guns. I even enjoyed a great drive out to Mukinbudin in the Wheatbelt - had a lovely time delivering Snake Awareness talk and school visits over two days, and have a radiator grill full of locusts to prove it!

Hope you enjoy the following and PLEASE DO like us on Facebook

Venomous Crustacean Discovered in WA
Hot off the press this one. We all know about Crustacea - the very large group of arthropods. A quick Google search informs me, and now you, that what separates them from other groups of arthropods like insects and arachnids is that crustaceans feature biramous (two-parted) limbs and strange antennae on the head of their larvae that help them swim.
Some 70,000 species have been described; they are mostly aquatic creatures such as shrimp, lobsters and barnacles. A few like woodlice and sandhoppers even live on land. Interestingly Krill, a classic crustacean, may be the animals with the greatest biomass on the planet.

I am waffling away – so now back to the exciting recent discovery that the very, very first venomous crustacean has been described. It’s a type of Remipede Speleonectes tulumensis, and is found in underwater cave systems here in WA and also in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and the Canary Islands. The venom is injected into the prey; this kills and liquefies it. The contents are then sucked up, like drinking a milkshake through a straw. Yum yum.

Dr Bjoern von Reumont from the Natural History Museum London commented: "This is the first time we have seen venom being used in crustaceans and the study adds a new major animal group to the roster of known venomous animals. Venoms are especially common in three of the four major groups of arthropods, such as insects. Crustaceans, however, are a glaring exception to the rule. While they can be as varied as tiny waterfleas, krill, crabs and barnacles, not one of the approximately 70,000 described species of crustaceans was known, until now, to be venomous."


A Remipede – first venomous crustacean.

Animal in Focus: Dugite Pseudonaja affinis
Perth’s most 'famous' snake the Dugite is a fascinating and seriously venomous reptile. They are relatively large, many adults reaching around 1.8 metres but some individuals at 2 metres. At least that’s what the books say, not sure how many people measure them. These are very fast snakes and common in many southwestern country areas and frequently spotted and relocated from Perth’s Northern and Southern suburbs.
Dugites have relatively dark colouration but are highly variable, some almost black others speckled. To the casual observer they are just brown; one individual I saw recently from Bunbury reptile relocator Kim has a cream face.

Like most snakes confrontation is usually avoided and Dugites prefer retreat where possible when disturbed. With their small head they can squeeze into remarkably narrow spaces such as rodent holes. Sometimes when feeling threatened they tense up into the classic serpentine "S" shape. Whilst also raising their head and upper body up off the ground and spreading their hood – it makes an impressive warning.

When distressed, Dugites can deliver very fast, accurate strikes. Brown snake (Genus Pseudonaja) bites can prove fatal so caution as always is advised. However, the well equipped and properly dressed snake catcher has less to fear than the thong and shorts gung ho type. Most bites are to unprotected hands and feet.

Mating takes place in spring when most people will glimpse this otherwise elusive snake. Males have been observed in raised combat. Females lay and leave around 10-20 but up to 30 eggs buried in loose soil or under available cover. Incubation period of between 65-90 days is usual. Juvenile Dugites appear around February and March, are independent and venomous from hatching.


A Dugite squeezed into an Elliot trap.
Photo courtesy of William Archer
www.esperencewildlife.blogspot.com.au


Dugite, a typical Brown Snake.

World’s Only Polar Bear Prison
In the remote Canadian town of Churchill, Manitoba is a punishment centre for Polar Bears. Here inside what was once an aircraft hanger, Polar Bears are kept behind bars for an unpleasant stay on hard rations (water only) for up to 30 days. The idea is to persuade the bears not to reoffend by coming back into town. Repeat offenders – those bears that just keep on coming back into town - are caught and jailed. After their sentence is served they are then airlifted by helicopter (hanging in a net below) and released about 40 miles away.

Eight hundred people call Churchill home and attacks by Polar Bear are quite common. They also cause much damage raiding bins and generally smashing up things looking for food. Despite their size they are surprisingly hard to spot blending in well with the snowy landscape. The real problem is that Churchill was built bang in the middle of the Polar Bear migration route!

You can go visit them if you like and have a Polar Bear tour.

First Catch Your Cheetah
Villagers in Kenya chased down and captured two Cheetahs alive. According to reports the Cheetahs had been preying on a herd of goats. "These Cheetahs killed 15 of my goats – they were coming to my house daily" said Mr Hassan from his village near Wajir in the remote Kenyan-Somalia area of north eastern Kenya.

So the men waited until the hottest part of the day before starting to run the Cheetahs down. Usually at this time it’s too hot to hunt and Cheetahs rest in the shade. Mr Hassan was sipping his morning tea when he saw the Cheetahs take another goat – so he waited several hours until the sun was high and with help of local youths chased after them until they were exhausted and captured. Cheetahs are famously fast – but only in short bursts especially when it’s very hot.

The Cheetahs were handed over to the Kenya Wildlife Service and the men are hoping to receive some compensation for the loss of their livestock. Goats are the backbone of the local community providing a form of currency, meat and milk.

I think this is a great story. I was delighted that the Cheetahs were not just trapped or killed – hopefully the villagers receive a reward and compensation and the Cheetahs relocated successfully elsewhere. These human animal conflicts are increasingly common around the world.

BEETLES COMING TO PERTH
CSIRO scientists are releasing two new Dung Beetle species into WA. They are currently busy breeding Bubas bubalus and Onthophagus vacca both apparently beetles with voracious appetites and early spring activity. Dung Beetles bring big benefits to us by:
  • Reducing pollution of pastures and waterways
  • Aerating soils benefiting both root growth and earthworms.
  • Burying valuable nutrients so fertilising the pastures
  • Removing the breeding sites of buffalo flies, bush flies and biting midges

The beetles emerge in early spring to feed on dung and lay eggs into balls of dung they have rolled around and buried at the end of underground tunnels. An adult female can use 3kg of dung during her life cycle much of it during the larval stage.

Attached picture is of beetles and flies I saw arriving for the feast on a fresh Rhino turd in Botswana. Some of beetles were so huge I ducked to get out of their way!

TEACHERS - STUDENTS - TEAM BUILDING - CORPORATE FUN DAY
Our Snake Awareness training is serious stuff – but entertaining too. Adapted to suit school kids or corporate high flyers:
  • Learn heaps about snake biology.
  • Find out about native pythons.
  • Get to see some very, very deadly snakes.
  • Practice snake bite first aid.
  • Engage and handle some very friendly ones - fun and photos.
Unlike the Snake Catching course you do NOT have to catch them – so sit back and relax. We can tailor the sessions to your needs and age group.

More info @ http://www.animalark.com.au/wildlife-awareness-training-course.

School info @ http://www.animalark.com.au/snake-awareness-school-incursions.

 

Snake Handling Training Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Friday 29 November 2013 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 6 December 2013 - North Beach, Perth - full
Friday 13 December 2013 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 17 January 2014 - North Beach, Perth - 3 places left
Friday 7 February 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 7 March 2014 - North Beach, Perth

Public Events
Do come along and see us. Bring your family or friends as well.
Animal Ark Roadshow will be attending the following events:

Thursday 16 January 2014
Animal Ark Roadshow
Woodvale Library
10am and 11am
Contact the library to book.

Sunday 19 January 2014
Wonders of the Wildlife Ark for Nearer to Nature, DPaW
Yanchep National Park
11.15am and 12.45pm
Contact Nearer to Nature to book.

See our diary for more dates.

Call (08) 9243 3044 or email David or Jenny at info@animalark.com.au to book.

Courses held monthly plus on-site and remote site training available.

   

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