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No. 12
Here in Perth the number of calls we get for snake removals has cooled off along with the temperature. Those snakes and other reptiles are looking for snug places to hole up for the winter. The last snake I had to catch was in the inner office at a car showroom in Wangara. A baby Dugite looking for company! I had to remind the staff that even at only 18cm they are still potentially deadly. One of the staff was convinced baby Dugites do not pose a risk.

Rain, rain, rain – we have had plenty these last few weeks. Keep reading for some other weird things (apart from water) that have rained from the sky.

We have dead whales wash up here in WA sometimes. The last one I remember was at Hillarys beach and was small enough to be removed and taken inland to a landfill site. Apparently if buried on the beach they leach oils for months and attract sharks. Sometimes they are towed far out to sea for disposal.

This one at the town of Trout River in Newfoundland on Canada’s East Coast is rotting away and the community’s concern is that it might explode. The Blue whale Balaenoptera musculus can grow to 30 metres long and is believed to be the largest creature ever to have lived.

A Canadian fisheries expert says however it is unlikely to explode unless it is deliberately punctured, as usually the gasses caused by decomposition escape slowly and naturally as tissue integrity declines. You can read the full article below.

Blue whale carcass Canada. Photo © Don Bradshaw NTV News

Dead blue whale in Trout river Newfoundland Canada. Photo © Don Bradshaw NTV News

There are many potential wildlife hazards in the mining and resources workplace. Here in Australia snakes are a major concern along with a range of other animals such as kangaroos, crocs, ‘drop bears’! and the like. On other continents different species also pose threats for staff to contend with.

Recently a Black Bear (Ursus americanus) killed a female worker in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada. The 36 year old was declared dead at the scene of the incident at the Suncor Energy plant. Apparently she was on the way back from a washroom when the incident occurred. Royal Canadian Mounted Police later shot and killed the bear, which had remained in the area some 25km north of Fort McMurray. A Canadian OH&S spokesperson said bear attacks are unusual in the area. Total bear deaths in the US and Canada average about 2 a year, mostly involving bears habituated to living around and scavenging near camping grounds.

It all just goes to show that companies have to be ever vigilant to the many and varied kinds of wildlife hazards that are out there for their employees. I have little information on how this tragic incident occurred but to work and travel in pairs and watch your mates back must be key in reducing such needless fatalities.

Black bear. Photo © Ryan Poplin (odie5533) originally posted to Flickr

Bear danger sign, Denali National Park Alaska. Photo: Beeblebrox Wikipedia

We have just launched our Reptile Keeping Courses. It has now been legal to keep certain native snakes, lizards, turtles and frogs for over 10 years in WA. However, as the hobby is new to many there is not a great amount of herpetocultural knowledge out there. We hope to bridge that gap.

I have been keeping them (I am British) since I was a teenager and have even written several books on the subject – so I feel well qualified in the subject. Anyway every 3rd Saturday of the month in Malaga Animal Ark will be hosting these courses.

Suitable for all ages, family friendly, I aim to assist all those with an interest or desire to learn more about these fascinating creatures. Licensing, feeding, housing, handling and all aspects of successful husbandry will be discussed and demonstrated. Of course there will also be loads of creatures to meet, feed and handle. Contact Animal Ark for further details.

Kids with lizard - Reptile Keeping Course. © Animal Ark

Bearded Dragon lizard (Pogona vitticeps) © Animal Ark

Recently I read about an unusual case of fish raining down from the skies in Sri Lanka. It’s very weird I know and I am not sure if you have heard about the phenomenon before BUT yes fish, frogs and indeed many other usually earth or water bound things do occasionally rain or fall from the skies onto unsuspecting people below. Makes me wonder how often this kind of incident happens unseen.

I thought I would quickly Google the phenomenon to find out more, here’s what I found out. Not only have fish rained from the skies in Sri Lanka but also here in Australia fish began falling from the sky in a small outback town of Lajamanu in the Northern Territory, about 550km southwest of Katherine. This was back in 2010, and not only did the fish fall, but on two consecutive days! The town on the edge of the Tanami Desert is hundreds of kilometres from the nearest large body of water Lake Argyle. It is not even certain that this is where they came from.

Incredibly this also happened before in the same small town both in 1974 and 2004. The 2010 incident involved hundreds and hundreds of small Spangled Perch. Local resident Christine Balmer took the photos. “They fell from the sky everywhere. Locals were picking them up from the footy oval and on the ground everywhere”. “These fish were alive when they hit the ground” “Thanks god it didn’t rain crocodiles”

Raining fish. Photo © Christine Balmer

Lajamanu - NT Australia

Meteorologists report that this kind of thing is not uncommon. Tornadoes suck up many things from the water as they move along and these are carried high up into the weather system were they are as good as frozen. They can be transported many hundreds if not thousands of kilometres before finally falling back to earth and startling us.

Globally here is a list of a few other things that also came down from the sky above. Which reminds me of a good movie about something that fell (or was dropped) to ground - The Gods Must be Crazy. Check it out.

  • 1st Century or approximately AD 79, basically a long time ago, Pliny the Elder (Roman writer and naturalist) wrote about storms of fish and frogs.
  • 1881 Worcester England - periwinkles and hermit crabs
  • 1940 A tornado caused 16th century coins to fall in Russia.
  • 1976 In San Luis Obispo California, blackbirds and pigeons rained from the sky for two days.
  • 1981 Naphlion, Greece - it was raining small green frogs. Amazingly the species concerned were from North Africa.

In 1997, the crew of a Japanese fishing boat was pulled from the Sea of Japan after clinging to the boat's wreckage for several hours. They were arrested after authorities interrogated them about the boat's fate, as suspects of insurance fraud. However, to a man, they claimed a cow had fallen from the sky and struck the boat, resulting in a huge hole and its rapid sinking.

The crew remained in prison for several weeks until several highly embarrassed Russian air force officials contacted Japanese authorities. It turned out that the crew of a Russian cargo plane had stolen a cow that wandered near their Siberian airfield and forced it onto their plane before they took off for a flight home. Once airborne, the cow apparently panicked and starting rampaging through the cargo hold, causing the crew also to panic because it was affecting the plane's stability. They solved the problem by shoving the cow out of the hold while crossing the Sea of Japan at 30,000 feet.

ANIMAL IN FOCUS: Western Grey Kangaroo - Macropus fuliginosus
They are neither grey nor only found in the West but around Perth these are our only large Macropod – marsupial mammal belonging to the Macropodidae family. They are one of the largest and most common of all the Macropods (meaning big feet). One distinguishing feature is their finely haired muzzle. Their range extends eastwards from WA into South Australia, western Victoria, New South Wales and southern Queensland. They become active from late afternoon onwards and come dawn will seek the shelter of trees and shrubs. For much of their life they are seen in groups or mobs of up to 40 or 50 individuals.

Western Greys are herbivores consuming mainly grasses, shrubs, leaves and tree bark. Their conservation status in Australia is as a least vulnerable species. They grow quickly reaching a length of around 94 – 222cm and weigh in at 30-50kg.

Breeding may occur year round but usually peaks between September and March. Gestation is just 30 days, and a single tiny naked jellybean sized newborn climbs through the fur to reach into the pouch and attaches itself to one of 4 teats. A joey leaves the pouch about 6-8 months later - but may still suckle until around 17 months of age. Lifespan is around 20 years. I really like the macropods and I know on our courses that feeding a joey is a highlight. Fortunately many of the rescued ones we see at NAR (Native Animal Rescue) do eventually get successfully released in new mobs made up other rehabilitated greys.

Western Grey kangaroo joey. Photo © Animal Ark

Western Grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus). Photo © Animal Ark, Western Australia

Upcoming Courses and Events
Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Thursday 29 May 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 6 June 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Tuesday 17 June 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 4 July 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 1 August 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 5 September 2014 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Friday 9 May 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 13 June 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 11 July 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth - cancelled due to travel commitment
Friday 8 August 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 12 September 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth

Reptile Keeping Course
Saturday 21 June 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Saturday 19 July 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth

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

Saturday 7 June 2014
The Knowledge Centre
22 / 326 Albany Highway, Gosnells 6110
Contact Gosnells Library for more details and to book.

Wednesday 17 September 2014
Kulunga Katitijin Festival
Kings Park, Perth
Contact the Botanic Gardens Park Authority for more details

See our diary for more dates or contact us to book.

Call (08) 9243 3044 or email David or Jenny at to book.

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