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No. 15
It's still raining here in Perth, the frogs and snails are happy enough I suppose. Personally I could do with some nice warming heat, those perfect gentle spring days we get should be here soon. Hopefully lasting for several pleasant months before the blistering oven blanket that descends upon us post Christmas.

I have been busy with school visits and our general snake and wildlife training courses. I even got to help Ashleigh Wolfe a PhD student test out placing a dummy transmitter on a python and giving it a proof of concept field test (in my garden) to make sure the technique was sound. It all went very well, and as ever I was surprised how a 2 metre Black Headed Python could almost disappear into a very small clump of kangaroo paws.

Now Ashleigh just needs a few dugites to get her studies started and she is waiting for licensed snake catchers to call her with some new finds. Soon, I tell her, soon enough the sun will be out, the reptiles moving and then I get even busier as panicked companies need training in a hurry as the snakes start to appear.

Once more I have been back in the studio with Alex Cearns of Houndstooth Studio.

This time snakes and lizards were our focus and the remarkably unfazed Alex got close enough to capture these lovely images of some pythons and a few very deadly serpents.


Stimson python coiled close. Photo © Alex Cearns Houndstooth Studio / Animal Ark

Mulga / King Brown (Pseudechis australis) coiled. Photo © Alex Cearns Houndstooth Studio / Animal Ark

Pilbara death adder (Acanthophis wellsi). Photo © Alex Cearns Houndstooth Studio / Animal Ark

Woma python top shot. Photo © Alex Cearns Houndstooth Studio / Animal Ark

Southern death adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) low profile. Photo © Alex Cearns Houndstooth Studio / Animal Ark

Tiger snake (Notechis scutatus) on hook. Photo © Alex Cearns Houndstooth Studio / Animal Ark

Three apps you may want to download.

If you know of any other cool, preferably free, ones – let me know.

1. Field Guide to Western Australian Fauna - Western Australian Museum

WAM field guide to WA fauna. iPhone/iPad/android app

Western Australia's animal fauna are unique and diverse.

This app features detailed descriptions of animals, maps of distribution, and endangered species status combined with live images from their native habitat to provide a valuable mobile reference to be used in the bush, outback and metro regions of Western Australia.

The content has been developed by scientists at the Western Australian Museum and supplemented by scientists from other museums nationwide.

The app holds descriptions of over 250 species encompassing birds, fishes, frogs, lizards, snakes, mammals, freshwater, terrestrial and marine invertebrates, spiders, and insects.

There is also a lot of the more common and widely seen species, as well as some unique animals that speak of Western Australia's amazing diversity. Enjoy!

The app is free on iPhone/iPad and Android devices:

Field Guide to Western Australian Fauna - iPhone app   Field Guide to Western Australian Fauna - android app

2. Gaia Guide - Galexy Pty Limited

Gaia Guide is an online field guide. It supports downloading of field guides and parts thereof to mobile applications like this one.

Review the website, select the field guides you want in your pocket and then open this app to start downloading your customized field guides.

Gaia Guide. iPhone/iPad/android app

The app is free on iPhone/iPad and Android devices:

Field Guide to Western Australian Fauna - iPhone app   Field Guide to Western Australian Fauna - android app

3. Australian Bites and Stings - BioCSL

Australia is home to many of the world’s most venomous snakes, spiders and marine animals, and bioCSL is the world’s sole producer of antivenom for Australia’s most venomous creatures; a community service it began in the 1930s.

As part of bioCSL’s commitment to providing education to our community about the unique venomous creatures that may cross the paths of Australians, and our visitors, they have introduced a free smartphone app – Australian Bites & Stings: First Aid Guide to Australian Venomous Creatures – which hosts up-to-date first aid information.

This unique app will be of use to anyone planning to be out in Australia’s great outdoors – whether it be on the beach, camping, bushwalking or just gardening in a back yard!

Australian Bites and Stings. iPhone/iPad/android app

The app is free on iPhone/iPad and Android devices:

Field Guide to Western Australian Fauna - iPhone app   Field Guide to Western Australian Fauna - android app

This is the kind of conservation that I get all excited about. It’s just so simple, so blindingly obvious in retrospect, it can be effective immediately and employed across many species at very low cost. I wish I had thought about it!

Mankind has been using dogs to protect livestock, dwellings and possessions for many thousands of years. Dogs are the first of our many domesticated species. Descended originally from Grey Wolves and selectively bred for around 16,000 years into the many breeds we know today ranging from the tiny Chihuahuas to the massive English Mastiff. It is amazing really that we have only just started to use them to protect native wildlife.

Maremma Sheepdogs originated in Italy and have been used for centuries to guard livestock. But they have also recently been used in more unusual conservation efforts with penguins. Alan "Swampy" Marsh who was using the dogs to protect his chickens had a cunning plan to help save some local penguins. Eventually he convinced the wildlife conservationists in charge to trial the dogs.

In 2006 Middle Island’s colony of little penguins were sent their new minders. Foxes had wreaked havoc on the island, reducing the 1,500-strong colony to single figures and after a small hiccup or two (the dog started herding the penguins back to their burrows), the introduction of Oddball, a Maremma super protector, saved the day. Oddball, who was later joined by other dogs, chased away the foxes and penguin numbers subsequently revived.

Maremma dogs are considered ideal for conservation work because they can bond to an array of other creatures while also viewing feral pests as mortal enemies. The dogs have formed friendships with sheep, goats, chickens and gannets in the past. In controlled experiments, sheep that heard dingo calls instinctively ran behind the dogs for protection.

The film industry liked the story so much they have now made a movie shot in Oz to be released soon, titled "Oddball".

I used to handle and train dogs amongst other creatures in the film business; working breeds like sheepdogs were often the most interesting and easy to work with. Compared to other dog breeds it’s like they have a PhD, so clever some of them they could almost read the script!

Eastern barred bandicoots. Photo © Zoos Victoria Eastern barred bandicoots.
Photograph: Zoos Victoria

A group of Maremma dogs. Photo © Beate Sexto A group of Maremma dogs.
Photograph: Beate Sexto

A Maremma dog and penguin chick. Photo © Robin Sharrock. Maremma dog and penguin chick.
Photograph: Robin Sharrock

Zoos Victoria is to run extensive trials to see if the technique using Maremmas could be used to pride 'bodyguard' protection for Eastern Barred Bandicoots, which have been virtually wiped out in Australia. They are to run an extensive trial to determine whether groups of Maremma dogs can become bodyguards for these bandicoots, which have been virtually wiped out in Australia. Some 400 are spread around breeding sites in the country but only a small population exists in the wild in Tasmania. Once again cats and foxes are the problem.

Before you rush out and get Maremmas for your conservation project, there are several other good contenders for the job. Pyrenean Mastiff, Tornjak or Krs dog from Eastern Turkey may actually be even better choices of helpful hounds especially in our more arid outback.

Let’s hope conservation groups in WA take up the idea soon. Could be a species saver. Bring on the conservation dog trainers.

ANIMAL IN FOCUS: Tiger Snake - Notechis scutatus
The Tiger Snake is a notorious and potentially very dangerous venomous snake. Their colouration varies greatly; they may be grey, brown or completely black. Bands are usually present and in ‘typical’ WA specimens this will be bright yellow like one of my specimens as pictured here.

Compared to many snakes they are relatively short and stout bodied especially the well fed ones. Most will reach around 1.2 – 1.6m long but occasionally tigers of over 2 metres have been reported.

Tiger snakes mostly eat frogs. Given the opportunity they will also eat lizards, birds, small mammals and even fish. They are potentially very dangerous but not aggressive unless trodden on or fearful. May be feisty to catch but after their initial fear response they seem to calm down very quickly.

The threat display when one is alarmed starts with much neck flattening (to look larger) raising part of the body off the ground accompanied by mock strikes and loud hissing. Fortunately by this time most people will back off leaving them alone and call a trained snake catcher.

Tiger snakes are one of Australia’s most commonly seen snakes as their range is similar to ours, with populations in cities and towns around Australia. They are common in many Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney suburbs and are even as far north as Brisbane. They live mainly in the cooler south eastern and south western parts of the country particularly near rivers, swamps and wetlands.

Due to the fact they live in cooler areas they have adapted to bear live young. A female may produce between 20-30 live young; one reported record is of 109.

Tiger snake (Notechis scutatus). Photo © Animal Ark

Tiger snake (Notechis scutatus). Photo © Alex Cearns Houndstooth Studio / Animal Ark

Tiger snake (Notechis scutatus). Photo © Alex Cearns Houndstooth Studio / Animal Ark

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Friday 5 September 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Wednesday 1 October 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 31 October 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 5 December 2014 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Friday 12 September 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 10 October 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 14 November 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 12 December 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth

Reptile and Amphibian Keeping Course
Saturday 18 October 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Saturday 15 November 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Saturday 20 December 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:

Wednesday 17 September 2014
Kulunga Katitijin Festival
Kings Park, Perth
9:30am - 2pm
Contact the Botanic Gardens Park Authority for more details

Saturday 20 September
Fantastic Faraway Festival
Kings Park, Perth
10:30am - 2:30pm
Contact the Botanic Gardens Park Authority for more details

Sunday 21 September
Celebrate Lake Claremont Spring Fair
Lake Claremont, Stirling Road, Claremont
10am - 1pm
Contact Town of Claremont for more details

Friday 3 October
Perth Airport Night Stalk
Kwenda Marlark Wetland
Contact Perth Airport for more information

Sunday 26 October
Reptile Retreat at the Dogs Breakfast
Kingsway Regional Sporting Complex, Bellerive Boulevard, Madeley
9am - 1pm
Contact City of Wanneroo 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.