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No. 16
It's official, it is warmer now. Snakes have appeared, we are getting those calls now from panicked people with snakes in gardens and schools around Perth. Even had two bites reported in the press.

A guy called Adam we trained recently has been busy clearing fauna from trenches up in the Pilbara on behalf of Monadelphous and he kindly sent me a few photos of the creatures he has rescued recently. So thanks Adam for getting in touch with such nice pictures and please everyone else do contribute if you have any news or images for inclusion.

Bearded dragon. © Adam Meredith

Blue tongue lizard. © Adam Meredith

Snake brown. © Adam Meredith

Mammal. © Adam Meredith

A potentially deadly giant jellyfish has been found off the coast of WA at Shark Bay and Ningaloo Reef. This monstrous creature Keesingia gigas can cause Irukandji syndrome, a reaction to venom condition that can be fatal to humans. Its closer relatives are tiny and also venomous but this monster's body is 30 – 50 cm long.

Forget about urinating on the stings, this idea, though still considered effective in folklore, appears to be useless. Check out the free Australian Bites and Sting App for detailed advice.

Keesingia gigas in bloomof sea tomatoes (Crambione mastigophora). Image © John Totterdell MIRG Australia
FLY IN FLY OUT JOB (and the pay really is just S***)
CSIRO scientists are helping to reduce the Australian fly population for our benefit by releasing a new species of dung beetle into the South West region.

WA already has other imported dung beetle species hard at work in the field; our native beetles only work with marsupial pooh. The new species imported from France and Spain is active in the cooler spring months and much earlier than most others. It is hoped over the next few years that as their populations increase the flies will be less of a problem to visitors and residents in the area. The new beetles are being released near Kojonup some 256km south east of Perth and should spread (adults fly) as they breed, assisting in both the reduction of flies and increased fertility of the soil.

Dung beetles are unusual creatures that feed partially or exclusively on dung or faeces. Some live in it, others roll and bury the dung that provides food for their developing larvae. The burying kinds are preferred here as they remove the dung and smell and by burying it stop the flies having their share. Some 5,000 species are known, all from the family Scarabaeoidea and are found pretty much worldwide.

Dung may be a precious, hard to find resource and beetles may fight over it. One species in the Peruvian rainforest hold on and cluster around the anus of Brown Titi monkeys (Callicebus brunneus) and fall to earth grabbing some dung when the monkey defecates - an unusual but effective method of getting your lunch early (and warm) plus beating the competition.

Dung beetle rolling poo. ©
Dung beetle rolling poo.

Rhino dung and dung beetles in Botswana. © David Manning, Animal Ark
Flying in for a meal - flies and beetles feast on fresh Rhino dung in Botswana.

Warming to a theme – Possum pooh could cause flesh-eating ulcers in humans. World Health Organization (WHO) describes the buruli ulcer as being "a chronic debilitating skin and soft tissue infection that can lead to permanent disfigurement and disability".

According to Barwon Health in Australia, possum pooh has been found to be swarming with the infectious bacteria. Associate Professor Daniel O'Brien says more research needs to be done to see whether contact with the infectious faeces is what causes the ulcers.

So remember: wearing gloves and having good personal hygiene when dealing with possums is basically essential.

Coppery brush tail possum - Queensland. © Animal Ark

Possum. ©

As an update on the Russian space geckos (Newsletter 14) I am sad to have to report that the 5 geckos ultimately died in space. Despite initially losing contact with the space ship, this was reestablished later and the Photon-M craft brought back to earth recently.

A representative of the Institute of Biomedical Problems (ISTC) announced that the entire Herpetological crew had perished. The bodies were described as mummified and death put down to freezing due to a failure of the equipment used to keep them warm. The fruit flies aboard the same flight survived.

In previous successful flights since 2007 newts, gerbils, spiders and butterflies have 'traversed the cosmos' according to Russian news agencies.

Northern spiny tail gecko. © Alex Cearns, Houndstooth Studio
Russia has confirmed that it has seized highly trained 'Spy Dolphins' when they annexed Crimea earlier in the year. A total of 13 dolphins and a number of sea lions are now under Russian military control with President Putin as their commander in chief. Bottlenose dolphins, beluga whales, sea lions and other marine mammals have been trained and researched by militaries around the world for decades.

The US Navy's Marine Mammal Program began in 1960 with two goals: to study the underwater sonar capabilities of dolphins and other marine mammals, and to improve the speed of boats and submersibles. In addition to this research they also trained them to perform other underwater tasks such as to detect and mark underwater mines. They locate a mine and then place a weighted buoy line to mark it for clearance. With special headgear they can carry cameras and weapons.

Californian sea lions have been taught to attach grabber devices to remove underwater explosives. Dolphins patrol and protect moored vessels and alert trainers if underwater swimmers approach. Dolphins have also served in both the Vietnam War and in the more recent Persian Gulf conflicts.

US Navy dolphin searching for a mine (

A dolphin model wearing some of the specially designed kit. Photo © Mikhail Semenov

National Bird Week takes place this year between Monday 20 October and Sunday 26 October. Birdlife Australia and the Birds in Backyards team have come together to launch the Aussie Backyard Bird Count.

To become involved in Australia's biggest citizen science project all you need is 20 minutes, your 'green patch' of choice and some keen eyesight, or binoculars. You don't need to be an expert, just record the birds you know and look up the ones you don't on the new Aussie Bird Count app, available for download in October.

For more information and to get involved visit and

Carnabys black cockatoo. © Birdlife Australia
I was a 2012 Churchill Fellow – studying Venomous Snakes in Africa and the US.

Are you passionate about your work? Want to travel and learn more?

Find out about how to apply for a Churchill Fellowship, which can take you anywhere in the world! Free information sessions in a city near to you.

See for more information.

Churchill Fellowship information sessions
ANIMAL IN FOCUS: Olive Python Liasis olivaceus
This is one of the largest pythons in Australia with some adults reaching around 5m in length. They are uniformly olive or brown in colour and rather dull compared to many other python species. Two populations are known, one in the Pilbara region the other a subspecies which occurs across the top end of the country of WA, NT and into the western, coastal and interior parts of Queensland.

It would appear that sometimes they are mistaken for the Mulga or King brown snake and like many snakes killed through ignorance. Although they can be encountered during the day they would appear to be mainly crepuscular (dawn and dusk) and nocturnal - but like many snakes they will be active when conditions are favourable and prey available.

Olive pythons are very fond of rocky gorges with permanent water and along well-vegetated watercourses. They may be found far from water but probably return to the security of granite outcrops, dense grasses or caves when finished hunting. They are proficient climbers and may rest in trees overhanging water both to cool down and await the arrival of unsuspecting birds and mammals.

Olive pythons feed on a wide variety of species taking reptiles like lizards and snakes but also mammals such as bush rats and wallabies as well as any bird they can overpower. Females lay up to 30 eggs; juveniles hatch out about 80-100 days later and can be already some 60cm long.

Animal Ark has just received a juvenile specimen bred in Perth to add to our training and education collection. Oli (original) is about 4 months old, around 80cm long and had his first feed with me recently, consuming 2 medium sized mice. I hope you get to meet him soon.

Olive python. © Australian Geographic / Ryan Francis

Oli the olive python.© Animal Ark

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Tuesday 30 September 2014 - North Beach, Perth - FULL
Wednesday 1 October 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Wednesday 15 October 2014 - Tamala Park, Perth
Friday 31 October 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 8 November 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 5 December 2014 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
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 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:

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.