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No. 18
Hello once again, huge storms recently, garden wet, and I think lightning was close to home. Returned from a snake training course in Bunbury with vivid flashes in the sky all the way. Then to find a blown router in the office so a bit of disruption getting back online! Fortunately everything else was ok. This maybe the last newsletter before Christmas, I'll see if I get time – hope you enjoy this one.
Looked this one up and I think it is a South-western Blind Snake Ramphotyphlops australis. This blind snake was found in Hamersley a north Perth suburb. At first glance it looks like a big worm, but on closer inspection you can see the forked tongue.

They live mainly below ground and may be found after rain or when clearing leaf litter, wood piles and other cover. The eyes are present but are very basic allowing the snake to see little more than light or dark – or so scientists think. They are completely harmless and feed underground on ants, termites and their larvae and eggs.

Do send in pictures if you see anything unusual like this in your backyard.

Southwestern blind snake (Ramphotyphlops australis). Photo Hamersley
The scorching midday sunshine in the Sahara desert becomes unbearable and many insects die in the blistering heat. For the Saharan Desert Ant Cataglyphis bicolor this means it's lunchtime. The ant, protected by its shaded burrow, chooses the hottest part of the day to emerge and feed on the recently deceased before any other scavengers can find them.

They also move very fast at around 1 meter per second. At temperatures of up to 70°C the Saharan Desert Ant can forage for food and thus get an advantage over less heat tolerant species.

Several other related species are also known to tolerate extreme temperatures and yes one of them Melophorus sp is found in central Australian deserts.

Saharan desert ant (Cataglyphis bicolor) head. Photo © April Nobile,

Melophorus ant australia. Photo Visuals Unlimited NPL

Professor Andrew Parker of the Natural History Museum London (my most favourite building in the world) has managed to grow a butterfly wing in the lab. He managed to grow - using embryonic wing scales - the whole wing of a Blue Morpho butterfly.

This species has tiny scales on the wing that refract light somewhat like a prism to give it a vivid colouration. The hope is that this technique could be used in paints and cosmetics bringing us extra bright electric colours.

Blue morpho butterfly. Photo © Natural History Museum -
A new World Wildlife Fund report shows just how many threatened species and habitats we have in Australia. It calls for more government effort to create a network of reserves to protect biodiversity and to prohibit mining in areas already under protection.

According to WWF's most recent findings some 138 plants and animal species are listed as threatened with extinction in this country. They include the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat, the Green Sawfish and Major Mitchells Cockatoo.

Let's hope we get it together and protect more habitat in this country. What can you do?? Simply planting native species in your garden helps provide food and habitat for some of our more common species. Over the last few years I have been gradually planting natives in my garden and it feels good when Black Cockatoos are seen feeding in our own back yard and different species of skink appear in the leaf litter. We can all do a little bit don't you think?

Northern hairy nosed wombat. Photo Jade Flickr/
The Reticulated Python Python reticulatus – the longest snake in the world - has recently been confirmed as a parthenogenic reptile. Parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction in which growth and development of embryos occur without fertilization. Parthenogenesis is known in some invertebrates like scorpions and bees, but is rare in vertebrates - a few fish, sharks and reptiles the like of Komodo Dragons and a few snakes are known to share this ability.

At Louisville Zoo in Kentucky their 6 metre Reticulated Python laid a clutch of 61 eggs but keepers initially assumed they were infertile as she has not had any male company and it is not unusual for snakes to lay unfertile eggs. However, when keepers removed the eggs it appeared that some looked full and healthy so the decision was made to incubate a few to ascertain whether they were in fact fertile.

Six babies snakes emerged from their eggs, which stunned the keepers. So some shed skins of both mum and babies were sent to a lab for genetic analysis. Those tests confirmed that the offspring were produced by the mother alone, without male sperm.

Reticulated python. Photo Kyle Shepherd, Louisville zoo
When the US Forest Service set out to investigate the death of a large group of trees in a National Forest in Oregon, they discovered and then studied the most likely culprit. Enter the edible and parasitic Honey Fungus Armillaria solidipes. It's considered a pest by many gardeners as they colonize and kill trees and woody plants.

Biologists still debate what defines an individual organism. To pass the test you must have: genetically identical cells that can communicate, that have a common purpose or can at least coordinate themselves. This giant forest killing colony of Honey Fungus is now considered the world's largest organism. Most of its living tissue is invisible underground and the mushrooms are the fruiting part of its body. It covers an area of 9.6 sq km and is somewhere between 1,900 and 8,650 years old.

It's taking up too mushroom (sorry).

Honey fungus fruiting bodies (Armillaria solidipes). Photo Arterra picture library Alamy /
Our thanks to Travis Watts from a recent Venomous Snake Handling course for sending me this great picture of a Saltwater Crocodile Crocodylus porosus. The picture was taken just outside Kununurra. Travis decided wisely not to go fishing that day. Salties are the world's largest reptile at up to 7 metres long and weighing in at around 1000kg. Saltwater crocodile Kununurra. Photo Travis Watts 2014
All companies have to review prices and we are no exception. Our training courses have maintained the same price for several years now but our insurance and other costs are rising. We will be increasing fees in 2015.

HOWEVER, if anyone books a course for 2015 NOW - we will hold the price at the current 2014 advertised rates.

Not wanting to be all sales focused BUT if you, your workplace or best buddy wants some snake catching equipment mention NEWSLETTER when ordering and I will give 10% off any equipment until the end of December 2014. As it's the season to be generous I will also throw in a free book and new cap with all kits ordered.

BLUE RINGED OCTOPUS (Genus Hapalochlaena)
There are several described species of Blue Ringed Octopus. The iridescent pulsating blue rings are a warning and only appear when the octopus feels threatened. Usually they are rather drab in colouration to blend in with their marine environment and hide in nooks and crannies like old sea shells. They may be found in shallow reefs and tidal pools but also in deeper waters with a huge distribution covering Pacific and Indian Ocean shorelines all around Australia and also in Japan.

They are small reaching up to 15cm when flexing and have 8 tentacles or arms, but commonly golf ball sized or smaller. They have blue blood, three hearts and extremely potent venom, but are not aggressive and do not attack people.

They feed on small creatures such as shrimp, crabs, fish and bivalve mollusks. Prey is grabbed, pulled towards the mouth using tentacles to hold the prey firm and then using their sharp beaks to pierce the prey and introduce venom. The venom is in their saliva, they do not have fangs.

Blue ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena sp). Photo Clay Bryce, WA museum
Short lived like most octopus the females lay only one clutch of around 50 eggs, she stops feeding at this stage and incubates the eggs under her tentacles for 6 months. The female dies shortly after the eggs hatch. Maximum life span is around 2 years.

Only 3 known deaths are reported, no anti venom is available. The bite is usually painless with symptom such as weakness, facial paralysis, nausea and vomiting developing within a few minutes. Patients that have been paralyzed by the neurotoxic venom hear everything but cannot respond. So no negative remarks – support with CPR and seek urgent medical attention. The venom will gradually wear off and victims recover providing artificial respiration has been provided.

First aid is pressure immobilization bandaging and CPR to provide respiratory support if paralysis occurs. Rapid and prolonged mouth-to-mouth is known to have saved several bite victims in Australia.

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence

Thursday 4 December 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 5 December 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Thursday 11 December 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Monday 22 December 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 16 January 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 6 February 2015 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Friday 12 December 2014 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 23 January 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 20 February 2015 - 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:

Sunday 18 January 2015
Nearer to Nature
Canning River Eco Education Centre
Lot 8, Queens Park Road, Wilson
Sessions at 11.15am and 12.30pm
Contact Nearer to Nature on 08 9295 2244 or visit for more information or to book

Saturday 28 March 2015
Altone Comes Alive!
Altone Leisure Centre, Benara Road, Beechboro
11am – 4pm
Free community event. Contact City of Swan for more information.

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.