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No. 23
It feels good to give a bit back – I popped into Native Animal Rescue (NAR) in Malaga where we conduct our Fauna Handling Courses (FHC) and helped them get their reptile enclosures correctly set up for both heating and lighting.

It is important to ensure their welfare is catered for as much as the mammals and birds that they and their team of volunteers are more acquainted with.

Thanks to Roy Hill staff for raising $150 for NAR causes in Port Hedland.

Native Animal Rescue
The Walking/climbing perch (Anabas testudineus) has been in the news recently. The fear being that this fish that walks or crawls between waterholes in Papua New Guinea may reach us in Australia.

It is currently expanding its range and is now found on some Torres Strait Islands. If it gets here it could well cause major havoc to out waterways, like many of our other invasive species.

Walking fish can crawl across land and survive out of water for up to six days. Photo The West Australian - source JCU
Walking fish are nothing new and there are many species worldwide – in fact it was fish-like creatures that first crawled from shallow waters onto land that eventually evolved into early amphibian-like creatures. These in turn eventually gave rise to all modern amphibians, reptiles, birds and also of course mammals like you and I.

Isn't our evolutionary history fascinating - from flapping around in the shallow waters of some humid tropical swamp millions of years ago gulping air to well flapping around in some hot tub glugging beer. If you want to find out more about just one of these transitional species check out Tiktaalik (Tiktaalik roseae) on Google, it is one such creature.

Many are blind and with limbs missing or so badly deformed that they can barely move, add blindness and facial deformity these are truly sick toads.

OK, so I added the zombie bit (watching too much Walking Dead) however it is true that nearly 50% of the population of these large amphibians are seriously unwell and look pretty scary.

Cururu-toad; one healthy, one half blind, one totally blind. Photo Luis Felipe Toledo
Specimens immobilised by grotesque deformity just sit there and eat anything that crawls onto or near them. The Cururu Toad (Rhinella jimi) is a very close relative of our invasive Cane Toad (Rhinella marina). They are native to South America but not normally on the island of Fernando de Noronha off the coast of Brazil. Here they were introduced and studies are underway to find out why so many are so crippled and what may be responsible.

Is it a parasite, bacterium or virus or some form of contaminant? – no one knows – yet.

Luis Felipe Toledo of Campinas State University in Sao Paulo Brazil (whose photos appear here) is one of those trying to find out.

These just in from our Newsletter subscriber Alan Hodson. A few images of our Freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnsoni) taken at Windjana Gorge in the Kimberley.

Alan reports "counting about 15 of them within a 250m stretch of the gorge which was good to see due to the number of reported deaths attributed to Cane toads (Rhinella marina)"

Freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnsoni) - Windjana Gorge. Photo Alan Hodson
Freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnsoni) - Windjana Gorge. Photo Alan Hodson Freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnsoni) - Windjana Gorge. Photo Alan Hodson
Having been missing from their natural environment for 100 years, the Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata) and Western Barred Bandicoot (Perameles bougainville) are amongst species due to make a comeback.

A new program of reintroducing native mammals into AWC (Australian Wildlife Conservancy) controlled reserves has been announced. Tim Flannery has called it "One of the greatest mammal conservation initiatives ever undertaken in Australia."

Western barred bandicoot (Perameles bougainville). Photo AWC
Surplus populations of the rare mammals are to be relocated from AWC reserves and Queensland national parks. Basically designated national parks in NSW will be fenced and fox and cat populations exterminated with reintroductions of several native species to follow in 2018.

The link below gives you some information on The Western Barred Bandicoot, a species which became extinct on the mainland in the 1940s, but is now currently not only surviving but thriving offshore in WA, and about the excellent AWC in general.

Initially the rangers in Eisenhower State Park, Texas, USA thought it was just some messy tourists' discarded spaghetti. On closer inspection it turned out to be puddles of worms. Weirdly many of the groups were in a perfect straight line in the middle of the road. Certainly a strange thing to see - the assumption of worm experts is that the rain made the worms gather on drier ground.

I think the middle of road is where the camber is greatest and therefore the driest – also where you are least likely to be squished by passing cars - so numbers build up here where it’s both safe and dry. Extremely wet weather causes worms to leave the safety of their burrows and head for dryer ground as they cannot breathe underwater. Must be a field day for other wildlife in the area feasting on the high protein creatures during the downpours.

Mounds of worms. Photo Eisenhower State Park, Texas
Apparently AU$300m damage is caused by jellyfish to the fishing industry in Korea. Jellyfish hunting robots have been developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). They hunt in packs and mince the jellyfish once they are identified. Later versions are intending to collect the jellyfish for mincing back on shore and as an ingredient in cosmetics.

Maybe a great idea for Australia if jellyfish are an ecological problem (too many due to lack of natural predators) or even better, lets have plastic bag hunting robots that could tidy up the oceans and protect many species, especially our sea turtles that eat plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish.

See for more.

Jellyfish - AQWA. Photo David Manning, Animal Ark
JULY 26th Cannington Exhibition Centre
The West Australian Herpetological Society (WAHS) latest Expo will be on Sunday 26th July 2015 at the Cannington Exhibition Centre - a great day out for all, family friendly, with lots to see and do.

Come and visit me and our creatures at the Animal Ark stand, bring family and friends along as well. Last time some 5,000 attended so put it in your diary and come and see some great creatures and have a family day out.

WAHS Expo 2015 flyer
Cane Toad (Rhinella marina)
One of Australia's most famous and successful pests. An invasive import that like many was deliberately released, this one into Queensland back in 1935 from where it spread rapidly and today is found right across the top of Australia and well into northern WA. These toads are invasive in other places as well, as the story above tells. They are very, very poisonous and many native species from crocs to snakes and eagles to quolls are found dead with a toad still in their mouths.

Once away from endemic range without their natural predators they can breed uncontrolled and populations often explode. Their size alone means they can eat most other species and as prolific egg layers they overwhelm in numbers with highly mobile young toads once they metamorphose from the larval (tadpole) stage. Estimates are of 10-55km rate of territory expansion per year for the species in Australia.

Cane toad (Rhinella marina). Photo Animal Ark
Averaging 10-15cm in length specimens can reach over 38cm and weigh up to 2.5kg. Lifespan 10-15 years in the wild but up to around 35 years in captivity. A female can lay up to 25,000 eggs twice a year, giving you an idea of how hard it is to control them. Preferring fresh water they are tolerant of salty water with around 15% salt content hence 'Marine toad' being another common name for this large amphibian.

Diet wise – if it moves they will try to eat it - bugs, spiders, small rodents reptiles and amphibians are all consumed. Unusually for amphibians they will also eat dead or static food so carrion and even dried cat foods will be taken.

Natural predators (in South America) include, Black rat (Rattus rattus), Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), Broad snouted Caiman (Caiman latirostris). In Australia some freshwater crocs, crows and tawny frogmouths are apparently eating the non toxic parts of their bodies.

Uses for Cane toads include:

  • Scientists are using them for anti cancer treatments;
  • Bufotenin, an active ingredient of the poison, has also been used in Japan as an aphrodisiac and a hair restorer, and in China for cardiac surgery to lower the heart rates of patients;
  • Some native South/Central American peoples will use them in black magic ceremonies;
  • In Australia stuffed as souvenirs and as leather goods and as a liquid fertilizer from pulverised cane toad carcasses;
  • They are skewered or roasted in several countries;
  • The collected toxin tipping arrow/darts in South America;
  • In Peru as a food source once the poison glands are removed;
  • I have kept them as pets (in UK). They tame well.

Two documentaries about Cane toads in Australia can be watched on Youtube:

Cane Toads the Conquest (2010)

Cane Toads: An Unnatural History (1988)

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

Friday 3 July 2015 - North Beach, Perth (Fully Booked)
Tuesday 21 July 2015 - North Beach, Perth (3 places left)
Friday 7 August 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 4 September 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 2 October 2015 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Friday 14 August 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 11 September 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 9 October 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:

Thursday 9 July 2015
NAIDOC Event Day
Ashfield Reserve, Bassendean
10am – 2.30pm
Free community event.

Saturday 26 July 2015
WAHS Reptile Expo
Cannington Exhibition Centre, Albany Highway, Cannington.
See for more information.

Sunday 2 August 2015
Curtin University Open Day
Department of Environmental Biology
Kent Street, Bentley, Perth
12 noon - 4pm
Contact Curtin University for more information about the open day.

Saturday 12 September 2015
Animal Ark Snake Awareness Session
Blackboy Reserve, Chittering
Contact Chittering Landcare Centre in Muchea for more information.

Wednesday 16 September 2015
Kulunga Katitijin Festival
Kings Park, Perth
9.30am – 2pm
Contact BGPA for more information.

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

Call (08) 9243 3044, SMS 0466 688 188 or email David or Jenny at to book.

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