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No. 24
Welcome once again to our almost monthly newsletter. Please do remember to send in any cool wildlife related stories or images. As usual we are busy at work, I even spent a couple of hours at SciTech this week with PhD student Ashleigh Wolfe with a "Meet The Scientist" session.

Last month however has been a bit tedious for me. We have been in the process of tying up the many loose ends (leaflet wording, packaging design and printing) of our new Australian Bites and Stings First Aid Kit.

Thankfully it’s all good now and is ready for sale. It will accompany all our Snake Solo, Team and Fauna Kits purchased from 1st August 2015. See below for more info and my sales push – buy, buy, buy!

Don't panic! Buy our Australian Bites and Stings First Aid Kit
Now available in Perth, Northern Suburbs, Rockingham and Mandurah area. We can teach your dog to avoid snakes. Many thousands of dogs are bitten by snakes every year and sadly hundreds die. If your dog survives the bite it can cost a fortune at the vets for antivenom treatment. So spend a bit of time at one of our Snake Avoidance Training sessions.

Our training is quick and effective. We use a low-level static correction collar to achieve this. This enables your dog to learn that close proximity to the interesting object (a snake) will be unpleasant and thus creates a negative association. This teaches the dog to make its own decision to avoid snakes and the unpleasant reaction in the future.

We have been doing this for dogs of our friends for a while now and it has proven so popular that we are expanding the training to all – we can now train your dog. Contact us to book or you can buy a Snake Avoidance Training voucher as a gift for your family and friends, from our online shop.

Black labrador ready for snake avoidance training. Photo Animal Ark

A tiger snake (Notechis-scutatus). Photo Animal Ark

The medical journal 'Schizophrenia Research' has published a report that states that cat ownership is "significantly more common" in families where a child is later diagnosed with schizophrenia or another serious mental illness. Some 50.6% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia owned a cat in childhood. The parasite linked to this finding gets into the human brain and forms microscopic cysts which may become activated in late adolescence affecting neurotransmitters.

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that can live in many animals including humans – but it can only complete its lifecycle in cats, as they secrete the parasite in their faeces. It appears that it is beneficial to cats as it changes the behaviour in mice making them less predator aware and easier to catch.

Maybe just one more reason for cat ownership to be more heavily regulated in Australia. Health issues like this can affect more people than just the cat owners as cats wander and defecate away from their 'homes'. Add this to the general wildlife devastation cats cause – more needs to be done. I like cats, I really do, but in pens or runs or strictly indoors, never wandering into other peoples gardens or bushland.

Cute kitten. Photo Animal Ark
A series of x-ray images showing how quickly a top predator like a python can digest its prey, even a large scaly alligator. A python itself is very prone to predation if it just sits around with a very large meal in its belly. To avoid this they have evolved a rather unique means to digest their often huge meals efficiently, and what's more at great speed.

Unlike the more recently evolved venomous snakes that use components of their venom to assist in speedy digestion of prey, snakes like pythons use other tactics to assist them moving on quickly after a meal. Their metabolic rate increases by 40 times and their organs enlarge - the heart increases in size 40%, the pancreas 94% and liver more than doubles in size.

Working very efficiently now the powerful gut enzymes break down the entire alligator, including bones and large scales. As the X-rays reveal in around 7 days the meal is gone. The python is ready to hunt again – even though it may be many months before it catches it’s next meal.

Burmese python digesting alligator xray. Photo Stephen Secor/Scott White/
In 1688 English pirate and an important early naturalist William Dampier arrived in Australia, then called New Holland, and wrote the first English description of the country, its people and in this passage, the flies. He was neither kind to the indigenous people he saw or the flies...

"The inhabitants of this country are the miser-ablest people in the world... Their eyelids are always half closed to keep out the flies; they being so troublesome here that no fanning will keep them from coming to one's face and without the assistance of both hands to keep them off they will creep into one’s nostrils and mouth too if the lips are not shut very close".

We all have experienced this I am sure! We are fortunate that our flies, annoying as they can be, are not this big. This is the worlds largest 'true' fly Mydas heros.

Whilst on the subject of big bugs, fresh in from Sichuan China this is possibly the worlds largest flying insect with a 21cm wingspan. It’s called a Dobsonfly but technically not a true 'fly'.

Giant fly (Mydas sp). Photo Biologoandre via Wikimedia Commons

Giant dobsonfly. Photo CATERS Chinese news service

It has been a long time coming and much more work from concept to shelf-ready than I ever thought possible, BUT it's here now.

We are pleased to announce our new Australian Bites and Stings First Aid Kit. I don't do much by way of sales pitches with these newsletters BUT if as a subscriber you want one now - it’s only $29.95 (RRP $34.95) including tax and postage to anywhere in Australia.

So for your workplace, home, beach bush or car - check it out at our online shop. Type in the coupon code FIRST AID to apply the discount and free postage.

We have consulted many experts from toxicologists at Royal Perth Hospital to the clinicians guide book on the subject, nurses and even paramedics to make it informative and relevant – thanks to all.

This kit was developed because we could not find a single product for dealing with Australian venomous (and annoying) creatures. We wanted to have something we could recommend to our clients, friends and their families. With the informative leaflet and varied contents I hope it is a useful personal or gift item.

Australian bites and stings first aid kit
The first ever shipment of farmed Giant Clams bred in the Northern Territory (NT) are due to be shipped to Chicago USA for eager marine aquarium enthusiasts.

Valued at $200 each the beautiful blue clams are particularly sought after; they can also be eaten (think expensive abalone) and the shells used for decorative purposes and crafts. Great initiative with indigenous support. Hope more farms like this are established, can be profitable, and useful for academic studies to find out more about our marine species. Juvenile farmed molluscs and coral species may one day be reintroduced to 'seed' damaged reefs around our coastline.

It was suggested to me when I left the UK 10 years ago to get involved in coral farming as the global demand is high and as a conservation measure. The owner of a fantastic marine aquarium shop in London was telling me that demand is huge and farming popular species stops the illegal trade, as farmed species adapt better to aquariums and are sustainable and potentially healthier than those collected legally or illegally from the wild. However, I never quite got round to it. Still huge potential for any budding entrepreneurs to give it a go. We could and should be farming everything from quokkas to geckos and clams to corals. We have plenty of coastline frontage to try it out on and some of the worlds most desirable wildlife.

Giant flute clams Darwin NT. Photo PR Image
JULY 26th Cannington Exhibition Centre
Pretty much NOW – come along and see me and the Animal Ark team. We are a sponsor of this event and urge you all to visit for a fun day out.

Join us and get to see and learn about some superb and beautiful specimens of our native lizards, snakes and frogs. Also camel rides and things to keep you all occupied, entertained and fed.

WAHS Expo 2015 flyer
Spiny Tailed Skink (Egernia depressa)
Australia is full of skinks. This type is quite a stunning little lizard. I have been helping Native Animal Rescue (NAR) get their educational reptiles better set up and one of these little beauties needed a clean out. They are mainly diurnal (active by day) but at times crepuscular (active at dawn or dusk) in the middle of our extreme summer heat.

Loving rocky outcrops and hollow logs which at an instants notice provide snug hiding places from many predators. Their spiky tail may be used for defence as they wedge themselves head first in cracks of rock or other small spaces leaving the would be predator nothing but a face full of spiky scales. The scales also probably assist against dislodgement as they catch on the rocks or logs making it very hard for any predator to pull them out of their hiding places.

Averaging 10-15cm in length, but some related species can reach over 38cm.

They are found from 100km west of Kalgoorlie through to Wongon Hills and northwards to near Newman. Lifespan 10-15 years in the wild but up to around 35 years in captivity.

Diet wise these guys are omnivorous and will eat a wide variety of both plant material and arthropods such as beetles, grasshoppers, grubs and spiders. No doubt their diets vary according to both habitat and seasonal availability.

Spiny tailed skink (Egernia depressa). Photo Animal Ark

Spiny tailed skink (Egernia depressa). Photo Animal Ark

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

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

Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Saturday 1 August 2015 - North Beach, 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 26 July 2015
WAHS Reptile Expo
Cannington Exhibition Centre, Albany Highway, Cannington.
Entry: Adults $5, kids under 12 $3
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.

Saturday 12 September 2015
Kings Park Adventure Festival
Hale Oval
10:30am - 2:30pm

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

Friday 6, Saturday 7, Sunday 8 November
Perth 4WD & Adventure Show
McCallum Park, Victoria Park
9am – 6pm Friday & Saturday, 9am – 5pm Sunday
See 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.