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No. 26
We have had some rain recently – so frogs are still going crazy all over WA. They are bleating, moaning, croaking, quacking, whooping, boinging and making all those other strange sounds that our state's 72 frog species produce.

They are often named after their noise, so we have a Quacking frog, Wailing frog, Hooting frog, Whooping frog and Humming frog to name a few.

At least they enjoy the wet weather.

The first of their kind – two recently discovered frogs use spines on their skull to inject venom directly into any would be predator. What has astounded scientists is that in one species the venom is very potent, some 25 times as toxic as the deadly Brazilian pit viper snakes. A frog with venom like a brown snake! Ouch.

Now many frogs have poisons that are secreted through the skin as with the exquisitely coloured poison dart frogs. However, venom is the term used when a poisonous substance is directly injected rather than ingested or absorbed. These are the first of their kind and amazingly have eluded scientists until now.

The two new frogs are Greening's frog (Corythomantis greeningi) and Bruno's casque-headed frog (Aparashenodon brunoi). Researcher Carlos Jared picked up the lesser venomous Greening's frog and reported intense pain radiating up his arm for five hours. Lucky he didn't pick up the far more venomous Bruno's frog – he might not be alive today to carry on his studies at Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Both species are found in Brazilian Caatinga – scruby semi-arid forest situated in the northeast of the country. The frogs also have quite unusual behaviour - Bruno's casque-headed frog lives in holes among bromeliad stems and uses its head to plug the hole and retain the moisture inside. Any would be predator gets a rather nasty surprise if it tries to pull one from its hidey-hole.

Venomous frog - Brunos casque-headed frog (A brunoi). Photo Carlos Jared, Butantan Institute

Venomous frog - Greenings frog (Corythomantis greeningi). Photo Carlos Jared, Butantan Institute

Venomous frog skull showing protruding spines. Photo Carlos Jared, Butantan Institute

Numbat enthusiasts have managed to stall the construction of a planned 64 hectare dump (landfill site) between Cuballing and Narrogin, 170 odd k's south east of Perth. Members of the Numbat Task Force and Greens MP Lynn MacLaren appealed the EPA's (Environmental Protection Authority) ruling that the threat to those species was "not so significant as to require assessment".

The issue is that the planned landfill would attract cats and foxes and vastly increase predation on the remaining populations of Numbats (Myrmecobius fasciatus) and Woylies (Bettongia penicillata) that also live in the Dryandra Woodlands area. I will try to keep you informed as to any developments. Currently it's only a reprieve as the EPA must make a full assessment of the potential impact to the local native wildlife.

Numbat, Perth zoo. Photo Martin Pot (Martybugs) at Wikipedia

Numbat Task Force:

Project Numbat:

A very small Brazilian fossil is assisting scientists work out how and when snakes lost their legs. It is the first ever fossil find of a four legged snake, and dates to 110 million years ago.

The fossil of Tetrapodophis amplectus is only 20cm long and is believed to be a juvenile of the species. Dr Dave Martill from the University of Portsmouth said the fossil showed that snakes evolved from burrowing lizards and not marine lizards as had been previously thought.

Source: Four-legged snake ancestor 'dug burrows' - BBC News

Fossil four legged snake (Tetrapodophis amplectus). Photo Dave Martill, University of Portsmouth

Four legged snake (Tetrapodophis amplectus). Photo Julius T Cstony via Dailymail, UK

Foxes and cats are probably our biggest problem when it comes to protecting our remaining native species. Major efforts in controlling them seem to only have short term benefits. However by reintroducing Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) to the Australian mainland, ecologists from the University of NSW have suggested scores of species would ultimately benefit. The Tigers muscle away cats and foxes.

Devils have been extinct on the mainland for 3,000 years but they would quickly return to top predator status and benefit smaller mammals whilst also assisting in the decline of fox and cats numbers. Gregory Andrews, the Australian government's threatened species commissioner, said: "Native predator reintroduction is identified as a science-based means of recovering mammals and birds in Australia's threatened species strategy."

"Community agreement and support, especially in Tasmania, would be essential before any scientifically-based reintroductions of Tasmanian devils to the mainland."

This type of environmental management, re-introducing 'lost' species is called re-wilding. It is gradually gaining in popularity around the world with wolves, lynx, red kites as some of the notable success stories in the US and Europe. Apex predator reintroduction often assists in re-establishing a healthy ecosystem as their presence has a beneficial impact through the entire food chain, even down to assisting plant and insect habitats.

Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park - Taranna, Tasmania. Photo Wayne McLean, Wikicommons

Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) - Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park. Taranna. Photo Prince Roy Wikicommons

So do you think constrictors like Boas and Pythons asphyxiate (suffocate) their prey? I did. Or did you think they break their bones as they squeeze to kill their prey?

It is a tough life as a constrictor, you have only your mouth to grab your prey with and your body to coil around it. Many prey items will fight back with teeth, claws, tails or wings – you need to be quick to reduce the risk of an injury at mealtimes.

New research has shown that constriction shuts off blood flow and oxygen supply to major organs and the absence of blood flow causes death much more rapidly than by suffocation. The study took measurements of heart activity and blood pressure using anaesthetised and unconscious rats fed to Boa constrictors in the lab.

Lead researcher Prof Scott Boback from Dickinson College, Pennsylvania, USA explained that restricting blood flow to the brain would make a rodent "pass out within seconds". So yes they squeeze hard and you will have trouble breathing but the brain, heart and liver are oxygen hungry organs. So reducing the blood flow is a more precise efficient method of killing quickly so you get your meal with less chance of sustaining injury from a struggling prey. At least it's over quickly!


Boa constrictor - Constriction of prey. Photo SM Bobak via

Boa constrictor. Photo Dickinson College via

I help out a tiny bit at NAR, Native Animal Rescue, in Malaga where we hold some of our courses. The centre cares for many native birds, reptiles and mammals including the odd red kangaroo.

I have come across this story about a lady in Suriname (South America) who rescues some very strange looking creatures. I just couldn’t resist letting you see these great creatures and sharing her story with you.

Wow, how cool to have a sloth or anteater – two very bizarre creatures I would love to get see in the wild and work with.

Take a look:

Wildlife rescue, Suriname. The sloth lady - Monique pool. Photo John Nowak, CNN
Leafy Sea Dragon (Phycodurus eques)
The Leafy sea dragon (Phycodurus eques) is one of three known species of sea dragons found only in Australia's southern oceans and nowhere else in the world. The other two are the Ruby sea dragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea) and Weedy sea dragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus).

The Leafy dragon I think is the most startlingly beautiful of all and it can be found from Wilsons Promontory in Victoria all around the south coast to Jurien Bay in WA. Sea dragons and sea horses are actually a true bony fish just like a salmon. The delicate looking camouflaging seaweed like appendages are in fact flaps of skin and are most numerous on the appropriately named Leafy sea dragon. Feeding on around a thousand tiny shrimps, plankton and amphipods (tiny marine crustaceans) a day, these are sucked into their tube like snout. All sea dragons are rather poor swimmers but drift along with clumps of seaweed amongst which they easily blend in.

As with the sea horses the males care for the developing eggs. A female deposits some 250 tiny eggs onto his tail; after around 9 weeks these hatch and the minute babies are independent from birth feeding on even tinier micro organisms. Those that survive are sexually mature at around two and a half years of age.

Go see them at AQWA (The Aquarium of Western Australia) – last time I was there one of them, a male, was pregnant, a very rare occurrence in captivity – I ought to go back and find out how the babies fared.

Leafy sea dragon (Phycodurus eques). Photo Ta graphy via Wikicommons

Diver with leafy sea dragon at Rapid Bay jetty. Photo P.B.Southwood, Wikicommons

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

Friday 2 October 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Thursday 12 November 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 4 December 2015 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Friday 9 October 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth
Friday 13 November 2015 - NAR, Malaga, Perth

Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Sunday 27 September 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:

Sunday 20 September 2015
Lake Claremont Day
Lake Claremont, Stirling Road, Claremont
10am – 1pm
Contact the Town of Claremont 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.