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No. 28
Summer is around the corner. We have been ridiculously busy, from the supposed glamour of a film shoot, to catching and relocating dugites, then onto snake avoidance for dog training, ABC radio and a couple of flights around the state to Karratha and Forrestania with venomous snakes.

Nice to be busy though, if not a bit hectic. I had a day off the other day – didn’t know what to do with myself! Still with regular help from Jenny in the office and Ziggy and Danielle we seem to move quite smoothly – talking of which...

David Manning on set, November 2015
David Manning on film set, November 2015
Chemical analysis of snake scales is shedding light on how snakes move smoothly without wearing out their belly scales. By revealing the molecular make up of the ventral ‘belly’ scales of a Californian King Snake lead study author Joe Baio from Oregon State University studies shed snake skins, and found that whilst back and belly scales have a thin layer of grease on their surface, those lipid molecules on the belly scales are arranged into a very orderly structure.

Dr Baio says it’s extremely, extremely well ordered. The suggestion is these molecules may help the snake reduce friction (so it moves faster) and also protect the scales from wearing out. Dr Baio says the findings could help engineers produce new paints or coatings with low friction, protecting surfaces from wear.

Californian king snake (Lampropeltis getula californiae). Photo Animal Ark
Californian king snake (Lampropeltis getula californiae). Photo Animal Ark

Layers of lipid molecules - well ordered on left, disordered on right. Diagram Joe Baio
Layers of lipid molecules - well ordered on left, disordered on right. Diagram Joe Baio.

We are very happy to announce our new collaboration with (NAR) Native Animal Rescue in Malaga. Animal Ark are moving in from next week and sharing both office space and expertise. So we will now have a more permanent base for our courses and a great setting for both our clients and wildlife education.

By paying rent we are helping NAR continue their good deeds when it comes to nurturing and rehabilitating native wildlife. We intend to be onsite at least twice a week for office duties and training. So pop in and say hi.

NAR front entrance, Malaga WA
Agriculture in Australia accounts for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. Ruminants such as sheep and cattle are big contributors because their flatulence (farts) contain a lot of methane. Cue the Roo – researchers kept Western Grey and Red Kangaroos in comfy sealed containers so they could analyse their gaseous exchanges. Wanting to breed less farty cattle and sheep researchers thought that kangaroos might have unique micro-organisms in their guts making them less gassy.

The research however suggests otherwise and that it is probably the way food moves through the roo stomach and not their gut fauna that make them less windy. So back to the drawing board for farmers looking to cut emissions.

Kangaroos. Photo Darrin Zammit Lupi Reuters
This story reminded me of a news item from 2014 when it was reported that 90 farting cows in a German dairy farm started a fire. Their methane gases built up, exploded and damaged the roof structure. One cow was treated for burns. Bum burns maybe. A single cow can apparently release 500 litres of methane a day. Beat that if you can.
Now as mentioned above I spent a very warm afternoon in an abandoned quarry north of Perth dressed in someone else’s clothes, urinating on a Carpet python that was in a toilet bowl! Yes that’s the film business for you!

Anyway the urine wasn’t really anything but food colouring in water that I had to direct in a ‘realistic’ stream with pauses and a good aim at the Python as it slithered out of the toilet towards me. Lots of jokes about taking the “p” and urine trouble etc.

After numerous takes, re-lights and different camera angles we all ‘wrapped’ for the day. Python happy, no untoward incidents, and a smiling movie director. Will let you know more about the movies title when it’s scheduled for release next year. All for about 5 seconds of fame!

Film set - not so glamorous. Photo Animal Ark
At least 20,000 car collisions involve kangaroos in Australia every year. Volvo cars in Sweden have been looking at new approaches to minimise the dangers caused by our rather erratic bounding marsupials. Volvo cars already focus on protecting car occupants from much larger elk and cows.

The Swedish firm says the system detects movements through a radar in the car’s grille and through a light-sensitive, high-res camera on its windscreen which can scan the road ahead. The car’s brakes are then automatically applied if the software thinks a collision is about to happen. They filmed the roadside behaviour of kangaroos and collected data for their detection and collision avoidance software.

Kangaroo hopping. Photo Eva Rinaldi, Wiki Commons
"Kangaroos are very unpredictable animals and difficult to avoid, but we are confident we can refine our animal detection technology to detect them and avoid collisions on the highway" said Volvo cars safety engineer Martin Magnusson.
Southern Shovel-nosed Snake (Brachyurophis semifasciatus)
Thanks to Kylie Webster who called me to check out what is apparently a quite common snake but was very new to me! The first I have ever seen. The Southern Shovel-nosed Snake is found throughout the Perth region in a variety of habitats, eucalypt/banksia woodlands, coastal dunes and in this case Mirrabooka.

This species has a defining snout shape, hence the name shovel-nosed. The snout is protrusive with a sharp cutting edge - the shovel being used for tunnelling and probably separating eggs from a clumped clutch for consumption.

Southern shovel-nosed snake (Brachyurophis semifasciatus). Photo Animal Ark
The body colour can vary between orange/reddish brown to white - both with dark grey to dark brown bands. Our snake was magnificent and bright red with a few marks where someone had pinned it down before Kylie rescued it. The broadest dark band is located on the head of the snake over the eyes as well as a similar sized band on the neck. Fortunately our specimen was undamaged and was released recently into Trigonometric A class reserve.

The Shovel-nosed snake can grow to about 36 cm. Very unusually for an Australian snake it has a highly specialised diet of reptile eggs, so must have a very restricted feeding season as reptiles in the region lay eggs for a few months only. Although this species is a venomous elapid, it is considered harmless. Our specimen was easy to hold, passive but a very fast burrower when given the opportunity.

It lays between 2-5 eggs in a clutch. Little else is known about these snakes, they are rarely kept in captivity and little studied.

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

Friday 4 December 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Tuesday 15 December 2015 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 8 January 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 5 February 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 4 March 2016 - Malaga, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Friday 11 December 2015 - Malaga, Perth
Thursday 4 February 2016 - Malaga, Perth

Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Sunday 29 November 2015 - Glen Forrest
Saturday 5 December 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 12 December 2015 - North Beach, Perth
Sunday 13 December 2015 - Rockingham
Saturday 9 January 2016 - York
Saturday 16 January 2016 - Mandurah

Snake Awareness Class
Saturday 19 December 2015
10am – 11.30am
Henderson Centre, Star Swamp, Groat Street, North Beach, Perth
Family friendly
Pre-booking advised. Adults $20, Children $10.
Ring 08 9243 3044, email or book online at

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 13 March 2016
Ballajura Harmony Day
12noon – 4pm

Saturday 19 March 2016
Altone Comes Alive! Beechboro
11am – 4pm

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.