View this newsletter in your web browser Browse all newsletters
No. 30
Welcome in 2016 with a blast of heat and loads of snakes to relocate!

At NAR (Native Animal Rescue), where our office is now located we have had some fun with their new wildlife arrivals, (I’m not just a snake enthusiast). There's "Hoover" the hilarious baby Seagull, well named as he just hoovers up a bowl of fish, funny to watch and so very efficient and fast I think we should rename him "Dyson".

Emus and joeys to feed, Kookaburras to listen to, even a Woylie to admire – a little 15 hectare haven in the midst of an industrial area - not a bad place to have for an office.

So welcome to 2016 and I hope it’s good for you.

David Manning, Animal Ark, Perth, Western Australia
I SMELL, YOU SMELL, SNAKES SMELL - well at least one doesn't.
Most living organisms have an odour - if you metabolise you release scent particles and well, you smell.

The African Puff Adder (Bitis arietans) is a master of camouflage; it is able to blend in visually with its environment to great effect and is very hard to see. It appears that it is also a master at scent reduction and is able to elude detection even by trained snake sniffing dogs. If you can’t be seen or smelt it is very hard for a predator to locate you.

Dogs were trained to track down 5 species of 'active foraging' snakes. But when it came to looking for puff adders the dogs were unable to match the scents, often walking right over the snakes in the field. The trained dogs could with 80% accuracy find the other snakes but not the puff adders.

Surprised researchers then turned (believe it or not) to trained meerkats who also failed when it came to locating the puff adders.

I found this study from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg very interesting as we rely on our 'smelly' Tiger and Dugite snakes as part of our Snake Avoidance for Dogs training. I would not be at all surprised if our Australian Death Adders are also low odour reptiles, probably a very low metabolic rate means you smell less.

So, err, "chillax" as they say and may you smell better!

Puff adder (Bitis arietans). Photo Animal Ark

Tubing a puff adder. Photo Animal Ark
I spent time with Welsh herpetologist Dr Tony Phelps studying Puff Adders in South Africa - steady hands required.

Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program (GTCP) have this season completed their first satellite Turtle tracking project and you or anyone anywhere with a mobile phone can follow a tagged Turtle.

We are proud to annually train the Gnaraloo team (in snake handling) and have visited their study area at Gnaraloo Station located at the southern end of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area.

To start the project the conservationists waited until the turtles had laid their eggs then the 10 female Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) chosen had a portion of their shell cleaned to enable the trackers attachment using high-strength epoxy. These trackers remain in place for several months and enable researchers to determine their migratory routes, feeding grounds and how often they return to the rookeries (nesting grounds).

At the same time the free "Turtle Tracker" App was created and allows anyone to follow the project.

You can find out more at

Gnaraloo Logo

Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program - tracking Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Photo GTCP

Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program - tracking Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Photo GTCP Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program - tracking Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Photo GTCP
One of our clients, an iron ore supplier in the Pilbara, has a problem with a King brown or Mulga snake. The snake, an estimated 2 metres long, has taken up residence under a sea container and is so far alluding capture.

Now of course any snake on a work site is a potential hazard, especially a venomous one, but here the issue has escalated as the snake recently bit an employee. It is believed he trod on the snake and fortunately has fully recovered, as it did not envenomate.

So what’s to be done? A shipment has hastily been made of several funnel traps and some smelly mouse bedding from a local pet shop as "bait".

This live trapping technique will hopefully help the environment team catch the snake for relocation to a more suitable habitat some way outside the camp.

King Brown or Mulga snake (Pseudechis australis). Photo Animal Ark
Monitor lizards have been trained to avoid eating the deadly Cane Toads. The wild monitor lizards were fed smaller less toxic toads and the unpleasant experience taught many of them to avoid toads in the future.

The lizards then had radio transmitters attached to them and were followed. Many of the 16 lizards who’d had the avoidance training did not make the mistake again and more than 50% survived during the 18 month study. Thirty-one untrained lizards were also followed but by the end of the study all the untrained lizards had died.

Georgia Ward-Fear about to release floodplain goanna fitted with tail transmitter. Photo DPAW/ABC
Lead researcher Georgia Ward-Fear from University of Sydney has been surprised by the amount of time the lizards retained the knowledge and survived in the presence of a high density of cane toads. I am very interested in all this avoidance training but quite how this research can be translated into action in the field is another matter.

Palaeontologists working in the Sahara desert in Tunisia have unearthed remains of a monstrous crocodile. It measured more that 10 metres in length with a skull over 1.5 meters long and weighed in at 3,000kg, making our very own Salties (see below) look just a little bit tiddly.

The bus-sized new species has been named Machimosaurus rex. "It was just massive" said Federico Fanti of the University of Bologna.

Machimosaurus rex. Photo via The Times, UK
SALTWATER CROCODILE (Crocodylus porosus)
The world’s largest living reptile, an apex predator, opportunistic, adaptable and despite its tiny brain can learn and anticipate prey movements.

It’s iconic and yes one of the last few natural predators of humans left on the planet and the largest terrestrial predator in the world. Fossil records show this species has been around for at least 4.5 million years.

Most species rarely survive more that 1 million years, so in evolutionary terms it’s a survivor. One recently took a lady's arm in Wyndham, northern WA, where they are common. They may inhabit fresh or saltwater but more commonly inhabit brackish estuary waters across Northern Australia.

They have the greatest distribution of any living crocodilian and may be found from the eastern coast of India, throughout much of S.E Asia.

Salties are capable of taking huge Water buffalos as food, but prey is usually much smaller and fish, turtles, small mammals and birds are more commonly preyed upon.

Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). Photo flickreviewR (Talk_contribs)

Saltwater crocodile, Kununurra. Photo Travis Watts 2014

A few Saltie facts.
  • Length up to 6.3m
  • Weight up to 1,000kg
  • In short bursts they can swim at 29km/h.
  • They have the highest bite force ever recorded for an animal - 16,414 N; that’s 3,690lbf (pound force)- a large individual can easily crush a buffalo skull in its jaws.
  • They may travel huge distances - one tagged individual travelled 411km in 20 days using ocean currents. I was sent a picture of one basking on an oil rig 200km off the west Australian coast.

A raised nest is often made of mud and vegetation; 40 – 60 eggs are typical but may be up to 90 in number. Around 3 months later the young emerge weighing in at a delicate 70gms.

Juveniles are aggressive and will often fight each other soon after being transported to the water by their mother. Most perish and only 1% would survive to maturity.

Their numbers are growing fast in Australia as hunting is mostly banned, in other countries they don’t fare so well. A very lucky one may live to be 70 years old, some individuals are thought to be 100 years of age.

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Friday 29 January 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 5 February 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 4 March 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 1 April 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 6 May 2016 - Malaga, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Thursday 4 February 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Thursday 3 March 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Thursday 31 March 2016 - Malaga, Perth

Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Saturday 30 January 2016 - Guildford
Saturday 13 February 2016 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 20 February 2016 - Bunbury

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.