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No. 32
We are now well into baby snake season. Those cheeky, nervous little baby snakes are popping up all over the place. I’ve caught them in back gardens, bedroom cupboards and one inside a bedding store in Midland.

Meanwhile back at our new offices in Malaga we are helping Native Animal Rescue (NAR) gradually improve things with air con already installed in the training room; and now with the generous support of Chuditch flooring who are installing 'driftwood' laminate as I write.

So anyone attending courses or wildlife talks at NAR in Malaga will have an enhanced experience. Most days we are on site and the office is open so just call if you need to pick up any gear or to discuss training for your company or even to talk about supporting the wildlife rehabilitation that goes on every single day of the year, hot or cold, wet or dry.

Baby dugite 2016 season with dollar coin for scale. Photo: Animal Ark

Chuditch Flooring

You can track almost anything it seems and as microchips and GPS trackers get smaller who knows maybe scientists will track mosquitoes before long (if it’s not already happening!)

In the UK intrepid students are following slugs around the damp and muddy fields to look at where they like to congregate and what conditions are optimum for them - in order to better protect crops not slugs! Oh and hopefully use less pesticide to control the pests.


Arion rufus orange slug red slug. Photo Guillaume Brocker, Commons Wikimedia
I have been fortunate enough to see wild Hummingbirds feed. At a small lodge in Tobago a lady hung out some nectar feeders filled with sugary solution and rang a bell. This was the cue for hummingbirds to fly in from the local forest to get their free nectar reward.

They look like something magical - a tiny bird no longer than your finger, flitting and hovering and simultaneously keeping its long tongue in the feeder. Their wings move so fast it’s all just a colourful blur to the human eye; marvellous to watch but impossible to understand how they do it, how they turn in mid air and manoeuvre at such speed.

Enter a collaborative team from Virginia, Purdue and Montana Universities who have studied the mechanics of their flight. Essentially they are able to create a complex vortex (tornado) with their wings, which enables them to make very sharp turns.

Cool video here:

Hummingbird flying - Golden tailed sapphire hummingbird (Chrysuronia oenone), Venezuela. Photo Marcial4, Commons Wikimedia

Animation showing vortices created by hummingbird wings. University of Montana

Just in, found on the WEB (ha ha - Gumtree) – a batch of baby tarantulas have just arrived at Animal Ark and they will be getting ready for our busy schools incursion season.

Teaching children about how animals grow and change, the difference between arachnids (8 legs) and insects (6 legs) they will be busy little creatures. I was going to write busy little bees but that’s misleading.

The speed of growth in spiders is just amazing, within a few months they should have shed many skins and be as big as a 20 cent coin.

Currently the one pictured spider on the hand of Ziggy is already 3 months old - it should grow in the next few years to cover her hand. Ziggy, a bit of an arachnophobe, is trying to both tame one and get over her fear as the spiders grow.

Adult tarantula (Phlogius crassipes). Photo: Robert Whyte, Commons Wikimedia

Baby tarantula on hand, 3 months old. Photo: Ziggy Nielsen, Animal Ark
Ilha da Queimada Grande Island, located 33km from mainland Brazil, is better known as Snake Island.

It is uninhabited and all visitors are banned except with Brazilian Navy approval and even then a doctor must accompany you.

The reason is that it just teems with venomous snakes, estimated at one deadly viper per square metre.

The snake in question is the critically endangered Golden Lancehead Viper (Bothrops insularis), a pit viper that feeds on birds. They may be found anywhere on the island, nestled in the leaf litter, dangling from the bushes and up in the trees where they await their prey.

Golden Lancehead Viper / Jararaca Ilhoa (Bothrops insularis). Photo: Otavio Marques, Instituto Butantan, Commons Wikimedia
For many snakes camouflage is everything, and these vipers are quite hard for researchers to locate. Student herpetologists study their ecology and the potential medical use of their potent venom, visit and microchip specimens to help collect data.

Be warned, a visit to Snake Island is not without risks. Their venom is best avoided, the effects of a bite include: swelling, local pain, nausea, vomiting, blood blisters, bruising, blood in the vomit and urine, intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, haemorrhage in the brain and necrosis of muscular tissue.

They have hemotoxic venom that eats away flesh and tissue of any prey to ease digestion for the snake. Medically untreated bites reportedly have a 7% mortality rate. Treated 0.5 – 3%, so if bitten go and see your doctor without delay!

GAITERS - Leg protection from snakes and other sharp things! Ideal for trips to Snake Island – bush walkers here and anyone potentially getting close to snakes. The offer is for LARGE size tan gaiters (fit calf size 18 to 21 inches). Only $100 a pair (RRP $130) includes postage Australia wide.

FAUNA HANDLING NETS - Fantastic value fauna handling nets, long handle with silicone net, ideal for small mammals and birds. All inclusive price, FREE shipping anywhere in Australia, $99.00 each.

Phone orders only. Offers valid from now until the end of April 2016.

Animal Ark Fauna Net
Snake scales vary considerably in function; essentially the development of scales gave reptiles the edge over amphibians with a flexible waterproof covering that reduces water loss.

A snake is born with a fixed number of scales in a pattern unique to its species; they do not ever grow more or lose scales but the scales they have will grow in size.

Scales have evolved to perform many functions and scales can:

  • Be totally transparent: a clear protective scale covers the eye of all snakes.
  • Be well oiled: wide belly scales oil reduce friction and help snakes move fast.
  • Be noisy: many snakes can rub scales together to make warning sounds; Rattlesnakes have a rattle composed entirely of shed skin segments and rattles grow larger with each subsequent shed.
  • Sense heat: in many snakes from pit vipers to pythons scales are adapted to sense heat providing an infra red image to the snake to help locate prey and basking spots.
  • Lure prey: Death Adders amongst others have a special thin tail with a spiky scale at its end which may be waved about to look like a struggling insect and lure potential prey close.
  • Aid swimming: Sea snakes have flattened tails that act as a rudder.
  • Dig and tunnel: many species have scales shaped for digging and burrowing.
  • Disguise: Horned and eyelash as disguise break up the snake’s outline aiding camouflage.
  • Be renewed: periodically as they grow all snakes shed their old scale covered skins.
Southern Pacific rattlesnake. Photo: Laura Camp, San Juan Capistrano, California. Commons Wikimedia

Stimson python snake. Photo: Animal Ark/Houndstooth Studio

Saharan Horned Viper (Cerastes cerastes). Photo: Oronbb, Commons Wikimedia

Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)
Named after Echidna, a creature of Greek mythology, half snake half woman and the mother of monsters.

The living Echidna is an endearing animal instantly recognisable, walking with a distinctive waddle and is Australia’s most widespread mammal species. They average about 45cm in length and may weigh up to 6kg.

Echidnas are a monotreme - an egg-laying mammal. Monotreme means "egg laying with a single opening" as like reptiles and birds, Echidnas have a cloaca, a single opening in which both excretory and reproductive organs reside.

Also like other mammals they feed their young milk but echidnas have no nipples. Instead glands ooze milk for the growing puggle to lap up.

Their tongues are covered in tiny sharp spines that help catch the termites and ants that make up much of their diet. Food is sucked up into a small mouth and toothless jaw.

They have the coldest blood temperature of any mammal and can conserve energy by dropping the body temperature to 4°C, breathing only once every 3 minutes. To warm up they can flatten out and angle their spiny body into the sun to absorb heat rapidly.

With heavily protective spines covering the head, back and tail a threatened echidna burrows quickly into soil or sand to protect its soft underside leaving any predator to face the sharp spikes.

You can find them in a range of environments throughout Australia and also on the increasingly rare Australian 5 cent piece.

Mating is bizarre and has been rarely witnessed or filmed. The males gather nose to tail in trains to follow a female around. In some instances the female hangs upside down holding onto a tree trunk and the males dig a trench beneath her, the strongest or chosen male then has a chance to mate.

Being so prickly it all has to be done with great care. Other reports suggest males may mate with sleeping hibernating females.

Other weird stuff:

  • They appear to use communal toilets and have one of the world’s largest fleas living on them at 4mm.
  • Life span: 50 years is possible but usually around 16 in the wild.
  • Conservation status: Least concern (LC) although many researchers say they are declining in numbers in many parts of their range.
Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), Yardie Creek, Western Australia. Photo: Animal Ark

Echidna close up. Photo: Ziggy Nielsen, Animal Ark

Echidna on road. Photo: Ziggy Nielsen, Animal Ark

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Wednesday 23 March 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 1 April 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Saturday 23 April 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 6 May 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 3 June 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 17 June 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 22 July 2016 - Malaga, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Thursday 5 May 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Thursday 2 June 2016 - Malaga, Perth

Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Saturday 2 April 2016 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 7 May 2016 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 11 June 2016 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 6 August 2016 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 3 September 2016 - 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:

Wednesday 14 September 2016
Kulunga Katitjin Festival 2016
Kings Park, Perth
Schools event - contact Botanic Gardens Perth 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.