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No. 33
We are entering the cooler wetter autumn months today at 'only' 24°C; you almost start rugging up, and so do many reptiles. Hunting for food when it’s warm enough, trying to put on some weight for the cold winter to come.

I have certainly had fewer snake call outs in April. Our baby tarantulas though are in nice warm tubs and just gorging on tiny crickets. They will shed their skins again soon, as we shrug off our summer season. Winter is coming.

With slow motion cameras scientists in Louisiana have busted the myth that vipers have the worlds fastest ever bite/strike speeds. Waving a stuffed glove at a selection of snakes ranging from venomous vipers such as western diamond-backed rattlesnakes and western cottonmouths along with non-venomous Texan ratsnake, the research had some surprising results. The non-venomous ratsnake matched or exceeded the venomous snake for speed and distance.

Both can strike at speeds faster than a mammal can respond - we need 202milliseconds (ms) just to blink and between 60-395ms to start moving say our hand out of the way of a snake. The snake meanwhile can strike and reach a target in 50-90ms.


Striking snake. Photo Animal Ark
At Native Animal Rescue (NAR) the two Emus have just been relocated – released for a better future. Once upon a time back in 1932 however West Australians were at war with the Emu. During the Great Depression with fears that crop losses from 20,000 Emus would have farmers suffer economically, action was taken to kill Emus.

Men with WW1 Lewis machine guns with government assistance tried to shoot thousands of our large flightless birds. Eventually despite this period newsreel it all proved very unsuccessful and the Emus won the war. Although with a bounty still on them many thousands were killed in the years that followed.

Western Australia makes war on emus. Photo:

Click above to watch this old newsreel, now on Youtube

I am constantly amazed at working dogs and the variety of tasks they can perform to help make our lives safer, happier or healthier. This dog Piper seems to combine looking cool and enjoying his work keeping airport runways clear of wildlife.

Piper works in all weather conditions at Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport in Michigan US, working (with breaks) four ten hour shifts a week. Piper patrols the area chasing rodents, other mammals and even birds of prey away from dangerous collisions with aircraft. In one recent incident Piper fractured a toe deploying from the vehicle to chase off a Snowy owl. Pictured here with his cast on.

Working dogs so bred usually just love their tasks. I used to pick up a rather clever bearded collie film dog. He had a regular role in a TV show in the UK. So keen to work was he that when I got to his house he was sitting by the door, lead in his mouth, and a brush on the floor waiting for me. When we got into the studio he would belt around greeting familiar faces before awaiting his acting instructions. And he loved getting his coat brushed so he looked his best before going on set.

K-9 Piper, airport dog. Photo, via

K-9 Piper working in the snow. Photo

More about K-9 Piper at

Most of us I am sure have heard of the Dodo, a giant bird from Mauritius, an icon to extinction. 'Dead as a Dodo' being an expression still used today.

Essentially sailors mostly ate them in a very short time in the 17th Century. Any survivors were finished off by introduced feral animals, from discovery to extinction in around 60 years. First spotted in 1598 and all gone by 1662.

What amazed me when I read a book about them is that we really don’t know what they looked like or just how big they were. Accounts say it was pigeon and swan like but much larger. There are very few skeletons ever found and just the odd preserved leg or beak in museum collections overseas.

Few people at the time wrote about them and only a dozen or so rough sketches of them were ever made.

Recent reports in the news about our declining species here in Australia makes you realise the Woylie (Bettongia penicillata), Gilberts potoroo (Potorous gilbertii) and the Orange bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster) are all but Dodos in waiting.

Simply put, we need more done to reduce and remove feral animals, more habitat preservation and rehabilitation, more capacity to breed rare species in captivity and I think a change in government policy to allow us to keep as companion animals our own native mammal species. Why not a backyard woylie or quokka? Outlaw cats over next few decades and encourage farming and captive care of natives.

What do you think? Can’t hurt but to try, can it?

Dodo amongst Indian birds, image Ustad Mansur, 1625. Wiki Commons

Dodo, image Sir Thomas Herbert, 1634. Wiki Commons

How about an Australian Bites and Stings First Aid Kit for JUST $20 (usually $34.95) including postage to anywhere in Australia or 3 for $50 - the essential item for the bush walker, glove compartment, and reptile removalist.

Phone orders/credit card only.

Australian Bites and Stings First Aid Kit
Construction workers found what could turn out to be the world’s longest snake, a reticulated python under a fallen tree on Penang Island Malaysia.

The snake was caught and kept in an office and the wildlife department called. Although apparently fed mice and meats! the snake died a short time later.

Unfortunately from the available footage (right), the poor creature was mishandled in almost every frame of the video, from having a tight noose around its neck to being yanked and pulled and twisted onto people’s shoulders for photos.

It died I am sure from poor handling leading to fatal injuries. It was also probably gravid so would have needed extra care when handled as to not damage any eggs within her body. It has been stated it was 7.5 metres long and weighed 250kg.

Such a shame it couldn’t have been measured and weighed by some professional herpetologists and then released or placed in a wildlife centre. It would no doubt have been a huge crowd-puller.

Malaysian python. Photo Herme Herisya, Malaysia's Civil Defence Force

Click image to view the video on

ANIMAL IN FOCUS: Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)
Emus are endemic to Australia and are the second largest bird in the world after the ostrich. Adults vary in height from about 1.5 – 1.9m, females slightly larger and with a weight of 37kg reaching around 58kg during the breeding season - not something to argue with!

Indeed handling Emus needs great skill and timing. The emu farmer who moved the two from NAR for release recently, had a few scars from wrangling these huge birds in the past. The legs are very strong, featherless and mostly covered in scaly plates.

Each foot has three toes and each toe has a sharp claw and they will kick out for defence with great accuracy and power.

Most of their predators are long extinct like giant monitor lizards and other carnivores that once roamed Australia. Dingoes and eagles will still take them, especially younger more vulnerable individuals.

In WA emus have distinct migratory movements travelling north in the summer months and back southwards in winter. Elsewhere, and they occur widely across the country, their movements are considered more random.

Largely diurnal the birds graze on a wide range of fruits, grasses and seeds and also for protein on many insects and other arthropods such as millipedes, spiders, grasshoppers and no doubt anything that can be easily grabbed.

It is reported that usually the males grunt and females boom, no delicate song but the booming can be heard from up to 2km away. The sound is made with an inflatable throat pouch. I’ve heard it close up and its quite intimidating for sure. It is used to assert control over a territory, as part of mating ritual and a threat to rivals.

Emus pair up in the summer months of December and January and may stay together for 4/5 months mating between April and June in the coolest months.

The males construct a rather simple nest, often no more than a scrape in the ground. After mating some 5-15 eggs are laid and the male then takes up residence. During the 8 weeks of incubation he won’t leave the nest or eat, drink or defecate. He may lose a third of his body weight during the incubation period. Once they hatch the striped juveniles stay around the male for several months and as their stripes fade they start to become fully independent usually all moving away by 6 months of age. They are fully grown at around a year and can breed from around 20 months of age. They have a lifespan of up to 30 years.

Surprisingly Emus are farmed overseas in many countries, their oil, meat, leather and fats being quite sought after commodities. It is estimated around 1 million are farmed in the US, China and Peru.

Emu chick (Dromaius novaehollandiae) one month old. Photo GusSar, Wiki Commons

Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). Photo Dezidor Wiki Commons

Emu feet in the wild at Serendip Sanctuary near Melbourne. Photo DickDaniels, Wiki Commons

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
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
Friday 5 August 2016 - Malaga, Perth

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

Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
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, Jenny or Ziggy at to book.

Courses held monthly and as required plus on-site and remote site training available.