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No. 36
I am just back from a trip to the UK where in the northern hemisphere seasons are very much in reverse. Whilst the news of cold stormy wet Perth reached me from Ziggy who's looking after office and animals, it is very much warm, sunny weather I was experiencing in the south east of England. Tammy the tortoise (10 years now living with brother in law in St Albans) was munching away at dandelion flowers and despite some wet weather it was Britain at its balmy best. It even reached 27°C!
We, my family and I, had a few wildlife experiences. Georgia my daughter was sitting quietly in her grandfather's garden and looked down to see a fox cub sitting right next to her; I think they both got a fright, the cub running off and Georgia running in to tell of the experience. Of course foxes are native to the UK and not considered quite the feral they are here in Oz.

Jenny also had a close encounter with a European hornet Vespa crabro, which are a huge, scary looking insect by British standards, up to 3cm in length. Apparently a secretive and docile wasp species, but the UK's largest.

One of the major differences I was very much aware of this trip was with the birds. In Europe most are small and delicate looking and tweet and chirp and flit about. Back home in Perth they are often the opposite, large, noisy, aggressive and raucous. Why is that I wondered?

European hornet. Photo Trancelius, Wikicommons
Tammy the tortoise. Photo David Manning, Animal Ark Fox cub, Rixton Clay Pits Nature Reserve. Photo Galatas, Wikicommons
In Europe birds are barely ever involved in pollination, that's largely taken care of by bees and other insects for little trees and shrubs. The wind pollinates all the large European forest trees such as oaks and beeches, in fact the first bird-pollinated plant in Europe was not even discovered until 2005.

In Australia it is remarkably different, and many of our best-known plants are bird-pollinated. Our banksias, grevilleas, bottlebrushes, grasstrees, paperbarks and many eucalypts rely on birds for pollination to pass on their genetic material. In order to achieve this and for their pollinators to remain faithful and return regularly they offer sugar in the form of nectar dripping from large colourful flowers.

These sugars are the reason, according to many naturalists, that Australian birds are so loud, and so aggressive, screeching and crashing about the bush. They are fighting for and defending this rich and abundant food source and in return for the sweet food by visiting many flowers they pollinate the plants. It's so different down under.

For a lot more on Australia's amazing birds read Tim Low's book Where Song Began, ISBN 978 0670 077960

Robin (Erithacus rubecula). Photo Antiquary, Wikicommons

Yellow tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus). Rocky Cape National Park. Photo Twiddleblat, Wikicommons

Humans just can't do it, but many predators hunt animals by honing in on and in effect seeing the electromagnetic fields given off by their prey; this much has been known for years.

However some recent science tells us that many animals not only sense these electric fields but also 'see' the earth's magnetic field. Klaus Shulten made the discovery that a molecule called Superoxide reacts with the protein cryptochrome, a blue light photoreceptor found in the eyes of many animals and birds.

So ducks for example will come into land on water by following the earth's electromagnetic field and also avoid colliding with other ducks by seeing their fields too. Amazing stuff.

Many mammals, birds, sharks, and other creatures see your 'force' if you are close. So the clever people at Hecsgear have developed stealth technology clothing made from conductive carbon fibres that reduce your own electromagnetic field so you can get closer to animals.

Of course what's good for avoiding being seen and eaten means it is also easier to sneak up on other animals. As well as producing wetsuits so a shark may not sense you they also make suits so hunters and wildlife cameramen can apparently get much closer to their quarry.

More at

Ducks landing. Photo Tony Hisgett, Wikicommons

HECS stealthscreen camo suit

Lerp is a popular foodstuff for many small Australian birds and occasionally humans consume it too (yes really). It comes from psyllid bugs (pronounced sillid) otherwise known as plant lice. They live on and suck the sap contained within leaves. As a by-product from their anus they excrete excess sugars. Lerp looks a bit like tiny fluffy white flakes, (yum yum).

Honeydew is another more familiar sugar rich anal ooze. Aphids, scale insects and even some caterpillars secrete it. Birds, ants and wasps amongst others may collect and feed upon it. Some ant species both protect and 'farm' the honeydew-producing aphids. There is even a type of day gecko in Madagascar that approaches a plant hopper, bobs its head and is rewarded with a drop of honeydew almost right on its nose. Better give the lizard a snack than become the main meal.

Manna is a different kind of ooze altogether. Famous as a religious foodstuff, 'manna from heaven', it is in fact the secretions of various plant types. In many cases edible and also used as laxative and expectorant. With some plants it oozes mainly when attacked by insects.

Ant harvesting honeydew from aphids. Photo Bohringer Friedrich, Wikicommons
We are still some time away from our busy snake season but anyone wanting to invest in snake gaiters will get 10% off just by phoning in your order. So in effect GST FREE until the end of August.

Phone 08 9243 3044 to order or view at our online shop

Snakebite resistant gaitors - available from Animal Ark

This is a great site, also an app. Just click away and you can watch live as animals go about their daily business. I enjoyed watching the bears fishing in Canada and some Bison grazing. You can see inside a Puffin burrow and much more. Fortunately they don't have any Pokemon to look at!

Explore Apps
Animal in Focus: Southern Giant-Petrel Macronectes giganteus
The Southern Giant Petrel is a large sea bird some 87cm long with a wingspan approaching 2 metres. Two colour forms are known, the rarer white and more common dark form or morph. Their large bill has distinct passages on top and a special gland that exudes excess salts. The petrel is often called the stinker or stinkpot due to its habit when disturbed of expelling regurgitated foods and oils a metre or so towards any would be predator. Fortunately I didn't get to experience this rather effective, smelly defence mechanism.

Their diet may be considered quite unusual, like an oceanic vulture. Males have a preferred diet of offal from carcasses of marine mammals such as seals, whales, penguins and other deceased creatures. Females it would appear are more refined and feed largely on live prey like squid, krill and fish caught at sea.

Recently Kelli the vet nurse at Native Animal Rescue had a petrel to look after. A juvenile, presumably battered by storms, was found blown in onto Wedge Island and came down to Perth to be assessed for rehabilitation. After a few anxious days in a very warm room under Kelli's gaze it began to feed, put back on some weight and recover. It just loved raw squid and octopus and had a great time slopping its food around messily. It was the first time I have ever seen one up close and I felt very privileged to meet such an unusual visitor to these shores. Once it had regained its vigour the petrel was driven back up to Wedge Island and successfully released.

The southern giant-petrel breeds largely on the Antarctic continent and also on at least 6 Australian Antarctic Territory islands. The largest populations however are in the Falkland Islands where some 19,000 pairs may be found. They nest on bare ground, sometimes in small, scattered colonies and in other places in far greater congregations. A pair produces a single egg that hatches around October; some 4 months later the fledging petrel leaves its home and is unlikely to return for 6 or 7 years. They start to breed at about 10 years of age. Their habit of following fishing fleets for scraps has resulted in many deaths due to long line and trawler fishing methods. Globally their conservation status is that of LC (least concerned).

Giant petrel flying over the South Atlantic. Photo Liam Quinn, Wikicommons

Giant Petrel (Macronectes giganteus) with chicks. Photo Brocken Inaglory, Wikicommons

Southern Giant Petrel. Photo Ron Knight, Wikicommons

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Friday 29 July 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 5 August 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 2 September 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 7 October 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 21 October 2016 - Albany
Friday 11 November 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 2 December 2016 - Malaga, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Thursday 4 August 2016 - Malaga, Perth

Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Saturday 6 August 2016 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 3 September 2016 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 15 October 2016 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 22 October 2016 - Albany, WA
Sunday 23 October 2016 - Denmark, WA
Saturday 5 November 2016 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 3 December 2016 - North Beach, Perth
Saturday 17 December 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:

Sunday 31 July 2016
Curtin University Open Day
Department of Environmental Biology
Kent Street, Bentley, Perth
10am - 2pm
Free event. Contact Curtin University for more information about the Open Day

Sunday 7 August 2016
City of Stirling Community Event, Bushland Restoration & Wildlife Awareness
8.45am – 11am planting at Trigg Bushland
11.30am – 1pm Animal Ark Snake & Wildlife Awareness Workshop at Henderson Environment Centre, Star Swamp, off Groat Street, North Beach, Perth 6020
Lunch provided
To register or for more information please contact Jo Taylor on 08 9205 7160 or

Sunday 28 August 2016
Animal Ark Snake / Wildlife Awareness Workshop
City of Stirling Community Event
Henderson Environment Centre
Star Swamp, off Groat Street, North Beach, Perth 6020
11am - 1pm
contact City of Stirling for more information

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

Saturday 17 September 2016
Chittering Landcare Wildflower Festival
175 Old Gingin Road, MUCHEA 6501
11am – 3pm
Community event – please contact Chittering Landcare 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.