View this newsletter in your web browser Browse all newsletters
No. 37
I'm not happy with the cold wet weather but our native frogs; they love it, all that rain filling their breeding wetlands. The males moaning, quacking, squelching and even croaking away during the season both to attract a mate but also announcing territory. Their ultimate goal, the amphibian-mating embrace known as amplexus.

It's all external reproduction with native Aussie frogs, the male grabbing the female around her back and hanging on for dear life with a very tight forearm grip. As she lays the spawn he fertilizes the eggs with his sperm. Of many thousands of eggs that some species lay very few survive to maturity. Come the dry summer many of our frogs retreat into cooler damp burrows awaiting further downpours. I did a small piece with Tracey Vo on ABC 720 talking about amphibians in Oz - listen now on Soundcloud.

Green tree frog on orange. Photo: Animal Ark
How old can you get as an animal? Steve our elderly Jack russell dog (Canis familiaris) is getting on at nearly 15 years of age but hey, that is nothing compared to the potential lifespan of some creatures. So here are a few to ponder on.

The oldest known vertebrate is a Greenland Shark (Somniosus microcephalus) at around 400 years old. Scientists studying a group recently have determined she is between 272 and 512 years old.

An Albatross called Wisdom is the oldest confirmed wild bird in the world and also the oldest banded bird in the world. She was banded in 1956 when approximately 5 years old so is currently 65. She is still nesting and laying eggs.

The oldest captive bred bird in the world is a parrot. On June 30th 1933 a Major Mitchells cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) hatched from an egg at Taronga Zoo Sydney and was then sent overseas. Today, some 83 years later, Cookie is still alive. He has spent most of his long life at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

Clever scientists can use a mixture of radiocarbon and cross dating (like tree rings) to work out the age of some molluscs. One amazing Icelandic Clam (Artica islandica) is called Ming (it was as old as the Ming Dynasty). Ming is a definite record breaker as he had lived for 507 years before being dredged to the surface as part of a study!

The Immortal Jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii) can beat them all. Believed to originate in the Pacific Ocean they have spread around the world's warmer oceans in the ballast of ships. They are hard to find at only 4.5mm long. So take a magnifying glass! Technically they are biologically immortal, as when physically injured or just old they can revert to the juvenile polyp stage (a blob of cells) and then reform once again as a healthy jellyfish. It's called transdifferentiation - where cells can transform themselves into different kinds of cells. So a nerve cell may become an egg cell or even a sperm cell, rejuvenate and/or change. Very weird, the process apparently has never been seen in the animal kingdom before. I'm sure something like it will be in a face cream soon.

Major Mitchells cockatoo (Lophocroa leadbeateri) both crests. Photo: Christopher Watson, Wikimedia Commons

Ming the Mollusc. Photo: HANDOUT,

Immortal jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnii medusa). Photo: Bachware, Wikimedia Commons

Some creatures don't even survive long enough to hatch. Once thought to be extinct a nest of the ultra rare and highly elusive Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) was found recently in Queensland.

Just six days later when re-visited the eggs had been eaten. Hugely disappointed scientists had DNA tests on the eggshell remains and have found that a King brown snake was responsible and not as was first thought a goanna. Fortunately the podgy ground dwelling budgie-like bird still breeds elsewhere.

Night parrot nest with eggs. Photo: Steve Murphy, Dailymail

Night parrot. Photo: Steve Murphy, Dailymail

We have many names for groups of animals: a pack of dogs, a school of fish and so on. The origin of these words lies in venery from the Latin venor "I hunt". Venery was the English/French mediaeval word for hunting game – not to be confused with the other meaning for the word (sexual indulgence!).

Below are a few terms of venery, many are taken from the Book of St Albans (1486) not that you will find a copy in the local library! I've also added some more common collective nouns as we now call them:

  • Apes – shrewdness, troop
  • Badgers – cete
  • Bees – swarm, drift, erst or grist
  • Boars – sounder (12 or more)
  • Cats – clowder
  • Coots – covert
  • Crocodiles – bask
  • Ducks – a paddling when on water
  • Ducks – a plump
  • Eagles – convocation
  • Falcons – a cast
  • Ferrets – busyness
  • Fish – school or shoal
  • Foxes – leash or skulk
  • Gnats – cloud or horde
  • Goldfinches – a charm
  • Guineafowl – a rasp
  • Hawks – a cast, a boil (2 or more spiralling), a kettle (flying in numbers)
  • Hippopotamuses – a bloat
  • Hyenas – a cackle
  • Iguanas – mess
  • Magpies – charm, murder, tiding or tittering
  • Mallards – flush, puddling
  • Owls – a parliament
  • Oysters – a bed
  • Parrots – company or pandemonium
  • Pelicans – a pod
  • Possums – a passell
  • Ravens – an undkindness
  • Rhinoceroses – a crash
  • Sea urchins – a herd
  • Snakes – bed, den, knot, nest or pit
  • Spiders – cluster or clutter
  • Swallows – flight or gulp
  • Swans – bank if on ground, wedge if in flight. Also bevy, drift, flight, sownder, team amongst others – swans were often hunted!
  • Wombats – wisdom
  • Zebras – herd, cohort, dazzle or zeal
Black footed ferrets. Photo: Kimberly Fraser, USFWS

Hippos. Photo: Paulmaz, Wikimedia Commons

Narcisse snake dens. Photo: Stve on Flickr Creative Commons

Spiderlings, Ecuador. Photo: Geoff Gallice, Wikimedia Commons

New Zealand has announced plans to eliminate most pest animals in the country by 2050. A radical move by any nation and one I don't think ever tried before on a national scale and with a multitude of target species. Possums, stoats, mice and rats are the prime targets. Together they have caused many an extinction in NZ, especially with its unique and often flightless bird species such as the Kiwi. For the program to be successful the government must engage the public, landholders and conservation groups to all work together in all areas of the country in an ongoing campaign.

Rats and mice I would imagine are possibly the hardest to deal with in urban areas. Stoats (a small carnivorous mammal) and possums across varied landscapes will also require a massive effort – no doubt why 2050 is a target date.

Rat. Photo: Chris Barber, Wikimedia Commons
Personally I think cats should also be banned as pets as well, not just in NZ, as they lead the urban annihilation of natives all over the world both as pets and when they become ferals. I imagine that is one step too far for a nation trying to keep everyone happy with the current initiative. Innovative approaches to pest control are to be considered as well as the usual hunting, shooting, trapping and 1080 poison baits. Alberta in Canada has made and still makes huge efforts to remain an entirely rat free province, a rare thing in a pest ridden world. NZ will look at their successful methods in some detail I'm sure. Collective noun for rats is colony, pack or plague. For stoats it's gang or pack.
Animal in Focus: Sugar Glider Petaurus breviceps ariel
The cutest nocturnal, arboreal, social, omnivorous gliding marsupial you can imagine. This is a small and slight squirrel-like creature rarely more than 30cm long from snout to tail tip. Males have a heavier build than females; both are light, males around 140gms, females 115gms.

This is a creature I always wanted as a pet in the UK and have a huge soft spot for. You are not allowed to keep them as pets in WA, where authorities ban the keeping of almost all native species and prefer we keep as companion animals non-natives such as rats, rabbits and cats - pet/pests are freely available state wide! Sugar gliders are a popular and widely kept species in many states of the US.

However, back to this cute Australian glider - they are covered in short very soft silvery grey fur and have a black stripe from the nose fading gradually along the back. Belly fur is whitish. Their black round eyes are somewhat bulgy, excellent for night vision and they have a soft pink nose at the end of a slightly flattened head. Gliders are highly social creatures living in family groups or colonies and do not fare well if kept alone.

The bald spot visible in the centre of the male's head is a scent gland used for territory marking. Several glider species are found Australia wide but this species occurs in northern WA and across the warmer top of the country. They live in tree hollows and emerge once night falls.

They feed on a wide variety of fruits, seeds, nectar, fungi and flowers but they are very keen on sweet things. At least 40% of the diet will consist of proteins from lizards, small birds, insects, bugs, grubs, manna, lerp, eggs as a few examples of the many foodstuffs consumed, some being only seasonally available. They are highly adaptive in feeding habits. In captivity several manufactured foodstuffs ensure they have plenty of calcium in the diet to prevent hypocalcaemia or hind leg paralysis. They glide or fly well but always losing height, and 50m glides or more being possible with the aid of an extendable membrane called a patagium, which reaches from their forelegs to hind legs. With all legs and arms extended they are very agile, enabling them to move swiftly to avoid predators and to glide to feeding spots.

Breeding can occur at any time in favourable conditions and one or two young are born per litter. The blind, tiny hairless joeys are in the pouch for 60 odd days and first leave the nest after around 110 days. Predators they must avoid are many and include kookaburras, quolls, snakes, goannas, feral cats and owls.

In the wild on an almost daily basis Sugar gliders can radically alter their metabolism and go into what's called torpor. A bit like hibernation but for much shorter periods of time – just for a few hours when it is cold or food supplies are low, but up to 23 hours a day in very cold conditions. When in torpor the body conserves energy, as it does not need to generate heat.

Sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps ariel) Photo: Ian Morris, Charles Darwin University

Sugar glider. Photo: Anke Meyring, Wikimedia Commons

Sugar glider. Photo: Joe McDonald, Visuals Unlimited

Upcoming Courses and Events
Venomous Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Friday 2 September 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 7 October 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 21 October 2016 - Albany
Wednesday 9 November 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 11 November 2016 - Malaga, Perth
Friday 2 December 2016 - Malaga, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Thursday 1 September 2016 – Malaga, Perth
Thursday 6 October 2016 – Malaga, Perth
Thursday 10 November 2016 – Malaga, Perth
Thursday 15 December 2016 – Malaga, Perth

Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
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 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

Thursday 8 September
Snake Awareness Session
Rockingham Central Library
Dixon Road, Rockingham
Contact Rockingham Library for more information and to book

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.

Monday 3 October
Animal Ark Australian Birds and Mammals Workshop
Joondalup Library
102 Boas Avenue, Joondalup
For more information and to book contact Joondalup Library

Wednesday 5 October
Animal Ark Reptile, Amphibians and Creepy Crawlies Workshop
Woodvale Library
5 Trappers Drive, Woodvale
For more information and to book contact Joondalup Library

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.