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No. 44
Spring has finally sprung. Sunny, warmer, wet but still some wild weather about. Wildflowers, birds nesting and yes the snakes are also up and about.

Our phone starts to go crazy as soon as snakes appear. Construction, mining and others need snake catching training NOW, dog owners want Snake Avoidance training TODAY. Individuals want snakes removed from their homes and gardens URGENTLY.

Don't think I'm having any days off soon. A few wildlife and wild weather items below.

Tiger snake. Photo: Monica Iseppi / Animal Ark
Fifty-four six toed cats are declared safe after Hurricane Irma. Ernest Hemingway's (deceased author in case you haven't heard of him) historic home in Key West Florida is famous for its colony of six toed cats.

Usually cats have five front and 4 back toes. All 54 are descendants of his original cat Snow White, a cat with six toes, having a polydactyl gene.

Polydactyl gene is an inherited condition where the person or animal has extra fingers or toes.

Ernest Hemingway with sons Patrick and Gregory with kittens in Finca Vigia, Cuba. Photo: Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F Kennedy Presidential Library Wikimedia Commons
Hurricane winds are so strong they can suck water towards their centre. In Sarasota Bay, Manatee County in West Florida the bay was literally sucked dry – leaving a pair of Manatees stranded in the mud.

Well-wishers decided to help them out and rolled them onto a tarpaulin, which they then dragged towards the water. Wildlife officials commented that as air breathing mammals they would probably have been OK left alone and it wasn't really safe to attempt this rescue as the water could have returned at any time placing them in mortal danger.

The Manatees are believed to have survived and the water did return soon enough.

Manatee, Columbus Zoo. Photo: Chris Muenzer Wikimedia Commons
Just how do birds survive massive weather events like hurricanes? The short answer is that many don't and even when they do survive extremes of wind and wet the survivors often face devastated habitats devoid of both food and shelter.

Many birds can hear infrasound (levels lower than we can) and feel barometric pressure – so may well know what's coming. So birds do have options and depending on many factors, including migratory habits and size of the bird, these are a few known options birds have when a storm threatens:

HIDE - Find a safe niche. Many birds will just retreat into holes, caves or other shelters and hope to ride out the storm

FLY AWAY AHEAD OF THE STORM - A few migratory birds may choose to relocate early. In 2005 a group of Chimney Swifts (Chaetura pelagica) were caught up in Hurricane Wilma possibly from Texas and ended up in Western Europe.

FLY INTO THE STORM - Flocks of birds have shown up on radar maps, caught up in the recent Irma hurricane apparently flying directly into the storm. Studies from satellite tagged birds have shown that some birds fly into the storm and go with the flow so to speak, hoping to be safer in the air away from damaging flying debris and more turbulent winds on the ground.

One bird recorded was flying for 27 hours straight. Birds may then end up hundreds of miles away from 'home' and sometimes well outside their normal range, much to the delight of birdwatchers.

Hurricane Frances from the ISS. Photo: NASA, Wikimedia Commons

Wet lovebird. Photo: TheAlphaWolf, Wikimedia Commons

Cockatiel. Photo: Animal Ark Chimney swift overhead. Photo: Jim McCulloch, Wikimedia Commons
Bookings are being taken for our upcoming trip around the south west of WA. Don't leave it too late as places are filling very fast.

Nannup, Bunbury, Esperance, Parkerville, North Beach, Rockingham, Pinjarra, Bridgetown, Balingup and other locations are scheduled.

More info at our new website

Jarrah kelpie during training. Photo: Animal Ark
I am always amazed at the things that dogs can be taught to smell. In previous newsletters I have looked at the average dogs nose and the potential ability to sniff and recognise things at great distances and even hidden items, often where attempts are made by smugglers and the like to hide them.

I have just seen an item about Charlie from Delaware County in the US. He is an electronic-detection forensic K-9. He is essentially a paedophile hunter, trained to search out flash cards and hard drives that may store images of child abuse.

Charlie can find USB - CD ROMs and more, but is able to ignore electronics in alarm clocks and remote controls. One such dog helped secure a 15 year conviction – good hunting Charlie.

Charlie electronic detection K9. Photo: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
I like conservation stories where an individual has made a big difference for both people and the wildlife they interact with. It also amazes me that relatively low cost strategies can both save rare species and help local people improve their lives. This story has both elements.

To the Barabaig warriors and villagers of southern Tanzania, lions were viewed as vermin; they not only can kill humans but also prey upon the valuable cattle.

Amy Dickman a conservation biologist from Devon UK realised that in a single year some 37 lions were killed around just the one village she was working with, a tragedy for these increasingly rare carnivores.

So Amy and her team devised initiatives to help the lions whilst also helping keep the villager's cattle safe from predation. Reinforcing the thornbrush cattle enclosures with wire was a start but the introduction of some Anatolian dogs had a startling impact.

"I remember telling our camp dogs to sit in Swahili while talking with some locals and the meeting ground to a halt. They wanted to know where I had got the magic dogs from, dogs that could speak Swahili"

The community is now involved in conservation projects with camera trap competitions with the awarded points exchanged for healthcare, education and other benefits to the village. Gradually the local wildlife has 'value' and everyone benefits.

Reports are that in a 5 years period livestock killings are down 60% and lion killings down 80%.

More here:

Ruaha Carnivore Project Logo

Livestock guardian dogs from Ruaha Carnivore Project. Puppies arriving at RCP. Photo: Prode Lion Conservation Alliance

Animal in Focus: Kiwi (Apteryx sp)
I thought we would go to New Zealand for our Animal in Focus. One way the NZ Department of Conservation helps to protect these bizarre birds is through aversion training for dogs – just like we do with e-collars – but without the snakes!

Kiwis are strange nocturnal creatures – more mammal than bird in many ways. Five species of these chicken sized birds are known. Ziggy of Animal Ark reports:

I was fortunate enough to see a kiwi when I was traveling around New Zealand several weeks ago. Although it was not in the wild, it was still a sight to see. Kiwis are amazing small birds. Although a bird, they do not always act like a typical bird should. They dig burrows and sleep standing up. A kiwi's legs are marrow-filled, they are strong and very much unlike most birds which have light skeletons comprised of air sacs to enable flight. A kiwi's legs make up a third of its overall body weight. The kiwi I saw was very energetic, running around and throwing its whole body at a fern stump, attacking it with its feet and trying to knock it over. A very feisty little bird and definitely something to see before they go extinct!

Just like the emu, rhea and ostrich, kiwis cannot fly. This flightless bird is thought to have evolved to be sturdy and heavy boned due to a lack of mammalian predation. Before Europeans arrived to the wild shores of New Zealand, there were no land mammals that predated upon birds. Predators consisted of other bird species and kiwis were safe to forage and nest on the forest floor, they simply didn't need to fly. They have very poor eyesight and rely heavily on their hearing and sense of smell. The kiwi beak is extremely long and it is the only bird species in the world that has external nostrils at the end of its beak. Their sense of smell is well developed, allowing them to sniff out food hidden beneath the leaf litter and soil. Recent studies have found that kiwis also possess sensory pits located at the tip of their beaks allowing them to sense prey movement under the ground.

Another remarkable thing about the kiwi bird is it's egg. Now most people would say that the ostrich has a large egg, however, in comparison to its body size, they aren't that big. The kiwi bird lays an egg that takes up about 20% of the mother's body. This is huge! Not only this, but a kiwi can lay up to 100 of these massive eggs over its lifetime. Another kiwi oddity is that each chick is fully feathered and independent soon after hatching.

Unfortunately for the kiwi bird, they are currently listed as endangered due to predation (by introduced mammals such as stoats, dogs, cats, ferrets, pigs and possums), habitat loss and human activity. In 2008, there was an estimated 70,000 kiwi left in this world. Today, management programs are in play and several populations are stable or increasing. There is however a large number of kiwis that live outside the managed areas and it is expected that these populations will continue to decline. However there are many things you can do to help save the remarkable kiwi, next time you are in New Zealand and have a bit of free time, you might be able to volunteer some time or donate cash to help save these remarkable little birds!

Lifespan: 25 to 50 years
Maturity: 3-5 years to reach adult size
Five recognised species: Brown kiwi, Great spotted kiwi, Little spotted kiwi, Rowi and Tokoeka

Brown kiwi, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Christchurch. Photo: Allie Caulfield, Wikimedia Commons

Kiwi egg model. Photo: Animal Ark

Xray kiwi with egg. Photo: Animal Ark

Stoat and rabbit. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Upcoming Courses and Events
Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Sunday 8 October – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 14 October – Parkerville, Perth Hills
Sunday 15 October - Toodyay
Wednesday 18 October – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 21 October – Bunbury
Sunday 22 October – Bunbury
Tuesday 24 October – Augusta
Wednesday 25, Thursday 26 October - Nannup
Friday 27, Saturday 28 October – Mount Barker
Sunday 29, Monday 30 October – Esperance
Saturday 4 November – Pinjarra
Thursday 9 November – Bridgetown
Saturday 11 November – North Beach, Perth
Sunday 12 November – Malaga, Perth
Tuesday 14 November – Balingup
Saturday 18 November – North Beach, Perth
Sunday 19 November – Rockingham
Friday 8 December – North Beach, Perth

Venomous Snake Handling Course
DBCA Parks and Wildlife Service approved for Regulation 17 Reptile Removalists Licence
Thursday 5 October – Malaga, Perth
Friday 6 October – Malaga, Perth
Wednesday 11 October – Malaga, Perth
Tuesday 7 November – Malaga, Perth
Friday 10 November – Boyup Brook, WA
Friday 30 November – Malaga, Perth
Friday 15 December – Malaga, Perth
Friday 12 January 2018 – Malaga, Perth
Friday 2 February 2018 – Malaga, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Monday 6 November – Malaga, Perth
Thursday 1 February 2018 – Malaga, 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:

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.