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No. 45
The year has come to a close, and it has been a very busy and varied one for all of us at Animal Ark.

We trust 2017 has been good for you and wish everyone the very best for whatever 2018 would bring.

Personally, as well as a few days off over the holidays, tidying up the garden and giving the snakes a good feed, I am looking forward to an exciting year ahead.

David Manning at Perup Natures Guest Houses. Photo: Animal Ark
No, not one of your relatives you only see at Christmas. I am talking about a weird real parasite living around us in Australia.

Strepsiptera or stylops are tiny twisted-wing parasites. Females have no wings or legs; they bury their bodies inside a host such as a bee with just the genital opening exposed to await a male. She only mates once and afterwards can produce between 1,000 and 750,000 larvae that crawl or hop away looking for another host.

Juvenile females have legs only until they find and burrow into a host; the legs are lost during a subsequent moult.

The male, meanwhile, flies about looking for a female to mate with. He only lives for around 6 hours! Once mated he dies and after the female’s larvae emerge from her protruding birth canal she dies as well.

Apparently none of this damages the poor host bee, cricket, bug, roach or similar species that are affected by them. Strange creatures - Stylops make ticks seem rather cute and cuddly in comparison.

Bee infected with Strepsiptera also known as twisted wing parasites. Photo: gailhampshire, Wikimedia Commons

Stylops male with pair of twisted wings. Popular Science Monthly, Volume 19 illustration, Wikimedia Commons

Mention this newsletter and get 15% off any in stock item (excludes books) and even on 2018 Venomous Snake Handling courses. Pay now and save 15% - not bad at all.

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Valid for purchases and bookings taken and paid for during January 2018 for the whole of 2018 – just call or email and mention Newsletter 45 for the discount.

Fauna handling team kit in bag - Animal Ark
On Christmas Eve some baby scorpions (scorplings) were born at Animal Ark. And I had thought that Sally the Perth Hills scorpion had just been eating too many crickets she was so swollen!

So tightly do the babies cling together on mums back that I cannot count them as yet.

As you can see from the images these babies do not fluoresce under UV light. Over the next 2/3 weeks their exoskeleton hardens and they then become independent of their mother and will begin to fluoresce.

No one knows quite why this fluorescence occurs but they do know how it happens! There are molecules in the exoskeleton that absorb and re-emit UV as visible light.

A UV torch is best to see this at night but it can occur naturally under the light of a full moon. By the way, we sell UV torches on the Animal Ark shop.

Scorpion and babies. Photo: Animal Ark

Scorpion and babies under UV light. Photo: Animal Ark

UV torch for sale at Scorpion and babies. Photo: Monica Iseppi / Animal Ark
There was a great article in Vet Practice Magazine recently about the training that we do. To read the piece in full go to or see print copy, page 12 to 14 at

We are lucky enough to get quite regular emails and texts from people who have seen the training working for them and their dogs. One story this spring was from someone who called up to book her 2 Labradors in for the training.

A snake had just passed through her property – her dogs were showing an unhealthy interest but she managed to call them away – and she watched the snake go in to the neighbour’s yard.

She then witnessed the neighbours two Labradors take one look at the snake and run away!!! She asked how come they had such great aversion behaviour and was told that they had completed Animal Ark’s snake avoidance training a few months earlier.

Vet Practice Magazine Nov 2017 article - Snake Avoidance Training for dogs
Baby stick insects. After the excitement of baby arachnids at Animal Ark the insects thought they should join in as well. I now have numerous hatchling stick insects appearing from their little eggs.

Their mother and father matured and started laying eggs months ago before dying of old age having made it to 14 months. I have at least a dozen or so new mouths to feed. They are quite easy on a diet of gum leaves.

Baby Darwin stick insect. Photo: Monica Iseppi / Animal Ark

Baby stick insects. Photo: Animal Ark

As snake hatching season begins, our Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs continues around Perth and South-West WA.

Late summer is the time that baby snakes emerge. From the bellies of Tiger snakes, Death adders and even the lesser-known Bardick, live snakes are born. The Tiger snake alone can have between 10 and 64 live young.

From Dugites, King Browns and Pythons, the juvenile snakes hatch out of eggs laid a couple of months ago. Pythons coil around to protect and even heat the eggs whereas Dugites bury and leave them to incubate on their own.

Baby dugite, 2016 season with dollar coin for scale. Photo: Animal Ark
We had a call from Hunter’s owner – they had to cancel their Snake Avoidance training in Donnybrook, very last minute. Unfortunately a snake had just bitten Hunter.

How unlucky you may think. Well maybe not, apparently it was only because of the scheduled training appointment that Hunter’s owner went home early to collect the dog to discover the incident had occurred.

If Hunter hadn’t been booked in no one would have been home until much later when Hunter would probably have succumbed to the venom.

Reclining black dog. Photo: Joe Parks, Wikimedia Commons
Animal in Focus: Poison Dart frogs (Family: Dendrobatidae)
There are 175 species of these colourful poisonous little amphibians found in Central and South America. Some in the wild may if touched give you a burning sensation, but with such bright warning colours most potential predators simply leave them alone. Three species however have levels of toxicity that could kill a human just through touch - these are the ones utilized by hunters in parts of Amazonian South America to tip the darts with the deadly poison to hunt monkeys and birds high up in the rainforest canopy.

Most deadly of all is the Golden Poison Frog Phyllobates terribilis, which roughly translates to ‘leaf climbing terrible frog’. This terrible frog is at 4.5cm large compared with other related species that average at around 2cm. From a single individual enough toxins can be found to kill 20,000 mice or 10 humans. Surprisingly in captivity the toxins in wild caught specimens fade away and captive bred specimens lack them entirely. The toxins are obtained by the wild diet of beetles and ants. These very attractive little frogs may be kept as pets and thrive in humidity levels of 80% - 90%.

A variety of toxins and alkaloids are secreted from glands found under the moist skin. Of these one is particularly well studied. Batrachotoxin is an extremely potent cardiotoxic and neurotoxic steroidal alkaloid also found in melyrid beetles and even some birds.

Poison arrow frogs tend to live on the ground and the understory of moist rainforest type habitats. They lay several eggs, that hatch into tadpoles, that are then cared for with great attention by the parents. The tadpoles can climb onto the frogs back and may be transported around the lush habitat to small bodies of fresh water such as those found in bromeliads and other plants, flowers and forest floor litter. Some even feed the developing tadpoles unfertilised eggs to give them a nutritional boost.

  • Life span from 12-20 years
  • Size from 2-4.5cm
  • Diet small invertebrates such as springtails, ants and beetles
Green and black poison dart frog. Photo: Geoff Gallice, Wikimedia Commons

Poison dart frog. Photo: cuatrok77, Wikimedia Commons

The Terrible Poison Dart Frog (Phyllobates terribilis). Photo: H Krisp, Wikimedia Commons

Strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio or Dendrobates pumilio). Photo: Pavel Kirillov, Wikimedia Commons

Upcoming Courses and Events
Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Saturday 6 January – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 13 January – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 10 February – North Beach, Perth
Monday 12 February – Margaret River
Wednesday 14 February – Narrogin
Saturday 17 February – Perth Hills
Thursday 22 February – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 17 March – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 29 March – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 12 May – North Beach, Perth

Venomous Snake Handling Course
DBCA Parks and Wildlife Service approved for Regulation 17 Reptile Removalists Licence
Wednesday 10 January – Malaga, Perth (FULL)
Friday 12 January – Malaga, Perth
Wednesday 17 January – Malaga, Perth (FULL)
Friday 2 February – Malaga, Perth
Friday 23 February – Malaga, Perth
Friday 23 March – Malaga, Perth
Friday 27 April – Malaga, Perth
Friday 25 May – Malaga, Perth
Friday 22 June, Malaga, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Thursday 1 February – Malaga, Perth
Thursday 22 March – Malaga, Perth
Thursday 24 May – Malaga, Perth

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.