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No. 51
Well and truly warmed up now – well it has in Perth but we did have some chilly nights only a few weeks ago in Albany and Bunbury!

Hope you have a break from routine over the seasonal period. I know that the Animal Ark team and myself are looking forward to a bit of time off. Lashings of mice and rats will be offered to our working snakes during the festive season! Hope you enjoy your feasting too.

Ending the intro on a rather sad note, our old dog Steve aged almost 17 passed away this week. A faithful family friend who will be much missed.

Steve December 2018. Photo: Animal Ark
Keely and I have been super busy travelling around WA.

Wow, snakes sure are plentiful in some places. On a farm in Kudardup where we conducted our Snake Avoidance training I only got the chance to look for them twice:

First up was a little tiger snake sunning himself on the sandy bank (took 5 mins to find it) at the edge of a pine plantation. We caught him and moved him on – Ian and Nat not too keen on having them around the property.

Tiger snake in grass. Photo: Animal Ark
The second chance I had to explore awaiting our next canine client I looked around the tin/junk/old farm stuff pile and almost immediately under a large bit of tin came across a cute little dugite – he wriggled a bit, did a nice defensive "s" shape pose and then tried to hide in the grass. We left him behind to keep tabs on the rats! Ian has quite sensibly decided to remove the junk pile.

Just last week Keely had a rather persistent adult dugite refuse to move off during some dog training in North Beach, making it somewhat hazardous for her as well as our canine and human clients. The excessive, dense ground cover and numerous mice running around make the place very attractive for snakes. Remember, a clear and tidy garden does not provide shelter or food for snakes and their prey. Snake Avoidance is a really important part of a dog's training, and the earlier the better, however as trainers we prefer to use our own safely "contained" snakes without local ones getting in on the act.

French scientists are using some 250 wandering albatrosses to monitor illegal fishing in the Southern Indian Ocean. Sounds a bit mad but it's true. The system has been developed at the Centre of Biological studies in Chize, western France. The albatrosses will be fitted with tiny electronic devices that detect boats that are using radar but have switched off their transponder signaling (a ruse often used by illegal fishing boats). If the signals show the transponder is inactive but radar is on a signal is sent from the devices and a French patrol boat can then investigate. One of the species under threat is the highly valued Patagonian toothfish.

The 60 gram devices will be removed from the albatrosses when they nest about a year later. Each albatross may fly (and patrol) some 20,000km in just 2 weeks – let’s hope they assist in catching a few illegal fishing vessels.

Wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) Drakes Passage. Photo: 3HEADEDDOG, Wikimedia Commons
Few things in nature are naturally cubed; in the Dead Sea amazingly salt can form into perfect cubes, they can be on beaches in Jordan or Israel. Some hard minerals like iron pyrites also form into cubes but few living creature things are cube shaped or can make cubes. Wombats however are unique in producing cubed poops.

How and why are the obvious questions to this enigma? Cue Patricia Yang a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology who specializes in bodily fluids. She was intrigued when she heard about the cube shaped phenomenon and duly acquired from Australia some road killed wombat intestines to study the possible processes involved.

In zoos where water is freely available wombat poos are less cubed so there is obviously some link about moisture retention, less moisture making the angles sharper. Unlike pig intestines which were used as a comparison it appears wombats have two distinct ravine-like grooves in a stretchier section of the gut, which probably shapes or moulds the pooh into the dice like cubes that are so familiarly wombat.

Common wombat (Vombatus ursinus tasmaniensis) Maria Island National Park, Tasmania Photo: JJ-Harrison, Wikimedia Commons

Wombat poo. Photo: National Poo Museum,

Sir David Attenborough
I hope you agree with me that Sir David Attenborough is the greatest conservationist and naturalist of all time. He has inspired many to understand more about and care for our wildlife and wild places. Billions of us humans around the world have viewed his programmes. Still active at 92, his energy, enthusiasm for life and our natural world shines through with every programme he is involved with. His programmes lead the way as each year amazing advances in wildlife cinematography get us closer to rare and otherwise unobserved creatures. His distinctive voice is well known, an authoritative broadcaster, I think we can all trust his words unconditionally. Apparently he is one of, if not the most travelled people on earth. He journeyed over 400,000km just making the Life of Birds series in 1998. Along with Gerald Durrell and Desmond Morris he is my absolute hero and inspires me to try (I am still trying) to be enthusiastic, straight forward and with minimal ego (it's about them not me) when teaching others about wildlife. A few other wildlife presenters should take note!

I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with the great man on several occasions. When I was much younger he happened to live around the corner from the zoological supply company I worked for in Richmond, West London, and he would on occasions pop in to buy some crickets or other live foods for his pet salamanders. On another occasion I had to supply and assist with the hatching of a chicken egg in his hand. I always tell my son Jack he was blessed by Sir David, he asked to rub my wife Jenny’s tummy when he could see she was pregnant back in 1995. He approached us with a beaming smile and twinkling eyes obviously delighting in the new life forming in her belly.

David Attenborough at Great Barrier Reef. Photo:, Wikimedia Commons
He was born 8 May 1926. His full title as far as I can see is:


He was Head of Programming at the BBC and was responsible among other great series, for commissioning the Monty Pythons Flying Circus TV shows.

Let’s hope his latest series Our Planet due for broadcast in 2019 is as good as the recent Blue Planet II proved to be.

A few of the many species named after him:

  • A small flowering tree Sirdavidia solannona - of Gabon West Africa.
  • Pygmy grasshopper (extinct) Electrotettix attenboroughi – found in Dominican Republic amber.
  • Attenborough's goblin spider - Prethopalpus attenboroughi – A tiny spider from Horn Island Queensland.
Must offer something for Christmas so:

Animal Ark Snakebite Gaiters – only $99 inc GST and postage.
Choice of tan or camo.
Online use the discount code GAITER.
Click pick up from store but we will ship for free within Australia.

Also 15% off Solo Kit. Now $471.75 inc GST and postage.
Online use the discount code SOLO.
Click pick up from store but we will ship for free within Australia.

Offers run until the end of January 2019.

Buy online at or telephone your order 08 9243 3044.

Animal Ark snakebite protection: Gaiters, Camo Animal Ark solo snake handling kit
Animal in Focus: Burtons Legless Lizard (Lialis burtonis)
The very useful website (Australian Reptile Online Database) has the pronunciation as: lee-AH-liss Ber-tun-ee

If disturbed these reptiles may hiss and even rear up very snake like. They are however just a harmless lizard. Legless lizards in many forms can be found around the world but Burtons is an Australasian species found throughout most of mainland Australia and even occurs in New Guinea. It is really only absent from the southern most parts of the Australian continent. They may be found in nearly all habitats from rainforest to desert, grasslands and forest and do quite well in suburbia.

They are not uncommon around Perth; I have had one appear in our garage in Duncraig. They vary greatly in colour and markings, some have longitudinal stripes whilst others may be grey or even a whitish colour.

Burtons legless lizard, Angas Downs IPA, NT. Photo: JennyKS, Wikimedia Commons
Averaging around 30cm to 40cm they are mistaken for snakes by many – but on closer inspection they have a few traits possessed by no snakes – an ear opening behind the head and the fleshy tongue give the game way. All snakes have a forked tongue and none an ear opening. Their very wedge-shaped head is also unlike any other Australian reptile. Also unlike snakes some 75% of the body length is tail. The tail can be shed or dropped easily in case of attack. Tiny remnant flaps at the back of their bodies is all that’s left of legs in this species.

They can use their tails to both lure prey towards them and also to distract would be predators. They feed primarily on skinks but other reptiles such as geckos, dragons and even small snakes may feature in their diet.

Females are larger than males – and usually lay 2 sometimes 3 leathery eggs. Communal nests of up to 20 eggs have been discovered. These are placed under logs, rocks and other natural cover and occasionally inside sugar ant nests. Conservation wise they suffer the usual threats - predation by cats and loss of habitat by land clearing.

Upcoming Courses and Events
Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Friday 4 January – North Beach, Perth
Tuesday 8 January – Donnybrook
Saturday 12 January – North Beach, Perth
Sunday 13 January – Yanchep Veterinary Hospital, Yanchep
Thursday 17 January – Busselton
Friday 18 January – Margaret River
Saturday 19 January – Margaret River
Sunday 20 January – Ninth Street Vet Clinic, Harvey
Tuesday 22 January – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 24 January – Oakford
Friday 8 February – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 9 February – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 16 February – Bunbury
Tuesday 19 February – North Beach, Perth
Friday 22 February – Albany
Saturday 23 February – Albany
Sunday 3 March – Perth Hills
Thursday 14 March – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 28 March – North Beach, Perth
Friday 5 April – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 6 April – North Beach, Perth
Wednesday 17 April – North Beach, Perth
Tuesday 30 April – North Beach, Perth
Friday 14 June – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 15 June – North Beach, Perth

Venomous Snake Handling Course
DBCA Parks and Wildlife Service approved for Regulation 17 Reptile Removalists Licence
Thursday 10 January – North Beach, Perth
Tuesday 22 January – North Beach, Perth
Friday 8 February – North Beach, Perth
Tuesday 19 February – North Beach, Perth
Friday 1 March – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 14 March – Perth
Thursday 28 March – Perth
Friday 5 April – Perth
Tuesday 30 April – Perth
Friday 14 June – Perth
Thursday 4 July - Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Thursday 7 February 2019 – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 28 February – Perth
Thursday 13 June - 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:

Tuesday 15 January
Whitford Library, Hillarys, Perth
Contact Whitford Library for more information or to book

See our diary for more dates or contact us to book.

Call (08) 9243 3044, SMS 0466 688 188 or email David, Jenny or Keely at to book.

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