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No. 52
Nickel mines, gold mines, I am a mine of information about remote mining operations in WA! I visited two recently, one at Cue the other not a million miles away at Sir Samuel – never heard of it – Leinster is near by.

Both remote areas, both need to keep workers safe and able to keep the snakes safely under control. One paramedic at another site has reported fifty, yes fifty snakes sighted in just one night. Local bushfires are bringing all the local wildlife into camp for shelter and water. She had some amazing photos from an office window of the snakes thick on the ground – well you could see about six on a few meters of ground - like something out of most peoples' nightmares.

One Pilbara mine in just one week alone had to call in two emergency evacuation flights due to suspected snakebite. Neither incident ended up requiring treatment with antivenom.

Snakes on a very small plane. Photo: David Manning, Animal Ark
Finally Animal Ark has a training facility in the Perth Hills. Pictured is our 1930's cottage in Mahogany Creek on 2 acres of beautiful natural bush land. With home business approval for native fauna handler training it is located only 22 minutes drive from Perth Airport and 33 minutes from the CBD according to Google maps. A quiet and easy-to-access location in the wonderful hills area. Can't wait to move in and welcome people to our new home premises.

So happy – it has taken years of looking for a characterful property to live in that was surrounded by native wildlife and bush, but that is also within easy access to a main road and the city.

Animal Ark Home in the Hills. Photo: Claire Ottaviano
Come with me into the weird world of bird spit and avian stomach oils! To study it or even as a home business supplying restaurants there is considerable interest in the stuff.

I've seen snow petrels and despite all the fuss made about penguins they were my absolute favourite bird on my Antarctic trip. Along with a few other birds snow petrels produce strong stomach oils that can be used to:

1. Feed their young
2. Feed themselves on long journeys, but also...
3. Sprayed out to deter predators

Mumijo is the term used for accumulations of these regurgitated stomach oils – these get mixed up with poo, dirt and grit and harden into thick layers in some parts of Antarctica. Mumijo needs to be collected using a hammer and chisel. Studying it will help scientists look at 'the movement and changes in snow petrel populations over geological time scales'. In Antarctica where it is being collected by field biologists Marcus Salton and Dr Anna Lashko, it is then wrapped in kitchen foil, kept frozen before coming back to Australia for radiocarbon dating.

"Previous work has shown that some mumijo layers go back thousands of years" said Dr Louise Emmerson an Australian Antarctic Division Seabird ecologist.

"Because snow petrels only nest in ice-free areas, we can date these layers to work out how long it took for the snow petrels to occupy the landscape after it had been deglaciated."

"As the birds usually nest within about one day's flight from feeding grounds, the mumijo also provides information on changes in the coastal food web and sea-ice conditions over geological time."

So from Antarctic snow petrels on to little swiftlets in Vietnam where bird saliva is farmed as a delicacy. There is a huge market for edible birds nests especially in China. The edible-nest swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) is a small bird that uses solidified saliva to make its nest. Several other swiftlets also use saliva that can be harvested for human consumption. One species is even endemic to northern Queensland.

You can even buy the farmed nests in Australia. I found "Dried Golden Orange Bird Nest" for $499.97 per 100gms online. It is expensive stuff with many purported medical benefits from the minerals and proteins found within – such as amino acids like lysine, histidine, cysteine, arginine, humin and amide.

In Vietnam's Mekong Delta this demand has encouraged some family businesses to farm the nests – encouraging swiftlets to come to their specially built cavernous outbuildings where incessant swiftlet bird calls are played to reassure and lure in the birds. Once their nest has been built and the young reared then the nests are harvested, the birds are not harmed in any way. If you are successful in farming, each year it is hoped more swiftlets will return to breed at the same location. I can but hope this type of farming is sustainable and benefits the species or at the very least ensures the survival of the species, as once seen as an asset we are more likely to preserve than persecute. The swiftlets may well keep a farm's neighbourhood pest free and healthy for humans as well, amongst the many insects the swiftlets consume are mosquitoes!

Snow petrel (Pagodroma nivea). Photo: Ilya Grigorik, Wikimedia commons

Marcus Salton chisels a thick sample of very hard mumijo off rocks outside a nest cavity in the Masson Range near Mawson research station. Photo: Marcus Salton

Birds nest box for sale in Chicago Chinatown. Photo: Maisnam, Wikimedia commons

Edible birds nest. Photo: Reforma.imufomot, Wikimedia commons

swiftlet nest farming. Photo: Romain Garrigue

Gerald Durrell 1925 - 1995
Gerald Durrell was a great favourite of mine – a major conservationist, author and zoo owner (me not jealous!) I was a huge fan of his books full of exciting tales of animal collecting expeditions to far-flung 'exotic' places. Certainly many others and myself were inspired by his adventures and experiences with a huge range of creatures. He specialized in collecting endangered species for his zoo and home in Jersey, one of the Channel Islands. To many he is known from the various TV series The Durrells - about his early childhood years in Corfu. My Family and Other Animals was the title of his most famous book. Young or old if you haven't heard of him or read any of his books why not start now!

Many years ago whilst working for Bio Pet in Richmond we helped source a few interesting and rare reptiles for his collection and I would on occasion delight in packing and posting special fluorescent lights, mealworms and other zoological materials to the Les Augres Manor address in Jersey. Gerald could at times be quite controversial - at one stage 'blackballed' by London Zoo, hence almost unable to work in British Zoos. Various older animal trainers I have met didn't always speak kindly of his exploits. I was however fully entranced by his books – I lay the blame at the feet of inspirational figures like Gerald Durrell and David Attenborough for my career choices thus far.

I loved his books about his childhood in Corfu and he was quite a prophetic and forward thinking conservationist who set about acquiring endangered species for breeding and reintroduction programs. Changing the ethos of most zoos and wildlife parks from places of entertainment to more serious enterprises. Jersey Zoo and the Conservation Trust offer many training programs for those interested in endangered species management.

I think they realized many species needed protection away from where they originated to have any chance of long-term survival. He was also into protecting rare reptiles such as the little orange tailed skink Gongylomorphus sp of Mauritius, whereas many zoos at the time only really sought to save 'popular' more photogenic mammals like the panda. Gerald Durrell's Jersey Zoo was apparently the world's first to house only endangered species for breeding and reintroduction. His principles for animal housing at Jersey Zoo were

1st Comfort for the animal.
2nd Convenience for the keepers.
3rd Viewing ease of the public.

His zoo had hidden shelters for the animals – so there was no guarantee the visitor could see any given creature. At the time most if not all zoos worldwide based everything on public seeing animals as the first priority - not the ability for the animals to behave and hide in a more natural manner. His legacy lives on. I just loved Jersey Zoo on my visit way back in the 1980s.

David Attenborough said on the 50th anniversary of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in 2009 "I do assure you, the world needs Durrell".

Gerald Durrell, Askania Nova. Photo: Byron Patchett, Wikimedia commons

Gerald Durrell, The Garden of the Gods book

Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, created 1963 Gerald Durrell

Species in Focus: Australian Mosquitoes (Family Culicidae)
We have over 300 species of these annoying little insects in Australia and over 100 species just in WA. Some species do not bite people at all, with many females feeding on the blood of other animals such as kangaroos. Worldwide there are over 3,500 species. Some sources state that globally we have between 430,000 to 700,000 deaths a year from malaria, carried and transferred to humans by mosquitoes, which makes the mosquito the world's most dangerous creature.

Malaria has been transmitted only rarely in Australia. We are considered a malaria free country. This wasn't always the case and many early colonists in the 1800s died from malaria in the extreme north of Australia. With decades of continuous mosquito control measures the Northern Territory and thus Australia was finally declared malaria free back in 1981.

Well known as vectors of disease Australian mozzies can still spread amongst other things: Dengue fever, Australian encephalitis, Ross River (RR) virus and Barmah Forest virus.

What we all know is that mosquitoes can be capable of spreading disease but they also cause considerable annoyance and disruption to social and recreational activities. We sure get heaps in my garden at certain times of the year.

Mosquitoes are insects with 6 delicate legs, 2 scaled wings and a projecting proboscis that conceals the piercing mouthparts familiar to most of us. They are actually a type of small fly and members of the Culicidae family. The females will feed on blood but both sexes will mainly consume plant fluids including nectar.

The average adult life span is short with females living 2-3 weeks and males just 5-7 days.

Larvae of Culex Mosquitoes. Photo: James Gathany CDC, Wikimedia commons

Mosquito Ochlerotatus notoscriptus, Tasmania. Photo: JJ Harrison, Wikimedia commons

Anopheles stephensi feeding. Photo: Jim Gathany CDC Wikimedia commons

With so many species the breeding cycle does vary but typically a female may lay up to 200 eggs in her short life usually in bodies of water. The larvae develop through four stages or instars after which they metamorphose into pupae before emerging into the familiar adult form. Some species can develop from egg to adult in as few as 5 days other species may take a month or more. A single blood meal allows a female to rest and wait as her eggs develop ready for laying.

It appears that the female blood seeking mosquitoes favour humans with type O blood, high body temperatures and also pregnant women. They use chemical, visual and heat sensors to home in on a potential meal.

One paper I read about their feeding behaviour stated that they can select a target at 100m and home in on your arm or leg at about 5m. Candles and mozzie coils did little to deter them.

Upcoming Courses and Events
Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Saturday 23 February – Albany
Sunday 24 February – Albany
Sunday 3 March – Stoneville, Perth Hills
Saturday 9 March – Bunbury
Sunday 10 March – Manjimup
Monday 11 March - Quindalup, Dunsborough
Thursday 14 March – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 28 March – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 5 April – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 6 April – North Beach, Perth
Wednesday 17 April – North Beach, Perth
Tuesday 30 April – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 11 May – North Beach, Perth
Friday 14 June – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 15 June – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 4 July – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 20 July – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 7 September – Perth Hills
Saturday 14 September – Harradine Vets, Bunbury
Sunday 15 September – Harradine Vets, Bunbury
Saturday 21 September – Oakford
Sunday 29 September – Yanchep
Saturday 12 October - Toodyay
Thursday 17 October - Oakford
Saturday 19 October - Harradine Vets, Bunbury
Sunday 20 October - Harradine Vets, Bunbury
Friday 25 October – Nannup
Saturday 26 October – Nannup
Friday 1 November – Margaret River
Saturday 2 November – Margaret River
Sunday 3 November – Augusta
Saturday 9 November – Rockingham
Saturday 16 November – Albany
Sunday 17 November - Albany

Venomous Snake Handling Course
DBCA Parks and Wildlife Service approved for Regulation 17 Reptile Removalists Licence
Tuesday 19 February – North Beach, Perth - FULL
Friday 1 March – North Beach, Perth - FULL
Tuesday 5 March - Perth
Thursday 14 March – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 28 March – North Beach, Perth
Friday 5 April – Perth
Tuesday 30 April – Perth
Friday 14 June – Perth
Thursday 4 July – Perth
Thursday 18 July – Perth
Friday 2 August - Perth
Friday 23 August – Perth
Tuesday 3 September – Perth
Thursday 19 September – Perth
Wednesday 2 October – Perth
Tuesday 15 October – Perth
Wednesday 30 October – Perth
Wednesday 13 November – Perth
Wednesday 27 November – Perth
Wednesday 11 December - Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Thursday 28 February – Perth
Thursday 13 June – Perth
Thursday 22 August – Perth
Tuesday 26 November - 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:

None scheduled

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.