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No. 55
Hooray – it's warming up, the sun shines - spring is upon us. As it warms up snakes are on the move, we get very busy from now on - training people how to catch and relocate snakes safely, and our Snake Avoidance season also begins with us teaching dogs to leave snakes alone. We begin 'migrating' or meandering around Perth and the beautiful south west of Western Australia.
Many of us have travelled for holidays and as it warms up many animal species also begin a migration, maybe not to a villa in Bali or for skiing in Japan, but often in a seasonal search for food, breeding grounds and a mate.

I thought I would look at a few epic journeys undertaken by wildlife. Millions of Australian birds, and numerous mammals, sharks and reptiles all migrate.

Wildebeest migration in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Photo: Daniel Rosengren Wikimedia Commons
Recent DNA analysis has shown that millions of years ago a gravid female iguana of a species found in Central America started an unintended venture. She was stranded, probably rafting on one of the many mats of vegetation that flow along tropical rivers and out to sea. She survived an incredible ordeal travelling a couple of thousand kilometres and arrived alive on an island in the Galápagos. Over millennia her offspring have evolved into the marine iguana. In 1835 Charles Darwin arrived and started to figure out the whole evolutionary journey taken by all species. Charles Darwin first observed marine iguanas in 1835 and later described them as a "hideous looking creature, of a dirty black colour, stupid, and sluggish". Marine iguanas, Galápagos. Photo: Animal Ark
A young female Arctic fox was fitted with a GPS tracking device to study her movements. Released from Norway's Polar Institute on the east coast of Spitsbergen scientists were simply amazed at the epic journey she made. In just 76 days she had travelled 3,506km, first travelling 1,512km across the cold ice to reach Greenland in only 21 days. Then onward for this little fox moving over 2,000km more, finally reaching Ellesmere Island in Canada. She was fast moving as well averaging 46km a day – and up to 155km some days. Scientists even had to double check she hadn't hitched a ride by ship – but none were in the area. What is she doing now? Nobody knows – her transmitter has since stopped working – she could be anywhere. Arctic fox. Photo: Emma, Wikimedia Commons
Every year starting in January some 60,000 humpback whales depart the chilly Antarctic waters and migrate over 6,000 kilometres. Over 35,000 of them travel up the west coast of Australia to Broome and the Kimberley, another 25,000 use the east coast route also heading north. All seek the warm tropical waters and protective reefs, to mate and tend to their newly born calves. When commercial Australian whaling ceased in the 1960's the population was thought to be very low with only around 200 animals surviving. Now remarkably the population is soaring, numbers having increased to 60,000, reportedly still growing by 10% or more a year. Reason enough to celebrate this mighty migration. Humpback whales in singing position. Photo: NOAA photo library, Dr Louis M Herman, Wikimedia Commons
No journey for a living creature can surely be longer than a trip to the moon. Somewhat unintentionally it is now likely that we humans have seeded life on the moon. Strange creatures called tardigrades crash-landed there on April 11th 2019 on the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft. Amazingly other living organisms by way of gut and faecal bacteria have also been deposited (in bags) on the moon by travelling astronauts but it's the tardigrades that have at least some chance of surviving the harsh lunar atmosphere.

Tardigrades or moss piglets are of the phylum Tardigrada. They are tiny creatures found everywhere on our planet from ponds and rivers to lichen and moss, under sea and atop mountains. Around 0.5mm a basic microscope allows you to look at them; they have 8 legs and a bear like appearance. They are known to be able to survive great extremes; some can go without food or water for 30 years. Cook them to 150°C or freeze to -272°C these are tough critters and in order to survive a crash landing on the moon they will need to be very tough indeed. How long will they survive, are they capable of colonising the lunar surface? I have no idea but we do know that invasive species of almost any kind often manage to adapt and survive.

Tardigrade in moss. Photo:

Adult tardigrade. Photo: Goldstein lab tardigrades, Wikimedia Commons

Or miss out - really we are super busy fitting dogs into time slots at various locations. We can only do so much and word of our Snake Avoidance training is spreading - Australian shepherd refresher - Snake Avoidance Training. Photo: Animal Ark
Working together as a couple and with local communities in Mozambique, Colleen and Keith are typical of the many unsung heroes of world conservation. They are out there many months of the year doing what they believe in, trying to engage with, protect and study wildlife. They are passionate conservationists and scientists, and are keen to include the locals in wildlife conservation initiatives.

Some years ago Colleen and Keith conducted the first in-depth study of honey badgers in the Kalahari Desert. A great success has been their 'Honey Badger Friendly Honey Campaign', which helps to reduce the numbers of honey badgers killed by commercial beekeepers. Beekeepers were taught how to keep their hives out of reach of the honey badgers and to not kill the badgers on sight – so a win win conservation result. Reducing human wildlife conflict is often a key ingredient to any successful conservation agenda. Locals need to derive benefit from wildlife conservation to become engaged and willing partners – so any practical ideas that help protect their crops and provide income helps support a project's likely success. So hats off as they say to Colleen and Keith.

Nowadays they live in Mozambique and have established the Niassa Carnivore Project Their project leads and monitors over 100 Mozambicans and they are involved in wildlife positive microenterprises, anti poaching and education. Set in the little known (but well worth a visit) Niassa reserve in northern Mozambique.

So yes you can even go and visit one of their initiatives at Mpopo trail camp in Mozambique

Whilst reading a bit about them I really like the fact that Colleen's long-term personal objective is to "live a life of passion and purpose".

NCP team 2016, Keith and Colleen centre. Photo: Niassa Carnivore Project

Niassa Lion Project: Photo cmbegg

NCP team 2018. Photo: Niassa Carnivore Project

SALES OFFER - New Stock is in
Offer 1

Snake catching bag and frame – special offer with a free Snakebite bandage.

NEW Special offer $150 inc GST and postage Australia wide. Should be $180 +

Phone for credit card payment, order online or call 08 9243 3044 to order.

Online use the discount code SNAKE BAG and tick pick up from store, but we will ship.

Snake catching bag with frame and clamp - available from Animal Ark
Offer 2

Snake bite gaiters: Only $99 a pair including tax and postage. Normally $120 +

Online use the discount code GAITERS and tick pick up from store, but we will ship.

Animal Ark snakebite protection: Gaiters, Camo
Phone for credit card payment, order online or call to pick up from store.

Offer runs until the end of September 2019.

Buy online at or telephone your order 08 9243 3044.

Animal in Focus: Marine Iguana (Amblyrhyncus cristatus)
Iguanas are large lizards from the tropical Americas.

Marine iguanas are special as they have evolved to feed on algae - they are the only lizards utilizing the ocean for food. There are six closely related subspecies each from a different Island within the Galápagos archipelago found some 1,100 kilometres from the Ecuadorian mainland. They are mostly black but males brighten up during the breeding season. Considerable amounts of time are spent basking ensuring they are warm enough to dive into the cool waters to nibble and graze on the algae found below the water line. As they dive they can slow their heartbeat to half its normal rate allowing them to forage for as long as possible, gripping the rocks with long claws as they feed. The excess of salts accumulated eating marine algae is sneezed out of their nostrils and whilst they sit and bask they sneeze almost continuously ejecting salty crystals. At various times cats, rats and human activities have been threats to their survival but the Ecuadorian Galápagos Conservation Trust works hard keeping pests in check and ensuring ongoing survival of the islands' unique wildlife.

Marine iguanas average from 0.7 to around 1.5 metres in length, much of that is a muscular tail. Lucky specimens can live around 5-12 years and they weigh in at well over 1kg and probably up to 3kg or more judging by some of the larger ones I have seen.

I have been lucky enough to see various species of iguanas in Central and South American countries as well as on the Caribbean island on Montserrat (where they are somewhat of a delicacy). I have also had the amazing experience watching them on several islands in the Galápagos where their unique geographical isolation and relative predator free environment makes it very easy to observe them. They mostly consider humans as harmless – and only reluctantly move away when you are within inches of them. In fact on occasions you had to be careful not to tread on them as they were both numerous and ponderous in equal measure.

Marine iguana, Fernandina Island, Galápagos. Photo: Animal Ark

Marine iguanas, Fernandina Island, Galápagos. Photo: Animal Ark

Upcoming Courses and Events
Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Saturday 31 August – North Beach, Perth
Sunday 1 September – North Beach, Perth - FULL
Monday 2 September – North Beach, Perth - FULL
Friday 6 September – Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills - FULL
Saturday 7 September - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills - FULL
Friday 13 September – Bunbury - FULL
Saturday 14 September – Harradine Vets, Bunbury
Sunday 15 September – Harradine Vets, Bunbury
Tuesday 17 September – Team Equistar, Maringiniup, Wanneroo
Wednesday 18 September - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Saturday 21 September – Oakford - FULL
Saturday 28 September – North Beach, Perth
Sunday 29 September – Yanchep - FULL
Thursday 3 October - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Friday 4 October – North Beach, Perth
Sunday 6 October – Ninth Street Vets, Harvey, WA
Monday 7 October – New Era Vets, Oakford
Saturday 12 October - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Sunday 13 October – Coondle, Toodyay
Thursday 17 October - Oakford
Friday 18 October – Bunbury
Saturday 19 October - Harradine Vets, Bunbury
Sunday 20 October - Harradine Vets, Bunbury
Wednesday 23 October – North Beach, Perth
Friday 25 October – Nannup
Saturday 26 October – Nannup
Tuesday 29 October - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Friday 1 November – Margaret River
Saturday 2 November – Margaret River
Saturday 9 November – Rockingham
Tuesday 12 November – Donnybrook, WA
Saturday 16 November – Albany
Sunday 17 November - Albany
Saturday 23 November – Bouvard, Mandurah
Saturday 30 November - Baldivis

Venomous Snake Handling Course
Licensed by DBCA Parks and Wildlife Service
Monday 2 September – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 19 September – Animal Ark, Perth
Wednesday 2 October – Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Tuesday 15 October – Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Wednesday 30 October – Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Wednesday 13 November – Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Thursday 21 November - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Wednesday 27 November – Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Wednesday 11 December - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills

Fauna Handling Course
Monday 14 October - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills
Tuesday 26 November - Mahogany Creek, Perth Hills

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:

Saturday 14 September
Animal Ark Interactive Wildlife Display
Chittering Wildflower Expo Family Day
10am – 2pm
For more information contact Chittering Landcare Centre

Sunday 22 September
Animal Ark Interactive Wildlife Display
Celebrate Lake Claremont
11am – 2pm
Contact Town of Claremont for more information

Thursday 10 October
Animal Ark Interactive Wildlife Incursion
Bassendean Library
One hour sessions
Contact Bassendean Library for more information and 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.