View this newsletter in your web browser Browse all newsletters
No. 8
Here we are – welcome to 2014. I hope you all have had a great start to the New Year.
Although a very rare occurrence large pythons like the Burmese python Python molurus bivittatus can easily overpower a person, especially when feeling threatened.

A security guard was killed by one in Bali on the 27th December 2013 at about 3am. The victim Ambar Arianto Mulyo aged 59 worked at a restaurant near the Bali Hyatt in the Sanur area of Bali where the incident occurred.

Apparently Mr Mulyo had caught the python by hand and put it over his shoulders, the python then wrapped itself around his body and strangled/asphyxiated him to death. Despite a crowd watching people were unable to save him. The snake, reported to be about 5 metres in length, escaped into nearby bushes. It was not attempting to eat him – just defending itself.

Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus)

A xanthic (yellow pigmented) Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus)

A tragedy to be sure but one that should have been avoided, he could have been saved. I wish I had been there to help. It is a shame none of the people watching knew how to uncoil the snake. With blows to its head I am sure it would have released Ambar or by grabbing the snake by its tail it could have been unwound from the poor victim and stopped the fatal constriction. Either way even with experienced assistance a big and wild python like that is not an easy thing to deal with.

Burmese Pythons are one of the largest snakes in the world. Like all pythons they are not venomous but are powerful snakes. Whilst they are a patchy brown colour in the wild, giant yellow ones (xanthic genes, albinos are white) are frequently seen at snake shows and in zoos around the world including Bali Reptile Park. They can and do tame very easily but a big wild one as in this instance is not to be messed with. Poor Ambar was trying to help local people by removing it from the area but with awful consequences.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world in Florida and well out side their natural SE Asian distribution Burmese Pythons are considered an invasive pest.

Google to find great images like this one – an alligator in Florida eating a Burmese Python.

Alligator eating a Burmese python
In Argentina South America about 70 bathers are reported to have been attacked by a school of carnivorous fish related to the famous Red Bellied Piranha Pygocentrus nattereri. Paramedics reported that some had toes or parts of fingers bitten off and many others chunks of flesh removed by razor sharp teeth. Rosario is the third largest city in Argentina and it had been having a heat wave with temperatures hovering around 38°C. People just couldn't keep out of the water of the rather aptly named Parana River, although Parana translates to "as big as the sea". This incident like the python story above was also on December 27th. Red bellied piranha fish (Pygocentrus nattereri)
© image: Animal Ark
There are many species of Piranha fish, famous for both large razor sharp teeth and great strength. They can be formidable predators but for much of the year many are omnivorous for at least some of their lifespan. They are a common fish and a food source for many.

Fishermen supply many thousands to food markets in South America both fresh and dried. Deaths from Piranha fish attacks are rare but they certainly do occur and there are many authenticated reports. In some places warning signs are displayed to discourage bathers.

The WA Premier Colin Barnett acknowledged that there was strong opposition to the plans for shark hunting but warned would be saboteurs of $20,000 fines for interfering with baited hooks.

The idea is to place hook and lines a kilometre off the Perth beaches of Ocean Reef, Mullaloo, Trigg, Scarborough, Floreat, City Beach, Cottesloe, North Cottesloe and Port Leighton as well as at several beaches in the South West. All sharks hooked over 3m will be killed and any 3m+ White, Bull or Tiger sharks seen inside two sprawling Kill zones will also be pursued and killed.

The Premier stated that we have had 20 fatal sharks attacks in WA in the past 100 years – seven of them in the past 3 years.

I was at the recent protest on Cottesloe Beach spurred on by my daughter and from what I can gather this government sanctioned approach is unlikely to help the public or surfers much, if at all. Plus the baited hooks are likely to effect and kill many other marine creatures, as baited hooks attract all comers not just the targeted species.

Sharks are mainly migratory and as any ecologist will tell you if you remove an animal like a shark from it’s habitat another individual will likely take up on the opening that creates in the ecosystem. So unless the cull is a permanent feature of government policy the sharks will surely return.

As this is not an issue that will go away quickly I ask what do you think? Love some feedback.

For more useful, balanced information on shark attacks and culling see Thanks Edwina for recently sharing this.

I feel sorry for the sharks but also want safe beaches. I would be interested to know if most or all these shark victims are surfers or swimmers or both. Maybe more research into the anti shark wet suits. Two types pictured may be the answer. One is supposedly invisible to sharks – so "if I can't see it then it can't be food". The other is very visual so "I can see it but It doesn't look like food so don't bite it".

I think that’s the idea anyway.

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

Protest against shark culling, Cottesloe Beach January 2014

Surfers wearing anti shark wetsuits

Two different styles of anti shark wetsuits

I have had very little to do with sharks although I did once use a dead one floated with balloons inside its gut for an Israeli adventure film. Another one of those odd film jobs I was involved in years ago in the UK. It was shot in the swimming pool of a mansion just outside London with an Israeli super star as the action hero. The scene involved a shark coming out the seaweed to attack our hero who valiantly fights with it and eventually after much manly thrashing about and rolling around, kills it with a dagger.

I can safely say that I am the only person to have gutted and washed a shark in what was once John Lennon's jacuzzi. The day after whilst trying to dispose of the sharks carcass I nearly sparked a murder inquiry with the local police force but that's another fishy story.

Animal in Focus: Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae
The Laughing Kookaburra is not native to WA. It was originally found only in the eastern states. They were first released in Perth in 1898 and are relatively common in the south west of the state.

I love the sound as they start off, slow and relatively quiet but the chortling soon becomes full on hysterical laughter. A very, very different bird call to the quiet and delicate chirping and tweeting of British garden birds I grew up listening to in the UK.

We often have these Aussie icons calling and laughing just outside my bedroom window. Even though they are not particularly welcomed by many WA conservationists as they are a successful invasive species, I think they have become part and parcel of our daily lives in the west.

Laughing Kookaburra (dacelo novaeguineae)
© image: Animal Ark
The Laughing Kookaburra is the largest of the 10 Australian Kingfishers, reaching up to 46 cm in length. Their sharp beaks can grow to 10cm alone. Food is caught with this formidable beak and they will feed on a wide variety of invertebrates and vertebrates depending on availability. Locusts, beetles and other insects, fish, rodents, frogs, lizards and snakes are all taken. The bird adopts a sit and wait approach to hunting. Perching on a post or tree limb watching for movement, they then drop down to grab their prey. Larger items are bashed against the ground or on a branch to kill and tenderise them.

The distinctive call is to let other Kookaburras know its territory and boundaries. They live in a family group, establish a social system, mating for life with only the dominant pair breeding in most years. Nests are usually made in tree or other hollows.

In WA the breeding season is from August to November. Two to four white eggs are laid. Upon hatching it's a family effort to raise the young with last years juveniles assisting in the task of raising the new brood. Kookaburras have a life span of up to 20 years.

Upcoming Courses and Events
Snake Handling Course
DPaW approved for Reptile Relocator's Regulation 17 Licence
Friday 17 January 2014 - North Beach, Perth - full
Friday 7 February 2014 - North Beach, Perth - 4 places left
Friday 7 March 2014 - North Beach, Perth
Friday 4 April 2014 - North Beach, Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Monday 17 February 2014 - NAR, Malaga

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:

Sunday 19 January 2014
Wonders of the Wildlife Ark for Nearer to Nature, DPaW
Yanchep National Park
11.15am and 12.45pm
Contact Nearer to Nature to book.

Saturday 5 April 2014
Animal Ark Roadshow
Altone Comes Alive!
Altone Park Leisure Centre, Beechboro
11am - 4pm

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

Call (08) 9243 3044 or email David or Jenny at to book.

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