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The Lazarus Project- to bring back Australia’s southern gastric-brooding frog

Scientists from The Lazarus Project – named for the biblical Lazarus of Bethany brought back to life by Jesus and not the decidedly average 2008 Paul Walker movie – are trying to restore Australia’s southern gastric-brooding frog.

The gastric-brooding frogs (Rheobatrachus) were a genus of ground-dwelling frogs native to Queensland in eastern Australia. The genus consisted of only two species, both of which became extinct in the mid-1980s. The genus was unique because it contained the only two known frog species that incubated the prejuvenile stages of their offspring in the stomach of the mother.

The mother frog converts her stomachs into a womb. She swallows her own eggs and stops making hydrochloric acid in her stomach to avoid digesting her own young. Around 20 to 25 tadpoles hatch inside her and the mucus from their gills continues to keep the acid at bay.

gastric-brooding-frog

(image: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/facts-about-the-gastric-brooding-frog.html)

The southern gastric brooding frog has been listed as Extinct by the IUCN because it has not been recorded in the wild since 1981, and extensive searches over the last 35 years have failed to locate this species.  Unfortunately, not long after researchers began to study the species, they vanished. “The frogs were there one minute, and when scientists came back, they were gone,” says Andrew French, a cloning expert at the University of Melbourne and a member of the Lazarus Project.

The bizarre gastric-brooding frog– which uniquely swallowed its eggs, brooded its young in its stomach and gave birth through its mouth.   But the Lazarus Project team has been able to recover cell nuclei from tissues collected in the 1970s and kept for 40 years in a conventional deep freezer. The “de-extinction” project aims to bring the frog back to life.

The team hope their work with hybrid cells could eventually help bring back other mammals, such as the Tasmanian tiger or woolly mammoth. Though the revival of a mammoth or a passenger pigeon is no longer mere fantasy, the reality is still years away.

In March 2013, UNSW Professor Mike Archer and his colleagues made international headlines when they announced they had succeeded in growing early-stage cloned embryos containing the DNA of the Gastric-brooding Frog, which became extinct in 1983.  To bring the extinct gastric brooding frog back from oblivion and, in doing so, provide hope for the hundreds of other frogs that are heading that way. Getting the embryo was a milestone and Archer is buoyantly optimistic that he’ll cross the finish line soon. Lazarus, he says, will rise again.

De-extinction advocates counter that the cloning and genomic engineering technologies being developed for de-extinction could also help preserve endangered species, especially ones that don’t breed easily in captivity.

Rather than habitat loss and fragmentation, the usual human-caused extinction cause,James Cook University herpetologist studies global frog populations and their decline from the widespread and deadly chytrid fungus.

The researchers are going to continue their frog cloning attempts. They may also attempt to clone the Tasmanian tiger, the dodo and the woolly mammoth.

While the idea of de-extinction is alluring, and exciting, more should be done to stop the human-caused processes that actually cause species to be threatened!  It’s a continual battle against monetary forces, and industries in the lap of businesses and corporate powers.

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The Nature Nook Wildlife Event Presented by AWPC

Nature Nook Printable Flyer Click Here


The Nature Nook’s grand opening starts at 10am at The Nature Nook (meet at the Visitor Center at 9:50am).

Come along to the ‘The Nature Nook’ at The Briars Nature Reserve. This magical place welcomes you to take a moment to be Still, Listen, Smell, Observe and Contemplate Wildlife.

This free, all ages event, presented by the Australian Wildlife Protection Council and the Mornington Shire Council, will be an interesting day of wildlife wonder, helping us to get to know the wild members of our community.

Following the Grand Opening there will be 3 presentation sessions during the day at 10:30am, 12noon and 1:30pm.

Activities at the visitors center include making nests for possums, checking nest boxes, ‘Who Did That Poo?!’, ‘Who Makes That Sound?’ and more. These sessions are followed by a visit to The Nature Nook to use our senses of sight, smell and sound to observe wildlife.

Tickets to the sessions are FREE but please register for tickets.

Bring along some lunch and water and don’t forget to Slip, Slop, Slap

See you there!

For more details contact: eve.awpc@gmail.com

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The Southern Brown Bandicoot Dilemma- Hans Brunner

The SBB dilemma

For the last 13 years, the nationally endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot has been proclaimed with great hype and expectation as a flagship species in the local biosphere region. They were still prevalent on the Mornington Peninsula and in the Frankston area including the Pines. Sadly, because of incompetence and to a degree of unwillingness by DEPI and Parks Victoria, this species has now become totally extinct on the Pen. and in the Frankston area including the Pines.

The Southern Brown Bandicoot Recovery Group (SBBRG) was also not able to arrest this loss. Their current strategies to just provide corridors for them in order to restore them to where they have been lost has also failed. Wildlife corridors are extremely appealing to most people, but there is very little understanding of the many implications and difficulties involved. For example, what fauna species are still there to use them, is the vegetation type suitable along the whole length of it and can the wildlife to use it be properly protected form dogs, foxes, cats and cars etc. And where would such a linkages come from and lead into. Is it worth to construct expensive infrastructures for the animals that may be left in the area.

In one instance, $20m dollars were spent on underpasses in the Pines for the Southern Brown Bandicoot but there were no bandicoots left to use them.

During a recently held Biolink Forum at the RBGC the great enthusiasm and passion for these links has not changed. The SBBRG still insists to just only relay on providing corridors for bandicoots. Some of the proposed corridors are at least ten km in length and without fences to protect the animals from predators.They recommend to use “functional wildlife corridors between state nature reserves and to wildlife corridors in Frankston from the RBGC” but at the same time believe that fencing of the Pines is a lost cause and time could be better spent on other issues. Why then, create a 10 km long corridor from the RBGC to the Pines and to other similar distant places when there is no intention to re-introduce and properly protect bandicoots in the Pines and in those other reserves? When considering that we have dismally failed to protect bandicoots in at least 12 conservation reserves on the Pen. and in Frankston, it begs the question whether they can realistically be expected to just survive in narrow,long and unprotected corridors.

Fortunately, some people of the Natural Resources Conservation League of Victoria agree with me and recommend “Fencing of key nodes looks likely being one of the immediate priorities. This would include the Pines first and foremost”.

If this type of absolute protection for bandicoots is not accepted, then. the other currently recommended strategies of just corridors will create a much greater threat to bandicoots then that of dogs, foxes, cats, cars and developers put together!

As if it could not get worse. There are suggestions to introduce the Eastern Barred Bandicoot onto Churchill Island, French Island, Woodley School Reserve and even onto Quail Island, all being habitat that should be reserved and used for the SBB’s.

It looks like our flagship species, the SBB is now well and truly torpedoed and sunk and the governments at all levels do not seem to care.

hansbrunner_1

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Vegetation clearing on days of total fire bans and development in guise of reducing fuel load – the public should be concerned — Craig Thomson

Bearing in mind the recent Crib Point tragedy – a suspected arson attack, with wildlife loss yet to be detailed, one home destroyed and one home damaged plus several sheds destroyed, we must be more vigilant about how and whether we develop our bushland neighbourhoods more densely.

Planning laws allow property owners to remove large amounts of vegetation without permission from their land citing their reason as ‘fire protection’. After the vegetation is removed, those property owners may apply to the council for permission to intensify development on the land.

Council usually does not deny permission for individual cases. But such individual cases mount up and create a danger which councils and planners may not have seen. The risk is that the granting of denser housing development in a bushland area means that, if there is a fire in the remaining bushland, there will be an increased number of residents needing to evacuate. Increasing population density means that more roads are needed to cope with a fire emergency evacuation. However, densification is being allowed to happen in an ad hoc, case by case fashion, without the building of roads in advance of significant development. No one is overseeing the total impact. Vegetation clearing on days of total fire bans

cropped-waterfall

477 Waterfall Gully Rd Rosebud 3939 Vic. Clearing took place on Friday 15/1/16, Monday 18/1/16 and Tuesday 19/1/16 thus far. To date up to 45 trees and shrubs have been removed, including 4 manna gums. One which was a hollow bearing tree and one on a neighbouring property. Most of the other vegetation removed was coast tea-tree.

I called the Mornington Peninsula shire council’s planning department, on the 18th and 19th of January 2016 about the clearing of native vegetation. The officers I spoke to on both days confirmed that there are no permits for either vegetation clearance or an application permit for a building extension/residential development. The planning department said that the vegetation clearance was legal without a permit. The vegetation in question was within 10 meters to the residence or 4 meters within the property boundary.

croppedaerialview

(image: 477 Waterfall Gully Rd, the vegetated block above)

As the primary reason that fire regulations allows for the vegetation clearance, I have raised the following concerns: No 477 Waterfall Gully residence has been unoccupied since November, when it was sold.

That the first action of the owner is to remove all trees and shrubs from site would suggest it is being cleared for a development – an opinion shared by the professionals clearing the vegetation and by the surrounding neighbours.

  1. Two of the three days the vegetation being cleared were days of total fire ban. The 18th and 19th of January were days of total fire bans. The use of multiple heavy industrial petrol operated equipment on days of total fire ban, I believe, makes a mockery of fire prevention laws.

 

  1. The planning department understand my concerns and have been as helpful as they can. However there is nothing they can do to address this issue due to current regulations. So I ask your assistance in addressing flaws in the fire regulations that allow developers to exploit them.

 

  1. These flaws are: To ban activities such as clearing vegetation or activities that could cause fires on days of total fire bans,
    Close loop holes that developers use to clear vegetation under false pretences, which cost the Shire revenue.

 

Craig Thomson, Planning Officer, Australian Wildlife Protection Council

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Victorian kangaroo pet food trial – to be broadened

More than 23,900 kangaroo carcasses have been processed for pet food in Victoria, under the trial so far, which started in 2014. The government recently decided to extend the trial for another two years.

The trial operates in 12 council areas, but councillors and farmers from other regions have urged the government to do more to address kangaroo numbers, citing the negative impact they are having on farms and the dangers they pose to motorists.

Now, the trail will include Bendigo and the Glenelg Shires, where it is believed that kangaroo populations have increased.

Reports from the City of Greater Bendigo indicate that hundreds of kangaroos are killed each year in that municipality after being struck by cars.

However, human population growth is being ignored in the strategy, and assessment!  The City of Greater Bendigo population forecast for 2016 is 112,853, and is forecast to grow to 156,151 by 2036.  This will bring more habitat loss to native animals, more traffic on roads, and more collisions.

Environment Minister Lisa Neville said the trial had not led to more kangaroos being destroyed.

“This doesn’t result in more kangaroos being culled, what it does is result in better management of the carcasses to reduce that waste and vermin,” she said.  So, they carcasses are just “wastage” and need to be commercially utilized, as an alternative to actually mitigating the problem!

Most of the kangaroos that are shot are on agricultural land.  Farmers are intolerant about sharing pasture.

It’s a de-facto commercial kangaroo meat industry in Victoria, something that was rejected decades ago as being unsustainable, and ethically questionable.

An early 1980s C.S.I.R.O. study questioned the whole basis of kangaroo management and commercialization in Victoria, and the principle of issuing agricultural wildlife destruction permits under the Wildlife Act 1975.  A “National kangaroo Management Program” working group met in 1981, and it was determined that Victoria could not meet most of the requirements of the Plan, and that commercial shooting should cease.

Our government does not know how many kangaroos there are, and extinction is a process, not an event.  Instead of mitigating the problem, our native animals are vilified as “pests”, only valuable as meat!

kangaroomeat

Letter in The Age, 27th February, 2016

 

Saving our icon

 

Environment Minister Lisa Neville’s comment that kangaroos in Victoria are being killed “humanely” and under “strict conditions” (The Age, 25/2) is misleading. When mother kangaroos are shot, their joeys are killed or left to starve or die from predation. Many kangaroos are shot and do not die immediately, suffering internal injuries and having body parts blown off.

More than a decade ago, the CSIRO conducted a study into the viability of commercially killing kangaroos in Victoria and found there were not enough to sustain an industry. Victoria has even fewer kangaroos now.

Australia wide, up to 5million kangaroos are allowed to be shot every year – the largest slaughter of land-based wildlife in the world. If current rates continue, the icon of Australia faces extinction.

 

Anne Skelly,

 

Australian Wildlife Protection Council

AWPC President, Maryland Wilson, says that numbers are no guarantee against extinction; look at the carrier pigeon in the USA.   Victoria has never had a commercial ‘roo industry because it does not have enough kangaroos to sustain one. They are universally loved, making them exceptional.                                                                                                                               Lisa Neville’s DNRE does not know how many kangaroos there are in Victoria, but it is her job to protect this ‘protected’ species!

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Victory for vegan campaigners as Iceland dumps kangaroo meat

After receiving criticism from animal welfare charity Viva! and pressure from consumers, British supermarket giant, Iceland have announced they have stopped selling kangaroo meat. Viva!’s long running consumer campaign included a funeral procession for wildlife inside an Iceland store and a nationwide Day of Action, demanding they stop selling kangaroo meat.

• Kangaroos are brutally killed in the outback for international meat trade
• Baby joeys ripped from mother’s pouch and clubbed to death
• Health risks associated with consuming kangaroo meat

Iceland had stocked kangaroo meat, marketing it to consumers as a ‘low fat exotic meat’. However, what they failed to mention is that the kangaroo meat industry is one of the most brutal and violent in the world. It is sold as ‘just a bit of fun’, but don’t be fooled. It is the product of suffering and blood-shed on an enormous scale. Millions are shot every year at night in Australia’s vast outback. Mesmerised by powerful search lights, the animals are supposedly shot in the head but many are mis-shot and die a slow, agonising death.

Experts from both the UK and Australia have expressed their concerns about the health implications of consuming kangaroo meat and warned than it ‘could be riddled with pathogens’. Five years ago, independent testing had found dangerously high levels of Salmonella and E.coli in kangaroo meat bought from Australian supermarkets. In 2014, dog ‘treats’ made from kangaroo meat were withdrawn because of Salmonella contamination.

In addition to the potential health risks, Viva! warns of serious animal welfare issues surrounding the killing of kangaroos. In the UK it is a common misconception that kangaroos are farmed; when they are in fact completely wild animals. As such, their population can fluctuate massively – and can be especially impacted by factors that can be difficult to predict, such as drought (which is only expected to worsen because of climate change) and disease.

Baby kangaroos (joeys) are pulled from their dying mother’s pouch to be clubbed to death. Still dependent adolescents are shot and dumped or left to die from predation or hunger without the protection of their parents. Popularising and commercialising the meat of wild animals – whose populations are finite and unstable – is deeply irresponsible and potentially disastrous.

Whilst populations can build up in some areas they have plummeted in others. In 2015 alone there was 6.8 million kangaroos earmarked for slaughter. According to the Australian Government’s own figures, since 2001 (compared to 2015) there has been an overall drop of 12,577,598 kangaroos in the areas where they are hunted.

Animal welfare organisation Viva! have campaigned against the sale of kangaroo meat since the late 1990s. Recently they have also successfully stopped major British supermarkets Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Tesco from selling the meat. Only Lidl has failed to listen to Viva! and their customer’s concerns about the meat and as a result is the last major supermarket still selling it.

Juliet Gellatley, founder and director of Viva!, explains why Iceland ditching kangaroo meat is an milestone:

“We are delighted that Iceland have taken kangaroo meat off their shelves after listening to Viva! and their customer’s concerns. What was being promoted as a little bit of fun to British consumers hid the brutal reality that the kangaroo trade drives the largest massacre of land based wild animals in the world today. We are committed to supporting Australian wildlife groups to end this repugnant, merciless and thuggish trade.”

Notes to editor

1. Iceland quote was obtained from Keith Hann, Director of Corporate Affairs keith.hann@iceland.co.uk on 30 January 2018 – his full quote was:

“I am happy to confirm that Iceland removed all lines containing kangaroo meat from sale last year, in response to feedback from our customers.”

2. Viva!’s kangaroo campaign website www.savethekangaroo.com
3. Viva!’s previous campaigns against this industry have achieved wide media coverage including: The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Grocer and The Sun.
4. For details of the human health implications of eating kangaroo meat please see Viva!’s updated fact sheet: https://www.savethekangaroo.com/factsheet (it includes details of a brand new kangaroo butchering facility closed down because of health concerns)
5. Viva!’s Day of Action took place in 2015- however the consumer campaign has been ongoing since

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