Category Archives: Native Animals

Drought, land clearing in Queensland

(featured image: Queensland_State_Archives – land clearing Beerburrum_December 1916)

When we think about global deforestation, certain hotspots spring to mind. The Amazon. The Congo. Borneo and Sumatra. And… eastern Australia?

Yes, eastern Australia is one of 11 regions highlighted in a new chapter of the WWF Living Forests report, Saving forests at risk, which identifies the world’s greatest deforestation fronts – where forests are most at risk – between now and 2030.

The WWF Living Forests report, Saving forests at risk”, identifies the world’s greatest deforestation fronts – where forests are most at risk – between now and 2030. It estimates forest losses for eastern Australia range from 3 million to 6 million hectares, including over a million hectares of Queensland’s native vegetation. Report co-author Martin Taylor says a relaxation in land clearing regulations in NSW and Queensland could trigger a resurgence in large-scale forest clearing, mainly for livestock.

Australia is an internationally renowned biological treasure, one of 17 ‘megadiverse’ countries. Our national responsibility for maintaining the planet’s biological diversity is even greater by virtue of the uniqueness of many of our species.

Queensland needs to reinstate strong controls on broadscale land clearing, including regrowing native vegetation. The weakening of broadscale land clearing regulations has already allowed instances of substantial clearing, and this will increase in scale and frequency over time.

“Queensland has been the site of more than three quarters of Australia’s land clearing in recent decades. … From 1988 to 2009, an average of 410,000 ha was cleared per year in Queensland. Less than 2% of trees cut in this period were used for timber and 93% of the clearing was to establish pasture for livestock grazing. “Feedlots in the southern Queensland grain growing region are the greatest single consumer of feed, followed by Victorian dairy farms and NSW feedlots.” (BZE Zero Carbon Australia Land Use report p30)

Dryland salinity
has affected large areas cleared of native vegetation, and the salinity impacts of recent large-scale clearing in central Queensland have yet to be realised. Less than 10% of the original vegetation remains in some parts of southern Australia and south-east Queensland. The greatest conservation success in recent times has been the slowing of land clearing, particularly of broad-scale clearing in Queensland.

The drought in central west Queensland has left “skin and bone” kangaroos starving to death and too weak to move, residents say. The commercial kangaroo meat industry figures and Queensland senator Barry O’Sullivan both claim kangaroo numbers are out of control, despite population estimates that may suggest otherwise. The data suggests the kangaroo population in regional Queensland dropped from 26.3 million in 2013 to 22.5 million in 2014, a decrease of close to 15 per cent. There are new markets to China and Peru. No doubt this cruel industry won’t stop until they are threatened!

Despite the recent rains and coastal flooding, more than 80 per cent of Queensland remains officially drought declared. Queensland agricultural lobby groups have criticised the Labor Party over its plan to reinstate its former land clearing laws. Producers prefer to accept the inevitability of drought than to draw the dots between heavy land clearing and drought! Record numbers of Queensland cattle are going to slaughter as the drought continues to bite hard in the Sunshine State, so it’s growing- business as usual!

The Queensland Government is under pressure to stop the bulldozing of tens of thousands of hectares of bushland on Cape York, a move approved in the dying days of the previous Liberal National Party government.
(image: Recent increases in land clearing threaten Queensland’s biodiversity

The rate of large scale land clearing in Queensland is about to go off the scale unless the Palaszczuk government delivers on its pre-election promise to reinstate strong controls on large scale clearing. The warning from The Wilderness Society follows media reports in May 2015 revealing that clearing has just commenced on 32,000 hectares of World Heritage quality woodland at Olive Vale on Cape York Peninsula.

“The Olive Vale clearing is … the largest single permit that we’re aware of being granted for high value agriculture,” said Tim Seeling of the Wilderness Society. Conservationists argue that Olive Vale, which is on the Laura River 90 kilometres west of Cooktown, is home to 17 listed threatened species and a nationally important wetland, including the Gouldian Finch!

Land clearing is the main cause of biodiversity loss.
It also exacerbates erosion and salinity, reduces water quality, worsens the impacts of drought, and contributes significantly to carbon emissions. Indeed, vegetation protection laws enabled Australia to meet its Kyoto Protocol target for emissions reductions.

For yellow-bellied gliders and other species dependent on large tree hollows, it doesn’t matter how much money is spent if hollows continue to vanish from the landscape as a result of land clearing.

(image: yellow-bellied glider from web page

The most pronounced declines in koalas are in southeast Queensland, where urban development has destroyed and fragmented large areas of high quality Koala habitat, with resulting increases in mortality from vehicle collisions, dog attacks and disease. In the past 20 years, there have been substantial population declines in southwest Queensland and central Queensland due to drought, heatwaves, urbanization and land clearing.

It’s 25 years since prime minister Bob Hawke promised to plant a billion trees across Australia, the first of many ambitious schemes to reverse the destructive toll of broad-scale clearing by farmers. In 1995, Queensland premier Wayne Goss announced a plan to preserve 90 per cent of his state’s remnant native vegetation. Hawke’s billion trees were never planted and Keating and Goss were thrown out of office before they could fulfil their promises.

The re-acceleration of land clearing in Queensland puts the state on the world stage – and not in a good way. We are still in a Colonial mind-frame of desperate clearing of “messy” native vegetation, and environmental destruction, all for the economic model of production, profits and feeding an expanding number of mouths!

It’s time to stop the razing of our landscape for short-term profits, at the expense of the long-term impacts of destruction.


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End of the line for the tiny Mallee Emu-Wren?

Inappropriate fuel-reduction could see more losses of threatened species.

In late January, 2014, after wildfires tore through two conservation parks in South Australia, researchers scoured the charred terrain for signs of life.  Tragically, they found nothing; only the charred silence of an empty, burnt landscape!  The 60 remaining breeding pairs of Mallee emu-wren (Stipiturus mallee) in South Australia had been lost and the species was now extinct in the state.

The fires ignited in two conservation parks in South Australia’s Mallee region that were home to the only remaining South Australian populations of the endangered Mallee Emu-wren, and another fire in the Victorian mallee, 12 kilometres southwest of Ouyen, burnt the entire 13,000-hectare reserve that was one of two small populations in Victoria of the endangered Black-eared Miner.

The only remaining population in the world of Mallee Emu Wren occurs at a single area in north-western Victoria. They became extinct in South Australia last summer after wildfires burnt them out.


The fact that we lost several significant bird populations in fires linked to a single heat wave event highlights just how vulnerable many of these species are,” says ecologist Dr Rohan Clarke from Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences.

(image: Mallee Emu-wren)

There is nothing left of an emu-wren after a fire, not even a pile of ash,” says Professor Michael Clarke, head of Life Sciences at La Trobe University. These tiny birds are unable to flee an approaching fire, and any that survive the flames have nowhere to live after the fire has passed. He says that “the Mallee region, which is home to less than 3 per cent of the state’s at-risk population, has been repeatedly targeted for planned burns in recent years, with up to 17 per cent of the program being held in that area. Ironically, the Mallee does not have high human populations! Government agencies will choose the least risky areas and the more convenient areas to burn, to complete their target, rather than protect human lives and property.

According to Birdlife Australia, the Victorian Government (Lib) stands accused of all but guaranteeing the extinction of threatened Mallee birds as a consequence of its bushfire prevention policy. The Mallee emu-wren, in particular, was just one fire away from being wiped from the planet. At the end of last year, 2014, there were at total of 314 in Australia – and five of them, including the Victorian Murray Mallee, are in danger of losing the species for which The Mallee was one of the most important sites for birds in the world!

In 2006, it was estimated that less than 3000 Mallee Emu-wrens remained and are mainly restricted to conservation zones. With a highly fragmented habitat, each of the five or six isolated populations is particularly vulnerable to being wiped out by fire.

After the devastation of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission set a yearly target to burn five per cent of public land to reduce bushfire risk across the state.

Birdlife Australia’s head of conservation, and Guy Dutson, a world authority on birds of the south-west Pacific region, says “cannot be reburnt for at least 15 to 20 years”.

The Mallee Emu-wren is about 10 to 15 cm in length and has a mass of 4 to 6.5 g. The adult male has a black bill and the adult female has a dark brown bill, but both sexes have dark-brown irides and pinkish-brown legs and feet. The Mallee Emu-wren occurs in mallee regions south of the Murray River, in south-eastern South Australia and north-western Victoria. The decline of the Mallee Emu-wren has mainly been due to the extensive loss, degradation and fragmentation of its habitat caused by broad-scale clearing and fire.

Despite the listing of the Mallee emu wren under the Flora and Fauna Act, the Victorian Coalition failed to develop an action plan for its protection despite a massive expansion of native forest burning under the banner of “hazard reduction” burning! In fact most of the Mallee burning in remote areas contributes little to improving the safety of lives and property, but is about fulfilling government targets!

BirdLife Australia welcomed the announcement in February this year that the Federal Government will fund a program to protect the birds. The announcement builds on the outcomes of an Emergency Summit which BirdLife Australia hosted last year. The program will create an insurance population could be a lifesaver. Mallee Emu-wren and Black-eared Miner (VIC) got $110,000! However, a captive “insurance” population can’t replace species living where they naturally live, to further be extinguished on release by fires! It’s a band-aid, politically-motivated token, rather that the holistic approach of actually protecting the birds in their natural habitats!

Australian wildlife, along with insects, and fungi,once played a key role in ensuring ‘cool’ burns rather than the all-devastating wildfires. The loss of leaf eating moths, dung beetles and a variety of leaf and coarse woody debris recycling insects is contributing to a potentially high frequency fire cycle. The torching of wildlife, assumed to be collateral damage to keep “us” safe, is barbaric, anthropocentric, and will fuel more fires by working against Nature, rather than with it.

Habitat clearance and degradation has been the major threat to Black-eared Miners. Old growth mallee is the preferred habitat of Black-eared Miners, and they prefer habitat that has not been burnt for 40 years or more.


Burning to stop more burning” could give Victorian residents a false sense of security that their State is fire-safe, when the burning has occurred in environmentally-sensitive areas without contributing anything to protect human lives and their assets.


(image: Black-eared Miner)

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End the cruel slaughter of kangaroos on public reserves: Petition

Letter to:
Minister for Territory and Municipal Services Shane Rattenbury
Chief Minister Andrew Barr
Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Simon Corbell
by Frankie Seymour Queanbeyan, NSW


The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has announced yet another slaughter of eastern grey kangaroos (EGKs) on its own nature reserves in the winter of 2015.

The government claims, without any coherent supporting evidence, that kangaroo grazing is a threat to the very ecosystems of which kangaroos have been an integral part for around five million years. The government continues to slaughter these creatures, despite having done no work to monitor or evaluate the impact or effectiveness of the killing program.

As well as being an ecological disaster, the slaughter causes immeasurable suffering to the animals. Adults that do not die instantly from the first shot are stabbed and clubbed to death, or escape to die slowly of their wounds. Even the survivors often injure themselves in their panic, or die on the roads trying to escape, or live to suffer the emotional distress and disruption to the mob’s social structure. Pouch young and young at foot are bludgeoned to death or left to starve.

In his response to this petition in 2014, Minister Shane Rattenbury implies that eastern grey kangaroos are a threat to species such as Grassland Earless Dragons, the Striped Legless Lizard, Perunga Grasshoppers, Coorooboorama Raspy Crickets and Ginninderra Peppercress. At the Administrative Reviews of 2013 and 2014, this claim was shown to be completely untrue. In fact, in an adjoining reserve just across the NSW border, where kangaroos are never culled, several of these species are recovering far more quickly than on the ACT reserves where massive kangaroos culling is conducted every year. The government’s own ecologist admitted that the government’s assertions about kangaroos being a threat to vulnerable species were just “PR”.

Rattenbury asserts that “critical conservation areas are under threat from overgrazing by kangaroo populations, which leads to a deterioration in the quality of the grasslands. This in turn puts pressure on the species that rely on this habitat”. In fact, the ACT government has consistently failed to produce any evidence that kangaroos (other than in captive situations) ever have overgrazed any area. The evidence shows that these animals manage their own populations without human intervention. Overgrazing in Australia is the sole preserve of introduced animals, such as sheep and cattle, which damage the fragile, shallow soils with their heavy bodies, low grazing and hard hooves.

Rattenbury asserts that “conditions in the ACT region are very favourable for Eastern Grey Kangaroos, contributing to an extremely high kangaroo population. Eastern Grey Kangaroos are the most numerous species of macropod in Australia, and their conservation status is not threatened.” Many ecology experts who have actually studied the population dynamics of eastern grey kangaroos consider their numbers to be in steep decline and deep trouble, both in the ACT region and throughout their range.

Rattenbury asserts that “the numbers to be culled have been based on scientific kangaroo counts in each location. This has been compared to the sustainable carrying capacity for each area that ACT Government ecologists have established by taking into account the habitat requirements of grassland dependent animals and plants.” Independent ecology experts have disputed:
(1) the government’s models for determining the sustainable kangaroos carrying capacity of reserves,
(2) their methods for counting them, and
(3) their models for estimating actual numbers. The government is well aware of this expert criticism of their calculations.

Rattenbury notes that “the ACT Government has since undertaken a peer review of how cull numbers are determined, which supported the ACT Government’s continuation of kangaroo management activities this year.” This so-called peer review has itself been peer-reviewed, most unfavourably, by a retired CSIRO plant scientist with vast experience in evaluating peer reviews.

Rattenbury asserts that “The conservation cull will be conducted according to a strict Code of Practice that has the endorsement of all relevant authorities including the RSPCA.” In fact, Rattenbury has rejected the Code of Practice prepared and recommended by his own Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in favour of the “national” code of practice which provides a lowest common denominator model intended as a baseline for states to their develop their own codes of practice.

In 2012, at least one of the culled kangaroos was found to have been shot, stabbed and bludgeoned before dying of suffocation and/or blood loss. In 2014, the government’s own expert witness admitted that, during each cull, an entire generation of young at foot are routinely left orphaned to starve or otherwise die without adult protection.

Sign the Petition:


(Featured image: Canberra kangaroos)

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Great Forest National Park urgently needed

Great Forest National Park needs your pledge.

Victoria is still far from having a comprehensive, adequate and representative national park and conservation system, and most major threats to nature identified in past reviews are still very much with us – habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, harmful fire regimes, over-grazing, modified water flows. Precious habitat remnants are being bulldozed for urban expansion or roads. Victoria is the most cleared state in Australia, populations of native birds and animals are in freefall, and less than 25% of our rivers and creeks are in good condition.

The Great Forest National Park proposes that Victorians create and add a new 355,000 hectares of protected forests to the existing 170,000 hectares of parks and protected areas in the Central Highlands of Victoria. The basis for this tenure change is weighed scientifically, socially and economically against 5 key reasons;

1. Conservation of near extinct wildlife and plants after Black Saturday and in light of future fire events.

2. Water catchments of Melbourne, LaTrobe and the Goulburn Murray systems. The largest area of clean water and catchment in Victoria. Food bowl and community security.

3. Tourism. This is Victoria’s richest ecological asset, but these magnificent forests have not yet been included in a state plan to encourage tourism. Our rural towns want and need this boost to tourism.

4. Climate. These ash forests store more carbon per hectare than any other forest studied in the world. They sequester carbon, modulate the climate and can act as giant storage banks to absorb excess carbon if they are not logged. The financial opportunity in carbon credits is significant and can be paid directly to the state when a system is established federally.

5. Places of spiritual nourishment. These magnificent forests have been described as a ‘keeping place’ by the traditional owners, a place to secure the story of the land and places of spiritual nourishment that we pass on to future generations. There should be no price tag on the value nature brings to mental health and spiritual well-being.

The tallest flowering trees on Earth grow north-east of Melbourne. In their high canopies dwell owls, gliders and the tiny Leadbeater’s (or Fairy) Possum. Victoria’s precious and endangered faunal emblem lives only in these ash forests of the Central Highlands.

Mountain_Ash_in_Victoria(image: Mountain Ash, Black Spur, Victoria)

David Lindenmayer, from the Australian National University, is an ecologist and conservation biologist who has spent over 30 years studying the Mountain Ash Forest of Victoria.

‘There’s a little mixture of things that always want to have the last word. The Lyrebird is one and the Kookaburra is another and the Eastern Yellow Robin and the Pilot Bird are two others,’ he says.

Eastern_yellow_robin(image: Eastern Yellow Robin, Victoria)

‘The birds are calling less than in the morning, but still nevertheless calling, and they’re just confirming their territories before there’s an extraordinary change in the light in this long dusk period,’
says Lindenmayer.

The Mountain Ash, and one of Australia’s most endangered mammals, the Leadbeater’s Possum, are threatened by ongoing clear-felling and bushfires.
The population of large old hollow-bearing trees has collapsed. These are a critical habitat for the animals that use them, including Leadbeater’s Possum. There is a high risk that the possums will become exinct in the next 20-40 years.


(image source:

Home to threatened species, including Victoria’s animal emblem – the Fairy Possum, the proposed park will also be a sanctuary, providing real and lasting protection to some of Victoria’s, and the world’s, rarest plant and animal species. Prominent environmentalists Tim Flannery and Bob Brown have lent their support to the campaign. Sir David Attenborough has weighed into the state election, backing a call for the creation of a Great Forest National Park to protect the state faunal emblem, the Leadbeater’s possum.

The environmentalist’s intervention comes as a survey found 89 per cent of Victorians support the creation of a new national park in the Yarra Ranges and Central Highlands.

Logging over many years had previously reduced the Leadbeater’s possum down to a fraction of its original range and now only around one per cent of mountain ash forest is old growth. A new ‘taskforce’ attempts to negotiate the future of the logging industry in the central highlands of Victoria and the possible creation of the new national park, in light of the critical status of Leadbeater’s Possums.

The state government — elected in November — has so far made no official commitment to the proposed 355,000-hectare Great Forest National Park, which would include both recreational areas and conservation zones.

The good news is that the Victorian Government has given its strongest indication yet that it is open to ending clearfelling and closing down the hardwood timber industry in key parts of Victoria’s Central Highlands to prevent the extinction of the Leadbeater’s Possum.

‘The time for further reviews and studies is over. The only thing that will save Leadbeater’s Possums from extinction is to immediately stop the clearfell logging of the forest it lives in,’
Greens Senator Rice said.

Join the Great Forest National Park Volunteer Campaign Team. Text ‘GFNP volunteer’ to 0428 029 437.

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Kakadu bushfire sparked by ‘controlled burn’

Kakadu is a timeless place – beautiful and diverse beyond belief. It’s home to more than 2,000 plant species and some of the most charismatic animals around. Within the vast landscapes, there are six main landforms. These landforms are home to a range of plants and animals, endemic to Kakadu. Kakadu National Park supports an astonishing array of animals, and a number of which have adapted to particular habitats.

A bushfire on 1 October destroyed more than 200 square kilometres of bushland in this world heritage national park. The federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, has ordered an investigation into a week-long bushfire in Kakadu national park sparked after a mining company lost control of a “controlled burn” – a contradiction in terms!

Minister Hunt has asked the Department and Parks Australia to conduct a full and thorough investigation into the cause of the fire,” a statement said.

The fire threatened a number of culturally and historically significant sites. There was a change in wind after the burn had ended reignited embers and carried them across containment lines.

If the fire reached the rugged and waterless escarpment country, and it would be far more difficult to extinguish, Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (GAC) CEO Justin O’Brien said

“There’s no water in there, you can’t get suppression in there from the air, you can’t get boots on the ground in that country, it’s too rugged” he said.

Traditional owners blamed the operators of the Ranger uranium mine, ERA, for lighting a fire too late in the top end’s dry season and losing control of it.

(image: early burn at Kakadu)

The late dry season fire burned with more heat and torched trees used for habitat by endangered species,

ERA, majority owned by Rio Tinto, faces fines of up to $8.5m if it is found to have breached the environment protection and biodiversity conservation act. ERA has issued a statement saying it did not need approval to burn-off in its Ranger Project Area.

Fire management is undertaken both by traditional owners and park staff, mostly in the early to mid-dry season period (typically May-July) when fires tend to be small, patchy, of low intensity and typically go out at night under cool, dewy conditions.

Small mammal are in decline, due to fire regimes, characterised by frequent, extensive, late-season wildfires. Fire extent – an index incorporating fire size and fire frequency – was the best predictor of mammal declines, and was superior to the proportion of the surrounding area burnt and fire patchiness.

Work in Kakadu National Park has shown that between 1996 and 2009 mammal populations crashed, with species richness and total abundance decreasing by 65% and 75% respectively.

Prominent conservationist Tim Flannery asserts that “the main driver appears to be changes in fire regime, compounded by the presence of feral cats”. The breakdown of traditional Aboriginal fire management – and possible increase in the size and intensity of fires – is often suggested as a trigger.

The Northern Land Council says the devastating fires in Kakadu over the past week, caused by poor fire management by Energy Resources of Australia. “The fires have also highlighted the pressing need for the Australian Government to reinstate traditional fire management practices delivered by Aboriginal people across the Park. Kakadu is listed for its environmental and cultural values and it’s time to deliver outcomes that deliver on its cultural values in addition to its environmental values” says NLC CEO, Joe Morrison.
Large parts of the park have burnt over 10 times in the past 14 years. We say there is a significant opportunity to reduce this fire frequency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions coming from the park,” Mr Morrison said.


Petition: Save the Northern Quoll and 74 Other Endangered Species in Kakadu!

(featured image: Mount Borradail, Kakadu. Copyright of NT Tourism )

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Kangaroo cull approved for next to the Carlisle River Wildlife Shelter

Carlisle River Wildlife Shelter’s Ron and Carola Anstis are heartbroken to learn animals they had spent years caring for were being shot dead thanks to approval from the State Government.

Embedded conflicts of interests exist within the State government because they have responsibilities for both administering the Wildlife Act, to protect native species, AND for administering permits to kill them! (Authority to Control Wildlife permits).

They are the only wildlife shelter in the area that cared for Eastern Grey Kangaroos, between Geelong and Warrnambool, and that’s a big area. However, the area is too small to share with wildlife, and some narrow-minded people still want to access firearms, and kill them. The Anstises take in pouch young we care for them for about two years and spend more than $1000 on each.

Ron Anstis said “we just told the department we can’t put that much into it only for them to allow someone else to kill it. This is the same department that issue us our wildlife licence.” So the same Government Department, (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning- DELWP), that issues wildlife licences, is the same department that issues killing permits.

Ron and Carola have no ability to fight that permit what so ever, and there is no appeals process to allow residents to dispute cull permits where required.


The Department admits they have no data or records on how many native animals in Victoria, of most species, except for anecdotal evidence.

The government officer was satisfied that the landholder had explored available nonlethal management measures, such as maintenance and improvement to boundary fencing, prior to applying for the ATCW. “The officer also confirmed that the kangaroos were causing damage to pasture from overgrazing….” Wonder if they’ve assessed if it’s been “overgrazed” from overstocking of livestock and/or feral animals?

Two rabbits eat the same amount as a kangaroo and a cow with a calf at foot will eat as much as 30 kangaroos; DELWP should be required to explain to the applicant the dietary differences between kangaroos and cattle so that the applicant can be properly informed about the amount of competition for pasture that actually exists,” Mr Anstis said.

The couple left a rescued joey at government office in protest over a kangaroo cull permit at their neighbour’s property.

The Anstises were forced to leave eight-month-old Angel at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning offices in Colac on Tuesday. Anstises had decided to stop rescuing and rehabilitating joeys and injured eastern grey kangaroos because of the contradictory action by DELWP of giving their neighbour permission to legally cull 60 roos! The neighbours want to improve their pastures, the cheap way.

The couple, with 23 years of experience in wildlife care, is calling for state government change that would see exclusion zones around wildlife shelters to prevent the allocation of culling permits.

Victoria, the most cleared and damaged State, has lost it’s balance, and has no place for EGK! Livestock, infrastructure, land clearing, roads, urbanisation and liberal distribution of ATCW means these iconic native kangaroos are doomed to be left to die, if found as joeys, in the large area of Victoria that the Anstises served.

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