OUR REGION IS fortunate to have an abundance of beautiful waterways, which are home to a diverse range of native wildlife including water birds, frogs, turtles, platypus, rakali [water rat], fish and other aquatic creatures.
Many land-dwelling creatures also rely on our waterways for drinking water and food, but sadly, the human impact on these environments is often detrimental to these creatures.
Recreational fishing, when not undertaken responsibly, is a frequent cause of phone calls to Wildcare Queanbeyan. Injuries often occur when birds and turtles become entangled in fishing line or are snagged on, or swallow, discarded fishing hooks.
These animals suffer horribly, often unable to eat, swim or walk, until they are captured or die because of their injuries.
This ibis’s leg was broken after it became entangled in fishing line. Author supplied.
If you are fishing and an animal becomes entangled in line or caught on a hook, the best thing to do is to call Wildcare Queanbeyan while the animal is still trapped.
DO NOT CUT THE LINE. It is much easier to catch a tethered animal and quick action by the person who is fishing can save the animal considerable suffering and rescuers many hours of effort. [For effecting rescues it helps to keep something like a box, plus blanket or pillowcase in the car.]
Platypus and rakali can also experience fishing-related injuries, swallowing hooks or lures. They can also drown if they become tangled in discarded fishing line or yabby traps. A recent study by the Australian Platypus Conservancy found that at any one time 4% of platypus are entangled in one or more items of rubbish, including elastic hair ties, fishing line and plastic rings from bottles and jars.
A rat lure and fishing line found discarded on a local waterway. Author supplied.
Responsible fishing requires that all rubbish and discarded fishing equipment — including lines, lures and hooks — are safely disposed of. Remember that the use of opera house yabby traps is now illegal in NSW (as of 30 April 2021).
If you come across sick injured or orphaned wildlife, please phone Wildcare Queanbeyan on 6299 1966 at any time.
1080 POISON HAS been banned by many countries around the world with very good reason and yet across NSW, our state government continues to saturate our landscapes with this hideous and cruel poison through ground baiting and aerial drops.
1080 poison kills its victims slowly and painfully. It’s a violent, merciless and abhorrent way for any living being to die, and is increasingly killing our family companion animals (dogs) and working dogs and many native species.
“Australia’s native dog, the Dingo, [main image] is a prime target of 1080 poisoning on behalf of sheep farmers. All canine species are targets, including foxes as well as other introduced mammals like pigs that escape into the countryside. State authorities deny more widespread species risk of being poisoned, against all evidence.”
IMAGE: Susan Cruttenden.
It’s indiscriminate and there is no antidote. Half a teaspoon can kill an adult human — much less a child, and secondary poisoning can and does occur.
The government and agencies like Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Service, and often the local councils, reassure us that 1080 poison is “humane”, and yet they know without any doubt that it’s not. They tell us it’s safe for our environment and native species, and yet authorities are intentionally and wilfully targeting native wallabies in Tasmania with 1080 poison, knowing it kills them and not caring how it kills them.
60 sheep poisoned in SA
Recently in SA, 60 sheep died a gruesome death after ingesting 1080 poison and in Victoria a $4,000 fine was imposed by the courts for the illegal and unsafe storage of copious amounts of poisons, including 1080, without a licence. How many sheds across NSW are storing lethal doses of 1080 poison is anyone’s guess, and clearly the ‘regulators’ and government haven’t a clue. Their monitoring and enforcement regimes are seriously lacking.
More and more members of the public are coming forward with distressing personal accounts of finding a much-loved dog dead, or worse, being traumatised after witnessing first hand, the suffering an animal goes through after taking a 1080 bait or experiencing secondary poisoning, including, violent convulsions, vomiting, screaming and absolute sheer terror.
Some families have lost multiple dogs and all feel helpless trying to ease the suffering of their dog or dogs by rushing them to a vet — often too far away with many dying in agony in transit. Can we even begin to imagine such an experience or how a child would ever recover bearing witness to watching their family friend suffer and die this way.
The NSW Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW, Adam Marshall, who has a clear conflict of interest also overseeing animal welfare, often supports these 1080 baiting programs, and yet he claims to be an animal lover. This is the same National Party minister who has continued to fail the welfare of all NSW animals in spectacular fashion.
With the stroke of a LNP privileged pen, Mr Marshall continues to unleash successive lethal 1080 baiting programs using millions of dollars in public money — without consulting the public. The most recent NSW 1080 baiting program includes an area the size of Russia. Think about that.
Floods spreading baits around countryside?
Recent devastating flooding saw homes, caravans, boats and many animals swept across the landscape and ending up a long way from their original locations. Think about how easily and widespread 1080 baits have also spread across the NSW landscape in these floods, and whether your drinking water catchment or your family is still safe.
Our government knows poisons like 1080 are ineffective population control — they don’t work, and have been proven to fail which is precisely why they continue to use this odourless and colourless poison year after year and decade after decade — with your public money. The same old lethal programs, political rhetoric and verbal excuses continue because it suits political policy directions, and because it’s cheap.
Reach out and say enough
If, like many Australians, you are concerned and feel compelled to become part of a local solution, please reach out and contact me at email@example.com.
Early in 2020, amidst the devastating bushfires that ravaged Australia, Bear, the USC x IFAW koala detection dog was deployed to Peak View in NSW, at the site of Two Thumbs Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary, run by James Fitzgerald, had been destroyed by the Good Good Fire on 23rd January and was dealt a second blow when a firefighting air tanker crashed while trying to protect the sanctuary, killing the three US firefighter crew onboard.The Hercules water bomber (an aircraft filled with water to dump thousands of litres of water and fire retardant on out-of-control blazes) had been deployed in an effort to regain control of the fires at Two Thumbs as the flames were too large to be dealt with by fire trucks.
Rescuing Jessie and Amelia
“When we heard the devastating news of Two Thumbs Wildlife Sanctuary being destroyed this past January, we deployed USC X IFAW’s detection dog, Bear, to help search for survivors” says IFAW’s Josey Sharrad.
Bear and the team visited the area to look for surviving koalas in need of rescue. Using the scent of their fur, Bear located a mother koala and her joey. The koalas, named Jessie and Amelia (pictured above), were brought to the Australian National University, where they received emergency care and embarked on a specialized rehabilitation plan led by Dr. Karen Ford. During a checkup, the team performed an ultrasound and discovered exciting news — Jessie was pregnant!
TODAY, on National Threatened Species Day, we wanted to share with you some of our work bringing threatened species back from the brink with this special footage of our first large-scale Regent Honeyeater Release in NSW. In June, BirdLife Australia and our partners released 20 of these Critically Endangered birds into NSW’s Hunter Valley, into one of the largest remaining Regent Honeyeater strongholds.
Over the last few months, it’s been wonderful to observe captive birds interacting with wild birds. One of our transmitter birds led us to at least six wild Regents, and already four of these birds appeared to have paired up — a promising sign for spring!
Join us in celebrating with this special video we’ve put together.
For those that don’t know me, my name is Mick Roderick – and I’m the NSW Woodland Bird Program Manager here at BirdLife Australia.
Today, on National Threatened Species Day, we wanted to share with you some of our work bringing threatened species back from the brink with this special footage of our first large-scale Regent Honeyeater Release in NSW. In June, BirdLife Australia and our partners released 20 of these Critically Endangered birds into NSW’s Hunter Valley, into one of the largest remaining Regent Honeyeater strongholds.
Over the last few months, it’s been wonderful to observe captive birds interacting with wild birds. One of our transmitter birds led us to at least six wild Regents, and already four of these birds appeared to have paired up – a promising sign for spring!
Join us in celebrating with this special video we’ve put together.
Regent Honeyeaters are a ‘flagship species’ — so supporting them helps improve the status of other birds that share their habitat. When you help save one bird from extinction, other birds will follow. We hope this will be the first of many NSW releases, and with only a few hundred Regents left, these releases could mean the difference between extinction and survival.
Your voice can help us bring our precious birds back from the brink.
Right now we need your voice more than ever to ensure our national environment laws actually protect nature. Our Federal politicians are considering these laws right now, and they need to know that Australians from all walks of life care.
WHEN YOU THINK of lyrebirds, what comes to mind may be the sound of camera clicks, chainsaws and the songs of other birds. While the mimicry of lyrebirds is remarkable, it is not the only striking feature of this species.
ABOVE: Male Superb Lyrebird in display.Alex Maisey, Author provided.
Ecosystem engineers change the environment in ways that impact on other species. Without lyrebirds, eastern Australia’s forests would be vastly different places.
What is an ecosystem engineer?
Ecosystem engineers exist in many environments. By disturbing the soil, they create new habitats or alter existing habitats, in ways that affect other organisms, such as plants and fungi.
A well-known example is the beaver, in North America, which uses logs and mud to dam a stream and create a deep pond. In doing so, it changes the aquatic habitat for many species, including frogs, herons, fish and aquatic plants. Other examples include bandicoots and bettongs.
The Superb Lyrebird acts as an ecosystem engineer by its displacement of leaf litter and soil when foraging for food. Lyrebirds use their powerful claws to rake the forest floor, exposing bare earth and mixing and burying litter, while seeking invertebrate prey such as worms, centipedes and spiders.
To study the role of the lyrebird as an engineer, we carried out a two-year experiment in Victoria’s Central Highlands, with three experimental treatments.
First, a fenced treatment, where lyrebirds were excluded from fenced square plots measuring 3m wide.
Second, an identical fenced plot but in which we simulated lyrebird foraging with a three-pronged hand rake (about the width of a lyrebird’s foot). This mimicked soil disturbance by lyrebirds but without the birds eating the invertebrates that lived there.
The third treatment was an unfenced, open plot (of the same size) in which wild lyrebirds were free to forage as they pleased.
Over a two-year period, we tracked changes in the litter and soil, and measured the amount of soil displaced inside and outside of these plots.
Lyrebirds dig up a lot of dirt
On average, foraging by wild lyrebirds resulted in a staggering 155 tonnes per hectare of litter and soil displaced each year throughout these forests.
To the best of our knowledge, this is more than any other digging vertebrate, worldwide.
To put this in context, most digging vertebrates around the world, such as pocket gophers, moles, bandicoots and bettongs, displace between 10–20 tonnes of material per hectare, per year.
But how much does an individual lyrebird displace? At one study location we estimated the density of the lyrebird population to be approximately one lyrebird for every 2.3 hectares of forest, thanks to the work of citizen scientists led by the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Study Group.
Based on this estimate, and to use our dump truck analogy, a single lyrebird will displace approximately 11 dump trucks of litter and soil in a single year.
Changes to the ground layer
After two years of lyrebird exclusion, leaf litter in the fenced plots was approximately three times deeper than in the unfenced plots. Soil compaction was also greater in the fenced plots.
Where lyrebirds foraged, the soil easily crumbled and the litter layer never fully recovered to a lyrebird-free state before foraging re-occurred.
This dynamic process of disturbance by lyrebirds has been going on for millennia, profoundly shaping these forests. For organisms such as centipedes, spiders and worms living in the litter and soil, the forest floor under the influence of lyrebirds may provide new opportunities that would not exist in their absence.
An ecosystem ravaged by fire
The Australian megafires of 2019–20 resulted in approximately 40% of the Superb Lyrebird’s entire distribution being incinerated, according to a preliminary analysis by BirdLife Australia.
So great was the extent of these fires that the conservation status of the lyrebird has been thrown into question. That the conservation status has fallen — from “common” to potentially being “threatened” — from a single event is deeply concerning.
Loss of lyrebird populations on this scale will have potentially far-reaching effects on forest ecology.
In the face of climate change and a heightened risk of severe wildfire, understanding the role that species such as the Superb Lyrebird play in ecosystems is more important than ever.
Without lyrebirds, eastern Australia’s forests would be vastly different places, with impacts extending well beyond the absence of their glorious song to other animals who rely on these “ecosystem engineers”.