Australian Native Mammals as Pets

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By , October 21, 2010 5:32 pm

Recently, Dr George Wilson, AWS, contributed to the RIRDC study and publication “Australian Native Mammals as Pets: A feasibility study into conservation, welfare and industry aspects” (RIRDC Publication 10/072) as an expert advisor.

The report assesses the feasibility of keeping native mammals as pets as means of conserving Australia’s mammal biodiversity. Australia’s biodiversity is in crisis, and innovative alternatives are urgently needed. Threats to survival of mammals in the wild in Australia have prompted the proposition that keeping native mammals as pets, rather than the current suite of primarily exotic predators, could contribute to conservation – for example, a child would keep a Spinifex Hopping Mouse instead of the exotic house mouse. While the keeping of certain native reptiles, birds and amphibians as pets is reasonably well-established across Australia, keeping native mammals is currently prohibited in most States. The RIRDC study sought to strategically inform the potential development of an industry based on use of native mammals as pets in a way that helps to ensure positive conservation and welfare outcomes.

AWS believes that if this difference is based on concern for animal welfare then that topic should be the focus of discussion and not confusion about animal rights.

Reptile surveys on Angas Downs IPA record 38 species

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By , October 12, 2010 3:40 pm

In October and December 2010 and March 2011, AWS and Angas Downs rangers surveyed reptiles and small mammals across Angas Down’s landscapes. Surveys were conducted using pitfall and funnel traps and active searches. The surveys were completed between 2-9 October, 7-9 December 2010, 8-9 March 2011. 38 reptile and 4 frog species were recorded. Of note, Simoselaps betholdi (Jan’s Banded Snake), Suta punctata (Little Spotted Snake), Demansia psammophis (Yellow faced whipsnake), Tiliqua multifasciata (Centralian Blue Tounge), Ramphotyphlops endoterus (Interior Blind Snake), Pygopus nigriceps (Western Hooded Scaly-foot), Nephrurus laevissimus, Nephrurus levis levisMorethia ruficauda and Egernia inornata (Desert Skink) amoung others were recorded. The Reptile checklist can be downloaded   Angas Downs Reptile Checklist (1017 downloads) .

The surveys also found 6 species of small mammals – Echidna, Kultarr, Wongai Ningaui, Spinifex Hopping Mice, Sandy Inland Mice and Lesser Hairy Footed Dunnart. Some can really bite – see photo.

Is current Indigenous hunting sustainable?

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By , August 16, 2010 4:08 pm

Despite the importance placed on it by Indigenous people, land and wildlife management is a minor component of current Australian Government resource allocation for addressing Indigenous need.  Readdressing this situation is urgent because Indigenous wildlife use and hunting in Australia, as it currently practiced, is often unsustainable. Our investigations which have been published in the CSIRO journal – Wildlife Research, examine the opportunity for greater science support for traditional Aboriginal practice. They are summarised in an Opinion Editorial on ‘Sciencealert‘ and in story by Australian Geographic

In Australia, wildlife managers could be more engaged in supporting Indigenous Australians in activities such as surveying populations and estimating sustainable yields, improving harvesting techniques that reduce waste and are humane, identifying refuge areas, maximising habitat diversity, controlling weeds and feral animals, and exchanging information across regions. The opportunity and need is large. The Indigenous estate is already more than 20% of the Australian land mass and expanding. Indigenous ownership and responsibility for coastal and marine wildlife resources includes vast areas of intact ecosystems.

Western science can support Indigenous passion for caring for the land. It can draw on traditional Indigenous practice and, through reciprocal learning; help reinstate Indigenous law and culture in communities. In Australia and throughout the world, hunting and gathering remain important elements of Indigenous culture and connection with the land and sea. Indigenous people say they want increased bush tucker and game from their country to supplement their diet. They want security for totemic species so as to maintain culture. Doing so will deliver both important environmental and social outcomes.

Aerial Surveys to estimate populations of Camels, Kangaroos, Horses…Angas Downs, NT

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By , August 4, 2010 1:30 pm

Australian Wildlife Services successfully completed aerial surveys of the Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area and surrounding lands in June 2010 and August 2011. The surveys were flown by Dr George Wilson using standard procedures.  IPA Rangers and Jennifer Smits (AWS) counted animals seen at low level and 200m on either side of the aircraft. Species targeted /observed included camels, kangaroos, horses and cattle.

These studies are vital to understanding populations of kangaroos and pressures from camel and horse populations on the property and hence native wildlife.  In 2010, we found there are about 3000 red kangaroos on the station, plus 500 camels and 150 horses. Using mapping program ArcGis, observations were interpolated to form maps showing spatial variability (animals/km2).

Angas Downs Aerial Survey Report (961 downloads)

Using kangaroos adaptations to produce low-emission meat

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By , July 15, 2010 9:52 am

Kangaroos are adapted to Australia’s variable climate and are abundant in rangelands where cattle and sheep are raised. However landholders rarely benefit from kangaroos on their lands or play a role in their management. An exception is a Cooperative of graziers in Queensland, established in 2009 with Landcare support.

The Cooperative seeks to increase the value of kangaroo products and to address kangaroos’ free ranging behaviour by enabling collaboration in their management across properties. Cooperative members are following trends throughout the world, where the value of native species is available to landholders and the result is wider conservation and biodiversity benefits.

Methane from cattle and sheep is 11% of Australia’s total GHG. Kangaroos, on the other hand, produce negligible amounts of methane. Farmers have few options to reduce livestock GHG emissions.  An article in New Tork Times of 13 July 2010 described how researchers are trying to make cattle digestion more like kangaroos. It is not working however and the alternative of making greater use of kangaroos themseves to produce low emission meat  is one of the objectives of the Cooperative.

On the rangelands where kangaroo harvesting currently occurs, reducing cattle and sheep populations and increasing the kangaroo population to 175 million would produce the same amount of meat, and lower Australia’s GHG by 16 megatonnes, or 3% of Australia’s emissions. The potential carbon savings and biodiversity benefits could also be sold on in the carbon markets – voluntary or compliance, or reduce penalties when a price is placed on carbon emissions. See full paper in Conservation Letters and at this link for details of the analysis.

The Cooperative is developing the mechanisms and processes which could allow these options to be taken up. While a broadscale changeover from beef and sheep to kangaroos on the rangelands is unlikely, even in the long term, greater use of kangaroos is an option that warrants further investigation as means of landholders reducing emission and adapting to climate change.

Notwithstanding the potential benefits and the enthusiasm of catchment management agencies for the Cooperative, the project is languishing for lack of further funding support, including a re-estimation of the methane production by kangaroos.

When livestock are included in Australia’s carbon pricing mechanisms, the costs of kangaroo emissions will be significantly cheaper than those for cattle and sheep, perhaps providing the incentive for farmers to switch to kangaroos.

Kangaroos and Greenhouse gases (1112 downloads)

Potential investors in the Cooperative are invited to contact AWS to discuss the opportunity.

Cybertracker on Angas Downs

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By , June 26, 2010 10:20 am

Cybertracker is software built for field monitoring and data capture that enables non-literate Indigenous trackers to collect spatial data such as wildlife tracking, location of environmental and infrastructure damage, feral animal control and cultural and historical sites. Observations can be entered with simple lists tailored using relevant information fields and species lists. It is used widely across Indigenous Ranger groups in Australia.

Australian Wildlife Services currently facilitate a Cybertracker program on Angas Downs, where the Angas Downs Indigenous Rangers implement wildlife and other information tracking using a TDS Nomad. The aims of implementing Cybertracker on Angas Downs IPA are to:

  • involve the Rangers in monitoring native and feral species on Angas Downs, including kuka (game) species
  • progress involvement in sustainable wildlife management
  • combine Indigenous knowledge with science to monitor environmental factors.

Australian Wildlife Services are able to tailor the Cybertracker program to suit any GPS unit containing Windows Mobile software for any purpose or area. See www.cybertracker.org

Australian Wildlife Services GIS Capabilities

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By , June 25, 2010 11:52 am

Australian Wildlife Services staff have a range of GIS and mapping capabilities including use of products ArcInfo, MapInfo, Manifold and Cybertracker.

GIS Services Available

  • Spatial data capture, analysis and management
  • Professional spatial representation of remotely sensed and ground truthed data to meet client objectives
  • Map delineation, digitisation, georeferencing of ground-truthed data
  • Analysis of remotely sensed data for classification, mapping and evaluation/monitoring of environmental factors
    (vegetation, landuse, fire etc)
  • Boolean logic; multi evaluation criteria and objective assessments and models to support decision-making.

Examples of spatial analysis projects:

  • Wildlife population and biodiversity density assessment analysis and mapping
  • Vegetation classification, analysis and thematic mapping
  • Cultural and management data capture
  • Soil mapping, water resource mapping
  • Development of flight lines for aerial surveys and conduct of aerial surveys.

For map examples and more information download AWS’s GIS Capabilities:

AWS GIS Capability (1084 downloads)

Survey and fieldwork at Angas Downs

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By , May 28, 2010 4:32 pm

AWS has conducted five field trips to Angas Downs in the last year. Activities involved: training Indigenous Anangu Rangers to track and survey native animals, birds and sand tracks, landscape health assessment techniques such as Landscape Function Analysis, installation and monitoring of photo points and water quality monitoring. Aerial surveys for kangaroo and camel populations were conducted in June 2010 and pitfall trapping for smaller animals and reptiles is planned to occur later in 2010. Australian Wildlife Services understands the advantage of combining science and traditional knowledge to monitor and protect the landscape and wildlife. Listening to what Indigenous people want from their landscape is vital to this. A report summarising field work completed in 2009 has been compiled. Download the 2009 Angas Downs monitoring report Angas Downs Monitoring 2009 (1111 downloads)

See also Angas Downs Cybertracker, Reptile Surveys, LFA and Soil Carbon.

Tourism opportunities for Indigenous Communities in central Australia, Angas Downs

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By , May 28, 2010 4:26 pm

AWS has been providing advice and support in development of small scale, tourism ventures on Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) by members of the Imanpa community who own the property. Angas Downs is on the main road to Uluri National Park and Watarrka National Park and has many thousands of visitors cross it each week.

AWS has produced a set of posters to be displayed in the Mt Ebenezer Roadhouse on the Lasseter Hwy. They detail the IPA and management, the rich natural resources, ranger works, tourism enterprises, and pastoral and aboriginal histories. This resource provides information to tourists and local Anangu people from Imanpa about Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area.

Led by members of the Imanpa community, AWS has helped coordinate a few trial tour runs through the property including Rotary groups interested in culture, education and philanthropic activities overseas University Students interested in environmental and wildlife studies.
AWS particpated in a workshop called ‘Stepping Stones’ at the Imanpa community in May 2010 to help develop tourism on Angas Downs along the lines of tag along 4WD cultural/historical tours and student groups, using a similar structure to Anangu Tours at Uluru.

More details of Angas Downs IPA in Angas Downs IPA Plan of Management (1049 downloads)

Biodiversity Offsetting Recommendations: Endangered Yellow Box Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland

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By , May 28, 2010 4:23 pm

Australian Wildlife Services have recently been involved in providing sound revegetation and rehabilitation recommendations to offset disturbance of endangered Yellow Box Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland in the Googong Foreshores area (ACT/NSW). Rehabilitation and revegetation was to occur in an adjacent poor condition, cleared woodland area to the disturbance. There were three main limiting factors to successful development of good condition box woodland identified by AWS: overgrazing by eastern grey kangaroos, widespread occurrence of weed species including many noxious species, and the likelihood that soil seed stocks of native species were degraded. In order to allow the successful offset and development of good condition Grassy Yellow Box Red Gum Woodland, a scope of works was provided. Management actions recommended included construction of a kangaroo deterrent fence, a targeted and robust weed control program and direct seeding of target tree, shrub and ground cover species. Works are to be commenced later in 2010.