Australian Wildlife Services and the Angas Downs IPA Rangers battled the 41 – 45 degree heat this November 2012 to undertake the annual reptile and small mammal surveys. Pitfall and funnel traps were used along 25 m fence lines, as well as active searches.
40-41 reptile species were recorded over a week and a half. No small mammals were captured, indicating a significant crash in populations after the recent boom. The surveys allow yearly monitoring of small mammal and reptile species on Angas Downs. So far, each trapping event has found additional species for Angas Downs’ reptile checklists. New species this year included Stimson’s Python, Jeweled Gecko, Burton Legless Lizard and a Woma (unconfirmed – black and white remote camera). See the photos for a taste.
Annual aerial survey monitoring was conducted on Angas Downs IPA in July 2012. These surveys complement surveys also conducted in 2010 & 2011. IPA Rangers and Jennifer Smits (AWS) counted animals seen at low level and 200 m 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. Some results are published below. No significant increase or decrease in any of the surveyed species was recorded between 2010-2012.
Since Angas Downs is such a vast area to survey, the variance and error of the datasets collected make it difficult to assess any significant change in the estimated population density. Good thing is Malu (red kangaroo) populations appear to be stable, and feral populations of horses and camels are appear to be decreasing (or not significantly increasing), undoubtedly due to the management actions of the IPA rangers. Densities of red kangaroos across Angas were estimated at 1.02 per sq km in 2010, and 1.13 per sq km in 2012. It was found that the southern area of the property was much more productive and watered, and supported more head of kangaroos than the northern sand dunes. Hence the aerial surveys were split in the north and south for 2012.
A report is being finalised and will be available soon. For more information on past Aerial surveys click here.
Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) student volunteers visited Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area in Sept 2012 to help undertake reptile, bird, track and mammal surveys. The students were helped by Australian Wildlife Services’ Jenny Smits and the Angas Downs IPA rangers to learn the various survey techniques. The field trip was part of CIT Diploma in Ecology course ‘Field Studies’. Well done to all, a hugely successful trip for us. See the facebook page for more info and photos.
AWS staff and Angas Downs rangers have installed some remote infrared cameras across Angas Downs to capture native and pest animal movements to watering points. The cameras, 12 MP Acorn LT1 Night Vision cameras, have a blue flash that is invisible to animals. It records photos and videos in both day and night mode. You can view a collection of some of the July 2012 video clips here (youtube) and previous March 2012 here (Picasa).
Captures include kangaroos, birds, horses, cattle, camels, emus, dingos, cats and foxes. Foxes hadn’t previously been identified as occurring in the area until these remote cameras were put in. Beautiful videos of Emus, Bronzewings, Hooded robins, a Little Eagle, Wedgetails, Brown Goshawks, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo checking themselves out in the water reflection, and Bourke’s parrots are some of the bird highlights. We also captured horses chewing on one of our brand new cameras here (Picasa)!
The rangers will use the cameras to make management decisions such as where to set cat traps and to see which waters are important for native species and kuka (game species). The cameras will be even more successful when the landscape dries up.
ABC Country Hour also reported on Angas’ use of remote cameras - click here for transcript and audio.
During May 2012, the Angas Downs rangers successfully hosted 8 IPA/WoC rangers from the Windamara Aboriginal Corporation from Heywood Victoria and Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area – as part of a Ranger exchange program. Angas Downs rangers showed them about their country, showed them their work on camel control, tourism opportunities and cultural sites. They also met the Angas Downs Emus and Kangaroos. Then the Windamara rangers went onto Uluru where they met the rangers there. Angas Downs Rangers will then visit them in Victoria. They will learn about how they go about their cultural heritage management and tourism.
Buffel grass presence / absence surveys began in June 2012 on Angas Downs IPA. The survey can be redone next year to show how buffel is expanding or not. It will be interesting to see how quickly it takes to increase from a few plants to a dense patch. If a fast increase in plant density is shown, controlling single plants may be beneficial. The rangers drive the tracks and roads and enter into Cybertracker where they see single plants, a few plants or dense patches. The survey will be finished in July 2012.
In August 2010, Anangu Rangers took delivery of 20 emu chicks from an Emu farm in WA. They were flown into Ayers ROck airport by Qantas and driven to the Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area. Emu populations are very low on Angas Downs as is the case in much of the Northern Territory. They are an important species to the local Anangu and traditional owners and to ecological processes. They have probably suffered from over hunting, due to the supplementation of traditional hunting methods with rifles and vehicles. Increasing the amount of important species such as emu and red kangaroo on Angas Downs is important to Anangu and is a key part of the Angas Downs Indigenous Protected Area Plan of Management: Angas Downs IPA Plan of Management - PDF 31.41 MB - 2009-07-08
In combination with land management and control of feral animals, Anangu rangers will implement an emu breeding program to increase emus in the landscape. Australian Wildlife Services is providing scientific support for this program. After successful breeding, the emus will be released into a larger sanctuary area on Angas Downs. Angas Downs rangers also received an egg incubator which will be used for increasing breeding success in following years. The chicks and incubator were bought with donations provided by the Rotary Club of Canberra Burley Griffin.
Quandongs and emus
There also has been much interest in the Emu’s ability to help regenerate Quandongs (Santalum acuminatum). Local knowledge has suggested that emus may increase the success of Quandong germination after the seed is eaten and has passed through the gut – this could be due to a combination of seed coat break down and being deposited in rich nutrient filled dung. But Quandongs need more than dung to establish – they need plenty of water, protection from grazing and, as they are a parasitic plant, they need to find a host to tap into with its roots (usually mulga or other shrubs). Emus also help to disperse the seeds across the landscape. It is a goal of Angas Downs to increase bush tucker species such as Quandong and will trial use of emus in Quandong regeneration in coming years. Also this subject has been researched by the Alice Springs Desert Park - Media Release.
ABC News Radio reports on the Emu-Quandong project and be heard here: Bush Telegraph and A Country Hour.
The Emus which arrived at the Angas Downs Emu Sanctuary as baby chicks in August 2010 are doing well and growing up fast. Local chicks from the Alice Springs region have also been added for a bit of local genetics. The Angas Downs Rangers have been feeding and caring for the birds who have now lost all their stripes and look more and more like adult emus. Cheeky like them too! See photos and Video Link (below) to see their progress to March 2012.
Photo courtesy of Gordon Sanders, Aug 2010.
Reptile and Birding checklists for Angas Downs IPA current to March 2012 are now available through the AWS website. The tally to date is 99 bird species observed (includes vagrant species) and 51 reptiles species. Angas Downs is an excellent diverse landscape and we are slowly learning its potential as a sustainable use conservation area.
If you are travelling through Angas Downs on the Red Centre Way, Luritja and Ernest Giles Roads or the Lasseter Hwy and spot a particular species of interest, let us know firstname.lastname@example.org. Guided tours with AWS and Anangu Rangers can be set up given plenty of notice (contact us).
Angas Downs Reptile Checklist - PDF 728.54 kB - 2012-04-19
Angas Downs Birding Checklist - PDF 789.75 kB - 2012-04-19
Also see Angas Downs Reptile Surveys
AWS and Angas Downs rangers undertook late season reptile trapping on Angas Downs IPA in March ’12 in order to better understand species occurrence and abundance throughout the year. Traps consisted of drift nets with combination of pitfall (buckets) and funnel traps. Results were surprising with many of the species caught in November 2011 no longer present, and new species not caught before now showing up in the landscape. New species not caught before on Angas Downs included the narrow banded sand swimmer Eremiascincus fasciolatus, the first live capture of a Yellow-faced Whipsnake Demansia psammophis (juvenile), Canegrass Dragon Diporiphora winneckei and Ctenotus brooksi. Species count for Angas Downs is now: 51 reptile species, 4 amphibians, 99 birds and 10 native mammals (including 1 bat).
Encouragingly, species not seen since 2010 were trapped including Pale Knob-tailed Gecko Nephrurus laevissimus, Desert Banded Snake Simoselaps anomalus and Interior Blind Snake Ramphotyphlops endoterus. Interestingly, no small marsupials or mammals were captured during the period although remote IR photographic capture of Spinifex hopping mice and track evidence show they are still in the landscape. More trapping is planned for October-December 2012.
For previous survey results visit click here and for species checklists click here.
Angas Downs Rangers visited South Africa in October 2011 on a training and educational trip of a lifetime. The itinerary included visits to national parks and private game reserves. Topics covered
- intensive wildlife management and techniques for increasing wildlife numbers, and catching and moving of wild animals
- importance of the dollar value of animals in both national parks and private game reserves to wildlife conservation
- Indigenous guiding and game viewing, tourism and accommodation support
- role of fire and vegetation management conservation of wildlife and land management
The Rangers, who had never left Australia before, visited staff in Kruger and Mokala National Parks, and the South African National Parks Headquarters in Kimberley, the South Africa Wildlife College where they met students from all over Africa studying Wildlife Management and Conservation. Opportunities for collaboration and exchange are being explored.
The rangers were also lucky to view sustainable Springbok meat harvesting practices on private game reserves and see the contribution that hunting, game trading and ecotourism were making to sustaining conservation.
The Rangers nearly had celebrity status at the International Wildlife Ranching Symposium, South Africa in Kimberley with everyone wanting to have a photo with them. Many people came to the talk they presented on the Indigenous Protected Area and Working on Country programs and Angas Downs. A summary of the events at the Symposium are shown here.
And on the very last day, the Rangers were extremely lucky to experience traditional dance and culture of the San from the !Xun and Khwedam speaking tribes (relocated mainly from Angola) in the satellite community Platfontein near Kimberley. Despite pressing poverty, the community is able to continue to practice and teach their culture thanks to the “Footprints of the San program” run by the San Institute and supported by the South African Government. The Rangers were impressed with the very colourful traditional dress and involvement of what seemed the whole community. The clapping sticks used by the San and red paint were also very similar to that used traditionally by Aboriginals in Central Australia. The Footprints of the San program will eventually provide an exciting and unique tourism experience for people visiting South Africa and hopefully opportunity for economic development and employment within the community. A video of the traditional dance and song will be uploaded shortly.
Much was learnt from the South African wildlife conservation, ecotourism and community development programs. There were many parallels between community issues in South Africa and in Central Australia. The Rangers have taken these experiences and lessons back to their family and community in central Australia.
The trip to South Africa would not have occured were it not for kind donations of the Mutitjulu Foundation, Qantas, SEWPAC and Rotary Club of Canberra Burley Griffin. Thank you to these sponsors – the trip was a huge success.