Friday, 26 August 2016

CLARENCE KOALA PETA - A SUCCESS STORY AND A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE



In February a small koala with a broken leg was picked up by a motorist on the Black Mountain Road near the Nymboi-Binderay National Park. At just 2.8kg, barely ready to leave her mother, the little koala was in a sorry state and would have died fairly quickly had she not been immediately taken to Ray Barnett's Clarence Valley Vet Clinic in Grafton.

WIRES was called, and little Peta, named after her rescuer, was X-rayed by Ray Barnett under a general anaesthetic and given a thorough checkup in contact with the Queensland Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. That same afternoon, still comfortably sleeping, she was transferred to Friends of Koala in Lismore, and by next morning was in surgery with the world's leading koala vets at the Australian Wildlife Hospital (AWH).


Peta in care at the Australian Wildlife Hospital

There Peta stayed for the next six months, lending herself well to captive care, gaining in weight, strength and agility as she underwent therapy and gathering the hearts of all who met her. This included the journalists of Australian Geographic, whose website now includes a video of Peta patiently undergoing her daily workouts.

Finally, her limp gone and able to climb again with confidence, Peta was given the all clear by AWH director, Rosie Booth to return home.

A release site was chosen not far from where she was found, and last weekend Peta was returned to her hinterland mountain home. Last seen she was munching contentedly in one of her favourite food trees to the notes of the bell-birds she had grown up with.

 
Peta in a forest she-oak after her return to the wild

Aside from a lovely success story, Peta has also furthered our knowledge of koalas' food preferences. While in care, apart from occasional forest red gum leaves, she would eat nothing but Allosuarina torulosa, commonly known as forest she-oak.

Although on some lists as a supplementary or secondary food source, the value of this non-eucalypt species has largely been ignored. Until now, one small koala has highlighted the point that it might well be an invaluable link between the primarily preferred forest red gums of the coast, and the river red gums of the inland across the koalas' range.
- Patricia Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on August 22, 2016.

Monday, 25 July 2016

THE WHEELERS' BIRDS

Eric and Margaret Wheeler are keen bird watchers and travel extensively in Australia looking for new bird species.  A trip to Tasmania earlier in the year gave them the opportunity to see and photograph some of the local species as well as some birds which can be seen in other parts of Australia.

 Birds Photographed during the Tasmanian Trip - A Selection

Yellow-throated Honeyeater

Tasmanian Native Hen


Scarlet Robin

Orange-bellied Parrot
Blue-winged Parrot
Striated Field-wren
Freckled Duck, Chestnut Teal, Gould's Lag



White-chinned Petrel, Shy Albatross

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

MANGROVE DEATHS IN NORTHERN AUSTRALIA



The average person is generally unaware of the importance of Mangrove ecosystems which, according to researcher Professor Norm Duke of Queensland's James Cook University, “take in 50 times more carbon than tropical forests by area and act like nature's kidney”.
 
There are many species of mangroves, and Australia is home to 7% of the world's population, but our mangroves are under serious threat, not only from sea-level rise resulting from climate change, but seemingly from warming oceans as well.

James Cook University researchers have noted that huge areas of mangroves are dying along hundreds of kilometres of shoreline in Queensland and the Northern Territory, where entire populations have turned “a ghostly white”, leading to speculation that it could be the result of a period of hot water in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.

Professor Duke compared the event to current coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, which is also the result of warmer ocean temperatures. He pointed out that the mangrove deaths coincided with the same period when water temperatures were higher than normal. However, he was careful to say that more evidence was needed before any conclusions could be drawn.

Anecdotal evidence from fishermen at the small Gulf town of Karumba, a town that relies heavily on the fishing industry, suggests the mangrove die-back is also impacting negatively on fish stocks, a correlation Professor Duke agrees is what we would expect, as mangroves provide critically important breeding habitat for many fish species.

The Clarence River estuary is also home to a variety of mangrove species, with five species known to occur on the NSW north coast. They too are under threat, not from warming oceans, but from coastal development. The push by Council to rezone parts of the lower river as “working waterfront” to encourage the development of marine industries, could be just the thin end of a very much larger wedge, with the massive Yamba Port and Rail proposal raising its ugly head once again. Should that monstrous proposal ever receive the green light, mangroves could become virtually extinct in the lower Clarence.

- John Edwards


This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on July 11, 2016.