Western Australia Shark Cull Rant

For all those who don’t know, a disgraceful policy has just recently been passed through the Western Australian state government a little of a month ago. All Great White, Tiger and Bull Sharks over three metres in length within a kilometre of several beaches will be culled. The worst part? They are going to be baited. That’s right, baits are going to be placed on hooked, drum lines to bring the sharks in so they can be killed by professional

Premier (and cull instigator) Colin Barnett with one of the hooks used to bait sharks

fisherman. The reason is because there have been more shark attacks in recent years than there used to be, but scientists say that the cull will not help.

Bond University wrote a paper on Likely effectiveness of netting or other capture programs as a shark hazard mitigation strategy in Western Australia. They found that the bait-and-capture method is not specific to large shark species. In fact, it also targets marine mammals, marine turtles, and sharks and rays that are not implicated in unprovoked attacks on humans, many of these species are already under huge threat of extinction. Shark control activities will also put dolphins at risk which play an important tourism role in Western Australia. In addition, the likely cost of the program is expected to exceed over $1 million a year. The study suggests that shark enclosures should be used instead due to the environmental  impacts of shark control activities.

Sea Shepherd Australia managing director Jeff Hansen said that they would be dumping the bodies of the dead sharks out to sea, which would only bring in more shark and make matters worse.

The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) is a global organisation who, among other things, lists the level of risk that each animal species is at. Species that are not at risk of extinction are listed as ‘least concern’. So how many of the sharks that the WA government plans to cull at at risk? Not one, not two, but all three of species. The Tiger and Bull Shark quality as ‘near threatened’ which means that they are likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future. Something that a shark cull is likely to push them towards. But what about the Great White Shark? According to the IUCN it is listed as ‘vulnerable’, and is therefore facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. And here we have the Western Australian government ignoring all evidence putting three shark species at greater risk of being wiped from our planet.

Why does it matter anyway? Surely a few less sharks in the world can’t be a bad thing? Actually, it is. As top predators, sharks play an extremely important role in the ecosystem. A top (or apex) predator is a species that resides at the top of the food chain, and doesn’t have any natural predators. Once you remove the top predator from any ecosystem, things generally go bad. An example of when this was done was when wolves were removed from Yellowstone National Park. First the deer numbers started increasing, because there were nothing to hunt them, and they eventually became so highly numbered that they ate themselves out of house and home. This, of course, impacted on other animals too, the ones that needed that vegetation to eat and live in. The small mammals started to disappear as well, and eventually, so did the beavers. Once the beavers left the rivers in the park started moving much faster than they used to, and thus not depositing any nutrients in the park. It was at this point that it was decided that wolves needed to be introduced into the park to fix the problem. Now, imagine this but with sharks, on a much larger scale.

And the thing is, people don’t want it. People are trying to make it stop. In fact over 4000 people protested against the cull on a Perth beach recently. Even shark attack survivors such Paul de Gelder (who lost an arm and a leg to a Bull Shark in 2009) have protested against the cull. If you want to fight against this ridiculous reaction, then you can sign Greenpeace’s petition here, and share it to spread the word.

If that hasn’t got you convinced, here are ten facts awesome facts about sharks that might change your mind:

  1. Sharks can go through 30,000 teeth in a lifetime
  2. Sharks inhabited the earth 200 million years before the dinosaurs
  3. Sharks don’t have any bones, they have cartilage instead
  4. 100 million sharks are killed a year by human
  5. Scientists study shark cartilage as a cure for cancer, because sharks rarely develop cancer
  6. Most sharks must swim constantly or they’ll die of oxygen deprivation
  7. Sharks have an acute sense of hearing
  8. Shark skin feels like sandpaper
  9. Some shark species can live up to 150 years
  10. Sharks may use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate the ocean


Information References

Bond University Paper: http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/occasional_publications/fop108.pdf

IUCN data: http://www.iucnredlist.org/

Picture References

Shark Photos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_white_shark

Bait Hook Photo: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/animals/shark-attack-survivor-slams-stupid-shark-cull-20140116-30vsq.html


Australian Mammals Rant

Ok, so this is a post that is entirely unrelated to books, TV shows and movies. Because of this, I am adding this as an extra post this week. Yay!

Anyway, everyone knows about all the popular Australian mammals; kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, common brush-tailed possums, platypuses, Tasmanian Devils etc. In fact, Australia is well-known for all of these species, but there are LOADS more that most Australians have never even heard of, let alone seen or touched. So here, right now, I will compile an awesome list of cute (but not always cuddly) Australian mammals that you never knew existed!

‘Anti-what now’? I hear you say. It’s pronounced anti-ky-nus and it is a small, shrew-like marsupial. It’s got tiny little sharp teeth used for catching insects and comes in several different species (both tree-climbing and burrowing). They’re nocturnal and can range anywhere from the size if a small mouse to a large rat. One of the things I love about these guys is about how tough they think they are. They’ll open their jaws as wide as they can while trying to bite you, but just end up looking even cuter because some species (such as the Agile Antechinus) can’t even break your skin.

An Agile Antechinus (Antechinus agilis)

This is a mammal that you’ve probably heard of before but don’t know much about. It’s a marsupial omnivore that’s found only in Australia. It weighs about a kilogram and has a fat body with a long pointed nose. A lot of the time, it hops around instead of running (so cute!). They are nocturnal and are almost completely immune to ticks (including the paralysis tick). In fact, while on camp we caught a Southern Brown Bandicoot with a tick the size of my thumb nail on it, and yet it wasn’t bothered.

An Eastern Barred Bandicoot (Perameles gunnii)

Another obscure mammal is the potoroo (pot-o-roo). It’s very similar in size, shape and colour to the bandicoot so much so that they could be confused! All species of potoroo are threatened with one species being critically endangered. The potoroo is extremely important for Australian forests because they help the spread of a soil fungus that is needed for the forest plants to grow.

Long-Nosed Potoroo (Potorous tridactylus)

These would have to be one of the cutest and most amazing Australian mammals there is. There are many different types of gliders including the Sugar Glider, Squirrel Glider and Feathertail Glider. On the same camp I referred to earlier, I had the privilege of seeing a Sugar Glider fly directly over me! It was amazing to see how far it could glide.

Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps)

Right about now you probably think you’ve been tricked. I mean, everyone knows what a rat is. Most people probably hear ‘rat’ and think “quick, kill it!” but hold onto that frypan. It may not be the introduced Black Rat (with the hilarious scientific name of Rattus rattus) but one of Australia’s native rats. That’s right, Australia has rat species that were born and raised here, but chances are they won’t be found in your kitchen.

A Bush Rat (Rattus fuscipes)

You guessed it. Not only are there native rats in Australia but there are also native mice, some of which (such as the hopping mice) hop around instead of running. Unfortunately, a large number of these native Aussie mice are now extinct.

A Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis)

You mean wallaby, right? Or a kangaroo? Nope, a wallaroo. Interestingly enough, it’s pretty much half way between a kangaroo and a wallaby (size-wise) but its genus is the same as a kangaroo. There are three species of wallaroo. Incidently, there is a town called Wallaroo in South Australia.

A Common Wallaroo (Macropus robustus)

A very small mammal that’s about the same size as an antechinus but looks more like a mouse. They are mainly insectivorous and is known for having the smallest number of genes in the Y-chromosome of any mammal (four genes!). Distinguished by a mouse because of its five toes.

A Fat-Tailed Dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata)

This Aussie mammal (pronounced fas-co-gale) has a body that looks like a possum but with a head that looks a lot like a mouse. The male individuals of the species live for just a year and soon die after a frenzied mating season. It is a marsupial with its name meaning “pouched weasel”. They nest in a leaf-lined eucalypt tree hollow.

A Brush-Tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa)

And last, but not least, the quoll. One of the few purely carnivorous marsupials left in the world. It is also known as our native cat. All species of quoll have been in rapid decline ever since European colonisation, mainly because of introduced species such as the Cane Toad. It has a lifespan of three to five years.

A Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus)

While writing this I noticed how little even spellcheck knows about these animals! Well, this didn’t really turn out to be a rant at all, more of an informative post. I hope you learnt something and that you will spread the word about Australia’s lesser-known (and yet no less awesome) Aussie mammals!