Every month, Probus Perth invites a speaker to address members on his or her particular field of expertise or endeavour. Below are summaries of talks given recently. Summaries of various earlier talks are to be found within the “Archives” section of the website.
AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY
Angela Bowman, November 2018
Peter Medd introduced Angela Bowman who spoke to us about the problems Australia faced with the extinction of endangered animal species and what her organisation was doing to address the problems.
Australia had the worst record in the world for losing its rare animal species – 30 species had been lost for ever since Europeans inhabited Australia. In the same period the United States had lost only one species. Those species that had not been lost altogether were losing numbers at a frightening rate; typical of this was in mammals where woylies as an example had gone from 225,000 down to 180,000 in the period monitoring had been introduced.
The A.W.C.with their limited funds had created 27 properties around Australia as wild life sanctuaries. In parallel with this the State Governments had created National Parks around Australia with the same basic aims. Government expenditure was huge compared with the A.W.C. expenditure, but despite its large staff numbers and huge expenditure Government expenditure was nowhere near as effective in terms of results achieved. Government were starting to accept that A.W.C. could do it better and in some instances were engaging A.W.C. to manage their National Parks. A.W.C’s success was based on getting people into the field and with meaningful monitoring where Governments spent a big proportion of their budget on administration and bureaucracy. Success could only be claimed when numbers of endangered species actually started to increase and there are now instances, such as the purple crowned fairy wren, where this is occurring.
The biggest threats to our endangered species are feral cats, foxes, agriculture, herbivore and “hot” fires. There are 4 million feral cats in Australia who between them are killing 2000 individuals every minute – frightening numbers. The only way to protect species from these feral cats and foxes is by selecting properties which can be proved to be free of them and fencing those properties. Fences must be designed to disallow climbing over them or digging under them. A lot of research is currently going into creating a gene in feral cats which causes them to give birth only to male cats. Over a period of time the cats will lose the ability to breed. Obviously the human population has to eat so we must have agriculture which means clearing land and losing habitat. The herbivore problem is related to domestic animals eating and tramping down growth which could have provided protection and hiding places for species. By discouraging less eating of meat the herbivore problem can at least be reduced. “Hot” fires are the burning off late in the season when there is more dry fire fuel to burn. The extra heat created by these fires kills off flora which would otherwise survive and regerminate. The “cool” fire technique is to reduce the quantity and size of burn-offs and do them early in the fire season. The recovery from “cool” burn off is remarkably good and gives the protection and concealment needed by species.
It was interesting to be told dingoes were now almost recognised as native to Australia and were not a real danger to our endangered mammals. Dingoes only killed to eat whereas feral cats killed for the sake of killing. Dingoes and mammals seem to be able to live together. The presence of dingoes also discouraged the presence of feral cats and foxes.
A.W.C. relied on Government funding but was gaining more support from the Corporate Sector and other charities. Supporters can visit their Properties which are generally established in locations which could be classed as tourist attractions themselves.
Angela was thanked by Penny McHugh and given the usual bottle of wine in appreciation of her interesting talk.