Animal Welfare Management Pets Philosophy Wildlife

Rainbow Lorikeets – Pet or Pest?

Rainbow Lorikeets were introduced to Australia in the 1960s and quickly grew in population size. Their natural habitat is rainforest, costal bush and woodland areas.

Due to not being native the Rainbow Lorikeet is both loved and hated by Australians, so let’s consider – are they a pet or a pest?

Why are Rainbow Lorikeets a pest in the wild?

Rainbow Lorikeets can be aggressive towards other native parrots, especially around nesting hollows. This prevents other native parrots from nesting, and since the introduction of the bird they have been known to throw Australian Ringneck nestlings from their home.

This is the key reason they are considered pests in Australia, and research has shown they disrupt the balance of native Australian birds and wildlife.

Why do Rainbow Lorikeets make good pets?

Putting the issues with Rainbow Lorikeets in the Australian environment aside, many Australians keep them as pets.

Whilst these birds are known to be aggressive around other parrots, as pets they are beautiful birds who love human company. Owners of Rainbow Lorikeets will tell you how chatty these birds are, with a playful and highly interactive nature. Simply put, they quickly become a part of the family.

They love to entertain and show off their bubbly personalities, both to you and your guests.

Rainbow Lorikeets also enjoy the company of the same species, especially when raised from a nestling upwards. There’s a saying about two birds being better than one, which is true for these birds.

Why do they NOT make a good pet?

Before you go out and buy one, lets take a look at the flipside.

Rainbow Lorikeets are messy.

Their feaces needs to be cleaned every other day, as if it isn’t it quickly becomes very unpleasant. Loris can also projectile deficate from their cage, which is due to their daily nectar diet along with fresh fruit.

Some owners prefer to use dry nectar as opposed to wet nectar which can help make their poops less “squirty”.

Lorikeets like to splash around in their water baths, usually twice per day, meaning the water goes all over the floor. You’ll be surprised at the mess they can make.

Male and Female Loris appear the same, so if you have two then it’s worth getting a DNA analysis by a vet.

Like other parrots Rainbow Lorikeets can be noisy, so make sure you get on with your neighbours if they’re in close proximity! 

Do you own a Rainbow Lorikeet? Are they a pest or a pet?

Animal Welfare Research Wildlife

Threats to Sea Turtles on the Sunshine Coast

Sea turtles have been returning to the land for over 100 million years to lay their eggs, but today their populations are experiencing detrimental human-induced impacts which threaten their extinction.

The purpose of this study is to cover the threats our sea turtles face, in Australia and around the world.

Types of turtle on the Sunshine Coast

On the Sunshine Coast of Australia, the most prominent species to lay eggs on our beaches is the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta). To a a lesser extent the Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas).

Sea Turtle

To give you an idea of the importance of protecting these turtles, the number of Loggerhead Turtles on Australia’s eastern coast amounts to as little as 500 nesting females, which makes the Sunshine Coast population a small but very important sub-population.

The Sunshine Coast is also home to the Flatback turtle (Natator depressus) and Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata).

That makes the Sunshine Coast home to four of the seven recognised species of sea turtle in existence today:

  • Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
  • Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
  • Flatback (Natator depressus)
  • Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata)
  • Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea)
  • Olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea)
  • Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii)

Threats to Sea Turtles

There are many threats to our sea totals, but the below five are considered the most significant:

  • Plastic
  • Foxes
  • Pacific Adventurer oil spill
  • Discarded fishing line
  • Ghost nets

Let’s take a look at these five threats in more detail:

Plastic in the marine environment

If someone had suggested a hundred years ago humankind would create a material so resilient and pervasive it would become a toxic unsightly legacy that would help push individual species to the brink of extinction, we would’ve thought they were joking.

Of course such a scenario was never the intention.  It is, however, today’s reality, and plastic can seriously undermine entire ecological systems.

Plastic in the North Pacific Gyre (photo courtesy Algalita Marine Research Foundation)
Plastic in the North Pacific Gyre

While the issue of plastic supermarket bags continues to be handballed around the political arena, more than 1 million marine animals die every single year from entanglement in or ingestion of a whole range of anthropogenic debris, mostly plastics and other synthetic substances.

Whereas effort has been made to reduce the number of plastic bags in circulation, we still consume many products contained or made with plastic, which are often discarded without consideration for the environment.

The staggering quantities of plastic waste trapped in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre raises great concern, especially with the vast quantities of plastic waste accumulating daily.

When such information passes the public eye, such as an event, article, or documentary, we often ask “How can this happen?”

The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, as a key example, is an area of ocean fifty times the size of Tasmania.

How can such an area by covered in plastic so thick it looks like a solid surface?

This gyre is affected by a combination of ocean and atmospheric currents which combine to capture and hold the waste, which makes it an unnatural ocean “landfill” on a scale few of us can comprehend.

In fact, while the plastic soup in the north Pacific is shocking beyond belief, the problem is by no means confined to that area.

Consider this – today almost anywhere on earth a scientist can examine a cup of sand or seawater and find a range of plastics in a variety of sizes.

So how does this happen?

Problem #1: Plastic is not biodegradable

No one can say exactly how much plastic has been manufactured since its invention but one thing is known for sure – all of it is still with us.

Plastic is not biodegradable.

Organic material such as food scraps or paper will eventually break down to become carbon dioxide and water. Plastic on the other hand is bio-inert, which means it is chemically very stable and will not degrade like naturally occurring materials.

Instead, plastic will be progressively weakened by sun and sea until it becomes brittle and breaks up into increasingly smaller pieces. It will not reduce to carbon dioxide and water.

Problem #2: We have a heavy reliance on too much plastic

Simply put – we use way too much plastic.

Our food packaging system relies almost entirely on plastic, and the common method of marketing other goods means the majority of non-food consumables are also packaged in plastic.

In Australia alone more than 700 million litres of bottled water are consumed every year.

Each bottle might take on average a couple of minutes to consume, but hundreds of years from now the bottle will still exist.

Problem #3: Plastic is easy to discard as litter

Plastic is very lightweight and can easily be blown directly into the ocean or make its way there via urban drains, creeks and rivers.

In years gone by, many countries also dumped millions of tons of municipal garbage directly into the ocean.

While this practice has almost stopped, the legacy is enduring to the point that in many areas of the ocean surface plastic outweighs plankton.

Some countries still discard plastic waste into our oceans.

How does plastic threaten marine life?

The effect of plastic on marine life can be devastating.

Minute particles of plastic are consumed by the filter feeder organisms that form the base of the marine food web.

This presents two problems in that plastic materials themselves are known to be toxic and they also appear to act as a sponge for other pollutants which are taken up by the filter feeders.

As the plastic molecules progress through each trophic feeding level, animals at the upper trophic levels, such as birds, fish, marine mammals and sea turtles can accumulate increasingly larger quantities of toxins in their bodies.

A plastic bag in the water can look remarkably like a jellyfish. (Photo courtesy NOAA)
A plastic bag in the water can look remarkably like a jellyfish. (Photo courtesy NOAA)

Larger pieces of plastic present an additional problem. Some plastics, when in water, can look remarkably like an animal’s natural food. When an animal consumes these plastics, it can clog up their digestive system leading to prolonged and painful internal injuries, often resulting in death.

Worse yet, as the dead animal decomposes the plastic is freed, relatively intact, to be ingested by another marine animal that may again mistake it for food.

Plastic in the gut of an Albatross chick (courtesy of NOAA)
Plastic in the gut of an Albatross chick (courtesy of NOAA)

Because plastics are extremely variable in their composition, colour and shape they tend to break down to produce a correspondingly infinite variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

This diversity increases the availability to a wider range of organisms.

For example, sea turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish; filter feeders (including the larger baleen marine mammals) inadvertently take up large quantities of plastic; and seabirds, particularly surface feeders, ingest large quantities of plastic both directly from the surface and through ingestion of fish and other prey.

What can we do to reduce plastic in the environment?

To most of us the problem seems almost insurmountable when we are confronted with so few alternatives to the plastic packaging that dominates the market today.

Here are some ways we can help reduce plastic in the environment:

  • Tell governments and manufacturers we have made a mistake and it is a mistake that needs to be urgently rectified.  We need to let them know it is not acceptable that a chocolate bar which takes 30 seconds to eat is packaged in a wrapper that will persist in the environment for hundreds of years. It is not okay that a disposable plastic bottle used to hold a drink that can be consumed in minutes will contribute to the already staggering millions of tons of plastic waste littering the planet.
  • Modify your personal buying habits, and encourage others to do the same. If possible, avoid products packaged in plastic, especially those which are over-packaged.
  • Minimise your use of takeaway food and drink containers. For example, carry a drink bottle from home in preference to buying bottled water.

Foxes as a threat to sea turtles

Foxes are a serious threat to turtles and other native wildlife on the Sunshine Coast.

Red fox in Australia - threat to wildlife and sea turtles
Foxes in Australia pose a threat to native Australian animals including sea turtles.

Introduced to Australia in the mid 1800s for hunting purposes, the European Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) can now be found in every part of the Australian mainland, except the tropical north.

The fox is regarded as one of the most elusive animals in the world, which is probably why people are generally surprised to learn that there are an estimated 7 million foxes in Australia.

That’s around one fox for every three Australians!

It is estimated it took only 100 years for foxes to achieve their current distribution in Australia, which is not surprising when you consider the following:

  • Foxes are extremely adaptable, being equally at home in coastal dunes, bushland, urban environments and agricultural landscapes. In Australia the population density in urban areas is estimated to be around 12/km2 (in Melbourne as high as 16/km2).
  • Foxes are sexually mature from about 10 months of age.
  • Foxes mate once a year in winter and produce on average four pups but can have as many as ten per litter.
  • Around the age of 6 to 9 months foxes will disperse from where they were born. Females usually disperse 3-15km and males 11-43km, although distances much longer have been recorded.
  • Foxes are primarily carnivorous scavengers and opportunistic predators that are well adapted to utilising a varied diet.
  • Depending on breeding and immigration rates, fox populations can withstand up to 75% yearly mortality rates.

Foxes have long been recognised as a serious threat to much of Australia’s wildlife – not only turtle eggs and hatchlings.

Australia’s wildlife has not evolved in the presence of foxes and consequently usually lacks the necessary skills to avoid fox predation.

To give you an idea of the potential impact of foxes in Australian ecosystems, consider the following:

  • Any animal up to 5.5kg may be taken as prey, which includes the majority of Australia’s mammals and almost all of its reptiles, birds and insects.
  • A single fox eats an average 400g of food per night, or 150kg per year, made up of a huge range of human scraps, mammals, reptiles, birds and invertebrates.
  • The fox is known to have caused the extinction of at least 6 Australian mammals and is in the process of driving a further 10 animal species to the brink of extinction.
  • Through predation of eggs and hatchlings, the fox is one of the most significant threats to endangered Loggerhead turtles nesting on Sunshine Coast beaches.
  • Foxes also regularly prey on domestic poultry and stock, which are usually easy targets for the hunting prowess of foxes. In 2004 it was estimated the cost of foxes to the environment and the agricultural sector was in the order of almost $230 million.

The mortality of young foxes is high (up to 80% in the first year) with most deaths caused by road-kill, disease, trapping, poisoning and food shortage.

In the fox’s native Europe and North America, distemper and mange are thought to be significant natural controlling factors, but their role in the Australian environment is not currently known.

Despite the high mortality rate, the fox’s inherent capacity to breed quickly and establish new territories has resulted in a fox population in Australia that is at least stable, but likely increasing in some areas.

Pacific Adventurer oil spill

On 11 March 2009 the Pacific Adventurer, enroute from Newcastle to Indonesia, Cyclone Hamish, ran into trouble off the northern tip of Moreton Island in South East Queensland.

Cyclone Hamish
Cyclone Hamish

The 185m container ship lost 31 containers of ammonium nitrate after they came loose in high seas whipped up by Cyclone Hamish.

Some of the containers subsequently pierced the ship’s hull, releasing more than 200 tonnes of fuel oil into the ocean, which coated beaches and headlands on Moreton Island and the Sunhine Coast.

At the time the oil spill occurred there were still sixteen sea turtle nests between Shelly Beach and Buddina that hadn’t emerged.

Oil threat to sea turtles
Oil threat to sea turtles

Volunteers from Sunshine Coast TurtleCare, officers from the Sunshine Coast Regional, SCRCCouncil and Queensland’s Environment Protection Agency worked together to protect the remaining nests by containing hatchlings to prevent them running across oil contaminated beaches.

The hatchlings were contained by placing purpose built enclosures that attached simply but securely to the existing fox exclusion mesh barriers that were in place over each nest.

Loggerhead hatchlings released at Teewah Beach in  March 2009, courtesy of Lesley Eagles, EPA
Loggerhead hatchlings released at Teewah Beach in March 2009, courtesy of Lesley Eagles, EPA

Approximately 300 hatchlings from three nests emerged in the few days immediately following the spill and they were safely released at the unaffected Teewah Beach where they were able to undertake a relatively normal run to the ocean.

Hatchlings from a further three nests in the following days were released at Shelly Beach and Dicky Beach, which were then free of any oil contamination.

Another two nests emerged prior to the permanent removal of the enclosures. The hatchlings were released at the nest site after it was confirmed to be clear of any oil hazard.

SCRC workers cleaning oil from beach
SCRC workers cleaning oil from beach

The response to the crisis from volunteers and the wider Sunshine Coast community was overwhelmingly supportive with offers of assistance flooding in to the agencies participating in the clean up.

Discarded fishing line kills wildlife

When fishing line and hooks are carelessly discarded into the environment they have the potential of injuring and killing a wide range of wildlife.

The danger of fishing line to wildlife

The effects of ghost nets that have been abandoned or lost at sea are well documented. But perhaps not so well known are the devastating effects for some wildlife of carelessly discarded or lost fishing line from recreational fishers.

Fish and marine mammals, birds and reptiles can become entangled in old line or snagged by hooks, resulting in serious injury or death.

Shore birds can become entangled in line while foraging on the shore and land birds will often attempt to incorporate old fishing line into their nests, sometimes with disastrous effects for hatching chicks.

The Sunshine Coast Regional Council, with the assistance of funding from the Federal government’s Caring for our Country grant program, has installed special fishing line recycling bins at key locations on the Sunshine Coast.

A total of twenty-three bins have been placed at boat ramps, near fish cleaning tables and at popular fishing spots on the coast.

People are urged to use the bins to dispose of any unwanted fishing line and tackle to reduce the amount of line finding its way into the environment.

The new bins follow a successful trial in the Noosa area several years ago and, once the current installations are all done, the bins will be in use right across the region.

How Ghost Nets threaten Sea Turtles

Ghost nets are fishing nets which have been either lost or abandoned at sea.

Sometimes nicknamed “walls of death” they drift on ocean currents indiscriminately catching a wide range of marine animals, including turtles, dugong, sharks and dolphins.

A sea turtle in a ghost net
A sea turtle in a ghost net

For thousands of years the Gulf of Carpentaria has acted as a catchment for marine debris for the Indo-Pacific region. In the past currents sweeping into the Gulf carried debris like canoes, organic fibre nets, tree logs and other organic material.

Over the last few decades, however, the composition of the debris has changed dramatically.

Nets woven from natural fibres have given way to synthetic nets which are so resilient they can persist in the marine environment for hundreds of years.

Once inside the Gulf, the nets – often still buoyed by floats – become trapped in the clockwise spin of the Gulf of Carpentaria Gyre which is fed by the north-west monsoon pattern.

These “ghost nets” will remain in an endless cycle of washing ashore in storms and back into the spin of the gyre unless they are collected when they are washed ashore.

The growing weight of dead animals in the nets can outweigh the buoyancy of the floats and force the net out of circulation for a while.

Turtle tangled in ghost net.
Turtle tangled in ghost net. Image courtesy of NOAA.

However, after the trapped dead animals break down or get eaten the net’s buoyancy returns and it is set adrift to start the cycle all over again.

The Carpentaria Ghost Net Programme, led by indigenous communities in the Gulf, commenced in 2004 with the assistance of Federal government NHT funding.

In a 50 month period up to July 2009 almost 90,000m of ghost netting had been collected from the Gulf.

Can you imagine the shear size of that netting?

The largest nets found to date in the Gulf were Taiwanese gill nets which stretched out to approximately 4km in length with a drop of 12m.

It is hard to imagine the devastating effect of that netting to sea turtles and other sea life.

Sea turtle books for young and general readers

Books for young readers

The Smallest Turtle by Lynley Dodd
2008, ABC Books
ISBN 0733322085

Little Turtle and the Song of the Sea by Norma Burgin & illustrated by Sheridan Cain
2001, Little Tiger Press
ISBN 1854306200

One Tiny Turtle by Jane Chapman & Nicola Davies
2005, Candlewick Press
ISBN 0763623113

Diego and the Baby Sea Turtles by Warner McGee & Lisa Rao
2001, Crabtree Publishing Co
ISBN 1416954503

Baby Turtle’s Tales by Elle J McGuiness
2009, Andrews McMeal
ISBN 0740781022

Turtle (Watch Me Grow)
2006, Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd
ISBN 1405313099

Turtle’s Song by Alan Brown & illustrated by Kim Michelle Toft
2001,University of Queensland Press
ISBN 1702231533

Journey of the Sea Turtle by Mark Wilson
2009, Lothian Books
ISBN 073441109X

Endangered Sea Turtles by Bobbie Kalman
2004 by Crabtree Publishing Co
ISBN 0778718999

Into the Sea by Brenda Z. Guiberson & illustrated by Alix Berenzy
1996, Henry Holt
ISBN 0805022635

Sea Turtles (Undersea Encounters) by Mary Jo Rhodes & David hall
2005, Children’s Press
ISBN 0516243918

Books for general readers

Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to Their Biology, Behaviour and Conservation by James R Spotila
2004, The John Hopkins Press
ISBN 0801880076

Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the World’s Last Dinosaur by Carl Safina
2007, Owl Books, Henry Holt Co.
ISBN 0805083189

Sea Turtles: An Extraordinary Natural History of Some Uncommon Turtles by Blair Ernest Witherington
2006, Voyager Press
ISBN 100760326444

Interrupted Journey: Saving Endangered Sea Turtles by Kathryn Lasky & Christopher G. Knight
2001, Candlewick Press
ISBN 0763606359

The Biology of Sea Turtles, by Peter L. Lutz, John A. Musick
1996, CRC Press
ISBN 0849384222

The Biology of Sea Turtles, Vol 2 by Peter Lutz, John A. Musick & Jeanette Wyneken
1996, CRC Press
ISBN 0849311233

Sea Turtles: An Ecological Perspective by David Gulko & Karen Eckert
2004, Mutual Publishing Co
ISBN 1566476518

References & Further Research

Animal Welfare Behaviour Management Research Wildlife

Microbats & Bat Facts

Facts About Bats!

Western Broad-nosed Bat Pups
Western Broad-nosed Bat Pups
  • Bats have existed for at least 55 million years.
  • Bats can consume half their body weight in insects per night during the warmer/summer months. Pregnant bats can consume up to their entire body weight in insects per night in the warmer/summer months.
  • Microbats go into ‘torpor’ during the cooler/colder months from approximately May to August.
  • Flying-foxes do not go into torpor so need to feed and drink all year around.
  • Bats must not be disturbed when in ‘torpor’/hibernation as they can lose their energy/fat supply which has been stored/built-up ready for the winter, resulting in the eventual death of the bats.
  • Microbats are our most environmentally-friendly pest exterminators feeding on many mosquitoes, beetles, flies, moths, and many, many more insects.
  • Flying-foxes are one of our essential night pollinators and long-distance ‘native tree’ planters/foresters.
  • Bats generally live to between 5-10 years but can live up to 20 – 30 years. A small Myotis Fishing Bat has been recorded living approximately 41 years!! (Susan Barnard – Bats in Captivity Volume)
  • Bats can hang upside down by their feet, with little effort. It takes more effort for a bat to release the tendons in its feet to fly away.
  • The word ‘Chiroptera’ – the Order of Bats – means ‘hand-wing’. Microchiroptera (sub-order) relates to our microbats. Megachiroptera (sub-order) relates to our megabats, for example, the Flying Foxes/Fruit/Blossom Bats.
  • Bats have incredible membranes in between their elongated fingers. They do have a thumb and four fingers.
  • Bats have varying tails, for example, a tail which is enclosed fully within the membrane like the Gould’s Wattled Bat. The Yellow-Bellied Sheathtail Bat has half its tail enclosed in the tail membrane. The White-Striped Freetail Bat and the Southern Freetail Bat have a ‘free-tail’ with minimal tail membrane. The Flying Foxes have no tail.
  • The rare Ghost Bat can be viewed at the Adelaide Zoo. These Ghost Bats are part of the Australasian Regional Zoos Program. The Adelaide Zoo has had reasonable success with breeding Ghost Bats, and have bred 17 individuals in the past 10 years.
  • The most commonly ‘heard’ bats around Adelaide are the White-Striped Freetail Bat and the Yellow-Bellied Sheathtail Bat (due to humans only being able to hear at approximately 20khz and below).
  • The most commonly ‘rescued’ bats are the Gould’s Wattled Bat, the Lesser Long-eared Bat, the Southern Freetail Bat, the Chocolate Wattled Bat.
  • Bats are placental mammals giving birth to live pups/young just like humans do and only have 1-2 babies per year if that! Twins are common in some species of Microbats.
  • There are presently 8 common species, 6 rare species and 1 endangered species.

Diet, Habitat & Behaviour

Microbats consume approximately half their body weight in insects per night over the warmer/summer months. They are our natural pest-controllers. Their diet is full of many types of insects, including mosquitoes, moths, beetles, flying ants, caterpillars and flies.


Microbats are nocturnal. They are warm-blooded, placental mammals. They live in tree-hollows, under loose/exfoliating bark, in old sheds, in caves, and also co-exist with humans in their homes, for example, in roof spaces and wall linings without any concerns in general.

In the cooler months, between May to August, our bats go into torpor, similar to hibernation. They must not be disturbed during these cooler months. If they are disturbed, they can lose their precious fat storage/supplies that they have built up ready for their slumber, and possibly die as a consequence.

Microbats are very secretive little creatures. We need to respect their privacy and let them go about their business – eradicating all those pest insects the natural way!

Threats To Our Bat Populations

Humans seem to be the major threat to bats!  We are taking away their habitat daily. We are cutting down trees which provide homes for these little nocturnal mammals (tree hollows take approximately 100 years to develop!).

We use too many pesticides in our parks and gardens. Remember our bats eat some of these insects that have been poisoned!

Our domesticated cats and dogs can also bring these little mammals inside to show us what they have caught like they do with mice and baby birds!

Here are some reasons why bats in Australia require rescue and human help:

  • They are brought in by domesticated cats and dogs
  • They are brought in because they are found on the ground/exposed during the day (this is not where they should be)
  • They have fractures to their very delicate bones, generally to the forearm
  • They have torn membranes – wing damage
  • They have been electrocuted/severe burns
  • They have Alopecia – fur/hair loss
  • They are Anaemic
  • They are about to give birth
  • They are very thin
  • They are still pups – baby bats are called pups
  • They can land in dog/animal water-bowls and swimming pools and need assistance and drying out before they can be released that evening (depending once again on weather conditions/season, and condition of the bat).  They have come down for a drink and, unfortunately, cannot fly back out again once water-logged

Usually though, a short time in care can see bats released back into their natural habitat.

Cats especially will pierce the skin/tear membranes and will generally infect the bat as cats carry many bacteria on their teeth.  Immediate Veterinarian attention is necessary to help save the bat.  Please go to for the CatBib which can help prevent cats from killing our wildlife.

Disturbance to bats during Autumn and Winter when they are hibernating/in torpor can kill many bats.  So please stay away from caves, especially, where many cave-dwelling bats will colonise and torpor during the colder months.

On occasions, bats are found in homes (roof spaces/wall linings), sheds (under hessian bags or horse blankets), roosting in/on machinery and other cosy, warm spots!  Please do not disturb or handle them.  Please contact us for assistance.

Natural causes including drought, storms and climate change are impacting on bat populations, especially, the Southern Bent-wing Bat which is now endangered within South Australia!   This species is critically endangered around Australia!!  Further reading is available on the Southern Bent-wing Bat of the Naracoorte Caves. 

Please contact James Smith, FauNature for further advice on bats co-existing with people and the benefits of artificial roost boxes.

The Ghost Bat, Australia’s largest carnivorous echolocating bat, was recorded in the past (prior to 1970) around the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.  This bat is a threatened ‘vulnerable’ species, restricted to caves and abandoned mines. This species is now restricted to Tropical Northern Australia.  Destruction and disturbance have caused their numbers to dramatically decline (Sue Churchill –  ‘Australian Bats’ – Second Edition).  Zoos SA – Adelaide Zoo – have been part of the Australasian Regional Zoo Conservation Program for over ten years with reasonable success, having bred over 17 individuals during this period of time.  The lifespan of the Ghost Bat is approximately 15 to 20 years.

Echolocation – ‘Seeing with Sound’!

Bats emit a high-frequency call when searching for their insects. The call is emitted from the mouth and nose of the bat. The sonar pulses/signals emitted are returned to the bat as an echo, giving the bat the information of the size of insect and its location. Most bat sonar pulses are beyond the range of human hearing.


Two Adelaide bats are within our range of hearing, these being:

  • Yellow-bellied Sheathtail Bat (Saccolaimus flaviventris)
  • White-striped Freetail Bat (Tadarida australis)

There is a lovely book available now through CSIRO –  ‘BATS – Working the Night Shift’.

This is an excellent book if you wish to learn more about Echolocation and anything else about our beautiful Australian bats!  Dr Greg Richards and Dr Les Hall are the wonderful authors.

Bat Conservation International also have an Educational Manual called ‘Discovering Bats’ which has a very informative section on Echolocation.

Microbat Care & Rehabilitation Process

We assess the bat for any injuries, and have Veterinarians who can assist us promptly with treatment and medications.

Depending upon the injury, some of the bats that have come into care go back to where they came from within a few days. Unfortunately, many require euthanasing due to their terrible injuries.

Only a small number of microbats are kept in permanent care if they are unable to be released back into the wild.   Specialised Permits must be obtained from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources to care for these specialised mammals.

In care, our orphaned pups receive Wombaroo Insectivorous Bat Milk Replacer (a wonderful South Australian product). Our juvenile and adult bats are offered mealworms, moths, crickets and woodies in general.  Supplementary additives such as Wombaroo Insect Booster (new product line), Wombaroo Small Carnivore/Insectivore Mixture and Missing Link (Omega 3 Supplement) are also provided as a medium/gut-loader for our insects prior to feeding to our bats. Visit Wombaroo for more information on these wonderful products!  

Fresh water is also a necessity daily as bats do enjoy, and require, their drinks of water.

Case Study: Gould’s Wattled Bats


This is a photograph of mum (middle) and twin male Gould’s Wattled Bats born in care.

These twin males were approximately 6 weeks of age in this photograph. The twins were born on 4 November 2007.

By approximately 3 months of age, these pups are weaned from their mother’s milk and are independent, out in the night sky catching their own insects.

Further Reading

For some excellent Resources on caring for orphaned pups, please refer to Basically BatsBatworld Sanctuary and the other wonderful carers listed under the Links & Bat Books / Educational Brochures sections.

Releasing Microbats back into the Wild

Bats MUST be able to fly extremely well before being released back into the wild.

They must be eating well.

Artificial roost boxes are provided for those bats that are to be in care for a longer period so when the time comes for release, their new/alternative home can be fixed to a nice tall tree. These boxes need to be fixed at 4 metres or more to avoid predation by cats and foxes. They require a clear flight path.

For further informative information on roost boxes, please visit FauNature, the Australasian Bat Society and our Links page.

Case Study: Western Broad-nosed Bat


This is a photograph of a Western Broad-nosed Bat (Scotorepens balstoni), juvenile female weighing just 5 grams!

Found exposed in the daylight on the ground. Tiny hole in wing membrane but otherwise quite healthy but still a youngster.

She was in care for two weeks before being released on a delightfully warm night with plenty of insects and century-old Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River Red Gum) hollows to choose from.

She flew away into the night.  Sweet little one!

Management Wildlife

Snakes of Tasmania

Tassie snakes may be seen in surprising places, including towns and industrial areas, especially in summer when water is in short supply.

Do you know how to tell the difference between the three species of Tasmanian snakes, and what to do in an emergency?

You will find a Downloadable Guide to the Snakes of Tasmania (including Emergency Numbers, First Aid, and Safety) at the bottom of this page. Please feel free to share the guide with attribution to Human Animal Science.

Types of Tasmanian Snakes

There are three types of snake species in Tasmania – the Tiger snake (Notechris scutatus), Copperhead (Austrelaps superbus) and White-lipped snake (Drysdalia coronoidies):

Types of Tasmanian Snakes
Tasmanian Snakes

All three species of Tasmanian Snake are venomous.

⚠️ First Aid for Snake Bite

First Aid for Snake Bite - Snakes of Tasmania

Snake bite is an acute medical emergency and it is important to act quickly and effectively.

In the event of a snake bite:

  • Stay calm, safety comes first – check that the snake is not still near the victim.
  • Keep the victim as still as possible and immediately apply a pressure bandage.
  • Start the bandage over the bite site and continue to the end of the limb leaving fingers or toes exposed. Work back over the bite site to the top of the limb until the entire limb is covered. Immobilise the limb.
  • Ring 000 for medical assistance.
  • Mobile phones: ring 112 (please see important note under Contacts section below)
  • Bring transport to the victim if possible, or carry the person on a makeshift stretcher. It is important that the person is kept as still as possible.
  • Identification of the snake is unnecessary as the antivenom is effective for all three species of Tasmanian snakes.
  • Once the pressure bandage is in place, treat the victim for shock; i.e. keep warm, monitor breathing and heart rate. Do not give food or drink.
  • If person loses consciousness, place victim in coma position on the unaffected side and keep airways clear.
  • Monitor fingers/toes – if they turn blue or white and go cold, the bandage is on too tight.
  • Do not cut or suck the bite site.
  • Do not release the bandage until victim has received advice from qualified medical practitioner.

⚠️ What not to do in the event of a snake bite!

  • Do not apply a tourniquet
  • Do not suck or cut a snake bite
  • Do not attempt to catch the snake
  • Do not let the victim walk about

Encountering Snakes of Tasmania

Snakes may be seen in the most surprising places including towns and industrial areas, particularly during summer when water is in short supply.

If possible, it’s always best to leave snakes alone.

Although most snakes will only be passing through, they do occasionally take up residence in suburban yards.

During prolonged dry periods, snakes are attracted to gardens in search of water, shelter and food (i.e. lizards, frogs, goldfish and mice/rats).

To minimise the presence of snakes around your home:

  • Keep your lawns mowed.
  • Minimise rubbish and garden waste.
  • Stack wood away from the house.
  • Do not have standing water in bowls or ponds close to the house.

If you have a pet dog or cat you must take extra precautions. Your pet cat may even bring a snake indoors to show it off to you – keep cat flaps closed!

Most people get bitten when they attempt to kill or handle a snake, or may have accidentally trodden on it. The last person to die from snake bite in Tasmania was bitten by a Tiger snake in 1966.

The best thing to do if you see a snake, is to stand very still and let it go on its way or if safe to do so, back away from it very slowly.

Contacts & Assistance with Reptiles*

North West Coast

Central North Wildlife Care & Rescue Inc: 0409 978 064


DPIW Wildlife Management Branch: 1300 368 550 (or office hours only): 6233 6556

RSPCA: 1300 139 947

Emergency (Snake bites only): 000

Emergency Mobile Phones: 112


If your carrier does not have service but another carrier does, the emergency number will automatically use that.

However, if there is no service at all in the area you won’t get through.

If you are going into the bush, always let someone know when you are leaving, due to return and where you are going.

Always carry an EPIRB and two bandages if you are going into remote areas.

* Please note: snake relocations will incur a fee

💡 Tasmanian Snake Facts

Below are a set of answers to commonly asked questions about the snakes of Tasmania.

  • Tasmania has three species of snakes, the Tiger snake, Copperhead and White-lipped snake (formally known as whip snake), which are widely distributed throughout the State.
  • All three types of Tasmanian snakes species are venomous.
  • Snakes cannot regulate their body heat. They need to warm up in the sun, and become sluggish in cold weather.
  • Snakes breed and birth in March/April and then go into hibernation for the winter, emerging in spring when temperatures warm up. Snakes will hibernate anywhere that is warm and dry and do not eat until they emerge from their torpor.
  • Tasmanian snakes give birth to live young and do not lay eggs.
  • Snakes generally give birth every second year.
  • Copperheads give birth to 6–12 young; Tiger snakes between 20-30 and White-lipped snake approximately 2-6 young. Only a small percentage of the young survive to adulthood.
  • Baby snakes are as venomous as adult snakes (just produce less venom).
  • Snakes usually hide from the hot sun between 10am and 2pm, but will move around on cloudy days.
  • Some snakes can live up to 30 years.
  • Snakes will eat each other, frogs, tadpoles, lizards, small birds and marsupials, mice, rats and rabbits.
  • Most snakes are good climbers and have been found in roofs and up trees.
  • Tiger snakes and Copperheads are amongst the top 10 most venomous snakes in the world. Their venom is designed to quickly kill their prey in order to minimise the potential for injury to the snake.
  • Both Copperhead and Tiger snakes have wide colour variations ranging from black to yellow, red and brown.
  • Snakes are immune to their own venom.
  • According to the records, no Copperheads have been responsible for any snake bite deaths in Tasmania.

What to do if you find a snake at home

If you find a snake on your property, make sure you take the following steps:

  • Stay calm.
  • Do not approach the snake. Secure children and pets safely away from the area.
  • Keep the snake under constant observation if safe to do so, and ring for help.

Lizard or Snake?

The completely harmless lizard, the She-oak skink (Cyclodomorphus casuarinae) is only found in Tasmania and is often mistaken for a small snake.

She-oak Skink in Tasmania

This is mainly because as well as flicking its tongue, it can tuck its legs and move along the ground with snakelike motion.

Roles and Values

Like most native mammals, birds and reptiles, Tasmanian snakes are protected by law.

They are an important source of food for the larger birds of prey and do an excellent job of controlling introduced pests such as rabbits, rats and mice which have a detrimental effect on farms and natural bushland.

Habitat Loss

Reptiles depend on native bush for their survival.

As more bushland is cleared for homes, agriculture and industry, animals have to adapt to the new environments to find food, shelter and breeding sites.

Unless areas can be reserved to provide habitat, snakes will be seen more often in gardens and urban areas.

First Aid for Reptiles

Snakes frequently get caught up in strawberry netting. If this happens, do not attempt to free them.

If it is a hot day, throw a towel over them, keep them shaded, cool and moist (light spray with water) and call an expert snake handler.

Bluetongues may also get caught in netting, and although they may bite it is more safe to attempt to free them yourself (with care).

Bluetongues may be injured by family pets or lawnmowers, or other items around the home or garden.

Related: Keeping Blue Tongue Lizards

Carefully scoop the animal into a secure cardboard box with a towel in the bottom to prevent sliding, and keep in a cool dark place and call wildlife rescue.

Injured snakes should only be handled by experts. Keep the snake under surveillance and ring for help from a handler.

Snakes on the Move!

Increasing day length and warmer temperatures in late spring tempt Tasmania’s snakes out of winter torpor.

All three Tasmanian species (Copperhead Austrelaps superbus, tiger snake Notechis scutatus and white-lipped snake Drysdalia coronoides) are now on the move.

While all are venomous, only tiger snakes have claimed human lives, although this was mainly before the development of antivenom in the 1930’s.

While Tasmania’s snakes have a reputation for aggression, most behaviour that people find threatening is largely bluff.

This is borne out by a very simple fact; in most rural areas snakes are present in very high densities, but bites to people are very rare.

Snakes will always retreat if given the opportunity to do so and even in very rare cases when tiger snakes feel sufficiently threatened to advance towards a person, they will not bite but veer away.

Most snake bites occur when people are attempting to capture or kill snakes.

If you see a snake at a safe distance simply walk away or around it.

If a snake is disturbed very close to you, the best thing to do (but also the hardest for many people) is to stay completely still.

With poor eyesight limited to about 1 meter, if you are not moving the snake will crawl passed you without being aware of your presence.

While the potential negative side of having snakes in your environment often receives plenty of press, the positives rarely do.

Tiger snakes have a very broad diet which includes introduced rodents such as mice, rats and juvenile rabbits.

These rodents are responsible for a lot of agricultural damage and few land owners appreciate the enormous numbers of these pests that snakes consume every year.

Copperheads also consume rats and mice but tend to specialise on frogs.

The ecological health of your dams, creeks and lagoons can be very quickly gauged by the presence or absence of healthy copperhead populations.

Without exception, high copperhead densities reflect high frog densities and high frog densities reflect a healthy ecosystem on your property.

While many land holders are not overly concerned by snakes away from homesteads and stock yards, there are a number of things you can do to deter snakes from choosing to take up residence close to human dwellings.

Most reptiles are very good at conserving water, mostly by absorbing moisture from prey and having a slow metabolism and scaly skin.

During dry weather, snakes often move closer to homesteads and urban areas in pursuit of prey such as frogs and rodents.

While snakes may not need lots of water in hot weather, their prey generally does.

Snakes can be discouraged by reducing cover for them as well as their prey.

Keep grass very short, stack timber, roofing iron etc well off the ground and away from residences and above all, eradicate rodent populations quickly. Nothing will encourage a large tiger snake around your house like an outbreak of rats.

While all Tasmanian snakes are protected, they can be destroyed if deemed a threat to people or livestock.

Given the many positives of having these snakes on your property, an alternative response should be considered.

There are a range of people around the state who will relocate the snake to a more remote part of your property without any of the risks of trying to kill the animal yourself

Downloadable Snakes of Tasmania Guide + Safety & First Aid (PDF)

The below guide to the Snakes of Tasmania (including Safety & First Aid) may be printed or shared. If sharing, please link to this page as the source.

Research Wildlife

Keeping Blotched Blue Tongued Lizards

Our experiences with blotched blue tongue lizards demonstrate very clearly how well suited to outdoor enclosures these lizards are.

Their large size, longevity, willingness to breed and ease of maintenance make them ideal for novice reptile keepers (especially children) to gain competence and experience in reptile husbandry

This study of keeping blotched blue tongue lizards (Tiliqua Nigrolutea) represents the knowledge and experience of Michael and Jacqui Throw, with photography from Michael Throw.


Blotched blue tongued lizards Tiliqua nigrolutea are truly cool climate
lizards being widespread in Tasmania (including the larger Bass Strait islands) as well as cooler, higher rainfall districts in south eastern South Australia, southern Victoria and mountain habitats in New South Wales.

Distribution of Blotched Blue-Tongued Lizards

Within Tasmania blotched blue tongues are common and widespread, occurring in most habitat types from coastal heath to highland forests. They are very familiar to the general public because of their abundance around towns and cities throughout the State.

This article outlines our successful strategies at keeping and breeding this species outdoors at Ulverstone in northern Tasmania.

Our breeding adults have all been wild caught or were injured animals removed from hostile urban situations (eg. dog attacks).

They are maintained in outdoor enclosures of various shapes and sizes, for the most part dictated by the shape of our block and the absolutely essential requirement of 7-8 hours of sunlight during the summer months.

As with all captive reptiles, thermoregulation is the most important consideration in positioning of outdoor enclosures and should reflect, as closely as possible, the natural activity patterns of the reptiles involved.

Failure to achieve this will result in poor feeding, stunted development, and a lack of reproduction or the failure of embryos to develop properly in gravid females.

This is particularly important for large, sun loving species like T. nigrolutea that will forage in the midday sun in mid-summer (in Tasmania) when most self respecting reptiles have retired to shady retreats.

We have captured blotched blue tongue specimens in the wild with body temperatures as high as 36°C.


Our enclosures are essentially a sturdy wooden frame with short lengths of recycled wooden fence palings nailed to it to form a wall from just below ground level to a height of 60cm.

Our smallest enclosure is approximately 1.5 m square and the largest is 6 x 1m.

Keeping Blotched Bluetongue Lizards - Enclosure
Blotched Blue-tongue Lizard Enclosure

The enclosures have small shrubs and low ground cover plants planted in them as well as plenty of cover in the form of rocks and curved slabs of thick eucalypt bark.

Such varied ground cover is essential in providing a range of micro-habitats with varying temperature regimes that allow the lizards to precisely
maintain their preferred body temperature simply by moving from site to site within the enclosure during the course of the day.

Over winter, dens are plastic bins loosely filled with dry grass with entrance holes cut into the sides.

These are hidden from view behind vegetation and slabs of bark.

Heavy, earthenware water bowls are present in each enclosure and water
is changed regularly.

Reproduction & Breeding Behaviour

We house both blotched blue tongue sexes together all year round but no more than one adult male is present in a single enclosure during the courtship and mating period from October through to the end of November.

This is because sexually active males will savagely attack one another for access to females.

Attacks may include biting around the rival’s head or attempting to damage or remove limbs by biting them firmly and spinning around crocodile fashion.

Our breeding blotched blue tongue males are rotated around the enclosures weekly during the breeding season to increase our chances of reproductive success.

Mating is a somewhat violent affair with many people including some novice reptile keepers, misinterpreting it for fighting.

Male blue tongues grasp the female’s body tightly in their jaws just behind the front legs and can remain attached in this way for hours at a time.

If receptive, the female blue tongue will raise her tail off the ground to allow copulation to occur.

Males routinely break the females skin while holding on with their teeth and older females can often be seen in the wild with considerable scar tissue on their backs just behind the front legs from numerous matings during their lives.

Such scar tissue can be a very reliable indicator of sex when collecting these lizards.

Male blotched blue tongues are generally shorter and lighter than females with relatively larger heads and front legs.

Gestation in gravid females takes place over a a 4-5 month period with births in our collection taking place from mid-February to late March.

Our clutch sizes have ranged from one to ten and are directly related to the size of the female with our largest specimens (435mm, 640g) giving birth to the largest clutches.

Rearing Young

Because blotched blue tongue neonates are born in or close to autumn and the onset of cold, wet weather, we keep them indoors in heated cages for the first 5-6 months and return them into the outdoor enclosures the following spring.

Indoors, the neonates are maintained in glass fronted melamine cages 40x30x30cm in dimension and heated with a single 25 watt globe set on a timer.

The temperature gradient ranges from 25°C at the warm end to 18°C at the cool end.

Growth over the first 6 months is rapid with neonates ranging from 125-150mm and 13-17g at birth to around 300mm and 170g when taken back outside to the enclosures.

In five years breeding the same blotched blue tongue adults, we have found that generally, females will only reproduce every second year with only one female reproducing in consecutive years with the second clutch being half the size of the first one. (numbers in each clutch??)

There does not appear to be any reliable data on growth rates of blotched blue tongues in the wild or their size at sexual maturity but captive bred specimens in our collection have reproduced at one year of age.

One female gave birth to a single baby when only 302mm in total length and weighing 178g.

This indicates that wild specimens probably reproduce in their second or third year.


One of the factors that makes blotched blue tongues (and all blue tongue species in general) so popular with reptile keepers and especially children, is their very catholic omnivorous diet.

Blotched blue tongue lizards will eat almost anything we do, from fruit and vegetables to fungi and meat.

While the docility of these lizards is legendary, most people do not realise that in the wild they can be savage predators, attacking a range of small animals from nestling birds and juvenile rodents to animals as large as leverets (baby hares), 120mm in length (Spencer, 2004).

We have found the best results are obtained by offering these lizards an approximately 50/50 diet of protein and vegetable matter.

Early in the season when our lizards first emerge from winter torpor (August/September) they are fed once a week but with increasing day length and warmth into summer, feeding is increased to every two days.

Meals are alternated between protein (pinky mice and rats, snails or tinned dog food) and fruit (eg. banana, strawberries) and simply offered on a flat tray placed in the enclosure.

Neonates are fed pinky mice for their first couple of feeds to give them a good head start with alternating protein and fruit meals from then on in exactly the same way as for our adults.

Frequent Questions About Blue Tongue Lizards

For completeness, below you will find some of the common questions about blotched blue tongue lizards and keeping them as pets. Most of these questions and answers are applicable to blue tongue lizards in general.

Are blue tongue lizards dangerous?

Blue-tongue lizards are not venomous, and although they can and do bite their teeth are used more for crushing rather than tearing. If you are bitten, such as on your finger, it is unlikely they will break the skin or cause real harm. They can, however, be quite persistent and refuse to release their bite.

How to tell the age of a blue tongue lizard

Telling the age of any lizard can be difficult due to many variables. Two lizards born on the same day may grow at vastly different rates. Some may grow to full size within 6 months, whereas others can take 2 years.

Quite often a blotched blue tongue lizard will be born between 15 to 20cm, and have been known to grow as much as 70cm.

How to tell the sex of a blue tongue lizard

Telling the sex of any blue tongue lizard may also be difficult. A male blue tongue will usually have a more triangular-shaped head, thicker tail, and often thinner sides than a female. Eye colour for male blue tongues is usually more orange and brighter than the brown eyes common with females.

It is common to confuse a larger female, especially those with greater fat storage within their tales, with a male blue tongue. Quite often people buy a blue tongue believing it is male, and accordingly find themselves frustrated when trying to breed.

Behaviour can offer a good indicator, especially when the blue tongue is placed with a known female. If the lizard of unknown sex begins to chase and mount the female then you very likely have a male!

For more accurate sexing it is possible to check for sperm plugs of a male, also known as a mating plug, copulation plug, or seminal plug. These plugs consist of coagulated semen which would be deposited into the genital tract of the female after mating.

During the process of excretion the eversion of hemipenes is a clear indication of a male. Hemipenes are a pair of intromittent organs common with male lizards, usually inverted, will at the time of excretion become everted. If you consider the human penis enlarging and retracting this is a similar example.

How often do blue tongue lizards eat?

As a general rule, feed your blue tongue lizard every other day during warmer weather. In colder whether they will be less active and will only need to be fed once every three days.


Spencer, C. P. (2004). Bluetongue attacks hare. The Tasmanian Naturalist 126. 18-19.

If you have further questions about botched blue tongue lizards then you may leave a message in the comments section below.

Pets Wildlife

Top 5 Best Parrots for Beginners

More Australians than ever are buying parrots as pets, but they’re also being resold at a faster rate. The reason for this is a misconception of how easy it is to look after these beautiful creatures.

Parrots can be a misleading pet due to a belief they’re easy to keep, with many thinking they’re an easier option than a cat or dog.

This is not the case.

Realistically parrots need just as much attention as our feline and canine friends.

If your heart is set on adopting a parrot, then it is best to start off with a “beginner parrot”. Below we’ll look at five of the easiest parrots to keep as pets in Australia, which will make your life much easier if you don’t know what you’re in for.

Don’t worry though. Whichever of the five beginner parrots you decide to make a part of your family, you’ll find your new feathery friend will quickly become attached to you, and you to them.

Number One: Budgies 

Budgies are very social birds, they love to investigate every nook of your room and strand of your hair.

They love to ‘chat’ and are inexpensive to care for. Budgies are also native to Australia, which means they are more loved by Australians than other introduced parrots.

Lifespan 5-10 years in captivity. 

Number Two: Cockatiels

Cockatiels are beautiful singers, and they love imitating your sounds. Like other parrots they’re known for mood swings, but you can gauge their mood by assessing their crest.

Cockatiels are also native to Australia.

Lifespan 15- 20 years in captivity. 

Number Three: Lovebirds

Lovebirds are super cuddly and affectionate, which makes anybody want to socialise with them on a regular basis.

They’re one of the easiest parrots to care for, and when partnered with another Lovebird will have enough entertainment without needing your company. That makes them adaptable to your lifestyle.

Unlike Budgies and Cockatiels, Lovebirds are not native to Australia.

Lifespan 10-15 years in captivity. 

Number Four: Cockatoos 

If the Cockatoo is raised in the correct nurturing environment he will be your most loyal companion.

Their voice is usually described as “sweet” and they love to show off their newly learnt tricks.

Generally Cockatoos are a winner if you have neighbours in close proximity. They tend to make noises as the sun rises and sets, but the noise they make isn’t invasive or annoying.

As a pet they have a long lifespan, so keep that in mind if you’re looking to adopt one.

Cockatoos are native to Australia.

Lifespan 50-70 years. 

Number Five: Sun Conure

These loving birds are very sociable and easily bond with humans without huge amounts of time being spent as they can entertain themselves.

The Sun Conure will “squark”, and as it’s not the quietest of parrot noises it’s worth considering your neighbours. Hopefully they’re easy going and don’t mind.

These parrots can easily become your perfect companion, and they truly are beautiful, vibrant birds.

Sun Conure are not native to Australia.

Lifespan 15-20 years in captivity. 

Animal Welfare Cognition Management Research Wildlife

Do fish feel pain? Diving in to the deep end of fish welfare

Do fish really feel pain?

You might assume yes, but you’d be wrong.

Kind of.

You see – it’s complicated.

Dr. Ben Diggles has worked with government, aquaculture industry, recreational fisheries, and commercial fisheries throughout New Zealand, Australia, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Ben’s core work includes import risk analysis, fish and shellfish health, fish welfare, development of feeding attractants for aquaculture, and development of medicated feeds for aquacultured finfish.

In his spare time Ben studies the effects of declining water quality on our estuaries, and is active in his local community developing solutions to these problems, like Oyster Reef Restoration.

In this episode, we catch up on the latest scientific findings relating to fish pain and learn more about the Ikijime  method for killing fish captured for eating.

So let’s find out if fish feel pain.



How to ikijime fish with Dr. Ben Diggles
Dr. Ben Diggles – How to ikijime fish

Rose, J. D., Arlinghaus, R., Cooke, S. J., Diggles, B. K., Sawynok, W., Stevens, E. D., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2014). Can fish really feel pain?. Fish and Fisheries, 15(1), 97-133

Diggles, B. K., Cooke, S. J., Rose, J. D., & Sawynok, W. (2011). Ecology and welfare of aquatic animals in wild capture fisheries. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 21(4), 739-765.

Diggles, B. K. (2013). Historical epidemiology indicates water quality decline drives loss of oyster (Saccostrea glomerata) reefs in Moreton Bay, Australia. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 47(4), 561-581.

See more of Dr Ben Diggles’ publications here

Ben also writes monthly columns on fish biology for the Australian Anglers Fishing World Magazine (since 1995) and Sport Fishing Magazine (since March 2003)

Ikijime tool Australia

Ikijime Tool app via iTunes

Ikijime Tool app for Android via Google Play


Ikijime website

DigsFish Services (Dr Ben Diggles) website

Grey matter matters when it comes to feeling pain (University of Queensland) – do fish feel pain?

Video – How to ikijime fish

How to care for your catch – ikijime & do fish feel pain?

Header image: Flickr/phwff-nova

Management Research Technology Wildlife

A Game of Drones: Using Drones in Conservation

When someone turns a fun hobby into a game changing tool for good, it’s inspirational!

That’s exactly what Lian Pin Koh has achieved in bringing affordable drone technology to aid conservation scientists.

A tropical ecologist by training, Associate Professor Lian Pin Koh received his PhD from Princeton University, where he studied the environmental and policy implications of oil-palm development in Southeast Asia.

He then spent several years researching key scientific and policy issues concerning tropical deforestation and its impacts on carbon emissions and biodiversity while based in Zurich.

Lian Pin currently leads the Applied Ecology & Conservation group at The University of Adelaide in South Australia, where they ultimately seek to do good for society.

In this episode, we speak with Lian Pin and learn about his exciting work using drones in conservation.



Lian Pin Koh – A drone’s eye view of conservation
Using drones in conservation



Lian Pin Koh - Using drones in conservation
Assoc. Prof. Lian Pin Koh

Koh, L. P., & Wich, S. A. (2012). Dawn of drone ecology: low-cost autonomous aerial vehicles for conservation. Tropical Conservation Science, 5(2), 121-132. [PDF]

Koh, L. P. (2013, June). Brave new world of drone technology for biodiversity research and conservation. In New Frontiers in Tropical Biology: The Next 50 Years (A Joint Meeting of ATBC and OTS). Atbc. [PDF]

Paneque-Gálvez, J., McCall, M. K., Napoletano, B. M., Wich, S. A., & Koh, L. P. (2014). Small drones for community-based forest monitoring: an assessment of their feasibility and potential in tropical areas. Forests, 5(6), 1481-1507.

See more:

Lian Pin Koh on Google Scholar

Lian Pin Koh on Research Gate

Links official website

Conservation Drones on Flickr (images)

Conservation Drones on Facebook

All images used with Permission: Lian Pin Koh

Anthropology Cognition Research Wildlife

Gestures & communication: chimpanzees have a point

Imagine deciphering the first form of intentional communication to be recorded in the animal kingdom, such as how chimpanzees communicate.

That’s exactly what Dr. Catherine Hobaiter has done after years of following wild chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest of Uganda, Africa.

She studies the evolution, acquisition and flexibility of communication and social behaviour, in particular through long-term field studies of wild chimpanzees.

For the past seven years, Cat has been working as a primatologist at a forest research-station in Uganda to better understand chimpanzee communication and behavior.

She hopes to to advance our understanding of great ape communication, and in addition, by looking at areas of overlap or species specific traits, she hopes to also gain an understanding of the evolutionary origins of language.

In this episode, we learn from Cat about her exciting observations of a communication system where animals don’t just share information through behaviour, but deliberately send messages of meaning to each other.

Listen in, and you’ll find out exactly how how chimpanzees communicate.


How chimpanzees communicate

How chimpanzees communicate
How chimpanzees communicate


Dr. Catherine Hobaiter - Studying how chimpanzees communicate
Dr. Catherine Hobaiter – Studying how chimpanzees communicate

Hobaiter, C., & Byrne, R. W. (2011). The gestural repertoire of the wild chimpanzee. Animal cognition, 14(5), 745-767. [PDF]

Hobaiter, C., & Byrne, R. W. (2011). Serial gesturing by wild chimpanzees: its nature and function for communication. Animal cognition, 14(6), 827-838.

Hobaiter, C. L., & Byrne, R. W. (2012). Gesture use in consortship: wild chimpanzees’ use of gesture for an ‘evolutionarily urgent’purpose. Developments in Primate Gesture Research. [PDF]

Hobaiter, C., & Byrne, R. W. (2013). Laterality in the gestural communication of wild chimpanzees. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1288(1), 9-16. [PDF]

Hobaiter, C., & Byrne, R. W. (2014). The meanings of chimpanzee gesturesCurrent Biology24(14), 1596-1600. [PDF]


University of St Andrews Profile: Cat Hobaiter

Follow Cat Hobaiter on Twitter: @NakedPrimate

Budongo Conservation Field Station

School of Psychology & Neuroscience at St Andrews University in Scotland

All images and media by Catherine Hobaiter, used with permission.


Is a dingo a dog or wolf?

Dr Bradley Smith is a Research Fellow in Human and Animal Psychology at CQ University in Adelaide, Australia.

He has a fascinating research focus on the behaviour and cognition of dingoes.

Learn more about this amazing wild canid and how it fits into the dog-wolf-other landscape in this episode of Human Animal Science.

Is a dingo a dog or wolf? How does a dingo relate to a kelpie?

Let’s find out!



Dr Bradley Smith’s website:
Dingo Discovery & Research Centre

Sterling the dingo demonstrating tool use:


Smith, B., & Litchfield, C. (2013). Looking back at ‘looking back’: Operationalizing referential gaze for dingoes in an unsolvable task. Animal Cognition, 16, 961-971.

Smith, B., Appleby, R. & Litchfield, C. (2012). Spontaneous tool-use: an observation of a dingo (Canis dingo) using a table to access an out-of-reach food reward. Behavioural Processes, 89, 219-224.

Smith, B., & Litchfield, C. (2010). How well do dingoes (Canis dingo) perform on the detour task. Animal Behaviour, 80, 155-162.

Smith, B., & Litchfield, C. (2010). Dingoes (Canis dingo) can use human social cues to locate hidden food. Animal Cognition, 13, 367-3

Dingo - dog or wolf? Or somewhere in-between?
Dingo – Is a dingo a dog or wolf? Or somewhere in-between?

Photos courtesy of Dr Bradley Smith