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Originally published in Monitor 7(3) (1996). Pages. 124-136




"A sledgehammer to miss the nut"

(Booker, 1994)"

BY Peter J. Mirtschin*


*Venom Supplies, PO Box 547 Tanunda. South Australia, 5352.


The environmental position in Australia is almost scandalous. In the last 10 years, despite an estimated expenditure by Australian governments or $1.2 billion on the activities of the wildlife authorities, there is a continuing loss of wildlife, native vegetation, degradation of water systems, a continuing presence of feral predators and an increased emphasis on trivial issues that do not reduce the degradation of the environment or loss of native species but play a negative role in forcing our human population further away from the environment and close associations with our native species. Some governments are actively pursuing issues that provide a rront that appears to be doing environmental good, but is merely a facade. The Federal authority, ANCA, who should be setting an example, are one of the perpetrators of this problem.


Between June 1979 to June 1990, the total number of reported cases of snake bite where antivenom was used decreased from 196 cases to 89 cases ',' (Table 1). In the period under consideration, the full range of antivenoms were available. There were no known changes to the protocol of usage of antivenom in this period. The suggestion that there could have been a reduction in reporting is unlikely since a reduction in non-snake antivenom would also have been experienced. This was not the case. The use of spider, stone fish, box jellyfish etc. antivenoms either remains the same or increased. The possibility of people taking more care to avoid snake bite may have occurred but any major impact on the figures is unlikely since it would also be expected that the same care to avoid other types of envenomation would have occurred. Since the Australian human population increased by about 17% between 1979 and 1990 it would be expected there would be an increase in human snake bites requiring antivenom if snake populations were unchanged. This was not the case. The number of cases fell.


1979 196

1981 161

1982 149

1983 109

1990 89

Table 1. Fall in snake bite cases in Australia

DISAPPEARANCE OF TIGER SNAKES: Tiger snakes used to be the most common cause of snake bite accidents and death.

"Tiger snakes are probably the best known of Australian snakes, having been responsible for a significant proportion of snakebite deaths in this country". (Cogger 1975)'.

Tiger snakes are "the most usual cause of

serious snake bite in Australia" (Sutherland


"Tiger snakes are the greatest menace.......... (Trinca 1985)1.

The commonest snake in South Australia is "divided between the Tiger snake and the Brown snake". Waite (1929)".

Brown snakes were not as common as they are today.

"The brown snake, though ubiquitous, is nowhere common" in Victoria. (Trinea 1985)'.

Collectively, brown snakes, are the second most common cause of serious snake bite in Australia". Sutherland (1983)'.


Today these figures have changed dramatically, where brown snakes, Pseudonaja genus, have replaced tiger snakes as the commonest cause of snake bite death and frequency of bites in humans and animals. In table 2, it can be seen that 61 % of human snake bite deaths are attributed to brown snakes whilst about 57 % of animal deaths are due to brown snakes' 6. In animals, 73% of all bites are due to brown snakes'.


Brown Tiger Taipan

Human 612211

Animals 57222


Adder Black Unknown

Human 600

Animals' 1513

Table 2. Proportion of deaths in humans and

anhnals expressed a percentage of total.

These figures are derived from references 2 and 6.

The shift in incidence of snake bite accidents and deaths due to the brown snakes

tl',P@@eudonaja genus) has wide environmental implications. It means that habitats throughout Australia, have been modified sufficiently to allow decline of a number of species and a possible increase in the brown snake Pseudonaja genus. One species that has declined significantly over the last 25 years is the common tiger snake Notechis scutatus. Its disappearance is alarming. Tiger snakes rely heavily on frogs for food'. Most of us would be aware that there is serious concern about the decline of frogs world wide. Their plight has been discussed by Tyler both in the popular literature' and scientific literature'. It is not surprising that tiger snakes therefore, are also declining..John Cann supplied some interesting and historical photographs which show an area near Tallangatta circa 1955 (fig 3) at the river Murray headwaters, and in contrast, 30 years later in 1985, a nearby area at Jingalic (fig 4), showing severe vegetation loss. Trees and vegetation beside providing cover for frogs and snakes and food supply for insects, are the natural filters for any water system. When they are removed, many of the nutrients that are normally filtered by the tree roots, enter the water system, raising the levels of organophosphates. The effect of these unwanted animal wastes on some frog species is known to be detrimental. In addition to the normal animal wastes entering water systems, there are the many fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides draining in from adjacent agricultural lands.

Tiger snake bites have shown a dramatic decline. Whilst this might be good for snake bite statistics, the implications are that tiger snakes have declined. In some areas, they seem to have sustained reasonable numbers but in many other areas, they have declined. Other frog dependent species have also declined. The Red bellied black snake in the Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley is not threatened but its numbers appear to have dropped. One such habitat, the Para river, near Tanunda, is a superficially picturesque water course, but it has to contend with reduced flow due to a succession of vineyard and broad acre farming dams and irrigation systems, rapid expansion of exotic trees altering the proportion of incident filtered light, silting due to run off from adjacent vineyards and broad acre farms where soil is no longer bound by vegetation, winery

effluent discharge and uncontrolled animal grazing along the water course and associated animal wastes. This water course is typical of many watercourses throughout Australia, and presents a continued degraded habitat for many native animals, including frogs and snakes.


Snake bite incidence, as a broad indicator of highly venomous snake populations, can also be used as a general and economical barometer of the status of small animal species. Shine (1991Y has summarised the prey items taken by a cross section of Australian snakes. Consideration of these prey items taken by snakes, reveals there is overlap between the prey items taken by cats and foxes as summarised by Bayley...... Current estimates of native animal cull per year due to cats and foxes are 6.4 billion per year". The indirect effect of cats and foxes competing for normal snake food is therefore substantial.

Cats do attack snakes",'. The number of domestic cat snake bites, is a measure of the direct impact on, and their propensity to attack snakes. These cases are "cats caught in the act" of attacking snakes. From a recent nationwide veterinary survey on a 1.0% random sample of Australian veterinary surgeons', an estimate of about 2,500 domestic cat snake bites are reported to vets every,year. The figures indicate a higher incidence in cats than dogs but the actual number of cats bitten would be much higher than indicated, since cats are up to 3 times more resistant to some snake venomss," and are better able to survive untreated bites (table 3 and 4). Also, cats are more secretive than dogs', therefore bites to cats are less likely to be noticed than with dogs. Driven by a stronger need for food, direct attacks on snakes by feral cats would be much higher.


Brown Snake

Treated Untreated

Surv. Died Surv. Died

Cat 89 11 74 26

Dog 75 25 30 70

Tiger Snake

Treated Untreated

Surv. Died Surv. Died

Cat 90 10 24 76

Dog 77 23 16 84

Table 3. Survival rate expressed as a percentage of treated and untreated dogs and cats in brown and tiger snake bites.




Treated Untreated

Surv. Died Sury. Died

Cat 89 11 64 36

Dog 76 24 25 75

Table 4. Survival rate expressed as a percentage of treated and untreated dogs and cats, all snakes.



Rabbits also are having a profound impact on the environment". They not only compete for food but because of their high fecundity, they are able to out produce native species in successive good and bad years. Rabbits are shaping the environment. Recent introduction of calicivirus in South Australia, and introduction of more and resistant fleas which can carry the myxoma virus, should have positive effect in controlling rabbits.

The cane toad, is another introduced species having a substantial negative impact. The cane toad is toxic to most native species. A list of its toxic effect on a number of dangerous elapids and other native species was compiled by Covacevich and Archer in 1975". Any animal that has amphibians included in their diet, is at risk from this species.

There are many other feral animals which all are impacting negatively on native species. Some of them are water buffalo, sparrows, starlings, Indian minors, goats, camels, European carp, hares, black rats, Norwegian rats and the house mouse and many others.


It doesn't matter what type of habitat you might consider. Whether it is desert, grasslands, open forest, coastal heath, rainforest etc. We are finding that there has been substantial degradation and complete loss of these habitats throughout Australia. Even in the last 20 years, despite a increased awareness of environmental concern, the losses continue. Just as we can take a series of photographs of our family and note the aging of individuals over the years, over the last 20 years, satellites have been taking pictures of our earth, relentlessly recording the changes. The CSIRO, have estimated that Australia lost about 6% of its land cover in the last 20 years".

"Lamentably, this figure is not accurately known, which is amazing for a country that shows great environmental concern"". It's a bit like peeling off 6% of your skin. You'd probably survive, but a loss of slcin at that rate would almost certainly lead to your death. The same thing is happening to our earths sensitive "skin" and more particularly, in Aust-alia.

One example of this creeping habitat loss is illustrated by Buxton (1994) who looked at the change in forest cover in a 15 km square area east of Warrnambool in Victoria from 1942-1980 17 . This area showed a loss of vegetation cover from 51 % in 1942 to 8.5 % in 1980. This information is available in the proceedings of the Greening Australia Conference (1994).(Michael Buxton Env. Protection Authority Victoria) . He claims that "Australia has one of the highest rates of indigenous vegetation clearance in the world". Incremental clearing of this type led to 1 in 3 terrestrial and freshwater vertebrates and nearly 30% of the plants becoming extinct or threatened in Victoria.


As the earths surface warms, what are the implications for reptiles? Some of the accidents we all experience when breeding snakes or lizards may give us a few clues. We all know if the incubator gets too hot, chances are we will get deformed offspring, or if it is not too severe, a change in the sex ratio may occur.

The same thing applies to live bearing females. With global warming slight increases in environmental temperatures, could mean a higher proportion of deformed offspring or a greater number of one sex.

Not only will defer @med offspring occur, we will also notice habitat change. Plants that have taken millions of years to evolve will be subject to changes occurring over less than 100 years.


I think one of the best analogies to describe the loss of habitat and species that I've heard was given by Graham Richardson in the Foreword in Raymond Hoser's book Smuggled". The analogy between the environment and rivets in an aircraft was given. An aircraft can loose a certain number of these rivets without dire consequences, but there comes a critical point however, when the loss of one more rivet is enough to cause the plane to crash. If we keep on losing species from the earth at the current rate, the same thing will happen. It will crash. Survival of man is dependent on the diversity of plants and animals on this earth.



Michael Kennedy has claimed that in the 20 years until 1993, we lost something like 20 vertebrate species". Some will probably contest this claim. There may be one or two of some of those species still in existence, and maybe some .,extinct" species will be rediscovered, but this is not the point. Some species are so low in numbers, that the real issue is the very fact that we have allowed a condition to occur forcing a species to the brink of extinction. The number of species heading in this direction is alarming, In South Australia alone there are 335 plants, 65 mammals, 137 birds, 78 reptiles, 6 amphibians and 12 fish listed as threatened by the South Australian Department of Environment and Natural ResourcCS26.


Tim Flannery", has argued that the aboriginals, when they came to Australia, had an enormous effect on this continent. They wiped out the mega fauna that inhabited Australia. In 60,000 years, they did gradually learn to live in harmony with the place. When Europeans came

to Australia, we again lost much of fauna and plants in a much shorter time and are still losing it. White man hasn't learnt how to live

in harmony yet. Some will claim we are

learning to live in harmony with our

environment, but considering the staggering

losses that are still occurring, we are on a rapid path to destruction. If we are to halt the loss, drastic changes must be made. We must start focussing on ecosystems rather than worrying about single species or individuals. Unfortunately, Australia's wildlife laws which regulate the keeping and transfer of wildlife, focuses on individual species and animals rather than ecosystems.


How do we learn? We learn in three ways: By seeing, by hearing and from experience (doing). When I was a young boy, my mum said to me one day, don't show off on your bike or you might hurt yourself. What do mums know? Well 1 did hurt myself. 1 fell forward onto the bar and felt a pain that only boys would understand. And you know, I didn't do that again on my bike. Why? 1 learnt from experience. I never forgot it.

So what is the best way for us to learn about the environment? There have been the brochures, environmentalists on TV, radio or in the newspaper have told us this is not right or the farmers better stop chopping down trees. Conservation organisations have put their case year after year through their own publications. We do learn by seeing and we do learn by hearing so these efforts have been partially effective. We are seeing more landowners growing trees and we are seeing more schools planting tees. Organisations such as Landcare, Greening Australia, Save the Bush, Trees for Life etc have been successful in motivating some of us to take direct action in planting some habitat back. But the net loss is still greater than the net gain. 1 can remember a friend of mine years ago telling me when I was having a wee into the Pacific Ocean on the East coast - "every little bit helps" he said. Such is the comparison between todays environmental effort and the size of the actual task. But it is a start. An important start.

What about the experiential method of learning?

1 didn't ever forget my bike experience because I learnt it by finding out myself. Surely if more people kept native animals, they would be more environmentally in tune? Well why don't they. In South Australia, my estimate a few years ago was that there were 45 cat owners to every native animal keeper". The result is obvious to us all. People know more about cats than they do about our own native animals. Well why don't people keep native animals more than exotics? Go into any book shop and see how many books you can find on the subject of keeping native animals. Compare this to the number of books on keeping cats, dogs on horses. The bookshops are not encouraging us. Can you blame them? There just isn't the market out there for those sort of books because very few people are keeping native animals. Catch 22. Let's look at the regulations for keeping say cats and compare it to those keeping native animals. (Table 5.)

Given the environmental problem caused by cats, for those of us with only the slightest interest in conservation, it is obvious that the laws have got it all wrong. We should be encouraging the keeping of native animals and discouraging the keeping of cats. Australian wildlife laws therefore discourage learning from experience about native animals and encourage it for cats. Whilst this may not be the intention, it is the result.


1 have read numerous reports written by the most educated and well qualified individuals from a number of wildlife agencies. Many a time have 1 seen the recommendation for more education with regard to halting environmental degradation and loss of some species. Yet I see very little effort put into actually educating Australians about how to reverse some of these downward trends. In most states, the wildlife protection laws regulating the keeping and taking and transfer of native animals are probably biggest causes for the environmental culture we have in Australia today.

In the seventies the song summed up our culture well: "Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars". We've still got our footy, soccer, tennis, rugby and cricket. We've still got our meat pies, we've still got our kangaroos





Take from the wild None Permit required, rarely


Permit to keep None (most states) Permit to keep.

(Minimal in S.A)

Transfer records None Records required.

Interstate lftnport/Export None Required from both states.

Cage limitations None Enforced or pressure

Periodic returns None Required

Availability Readily available. Some species only.

Private or per shops. Pet shop dealership


Public display licence None Required in some states.


Table 5. Keeping of cats compared with native anhnals

(some anyway), and we've still got the icon of Australian transport, the Holden but perhaps its being replaced by some other alternatives. Who cares, the song summed it up well. The average Australian has those interests and generally, the average Aussie's sole knowledge of the environment is embodied in kangaroos in the song and perhaps a few more of the well known icons such as emus, Lyre birds, platypuses. Perhaps we are little more sophisticated but not much. Those bureaucrats got it right when they said we need more education. So how do we get it? Well we could have forced learning. We could even publish a manifesto and force people to buy it. It would probably create as much interest and respect as doing an income tax return. Some of us would even fob it off to our accountants.


Some of us will learn a lot. Others will learn only a small amount. The net learning across the community is the important result. We will have a society more in tune with our native environment. Native animals are the stepping stones to learning and achieving a more environmentally tuned community.

For instance, snake keepers can learn:

Oviposition/Copulation time


Food preferences

Incubation time

Clutch size

Hatching time

Growth rates, etc.

It doesn't have to be a snake. The important thing is that it is a native animal. We might even learn something about its native habitat requirements. We might even begin to appreciate that these things can't keep on tolerating the persistent competition from cats and foxes. It might even persuade others to keep a native animal instead of a cat. Think of the difference in your neighbourhood if 20% more people had a native animal instead of cats as pets.

Is there encouragement by the wildlife Departments for the keeping of native animals? Do they actively promote the keeping? The truth of the matter is that wildlife regulation has "been far more destructive than a well regulated legal trade would ever have been" Tim Flannery - Future Eaters".

We spend an estimated $120 million a year, or $1.2 billion over the last 10 years funding our wildlife authorities and the results are still on the negative side of the ledger. Despite some gains, the overall story is one of loss. The monies allocated to preserving our wildlife is distributed between the 9 wildlife authorities who in each State with the Federal body in Canberra, administer these functions. There has been a growth industry in legislation but little in terms of reversing the negative impacts on our wildlife and the losses that are occurring.


To try and illustrate the futility of the one of the preoccupations of the current regulative system in Australia, I offer the following example: Recently 9 Australian wildlife

authorities and customs authority, with their

considerable taxpayer-funded resources,

admitted that in 70 prosecutions in a 9 year

period between 1984 and 1993, they saved 956 animals and eggs from wildlife traffickers. Sounds impressive? Or not? One feral cat is estimated to kill 800 native animals in one year. So for the price of one bullet, almost the same savings in wildlife can be made in an instant. Two bullets, and your in front. ANCA's Director of Wildlife Protection Authority, Paul Jewell, has said that the wildlife smuggling 11 cycle is never ending, unless the trafficker is stopped, or the species becomes extinct, it is a deadly businesS2411 . He goes on to claim that

regulating this activity "is an awesome responsibility"". Activities such as these that put high priority on prevention of smuggling, because it is easy to gain publicity and gives an appearance of doing something positive, should be re-thought within our wildlife services. Whilst smuggling may be an important threat for a handful of species, it pails into insignificance when compared with the major issues. Why spend so much on it then?


I'm sure many of you have travelled interstate on one of the major airlines in the last 10 years. Have you ever noticed how they go about their businesses. You can go into a airline office, and in less than 5 minutes you can book a seat to anywhere in Australia from anywhere. You walk away with the ticket which easily fits into your pocket. It is interesting to compare this with importing and exporting native animals between states. It takes numerous sheets of paper, application forms and usually a number of weeks before the permit is approved. Just imagine what it would be like if it took this long to get your airline ticket. The reason an airline ticket is less fuss is that generally each office no-matter where they are, are under the same management. Not so with the wildlife authorities. They can't even agree on a uniform name. But you can purchase tickets in one airline office for seats with other airlines. This is because electronic transfers have been with the airlines for many years. One wonders why the wildlife authorities can't achieve that.

So part of the $120 million goes into operating this system. If you want to keep on putting up with it, nothing will change. In table 6, 1 have displayed all the letters, permit applications and the permits themselves that were necessary for me to give a single talk on snakes in Apsley, Victoria. It involved a short visit across the border from South Australia where 1 live, to Apsley in Victoria for a few hours to give a talk to the Apsley Lions club. It also cost $120 ($100 for a wildlife demonstrators permit and an additional $20 for an assistants permit).

15110/95 Application for a Commercial Wildlife Licence Application.

16/10/95 Application for DCNR Import

permit to take snakes to VIC.

16/10/95 Application for export permit from DENR.

16/10/95 Application to DENR to Import snakes back from VIC.

16/10/95 Application for DCNR Export permit to return snakes to SA.

20/10195 Application for Assistant's


23/10/95 Letter from VS to DCNR advising talk time & place & re wildlife demonstrators licence.

26/10/95 Letter from DCNR advising they will have to interview me and inspect our premises before granting demonstrators permit.

6/11/95 DCNR export permit to return snakes to SA.

6111/95 Letter from VS to DCNR requesting acceptance of DENR rather than submit to inspection in SA by DCNR officers.

7/11/95 Commercial Wildlife (Wildlife Demonstrators) Licence.

8/11/95 Letter from DENR confirming my bone fide and conditions under which snakes can be transferred to and from VIC to SA.

10/11/95 DCNR Import Permit.

17/11/95 Final notice for payment of Assistants licence for Bradley Oliver.

17/11/95 Assistants licence for Bradley Oliver.

23/11/95 Letter to DCNR re notice sent re p a y m e n t of Wildlife Demonstrators Assistants Licence.

23/12/95 Letter to DCNR re necessity to lodge returns when. already do it in SA.

Undated letter from DCN-R advising issue of Commercial Wildlife (Wildlife Demonstrators) Licence.

Pamphlets, Books and brochures:

A guide to the laws relating to Assistant's Licence.

DCNR Protected wildlife record book

DCNR Schedule 1. of the Wildlife Regulations 1992.

DCNR A Guide to the Laws Relating to Commercial Wildlife (Wildlife Demonstrators Licence) - July 1992.

Table 6. Most of the written permit requirements and associated correspondence involved in giving a single 1.5 hour talk on snakes in Apsley in Victoria. Snakes used during the talk were brought from South Australia and taken back afterward.

There were also a number of telephone discussions as well. The cost to the community, myself and to the Victorian Wildlife Department in administering this single permit would be interesting to evaluate. It is not only the direct monetary cost, but the insidious cost of time that should be put into more productive work. Moreover, the cost of administering this function across the state for all applicants is more important. Put simply, the statement it makes to the community is that it is more important to fuss around with these silly regulations than put the same amount of effort into cat control, revegetation or education. The deterrent it has on wildlife education is even worse. We all know that the lovely English lady Mrs Slocam, from the popular program, "Are You Being Served" can show her pussy on TV without any permit being required, but for me to show my snake, 1 need @a permit regulated by the Victorian wildlife authority. I think that is discriminatory. It is certainly a huge barrier to learning about native wildlife in Victoria,

The various State and Federal permit systems have played a substantial role in fostering the culture and environmental losses we have today. Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars, 45 cat owners to every 1 person keeping native animals, vertebrate species loss at 1 per year, 6% of our land cover lost in the last 20 years, foxes and cats killing 6.4 billion native animals per year, massive waterway pollution and degradation, huge snake losses possibly greater than 50% since 1979, frog losses and infestations of pest plants. It's a very negative picture. 1 don't like being negative but we simply can't go on burying our heads in the sand. We all must adopt an aggressive stance on trying to reverse the environmental problems by being productive.

VENOM - A CONTROLLED SPECINIEN: Currently ANCA regulate the export of snake venom overseas. On the surface this would seem reasonable to some. All mainland State and Territory governments regulate the keeping, taking from the wild, and transfer of snakes. Therefore from the conservation of the species, nothing else is required. Regulating the export of venom adds nothing more to the job of conserving snakes. ANCA still regulate the export of venom despite all the professional advice to the contrary. This is only a small example of waste, by duplication, of our wildlife resources. There are many examples like this in all wildlife authorities throughout the country. To justify its actions, ANCA, who

should be setting an example to the rest of

Australia, call the venom export control

controlled specimens export. It does nothing for

the conservation of snakes and merely, again, occupies vital time for those public servants who should be putting all their resources into the big issues.

Does the permit system contribute to conserving our fauna? Well the answer is it may, but the real question should be is it value for money or is the contribution significant? Or do the positives outweigh the negatives? 1 don't believe it is a substantial contributor and 1 believe there are far more negatives than positives. There is no doubt value in having stringent regulations regarding threatened species. It is questionable that regulations on many other species play any significant role on

their conservation, at least when compared with gains that could be achieved by managing the very large threats which are currently going unchecked.


Replacing habitat, preserving habitat, modifying our impacts on habitats, reducing and eradicating feral pests, reducing pollution. Reducing our population. One of the stepping stones to achieving these goals must be a reintroduction of Australians to their wildlife. The wildlife authorities must give back wildlife to the people. They have erected a "great legal fence that divides ordinary Australians from their fauna"'.

Before we can give Australia back to our wildlife, we must First give our wildlife back to Australians.

When this occurs, we will start the process of turning the corner and reversing some of the trends that have caused our losses. 1 think most herpetologists understand the futility of blanket regulation. I think they also understand the basics of what is needed to reverse the negative trends. I hope in my life time those people who have taken up this case, people like Rick Shine, Hat Cogger, Mike Tyler, Allan Greer, Harry Ehmann, Tim Flannery and others are finally successful in convincing our wildlife authorities that a system that promotes the keeping of native animals is needed. Today, we herpetologists are both unlucky and lucky. If we were around 100 years ago, the herpetofauna would be far more abundant, rather than an environment today so deprived of such abundance. We are also lucky, for think of our descendants in another 100 years, if things keep going the way they are going, they will think we were very lucky.


A recent Action Plan for Australian Reptiles, prepared by ANCA, Australia's Federal wildlife authority, looked at determining threats to native wildlife. Those threats are listed in table 7.

Habitat clearance 16%

Overgrazing by stock 11%

Cropping 11%

Vic Herp Society Ine "Monitor" 7(3) 1996

Predation 7%

Urban development 7%

Pasture iiinprovement 6%

Fire regime 5%

Soil degradation 5%

Visitor disturbance 4%

Soil & or water pollution 4%

Mning 3%

Native forest logging 3%

Climatic variation 3%

Rabbit grazing 3%

Habitat fragmentation 3%

Weed invasion 3%

Habitat drainage 2%

Rock removal 2%

Table 7. Threats to reptiles (derived from

Action Plan for Aust. Reptiles. Cogger et al

1993 pp210-21123)

The Chief Executive Officer of ANCA Peter Bridgewater states in the management plan that "7he Action Plan for Australian Reptiles will play a key role in determining priorities for both research and conservation management needed to prevent extinctions of Australia's unique reptilian fauna'. 1 have not seen any changes both from State level or Federal level @'that indicate to me that the major threats in the list in table 6 are being addressed with the attention they deserve. Moreover, one would expect that the minor threats would be given', less attention with a shift of resources and scrapping of ineffective legislation. Nowhere on the list is harvesting from the wild listed as a threat, nor is the keeping of reptiles in captivity considered a major threat, yet we still see considerable resources put into these areas. The report identifies Western Australia-

Oueensland and New South Wales as the States having the highest numbers of threatened species. Its also interesting to note that these States are the worst offenders for having a draconian approach to wildlife regulation.

The time has come for wildlife authorities to change direction, weed out those that promote non-productive policies and be accountable for the performance indicators outlined in this paper.


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2. Sutherland, S.K. (1992). Deaths from snake bite in Australia, 1981-1991 Med. J. Aust. 157 740-746.

3. Cogger, H.G. (1975). Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. A.H. & A.W. Reed Pty Ltd. London.

4. Sutherland, S.K. (1983). Australian Animal toxins. Oxford University Press. Melbourne.

5. Trinca, G. F. (1985). Snake bite as a veterinary problem. CSL Journal 81-90.

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food of the feral cat Felis catus in an and environment. Sth. Aust. Not. 51(2). 22-24.

11. Bayly, C. P. (1978). A comparison of the diets of the Red Fox and the Feral Cat in an Arid Environment. Sth. Aust. Nat. 53(2). 20-28.

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distribution of the cane toad Bufo mailnus in

Australia and its effects on indigenous

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grazing on regeneration of sheoaks Allocasuarina verticilliata and saltwater ti-trees Melaleuca halmaturorum in the Coorong National Park, South Australia. Aust. J. of Ecology 13 11-20.

16. Graetz,D., Fisher,R. and Wilson,M. (1992). Looking Back. The changing face of the Australian continent, 1972-1992. CSIRO. Australia.

17 Buxton, M (1994). Integrating conservation

and development through the planning process:

the case of vegetation protection and

restoration. Proc. National Greening Australia

Conference. 97-101.

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Amphibians of South Australia.

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19. Kearney, M., Mirtschin, P. J. (1992). Some records of cat predation on snakes. Herpetofauna. 22(1). 36.

20. Hoser, R. (1993). Smuggled. Apollo books. Mosman NSW.

21. Flannery, T.F. (1994). The Future Eaters. Reed Books. Sydney.

22. Booker, C. (1994). The regulatory crisis of the 1990's - The problem..... Economic Affairs June 1994 18-22.

23. Cogger, H., Cameron,E., Sadler,R. and

Eggler,P. (1993). The action plan for Australian reptiles. Australian Nature Conservation Agency.

24. Jewell,P. (1991). Wildlife Trade - A Federal Overview. National Parks Centenary Event. 1991 Keeping and Trading in Native Fauna. Past Present and Future. South Australian National Parks annual Wildlife Service Publication. Consultative Committee for Keeping and Trading in Native Fauna.

25. Kennedy, M. (1993). The story so far.

Aust. Wildlife Calendar. Wilderness Society Melbourne Vic.

26. Draft. Threatened Species Strategy for South Australia. Prepared for the Minister of Environment and Natural 1 Resources. Threatened Species Strategy Steering Committee (1993).

refer also Smuggled-2 (1996) by Raymond Hoser.

Download the same paper in MS Word.

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