in Monitor 10 (2/3) 1999, pp. 130-136.
YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – HERP NEWS AND MEDIA WATCH
BY RAYMOND HOSER)
In the last
issue of Monitor there was the description of a new kind of snake.
That was the false King Brown Snake (Pailsus pailsei). Since the
description was published it seems that these snakes, or things like them
have appeared all over the place.
We have extremely
reliable reports of the same sorts of animal in north-west Western Australia
(Fred Rossignoli and Richard Wells, pers. comm.) and Groote Eylandt, NT
(Rob Valentic, pers. comm.). However less reliable reports of these snakes
have come from places as diverse as Tasmania, Adelaide and suburban Melbourne.
Snake rescue services were deluged with reports of ‘False King Brown Snakes’
in the suburbs following media reports about the description.
that any Brown coloured snake that looked different to the normal was being
branded ‘the new species’. For some it became a bit of a status symbol
to be able to claim to have seen one. So the next time you are in a 7/11
Store and you see something strange, remember it may not be Elvis, but
a Pailsus pailsei instead.
to say something positive about the wildlife authorities. It seems that
the Queensland wildlife department has followed overwhelming advice and
they appear to have been receptive to early enquiries for research permits
to collect further specimens of Pailsus pailsei for research purposes.
In the longer term this could mean sustainable populations in captivity
as a further safeguard for the species.
To download the original of this paper - with
photos exactly as it appeared in the journal Monitor -
to get the 1.06 mb pdf (Adobe Acrobat) file (it will take up to ten minutes
For the original Pailsus pailsei paper (on the web as html)
Comments on comments on the Genus Pailsus Hoser 1998
A new snake from Irian Jaya.
Litteratura Serpentium, December 20(6):178-186.
A current assessment of the status of the snakes of the genera Cannia and Pailsus, including descriptions of three new subspecies from the Northern Territory and Western Australia, Australia.
Boydii - Journal of the Herpetological Society of Queensland Incorporated - July 2001.
The rest of
the herp news and media watch article continues below...
Now that’s what most readers like to hear. The 1998-9 breeding season was
probably the best yet for Australian herpetoculture. Among the species
bred in numbers were the elapids, Death Adders (various forms), Collett’s,
Tiger, and Red-bellied Black Snakes, as well as the following kinds of
python, Diamond, Bredl’s, Queensland Carpet, Children’s, Stimson’s, Spotted’s,
Black-headed and Womas. Then there were successes with dragons, skinks,
monitors, geckos, freshwater tortoises (should I call them turtles?) and
frogs. For those that don’t have these animals this is also good news.
In theory it means that as pent-up demand is satisfied real prices for
specimens should hopefully drop.
In mid 1998, five herpetologists were busted at Iron Range with Green Pythons
in their bags. Each side told a different story. The reptile people said
that they were only photographing the snakes. The wildlife officials said
that they were illegally trafficking them. The result in court was curious
to say the least. All five were found guilty as charged. None were convicted.
They received a token $75 fine.
penalty with the $2,500 handed out in 1993 to herpetologist Matt Hingley
who was caught photographing far more common reptiles in the same area
without a permit. It was suggested that the court had gone soft on the
five men due to the fact that one was an employee at a government-owned
zoo. North Queensland Again: Bob Buckley in 1998 had his Green Pythons
seized again, (refer to Smuggled-2 for details
of his case).
of Q/NPWS and his colleagues alleged Buckley’s snakes were ‘tainted’. They
lost that case. The authorities have now charged him with failing to declare
the income he made from selling a number of offspring to keepers in South
Australia. That case and another alleging his original stock was ‘tainted’
were ongoing at the time of writing. In the ‘tainted parents’ case, Buckley
was convicted in the first instance (September 1999) and sentenced to 3
weeks jail (another 15 suspended). He was ordered to pay $57,700 in fines
that the case was ‘fixed’. He was appealing the matter. That was still
undetermined/unheard at the time of writing. Meanwhile Buckley was found
guilty for another serious fauna offence. In one of many raids by officials,
they recovered a common Bluetongue (Tiliqua scincoides) from his
property. It had no paperwork. Buckley was fined.
The date was
25 May 1998 and the place was Cairns International Airport. Mr. Chee Meng
Chong and Sheu Yang Yap were arrested and strip-searched upon arrival from
Singapore on a QANTAS flight. The two Singapore nationals were found to
have hidden under their clothes ten live Chondropythons, all young ones.
The next day the pair fronted Cairns Magistrate’s court and pled guilty
to charges of illegal import.
One of the
men was also charged with an animal cruelty offence. The men were convicted
and sentenced to three months jail. The sentence was relatively light considering
the alleged offence. Queensland NPWS officials later alleged that the snakes
tested positive for a virus (called an Iridovirus) not previously seen
in Australian reptiles. The tests had been carried out at the Animal Health
laboratory in Geelong after two of the ten snakes died. As a result of
the disease fear and worries it may spread, all remaining snakes were allegedly
destroyed. Wildlife officials claimed that the virus could wipe out all
Australian herps if it escaped into the local populations. They then seized
on this to justify their attempts to ban any herp imports and exports as
well as to impose even tighter keeping restrictions within Australia.
same scare mongering had gone on ten years earlier when a seized specimen
was found to have had Cryptosporidium. Further studies then revealed that
the virus was already present in wild populations. It’s just that no one
had bothered to look at them before. The Deal: After being busted Chong
then rolled over to authorities and explained why he’d come to Australia.
He implicated a reptile trafficker by the name of David McIntosh. That
McIntosh had operated with the protection of Queensland wildlife officers
was subject to rumour for some years and later confirmed by McIntosh himself.
It was alleged that McIntosh was supplying Chong and others with a veritable
wish-list of Australian reptiles.
allegedly seized a fax from McIntosh’s home which was from Chong and listed
species sought, including Rough-scaled Pythons (Morelia carinata),
and Western Swamp tortoises (Pseudemydura umbrina). The fax had
been sent in advance of the courier’s arrival. McIntosh was charged by
Australian customs on 5 September 1998 in relation to his role in the importation
of the ten Chondropythons at Cairns. He was set down to face Innisfail
court later the same month. He also faced a series of state wildlife charges
set down for hearing at the same time.
was refused a reptile demonstrator’s permit by the Queensland NPWS licencing
officials on the basis of a $2,500 fine he’d received in NSW in December
1994. DEH Official Mike Chep (refer to Smuggled-2)
then apparently sidestepped their authority and signed the permit for him,
even though such permits weren’t usually within his area of authority.
According to McIntosh, he’d even worked for DEH in a formal manner at their
Innisfail office. The arrangement between himself and Chep apparently broke
down after officers from Townsville got involved following the Cairns airport
bust. More of the same: Notwithstanding the above, it seems that McIntosh
managed to do some sort of deal with DEH. While he went down as ‘guilty’
in court, he was given relatively light penalties for the various offences
he was found guilty of.
By early 1999
he was back in business. However it didn’t seem to be for too long. In
early 1999 he went on a collecting trip across the top third of Australia,
collecting such so-called rarities as Woma Pythons (Aspidites ramsayi),
Centralian Bluetongues (Tiliqua multifasciata) and various monitors.
Upon his return home he was busted at Atherton. That was on 18 February.
McIntosh was caught red-handed with a car full of reptiles, and a glove
box full of fuel receipts, motel bills etc, that were later used to prove
where he had been. Word was that the Queensland Fauna Squad had McIntosh
under surveillance for the whole trip, and waited for him to get back to
Queensland with an accomplice (name deleted) before arresting him.
He had 25
reptiles in his possession. At the same time, Queensland wildlife officials
did a raid on a house at Beenleigh, just south of Brisbane and seized another
six Chondropythons. Whether the busts were connected wasn’t known.
On 9 July
1998, Customs officers at Sydney airport intercepted 5 more Chondropythons
in two packages that had been sent air freight to a Sydney residential
address from the USA. The snakes had been elaborately placed in cloth bags
with damp cloths to keep the animals cool and moist, which was in turn
placed inside plastic take-away food containers secreted inside the cardboard
packages. Those snakes went to Taronga Zoo. Meanwhile in 1997, 26 Green
Pythons were declared during the one month amnesty. Most are thought to
have been illegally imported and/or derived from the snakes seized from
Buckley in January 1994 (refer to Smuggled-2 for details).
Take a look
at a recent American reptile magazine. It’s likely that you’ll see Ant-hill
Pythons (Antaresia (=Liasis) perthensis) for sale.
Not too long ago, there were none of these outside Australia. None have
ever been legally exported from this country. Now there are ever increasing
numbers being sold as captive-bred in the USA and Europe. Many are! However
the original founder stock clearly wasn’t.
was one who was busted by customs officers trying to export Ant-hill Pythons.
That was in 1991. He paid the $10,000 fine and then went to option B. He
now breeds and sells the species in the USA. Others such as Frank Retes
of the Goanna Ranch do likewise. That’s probably a good thing as I can’t
see the same thing happening in Australia in the near future.
The last two
(and only) captive breedings of the species in this country resulted in
the snakes being seized by overzealous wildlife officers, thereby terminating
any research into and conservation of the species here. Thankfully they
are very abundant where they occur, so their long term survival will be
in spite of our wildlife officials and their policies and not because of
them. The most recent raid involving these snakes was probably that of
Brad Maryan in WA. No sooner had the ink dried on his paper in Herpetofauna,
heavily armed officials from CALM were trooping through his house in January
1999 and taking the breeding Ant-hill Pythons. The raid drove yet another
wedge between reptile keepers and the authorities in WA.
One man who
failed to pay off the right officials was Peter Stoldt. He was busted on
23 January 1996 as he boarded a domestic flight from Perth to Alice Springs.
Besides having a pair of Ant-hill Pythons he also had 29 geckos, a Death
Adder (Acanthophis sp.) and a Stimson’s Python. 8 days later he
fronted Freemantle Magistrate’s court and was fined $15,500. Stoldt had
never had a chance of getting his reptiles out of the country. He’d been
allowed to continue unimpeded until he was near to the end of his trip
when the authorities moved in to bust him.
RULES THE WAVES – DOES THE ICZN WAIVE THE RULES?
gouldii/panoptes thing again. This time it involves the game of
musical types that’s been going on. Cogger and Shea published a bizarre
proposal in June 1998 to designate a new type (neotype) specimen for Varanus
gouldii based on a specimen trapped near Perth on 29 September 1997.
The specimen was subsequently exported to the UK and lodged in the British
Museum of Natural History (where coincidentally the ICZN is based).
The two men
are asking the ICZN to use its plenary powers to overrule its own rules
and make this animal the neotype for V. gouldii. However it seems
that the ICZN’s rules aren’t the only ones being violated here. A letter
presented by the Deputy Director Wildlife Protection of the CITES Management
Group Canberra, Chris Mobbs included a print-out of all legal exports of
monitors from Australia in the period 1995 to end 1998. As this (very short)
list did not include the animal sent from the WA Museum (exported sometime
between 1997 and June 1998) it was concluded that the specimen had been
illegally exported. In other words it had been smuggled. When asked why
no one had been prosecuted over the matter, Mobbs said ‘It’s hard to catch
them in the act’. The person responsible for the export hasn’t been formally
identified, although two are named by Cogger and Shea in their submission.
With Hal Cogger
himself a part of the ICZN it seems that the formal suppression of Varanus
gouldii as most people know it, along with the suppression of Varanus
flavirufus is a done deal.
ZN 55 (2), Chris Mobbs.
(Go to http://www.smuggled.com/Tran1.htm
to download the entire ICZN file on tge gouldi/panoptes fiasco)
stories are sourced primarily from Wes & Kim von Papineou, of K &
W Herp Haven. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
And Allen Salzberg <email@example.com>
NO MORE NETTING
IN LAKEFIELD NATIONAL PARK
herpetologists are fined heavily for capturing and keeping reptiles, there
are other Australians who can go out into the wild and kill heaps of marine
reptiles without fear of being fined. They are the fishermen on our northern
coastline who kill thousands of reptiles annually. This carnage even goes
on in waters offshore from our national parks. However a good sign came
from Queensland recently when the Queensland government announced the immediate
cessation of commercial net fishing operations in Lakefield National Park.
State Environment and Natural Resources Minister Rod Welford said he was
no longer prepared to allow more deaths of protected species, such as crocodiles
and turtles, at the hands of some uncontrolled commercial fishers.
comes after a Courier-Mail report on Monday which revealed the government
had turned a blind eye to the netting operations, which breach the State
Nature Conservation Act. Mr Welford said the commercial fishermen had been
allowed to operate in one of far north Queensland’s most fragile ecosystems
for far too long. “What might have been accepted practice in the past is
not acceptable now and I have been appalled at the reports of the apparent
plunder of our protected wildlife,” he said.
& Kim von Papineou
seized in Golok: Three hundred highly poisonous snakes, which are traditionally
consumed for health reasons, were seized at the Thai border town of Golok
on a Monday night. General Operations Force (PGA) Ninth Battalion commanding
officer Supt Salleh Mat Rasid said a 33-year-old man, a local, was arrested
for trying to smuggle in the snakes. He said the snakes, most of which
were ‘ular sendok’ and cobras, were to be taken to Tanah Merah for distribution
to restaurants for their blood and flesh. Supt Salleh believed that the
reptiles were worth at least RM6,000. He said this was the first case of
snake smuggling activity at the Kelantan-Thai border since 1995.
Star (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia) 31 March 99
on snake smugglers
syndicate with international connections is believed to be smuggling thousands
of snakes into the country through Perlis and other states bordering Thailand.
State Wildlife Protection and National Parks Department director Zulkifli
Arshad said the racket’s operation was being closely monitored. “We know
that a big syndicate with links in other countries is involved in the smuggling
of protected species. Despite stringent enforcement, the syndicate is trying
to find ways to smuggle in the reptiles,” he said. He said that racket
members had changed tactics by diverting activities to other border states
after the department seized more than 1,000 snakes in Perlis on three different
occasions in Jan-Feb 1999. Three men were caught smuggling more than 1,000
cobras at the Kuala Perlis jetty and at Jalan Kaki Bukit, near the Malaysian-Thai
border town of Padang Besar, on Jan 22 and Feb 1, 1999 respectively.
Two of them,
a Singaporean and a businessman from Perlis, were each fined RM4,000 by
a magistrate’s court on Jan 23 for smuggling in 555 snakes, mainly cobras.
Zulkifli said it was learnt that the snake’s bile, blood and meat fetched
attractive prices locally and abroad, adding that they were believed to
be exported to Taiwan and Singapore. He said that import or export of any
protected species was only allowed with a permit from the Convention on
Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.
Star (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia) 4 April 99
For Importing Lizards
Two men are charged with illegally importing lizards into the US. Howard
Moss and Robert Kelton have been indicted for bringing more than eleven
thousand Haitian curly-tailed lizards into Florida in 1995 and 1996. Haiti
bans the export of such reptiles, but the pair was able to get around the
ban by using fraudulent documents claiming the lizards were from elsewhere
in the Caribbean. They face a maximum of 14 years in prison and nearly
two million dollars in fines.
News Service (USA), 2 April 99.
man found guilty of torturing and smuggling snakes
man was sentenced in April 1999 to a week in jail for smuggling and torturing
a load of 2,546 ‘endangered’ snakes that he tried to slip through a border
crossing from Thailand. Gek Seg Kaliappan pleaded guilty in a Malaysian
court to having stuffed the reptiles in nylon sacks and plastic baskets
to get past customs officers a week earlier in northern Malaysia, the national
Bernama news agency reported. Officials from a special anti-smuggling unit
uncovered 105 Asiatic Cobras and 2,441 Oriental Rat snakes, both of which
are protected species under Malaysia’s Wildlife Protection Act. Most of
the snakes would have ended up in soup bowls in Chinese restaurants or
on dinner plates in many Asian cities, where snake meat can sell for around
US$6 a pound (US$15 a kilo). Some people also drink snake blood, believing
it can cure ailments ranging from backaches to impotency. Gek, who was
tried in a Perlis (Malaysia) state court, was also sentenced to pay a $2,900
including the Canadian Press and The Record, 19 April 99.
IN STRIFE WITH AUTHORITIES AGAIN
owner of Tom Crutchfield’s Reptile Enterprises was sentenced to 30 months
in prison for conspiring to smuggle rare and protected snakes from Madagascar
into the United States, the U.S. Justice Department said Friday. Tommy
Edward Crutchfield, 49, formerly of Bushnell, Florida, pleaded guilty in
January to the conspiracy count, as well as to three counts of smuggling
and three violations of the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife statute.
judge sentenced Crutchfield to 3 years supervised release. The former owner
and president of the Lake Panasoffkee business, could have been sentenced
to a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each count.
Crutchfield admitted to conspiring with two German nationals, Wolfgang
Michael Kloe and Frank H. Lehmeyer, to bring more than 200 reptiles into
the United States in 1995 and 1996. The animals included Madagascar Tree
Boas and some Madagascar Ground Boas from Germany, which are protected
by international treaty. Crutchfield previously had been imprisoned for
smuggling endangered Fiji Island iguanas into the United States in 1995.
He was on supervised release when he was arrested.
In that case
Crutchfield said he pled guilty to save going through a second lengthy
trial. He beat the charges the first time around at appeal, because of
prosecution misconduct (refer to Smuggled and Smuggled-2 for
details). Crutchfield was considered one of the largest reptile importers
in the United States before he went to Belize in 1997, allegedly after
the Justice Department notified him he was under investigation. He was
expelled from Belize in August and arrested by federal officials in Miami.
Tribune (Florida) 16 April 99
A night on
the hops wows dogs
are coming to grips with a growing new recreational drug crisis - among
their dogs. From Coolangatta to Townsville, people are seeing their pets
sneak out and get high on the poison of Cane Toads (Bufo marinus).
The Raymant family, of the Gold Coast, became aware of a problem when their
spaniel, Emma, started returning home frothing at the mouth, shaking her
head, wandering aimlessly and not eating. Mr Trevor Raymant discovered
what was going on after following Emma.
She had found
a Cane Toad and ‘mouthed’ it, holding it in her jaws briefly, but not killing
it, and then dropping it. Having apparently learned that poison in the
glands behind the toad’s head has hallucinatory properties, Emma deliberately
antagonised the animal, causing it to discharge enough poison to make her
high. Emma is not alone. According to Dr Dianne Barton, a lecturer in zoology
at James Cook University, most young dogs learn that toads are dangerous
and should be left alone, but some have learned to associate them with
a pleasant experience.
5 April 99
for deformed frogs:
A survey of
35 ponds south and east of San Jose has demonstrated for the first time
that a parasite is responsible for at least some of the deformities seen
in frogs across North America. Pieter T.J. Johnson, an undergraduate at
Stanford University, spent two years tramping through ranches and county
parks in the tree-studded, grassy hills, looking for amphibians with extra,
missing or twisted legs.
Most of the
animals he found were fine. But in four ponds, he discovered large numbers
of Pacific Tree Frogs — whose loud, high trilling is the most common froggy
voice in the region — that were malformed. Back at the laboratory, Johnson
and two friends did a series of experiments that showed the deformities
were caused by a tiny parasitic flatworm that spends part of its life cycle
in the reproductive tract of snails.
The worm swims
out of the snail, burrows into a tadpole and forms a cyst. When this happens
at exactly the right time, just before the tadpole metamorphoses into a
frog, it can disrupt the growth of the hind legs, the team reports today
in the journal Science. “I find it’s a terrific experiment, a really fascinating,
interesting result,’’ said David Gardiner, a developmental biologist at
the University of California-Irvine. ``It already has stimulated a lot
of follow-up work. It’s caused a lot of people to have an interest in parasites
that wasn’t there before.’’ However, he and other amphibian researchers
cautioned that the study may explain only a small percentage of the frog
deformities that have been found over the past five years.
in fact, apply only to the West Coast, or only to Santa Clara County. Nor
do the parasites appear to be related to the separate, worldwide problem
of declining amphibian populations, biologists said. This particular parasite,
known by the scientific name of Ribeiroia, has not been found in amphibians
in Minnesota, where a group of school children on a field trip discovered
the first batch of deformed frogs in 1995, said Judy Helgen, a researcher
with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. While Minnesota frogs do harbour
a related parasite, she said, it’s found in both normal and malformed animals.
‘The lack of association makes us feel something else is causing the malformations,’
there are pursuing a number of possible causes, including chemical contamination
and the thinning ozone layer, which has been letting in increased levels
of harmful ultraviolet light. The parasite does not seem to be responsible
for the decline or disappearance of frog populations in California, including
pristine areas of Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada. This decline
is part of an alarming worldwide drop in amphibian numbers over the past
15 years — a sign, many fear, of an underlying environmental catastrophe.
Gary Fellers, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who has been
surveying Californian amphibians for the past eight years, said fewer than
one in 1,000 have been deformed — about the level that biologists would
expect to see in a healthy population. “That’s pretty rare,’’
``certainly rare enough that deformities are not playing a role in the
declines that we are seeing.’’ He said his surveys lead him to think the
cause of the decline may be pollutants blowing into the mountains from
the Central Valley. Over the past five years, the North American Reporting
Centre for Amphibian Malformations, in North Dakota, has collected nearly
1,600 reports from biologists who have looked for problems among frogs,
toads and salamanders. So far they have found roughly 4,400 malformed animals
among 62,000 normal ones, said Jeff Jundt, a biologist who compiles the
centre’s data. “From what I know, the only ones really affected by these
parasites are in the Pacific Northwest,’’ he said. In addition to Minnesota,
hot spots of deformity have been reported in Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont,
New York, Ontario, the Pacific Northwest and Northern California.
Over the past
10 years, deformities have been found in 36 species of amphibians in 42
states. Many reports are from areas near farms or ranches, leading scientists
to suspect that weed-killers, pesticides, fertilizers or other chemical
contaminants could be involved. At this point, some researchers think that
different things may be going on in different places, said UC biologist
Gardiner. ‘There are a lot of ideas,’ he said. ‘What we need is more data.’
‘The idea that parasites could be involved in amphibian malformation surfaced
in the late 1980s. But until Johnson’s study, there was no experimental
evidence to support it,’ Gardiner said. Johnson, who graduated from Stanford
last June, did the study as part of an honours thesis.
two friends to help out — Kevin B. Lunde, who had just graduated from UC-San
Diego, and Euan G. Ritchie, a student at James Cook University of North
Queensland, in Australia. Johnson had already examined over 10,000 frogs
in the field, more than 1,000 of which were deformed. The team members
spent long nights in the laboratory, waiting for flatworms to emerge from
their snail hosts between midnight and 4 a.m. They took tadpoles from the
Eel River, where no abnormal frogs had been found, and exposed them to
various numbers of worms.
percent of the infested tadpoles that survived to become frogs had severely
abnormal limb development, they reported. Johnson speculated that these
deformities could be in the parasite’s best interest, part of its evolutionary
strategy. A bird might be more likely to catch and eat a malformed, non-ambulatory
frog, and then to spread the cysts to another pond where they could start
another cycle of infestation.
He’s now working
as a research associate at Claremont McKenna College, trying to drum up
grants to continue his work on frogs, including a planned survey of six
states this summer. Source: San Jose Mercury News (California) 30 April
99 Frog Decline Linked to Climate Shift An abrupt, unprecedented climate
shift apparently associated with global warming appears to have caused
the mysterious disappearance of 20 frog species in Costa Rica, researchers
The frog declines,
which included the infamous extinction of the Golden Toad, coincided with
a sudden reduction in moisture levels on the continental divide atop Monteverde
in Costa Rica’s central highlands, according to J. Alan Pounds, of the
University of Miami, and his colleagues. The discovery is evidence that
global warming is effecting wildlife in previously unrecognized ways, he
said. ‘Biological communities are responding to climate change more quickly
than we thought,’ he said. ‘We’ve observed a pattern here and our responsibility
is to sound an alarm.’
was settled in the 1950s by Quakers from the United States who set aside
a large area of ‘cloud forest’ as a nature preserve. Moisture-laden winds
off the Caribbean cool as they rise up the eastern slope, forming a cloud
bank on the mountaintop and shrouding the jungle in mist. The cloud forest
is home to an enormous diversity of plants and animals dependent on its
extreme moisture levels. Conversely, other species adapted to drier, warmer
conditions, live further down the mountainside, below the base of the cloud.
Pounds and his collaborators, Michael P.L. Fogden and John H. Campbell,
discovered that amphibians and reptiles living at upper elevations had
simultaneously suffered severe population reductions.
At the same
time, a number of bird species from lower sections of the mountain began
an upward migration. Toucans, previously found only in the lowlands, now
live side by side with the Resplendent Quetzal, the colourful, long-tailed
bird identified with the cloud forest going back to pre-Columbian times.
All of these
changes coincided with unusually warm, dry conditions produced by a combination
of the El Nino weather pattern and a more general, long-term rise in sea
surface temperatures, the researchers found. These effects, Pounds said,
are amplified at higher altitudes and have caused the base of the cloud
bank to lift. As the cloud recedes up the mountain, the misting and condensation
essential to life have decreased. When the scientists examined stream flow
and ocean temperature data, plus daily records of air temperature and mist
frequency near the continental divide, they discovered not only that the
dry season had become warmer and drier, but that dry days now come in longer
sustained runs. The overall climate trend corresponds to a shift in bird
demographics that has brought 15 new species up from lower elevations.
two lizards found only at higher elevations began to decline in the late
1980s and had vanished by 1996. In the same period, a third species of
the small lizard that thrives in drier conditions remained stable. All
of this took place against the backdrop of a massive frog population decline
that began in 1987 and has since wiped out 40 percent of species present
in a series of synchronous crashes that have occurred during peaks of warm
and dry conditions. Unlike birds, earthbound amphibians have limited upward
Toad, which lived only in several wetlands in a small area almost at the
mountaintop, had nowhere to go. It was last seen in 1989. Global warming
probably was not the immediate cause of the Golden Toad’s demise, Pounds
said. More likely the climate fluctuation weakened the animals and made
them vulnerable to an epidemic involving a pathogen or parasite, such as
the chytrid fungus implicated last year in other frog die-offs around the
said no one will ever know the exact cause. “At the time of the crash we
weren’t aware of what was happening,” Pounds said. “Nobody looked at the
animals to see what killed them.” Pounds’s research, published in today’s
issue of the journal Nature, appears to confirm the warnings of many scientists
that amphibians are reacting to widespread environmental degradation in
even seemingly pristine habitats. “This is very important,” said Andrew
Blaustein, a biologist at Oregon State University. “It’s a convincing scenario
for why the Golden Toad and other species went down the tubes. It also
shows how incredibly complex these environmental interactions can be.”
Michael Lannoo, U.S. coordinator of the Declining Amphibian Populations
Task Force, said Pounds has demonstrated the first animal extinction attributable
to modern climate change. “People who say global warming won’t be a problem
argue that animals will simply shift to more suitable habitats as change
occurs,” he said. “Alan’s results show there are limits to that.”
Post, 15 April 99
AUSTRALIS ON ENDANGERED LIST
lack of a basic scientific skill was potentially endangering the survival
of newly discovered species, a senior researcher said. According to a report
in The Australian, in early 1999, many Australian scientists did
not have the skill of taxonomy, or describing species, and this had allowed
an 'absolutely fantastically huge' backlog of newly discovered species
to need classification.
At least that
was the view of Buzz Wilson, a zoologist and a principal research scientist
at the Australian Museum. Taxonomy involves discovering, describing and
naming new species with a two-word Latin name. The first name always appears
with a capital and denotes the genus, or group of species the creature
comes from, while the second name in lower case, is the species name. According
to Dr. Wilson taxonomy has a reputation of being 'difficult, boring and
not cutting edge' and was currently not taught as a stand-alone degree
in any Australian university. Watson said 'How can you prevent something
going extinct, how can you prevent damage to a species, if you don't know
the species is even there'.
He went on
to say, 'Our legislation won't allow us to protect a species until it's
described.', although that quote doesn't accurately reflect the laws in
most states that currently have 'blanket' protection. Only five percent
of Wilson's speciality, marine isopod crustaceans, have been formally described.
Until now basic information about Australia's biodiversity is not being
generated by scientists at universities, as none offers a taxonomy degree,
and teaching the skill has been relatively ad hoc at museums. Watson said,
'It doesn't seem like cutting-edge science, we use Latin names, microscopes,
we make pencil drawings that we put in publications so that other people
can identify these things.
It's not sexy
like molecular biology,' Dr Wilson said. In May 1999 the University of
New England will sign an agreement with the Australian Museum and the Royal
Botanic Gardens for a new course which will teach taxonomy and evolutionary
biology. This appears to be a first in this area for an Australian tertiary
ON THE WAY?
of the Australian Museum, Dr. Michael Archer was quoted in April 1999 making
the following remarks on Australia's environment and conservation in this
country. Archer, who likens Australia's national parks to 'environmental
leper colonies' and 'land of the living dead', believes his vision for
the future is 'based on good science, rational economics, common sense
and hard facts of Australia's land degradation record'.
of the Australian landscape is clearly on view. It is comprised of 'sick
and dying rivers, graveyards of trees succumbing to dieback, mounting losses
of soil to wind and water erosion, insidious upwellings of salty groundwater
that are set to ruin more than 15 million hectares of farmland, $10 billion
worth of coastal development under corrosive threat from disturbed acid
sulfate soils and the declining fortunes of many farms and rural towns'.
Despite the encouraging success of Landcare, the sheer size of the task
of reversing the damage is beyond the capacity of rural Australians alone.
The one million trees program despite being a good psychological program,
falls way short of the numbers required because we are still 'facing a
net loss of trees over what we have planted'. Estimates of 30 billion trees
are required throughout Australia - far more than any program has targeted
so far. Australia's 5,500 national parks and reserves, because of their
small sizes, put 'fairly predictable use-by dates on many animal species'.
They are effectively
islands surrounded by alienated lands. The effect on the extinction rates
on animals is clearly demonstrated by what has happened on real islands
such as New Caledonia (18,650 sq km) and New Zealand's 2 large islands
(115,00 sq. km). Archer believes reserves need to be about 300,000 sq km
to be effective and there needs to be one for each major habitat type.
This means Australians have to change the whole way they live and use the
natural resources sustainably rather than rely dominantly on introduced
animals and crops.
Mirtschin and The Bulletin, 27 April 1999.
One of the
world's great centres of turtle and tortoise diversity, Southeast Asia
has long teemed with species found nowhere else in the world. But in recent
years, researchers say, this biological treasure trove has become a gold
mine for profiteers who have been gathering every turtle in sight for sale
as food and medicinals in the turtle markets of China. Biologists say collectors
have made such a clean sweep of turtles in countries like Vietnam and Laos
that it can be impossible to find a single turtle even in ideal habitats
in national parks and remote preserves. In the regions of Southeast Asia
where turtles do persist, biologists say, they are fast disappearing to
satisfy the huge, some say infinite, demand for turtles in China.
have been reduced to looking for turtles in China's markets as they say
an entire fauna is being bought, sold and eaten into oblivion. 'Southeast
Asia is being vacuumed of its turtles for China's food markets,' said Dr.
John Behler, chairman of the freshwater tortoise and turtle specialist
group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural
Resources. 'The China markets are a black hole for turtles.' Dr. Behler,
who is also a curator at the Wildlife Conservation Society, said even endangered
species whose trade was forbidden by the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species, were showing up in China's markets headed for the
soup pot and the frying pan.
Kaesul Yoon, New York Times, 4 May 1999.
Raymond Hoser has
been an active herpetologist for about 30 years and published over 140
papers in journals worldwide. He has written nine books including the
definitive works "Australian Reptiles
and Frogs", "Endangered Animals
of Australia" and the controversial best sellers "Smuggled
- The Underground Trade in Australia's Wildlife",
Police Corruption" and "Victoria
Police Corruption - 2".
Over 150 Reptile Papers that
can be downloaded.
Australian Smuggling and
Wildlife Crime Site
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