Monday, June 30, 2008

New publication from the Department of Climate Change

For those of you still to be convinced on the whole climate change thing or you work in NRM and need a bit more infor the federal Department of Climate Change has just released "Managing Australian landscapes in a changing climate - a climate change primer for regional natural resource management bodies". I've only just skimmed through it but if it gets more people thinking and planning about it, it will be a good thing.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More on offsets

Looks like you can offset everything these days, probably just as effective and ethical as most of the others.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

More on Hybrid Cats

Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue (and what a great job they do) was kind enough to leave a comment on my blog this morning (wow my first!). They have a number of concerns over the hybrids (not the least are animal welfare concerns over the breeding process), their page on it is here.

Edit: Tony Peacock from the Invasive Animals CRC has a blog covering this and other feral animal issues (link fixed) and reports the good news that Environment Minister Peter Garrett has initiated a review on the import of hybrid cats.

Ecofascist? Moi?

Australia has a long history of introduction of exotic plants and animals, many of them were introduced for quite legitimate reasons, food, fibre, medicine etc but many of these introductions have had adverse impacts on both our Australian ecosystems and the economy. The list is seemingly endless; rabbits, foxes, canetoads, goats, pigs, prickly pear, water hyacith, salvinia, the list goes on.

The threats posed by introducing plants and animals into ecosystems where there is no control on them is well recognised, for example the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) "Global Invasive Species Programme" lists numerous species which have caused ecological havoc around the world. In Australia there are numerous exotic species listed as key threatening processes under Schedule 3 of the New South Wales "Threatened Species Conservation Act" and also under the Federal "Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act".

Mind you Australian species relocated to other countries can run amock as well, possums in New Zealand, tree snakes in Guam, Eucalypts in Greece, wattles in South Africa and Israel, paperbarks and Casuarinas in the southern states of the US.

Back in the mid to late 1800's "Acclimatisation Societies" started around the world to encourage this sort of thing, thankfully they weren't as successful as they hoped and are now more or less defunct.

Given all that I really do have to shake my head over the article I came across printed in the Kyeamba Valley Landcare Newsletter written by Haikai Tane of Watershed Systems Inc in New Zealand, I'll only quote a few relevant parts but the full text is over here.

Professor Haikai Tane on (Riparian) Biodiversity and Peter Andrews
Research on riparian biota indicates there are probably greater grounds for concern about the phytotoxicity of Australian red gums than Willows!

Well yes this would probably be why Australian animals have evolved to deal with these metabolites, why 1080 has less effect on Australian native animals (particularly those from Western Australia) than it does on exotic ones and why Koalas and Possums can digest gum leaves and Monkeys can't, no doubt Australian invertebrates would have evolved similar mechanisms.

Please be aware that the international convention on biodiversity specifically embraces all biota. Since the 1968 UNESCO international conference on "Use and Conservation of the Biosphere" in France, the UN position has remained unchanged:

"there is no fundamental difference between natural, wild or modified, semi-natural or developed, domesticated or purely artifial vegetations. The laws governing these ecosystems are identical"...

This doesn't make sense, of course the laws governing them would be identical, mind you the organisms living in these ecosystems would probably notice a significant difference.

..........Biodiversity is still only a convention because biologists have been unable to demonstrate that there is a functional relationship between the Linnaen classification of species and environmental performance...........

This makes even less sense, the Linnean system is merely a system of classifying species it was developed around 100 years before Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection" and while it is well recognised to have shortcomings has stood up quite well. As I said it is merely a classification system and although there is debate as to whether it should be replaced by a system which better takes into account evolutionary relationships, I am unaware if it has anything to say about environmental performance or ever really could.

......It may come as a surprise to some that the Australian concept of native biodiversity is inconsistent with the international biodiversity convention. It is more about personal beliefs and conservation funding programs than the ecological integrity of watersheds and their environmental performance......

Obviously it's a surprise to the IUCN as well.

Nature does nothing uselessly noted Socrates. Mother Nature is an equal opportunity employer - she does not discriminate on the basis of race, genera or species. That is a human failing. A few years ago, I was advised by the leaders of a German Parliamentary Delegation on Conservation and the Environment visiting New Zealand - while here they investigated "native biodiversity programs" - that in Germany they call native biodiversity "ecofascim" because it is based on the same nativist principles that underpinned Hitler's Fascism.

Oh dear! Reductio ad Hitlerum? Wanting to protect endangered species and preserve ecosystems is "Ecofascism"? I can understand the Germans getting a little wary which may even remotely be seen as nationalism but claiming it as "Ecofascism"? As I pointed to earlier there are numerous reputable organisations in Australia and overseas who are concerned with the spread of exotic species and their impact on ecosystems, to label them as fascists or even to equate this concern with fascism is, well, to be extremely polite "unscientific". Denigrating and labelling as "ecofascists" those with legitimate concerns does nothing for the debate and even less for the credibility of those tossing the accusation around.

..........perhaps the Natural Sequence Farming movement can take the lead and expose the "exotics are pests" mentality as a sadly misinformed ecocolonial myth doing more damage than good........

As I've pointed out there is a lot of evidence that exotics can be pests, not all of them and some can be problems in some areas and not in others I really don't want to get into the subject of weed ecology at the moment but just to reiterate foxes are pests, rabbits are pest, prickly pear and tiger pear are pests (the former less so since the release of the Cactoblastis moth), Equine Influenza is a pest. As to "ecocolonialism"? What exactly does that mean? Certainly I can understand it applying to Acclimatisation Societies and their descendents who are quite happy with the McDonaldisation of the worlds ecosystems.

...It is far, far better to teach your community to observe and enjoy the exciting dance of ecosynthesis uniting native and exotic biota in new and improved riparian ecosystems...

"Ecosynthesis"? Just another word for extinction really.

Edit: I really should have gone and had a look at the Convention on Biological Diversity it seems they're concerned about introduced species as well, among the actions listed for preserving biodiversity at a national level is:

Preventing the introduction of, controlling, and eradicating alien species that could threaten ecosystems, habitats or species.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Press Release from the Invasive Animals CRC

6 June 2007
Wild-domestic fashion pets sneaking past quarantine
leaves native animals at risk
Serval-cat “supercat” shouldn’t be let in without scrutiny
A loophole in Australia’s biosecurity system means hybrid African Serval-domestic cat crosses can be imported into the country with no assessment of their potential to decimate native wildlife.

Chief Executive of the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, Professor Tony Peacock, pointed out the loophole to the Quarantine and Biosecurity Review in Canberra today. “Hybrids of wild animals and domestic animals are a stupid American trend to breed more and more exotic pets” says Professor Peacock. “No one anticipated such animals when our quarantine laws were formulated, so we apply a definition that a fifth generation wild-domestic cross is legally a “domestic” animal and so escapes proper scrutiny”.

“Fourteen of these wild-cross cats are currently in quarantine on their way to Australia and have apparently passed all Federal requirements. We hope the Queensland Government will classify them Class 1 Pest Animals under State Legislation and ban them, but this sort of thing should be a Federal responsibility. An Adelaide breeder is advertising animals available in 2009”.

“This loophole will effectively lead to fitting a nuclear warhead to our already devastating feral cat population. So-called “Savannah cats” are more than double the size of domestic cats and can jump two metres from a standing start. Haven’t our native animals got enough to contend with?”
The practice of hybridising wild and domestic animals deserves much more scrutiny itself. An American breeder describes the issue on her own website:

…it can be extremely difficult to accomplish the Serval to domestic cat breeding. Whether it be the Serval male to the domestic female (which is most often the case), or to attempt a female Serval to a domestic male ... because the Serval body type is so much longer and taller, this makes the pairing physically quite challenging. Add to that the differences in behavior between a wild cat and a domestic cat, and in some cases, too much aggression on the part of an intact adult Serval ...

“I think anyone that forced a mating of an African Serval and a domestic cat in Australia would find themselves in serious discussion with animal welfare authorities” said Professor Peacock. “It is certainly a practice we shouldn’t condone by allowing people to import this new style of fashion animal. We need to update our quarantine rules to keep up with this exotic pet trend”.

The same loophole would allow a variety of hybrid cats and potentially wolf-dog hybrids if they pass disease regulations.

“The Quarantine and Biosecurity Review provides a great opportunity to point out anomalies that need attention. This issue has arisen from the practice of breeding new animals that did not exist when laws and regulations were framed.”

“Our native animals are at risk because of a fashionable desire to own an exotic pet. The impact on these vulnerable species will remain long after the fashion dies out” said Professor Peacock.
Fashion breeds of cat bred through mating wild cats:

"Bengal Cat" hybrid with Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis (SE Asia, 6.8 kg) (already in Australia)
"Savannah Cat" hybrid with Serval Leptailurus serval (Africa, 20 kg)
"Safari Cat" hybrid with Geoffroy's cat Leopardus geoffroyi (S. America, 4 kg)
"Chausie" hybrid with Jungle Cat Felis chaus (Asia, 16 kg)
"Serengeti cat" Bengal cat/ Asian Short-haired cat hybrid

See Big Cat Rescue’s concerns:

Prof Tony Peacock
Invasive Animals CRC
Ph: 0402 036 110
University of Canberra, Canberra ACT 2601

Sign this!

Want to have your say in keeping the Savanah Cats out of Australia, or just wanna tell Peter Garret to get a hair cut (damn long haired hippy!)? Go off and sign it, go on, do it now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And that's yer bloomin lot!

It's the end of an era, a hero of mine retires.

Gardening Australia's Cundall retires (stolen from the ABC new website)
Peter Cundall, host of ABC TV's Gardening Australia, is filming his final episode of the popular program before he retires. Cundall, 81, began working in television in 1969. Prior to that he hosted a gardening talk back program on a Launceston radio station, while running his own landscaping business.

He says he has always loved his job. "I've never lost the passion," he said. "Right from the very beginning, the only difficulty I ever had ... was making sure I could transmit that passion I felt.
"The passion is absolutely genuine."

Cundall's final episode air go to air on July 26. He plans to continue presenting a weekly radio talkback program in Tasmania.

Wartime service
Born in Manchester, north-west England, in 1927, Cundall served in the British Parachute Regiment at the tail-end of World War II and spent six months in solitary confinement after straying across the border of Yugoslavia. He later served in Austria - where he guarded former members of Hitler's elite SS - and Palestine, before volunteering for the Australian Army and serving as he machine-gunner in the Korean War. His experience of war made him a committed pacifist in later life.

He moved to Tasmania in 1955.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Idiocy, simple idiocy

Now I admit I don't mind cats, provided of course they're kept under control and in areas where they're not going to hurt the native wildlife (in urban areas where they're only killing Indian Mynas and Sparrows I'm quite happy with) and I will and have deal with them if need be, but this...... this is just fucking stupid and there's no excuse for it whatsoever. I shudder to think of the damage should these get out and breed with the ferals which are already out there.

Stolen from:

Scientists rally to keep out 'supercats'

Posted Fri Jun 13, 2008 6:36am AEST Updated Fri Jun 13, 2008 6:53am AEST

Forty of the nation's leading feral animal researchers are calling for urgent changes to prevent hybrid supercats from being imported into Australia. The Federal Government has been under fire after it was revealed last week that savannah cats - twice as big as domestic species - are being imported by pet shops.

Scientists are warning that bandicoots, bettongs, potoroos and possums could soon be on the menu for the imported creatures, which were originally bred by crossing domestic cats with the African serval cat. Scientists, environmentalists and bureaucrats attending a National Feral Cat Workshop in Darwin this week have angrily condemned the quarantine loophole.
The University of Sydney's professor of ecology, Chris Dickman, is warning hybrid cats - which can jump up to two metres from a standing start - would be uncontrollable in the Australian outback.

"It's taken a lot of people who are concerned about the impacts of cats in the Australian environment off guard," he said. "I think there will be some real concern expressed at the meeting that here is an example of another species, a predator that is quite capable almost certainly of taking a wide range of native species. "It hasn't come in through the usual quarantine processes, risk assessments that would otherwise need to be done."

Professor Dickman fears savannah cats would prey on the same Australian wildlife as foxes.
He says that while foxes can be poisoned, cats have proved extremely hard to control in the outback.
"It would be competing with the fox for food in the same size class. We can control the fox, we are not very good at controlling cats at the moment," he said. "Cats tend to prefer living food, live food, that they catch themselves. And as a consequence, it's much more difficult to put baits out and expect feral cats to eat them."

The Environment Department says it has been in contact with two people proposing to import savannah cats later this year, and is examining the implications.

Latest news 17th June: Opposition to Hybrid Cats Grows

No, I can't see a cat like this running amock being a problem....

Saturday, June 14, 2008

P.M.T. (Pt 2)

I was speaking with a friend of mine during the week about the PMT issue, he pointed out, quite reasonably that tree planting is a good "awareness raising" tool. I do have to agree, however tools are only as good as those using them and it is quite difficult to use just one tool for a complex project (just think of the tools used building a house, changing community attitudes and and actually generating change is a far more complex task).

We've been raising awareness in this manner for the past two decades, so what do we do after the awareness has been raised? Where do these people go on to? PMT because that's the message we've been giving them? Is it enough? How do we reach those who aren't receptive to the message? Do we continue to preach to the converted?

I've been involved in environmental education, Landcare, natural resources management for close to 15 years (well much longer if you count firefighting as an NRM activity) and I've long given up on the "warm & fuzzy" message of environmental education. The "warm & fuzzy" (& PMT) is great with schoolkids and very effective and while their parents will listen and will go along and plant a couple of trees will rarely make a change to their lives or a commitment. If the message is something people can relate to, or have a relationship with, then they are more likely carry it through.

The two great motivators tend to be the stomach and the wallet, when talking about plants I'll talk about their uses whether they be as a food or medicine, a useful grazing species or as a good habitat for pollinating insects, insectivorous birds or parasitic wasps. In the case of primary producers the last examples are particularly useful, give them the "warm & fuzzy" talk and they'll often fence off a corner of a paddock, tell them how it's going to improve their productivity and they'll integrate it into their farming practices. The increasing popularity of native pastures and cell grazing is a great example of this with many previously uncommon grass species increasing in frequency due to a change to a more sustainable and profitable system.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tis trickery.....

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has recently announced Toyota will be building hybrid cars in Australia with a healthy incentive from the Australian government. I will be (mostly) keeping away from the issues of hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare given to the car industry by both side of politics, but will look at some of the issues.

The move will be good for local suppliers particularly if locally made batteries are used, hopefully with flow on effects for other battery consumers (the solar industry for example). It will also be good for reducing inner city air pollution. Now those sort of things are great, but what about the big one, the big question? Will hybrid cars make a difference to greenhouse gas output? Will they save the planet?

We like to look at the fuel consumption, the better the fuel consumption the better it is for the planet right? We don't look at the energy that goes in to building these cars in the first place. Cars are built from steel, aluminum, copper, lead (and nickel in the case of hybrids) and petrochemical derived rubber and plastic all of which require mining, transporting and processing going through numerous steps, and consuming large amounts of energy before taking their final form. So how far do you need to drive that new fuel efficient car (or indeed how many times do you need to use that more efficient fridge/dryer/washing machine etc) to have a positive impact? To use less energy overall than just running the old one? In many cases it will probably never happen. If you really want to make an impact, keep your car well serviced, ensure the tyres are at the correct pressure and use it when you need to. Newer isn't necessarily better.

Or alternately get a motorbike, a tenth the resources to build, twice the fuel economy, no parking problems and ten times the fun.

Wired has an article over here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I like trees. Really I do, I think there's little more satisfying than planting them and watching them grow. This is something I know a great deal about, but within Landcare and the broader NRM (Natural Resources Management) we have this obsession with PMT.

"Plant More Trees" is the catchcry that seems to have embedded in many peoples heads. Trees are good but the real power system of a vegetation community are those things less than a couple of metres, grasses, shrubs, herbs etc, in most circumstances, make up the vast majority of flora biodiversity and a huge amount of the biomass but trees get all the glory.

And while we're at it just how many actual trees do you need to plant? I suppose it all depends on what sort of vegetation community you're trying to recreate, forests tend to have around seventy percent canopy cover while woodland is around thirty. So just doing a few rough calculations giving a mature or semi mature tree a canopy diameter of ten metres we only need around ninety of them per hectare to get a seventy percent cover or forty of them for a thirty percent canopy (or around 230 and 100 trees at a 6 metre canopy spread respectively).

So why do we persist in planting so many? I often go past plantings with two metre spacings and am very tempted to chainsaw at least two thirds of them just to give them a chance to grow. The bigger they're allowed to grow, the more likelihood they have of forming hollows and the larger the logs will be falling to the ground again forming better habitat.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A spotted what?

Spotted Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) a carnirorous marsupial found in South-eastern Australia, cute, furry, very efficient hunter.

Game, offset and match

Offsets look to be the next big thing, they're based on the idea that it's ok to do something over here (clear rainforest, belch out shitloads of pollution etc) provided you do something to "offset" it over there. Hey I'll club this harp seals head in but to offset it I won't do it to those ones over there.

Anyway I found an interesting article on Carbon Offsets over at MotherJones which says things far more eloquently than I could.

..........Yet an astounding 51 percent of those offsets have been generated by paying refrigerant manufacturers to incinerate HFC-23, an industrial byproduct and potent greenhouse gas, instead of spewing it into the atmosphere.......

Well here we are!

G'day and welcome to Quoll Tracks. I am "The Quoll" by day mild mannered eco friendly public servant by night I don my spotted cape to save...

Nahh forget all that I am more or less eco friendly but the mild mannered bit is going just a little too far, I'm loud, large and opinionated. I also like critters, love wandering about through the bush looking at plants (and I get paid to do it), I like walks on the beach, quiet dinners.... Oh fuck here he goes again....

I'll be using this blog to express my ideas on a number of environmental matters, some of my ideas may upset people, some may even get them to think though given some of my ideas it's more likely to be the former rather than the latter.