Category Archives: Fauna Videos

Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 161


I couldn’t help feeling worried, looking into it’s small eyes seen through a camera’s lense. A cute and curious pademelon, checking out one of our fauna cameras. (Filmed close to the base of my tree). But all I could think of was the sound of gun-fire I’d heard over and over again the other night. All I could think is that I hope they didn’t spot her. I hope she didn’t hop out into the brightness of their lights. I hope she didnt make the fatal mistake of wandering into a clearfell.

You might have been wondering when I wrote about the animal shootings that happen here, why do they do it? Is it for food?  Sport? Population control? No. . Is it for economic gain for the forestry industry? Yes. After clearfelling and burning the native forest (forcing animals out of their homes and killing countless more in the process) the industry comes back in for another round of destruciton.

Every seedling that sprouts up through the ashes of a clearfell is, in the eyes of the forestry industry, money. Each one represents a tree of the future, to be chopped down and sold to make money in about 80 years time. And since, in the eyes of Forestry, each one is their property, I guess they feel the right to defend them at gun-point.

Forestry Tasmania conducts animal culling operations in State forests to control the effects of mammal browsing on tree seedlings. Brushtail possums, Bennets wallabies and Tasmanian pademelons (rufous wallabies) are trapped and shot under permit for this purpose” (State of the Environment Report 2009)

It seems like a cruel trap for the poor pademelons. The industry has created an occurance that is unusual in the natural forest, a entire field of sprouting seedlings.  The pademelons probably can’t believe their luck when they stumble across such a sight while hoping through the forest. And quickly settle in to have a good hearty meal. In the natural world, Pademelons munching on newly growing trees wouldn’t be a problem. There is a balance to the forest, so that if some young plants get eaten, there are others that will survive and grow to be old trees. But the world of Forestry Tasmania is not like the natural world.

In one year, by FT’s estimates over 15,000 “coupe visits” (as they called it) occured. Based on Forestry Tasmaina’s documentation almost 18,000 native animals are culled during a three month period. The slaughter of these animals is what Forestry Tasmania  call “browsing managment” and its purpose is to ensure a lucrative crop of regrowth from which they can make money in the years to come.  In the natural cycle of the forest animals do not need to die on this large scale in order for the forest to regenerate.

As I try to sleep on the killing nights, I think about the irony of the words that the industry use to frame the debate around forests. Everyone is talking about “peace” in the forest. But what they are referring to is us, those who care about the forest. That somehow when we try to take a stand to protect these ecosystems we are creating conflict. They can twist and obscure the meaning of the word “peace” all they like, but as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.  As I sit quietly in my tree and listen to the sounds of gunfire; it’s like a war zone out there. Search lights flashing across the sky, gun shots being fired. There is no peace in the forest, and it isn’t becuase I am sitting in this tree, and it isn’t becuase people reading this blog are signing the cyber action. Its because the industry has refused a cease-fire. They have continued to kill and destroy everyday while the negotations have continued.

I hope that one day soon there will be peace in these forests.

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Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 131

Remember in mid-december at the start of The Observer Tree project, we captured footage of a devil we believed was carrying food to babies in its den? Well, guess what? Now we have captured footage of a juvenile devil! It looks like this baby devil is of the age that it would have been born early last year and would have been in the den until recently. So, it is highly likely that this little cub is Davina the Devil’s baby!

It is absolutely CUTE! Check out the footage:

At this age they would have left the den and be out exploring the world. Finding food for themselves, using their nose like a super-smelling-detector to find dead mammals, birds and insects. Dispersing young often are playful like puppies and play fight and wrestle – and are more nimble than their adult counterparts. However, this playfulness can lead them to misadventure such as getting hit by vehicles at dusk and dawn.

This time of year is breeding season for devils. This devil is too young for reproduction, but will be old enough by this time next year.At this time some mature female devils may have jelly bean sized young already – which will be permanently attached to the teat for about the next 5 months! Then mum has to find a safe den to house them in when she goes foraging for food.

Seeing this little baby devil on film, bouncing around exploring the world… I feel overcome with a sense of happiness. This little one was very lucky and might not have survived. Logging began in this coupe on December 13th 2011. The day after we captured the footage of the mama devil. At the time I felt so worried about the possibilities that somewhere in this coupe was a den full of baby devils and if we couldn’t stop the logging continuing then those babies might be crushed and trapped under falling logs and machinery. Thankfully, after a week of logging the machines left and haven’t returned yet. I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling that the reason they haven’t continued with their plan to log this coupe is to avoid the public exposure that would result from logging while I watch from The Observer Tree. If I wasn’t here, would this whole coupe have been clearfelled by now? Would this baby devil have survived?

I feel even more determined to stay up here until this forest is protected. I hope that this devil will spend its life oblivious to the logging industry… I hope that this area will be protected into the future. I hope that next year this little devil will be safe and maybe having babies of its own. I hope that generations of devils will live and survive in this forest.

I hope you feel the same sense of happiness as me when you watch the footage of this little devil. My fellow Still Wild Still Threatened members will continue to monitor this area with remote-sensor cameras. So chances are we might see this young one again! In that case, perhaps we should give him/ her a name? Any suggestions?

Ha, I feel like a proud mum….. And a protective mum too. Because certainly this little one is going to need us to protect it. It’s time to let the government and Ta Ann know that this logging madness has to end. We cannot stand by and let them destroy this baby devils home!

Check out (and share) this short film I made explaining the significance of this footage and the reasons why it is now critical to protect these forests:

Environment groups in Tasmania have created a Fact Sheet, detailing the findings of the Jonathon West report about Tasmanian devils. You can download it here: Tas Devil Fact Sheet.

Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 22 & 23

Spotted-tailed quolls  are a rare and special sight. They are cryptic animals that, “are particularly difficult to detect during surveys” (Nelson et al 2008). That is why it was so exciting to see these ones filmed on our hidden remote sensor cameras, within a few kilometers of The Observer Tree.

On mainland Australia spotted-tail quoll populations have been devastated by land clearing and invasive species such as foxes and dingos. They are listed in the EPBC act as endangered on the mainland and vulnerable in Tasmania. They are also listed in the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act as rare.  As with the Tasmanian devil, there is an urgent need for more research on the impact of logging on the species. Shannon Troy, a PhD student currently undertaking such research says “In both a report to the Regional Forest Agreement, and the Spotted-tailed Quoll Draft National Recovery Plan, it has been stated that a lack of understanding of the impacts of silvicultural practices on the species is a significant knowledge gap preventing its effective conservation management.” (Troy 2011)

One thing is known for sure, logging poses a very real threat to the spotted-tail quoll. According to the Australian government’s environment website, “Land clearing: loss and fragmentation of habitat is a primary threat to this largest of Australia’s marsupial carnivores, especially areas of suitable forest with sufficient numbers of den sites and prey.”  In the National Recovery Plan for spotted tail quolls, “habitat loss, modification and fragmentation and timber harvesting” are also cited as a major threat to the species” (Long and Nelson 2008).

“Habitat loss resulting from timber harvesting has been implicated in local population declines and extinctions of the endangered mainland spotted-tailed quoll.” suggests Troy (2011). In Tasmania “It is estimated that 50% of the habitat from the species ‘core distribution has been cleared, with approximately half of the remaining habitat having been subjected to logging practices in the last 20 years (Jones & Rose 1996)”  (Long and Nelson 2008).

Cool temperate forest and wet sclerophyll are the primary habitat of the quoll (DPIW 2011). Essentially the spotted-tail quoll could be described as a “forest dependent species” (Long and Nelson 2008). It is exactly these types of forests that are most subject to logging in Tasmania, and the type of forest that I am sitting in right now.

“At the stand scale, clearance of mature forest is hypothesised to result in a loss of structural diversity, including a reduced abundance of hollow logs and tree hollows used as den sites by spotted-tailed quolls and their prey, and lowered prey population densities. At the landscape scale, fragmentation of formerly contiguous habitat may result in population isolation and subsequent population decline.” (Troy 2011)

Basically spotted-tail quolls need old growth forests. They rely on hollow logs and hollow tree roots for maternal den sites” (Long and Nelson 2008). Hence their abundance will be influenced by forestry practices, with flow-on effects to resident quoll populations” (Belcher and Darrant 2006, Glen and Dickman 2006a, 2006b cited in Nelson et al 2010). In addition to the need for large patches of forest with suitable dens, they also require a suitable amount of prey (Long and Nelson 2008) medium-sized mammalian prey (Belcher 2000; Belcher & Arrant 2006b; Glen & Dickman 2006a, b).(Long and Nelson 2008). Like the quoll itself, much of their prey also relies on tree hollow for shelter and breeding, “therefore forestry practises can severely impact on prey availability” (Gibbons & Lindenmayer 2002 cited in Long and Nelson 2008).

Hollow trees are a key feature of old forest. The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act in Victoria has recognised the destruction of hollows as a “threatening process.” It states that the minimum age at which sizable hollows begin to form depends on the tree species; ages of 120 years and up to 300-400 years have been cited.” Once old growth areas are logged in Tasmania they become a managed forest that is felled on rotations of around 80 years – not enough time to provide these crucial tree hollowsLiterature on the relationship between spotted-tail quolls and their habitat also showed that burning after felling was problematic and raised particular concerns about the impact of forestry operations occurring around breeding season (Andrew 2005, Watt 1993 cited in Long and Nelson 2008)

Dr Menna Jones from UTAS has done extensive research on devils and quolls. She states that “quolls live at low density and need a lot of space. Their conservation needs to be addressed at local, landscape and regional scales “(Jones 2011) The females are territorial, defending their home range from other females. This also limits their ability to adapt to degradation of their home ranges” (Nelson et al 2010).

The National Recovery Plan states that “given the threatened status of the Spotted-tailed Quoll, all habitats within its current distribution that are known to be occupied are considered important” (Long and Nelson 2008). As with the Tasmanian devil, it is critical that all possible steps are taken to ensure the survival of this species. With such clear evidence that this species relies on the very trees that are being cut down through industrial scale logging, it is questionable how such practices can be allowed to continue. The loss of either the Tasmanian devil or the spotted-tail quoll would be not only a tragedy for the species itself, but it would also have dramatic impacts on the populations of other predator and prey species, “because as carnivores, they are essential for ecosystem function” (Jones 2011).

It is time to protect the large tracts of intact old forests that are so vital to the survival of this beautiful and important animal.

References cited:

Shannon Troy: http://www.crcforestry.com.au/view/index.aspx?id=47683

Dr Menna Jones: http://www.zoo.utas.edu.au/hons/mj_proj.htm

Nelson, J., Scroggie, M., Woodford, L. and Robley, A. (2008). Assessing the distribution and status of the Spot-tailed Quoll population of the Otway Ranges, South West Victoria. Unpublished report to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Heidelberg, Victoria.

DPIW: http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/webpages/bhan-5373rd?open

Australian government environment department: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/pubs/tiger-spotted-quoll.pdf)

Long, K. and Nelson, J. (2008) National Recovery Plan for the Spotted-tailed Quoll Dasyurus maculatus. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne.

Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 16

It’s late at night when I get the phone call from Lily Leahy. She is as excited as I am about the 2 seconds of footage and what it shows. She too has watched it over and over again, slowing it down, stopping it at the crucial moment. Taking another look. Who could have known a small dead animal hanging there limply would generate so much excitement between two conservationists. But it is the implications of the dead animal being carried in the mouth of this devil that has got us talking tonight. Why? Because never before have we seen such a thing on our cameras. Devils don’t need to carry their food around, you see. They can eat up to 40% of their body weight in 30 minutes – quiet an impressive feat! So there is no need for storing food unless….. Of course…. you have babies in the den that can’t go and collect it themselves! It looks like what we have here in Julia’s Forest is a mother devil taking food to her young in the den.

The excitement turns to worry, as I flick through footage and dates and data in a state close to panic. What was the date of on that footage? December 12th 2011. No, oh no. What camera was this seen on? 1.1? Yes, defiantly 1.1- there is no denying the reality. Six hours later, machines would be moving in as logging begins within 100 meters of this location.  I hope she made it back to the den. I hope the babies are safe.

Next I call Colette Harmsen, a vetinarian whose special interest is the care of Tasmanian wildlife who has been working closely with devils for the past 5 years. She confirms the hypothesis Lily and I have discussed. “I definitely wouldn’t expect a devil to carry food anywhere except to take it to its young” she said. “At this time of year the babies are getting too big to be carried in the pouch or on their mother’s back, but they aren’t yet old enough to be fully independent. They would be waiting at home in the den while Mum goes scavenging for food for them. ”

“If devils were denning close to where logging is happening, this would cause major disturbance, including from noise and vibrations from machinery. Devils are particularly sensitive to unfamiliar noises, as their hearing is exceptional, so any loud noises are likely to disturb them” Colette said.

There is a real risk that young devils could die within dens. From her experience working with devils Colette explains that the typical behavior of a wild devil when it is threatened is to freeze, hide and stay very still almost as if immobilised with fear, rather than to run away.  “We get a lot of calls from people who have a devil trapped in their shed or garage and they think that it is really sick because it isn’t moving. But usually it is just scared and that is how they tend to react.”

The real problem seems to be a lack of research. From talking to Colette and others who work with devils, there just hasn’t been enough research done to establish the full impact that forestry operations would have on den sites. For the industry to continue to decimate potential devil dens without even knowing fully the impact this will have is inconceivable, when considering the very real threat of extinction that may be facing the species.

“There is no doubt that there would be devil babies buried when machines move into new areas. Because there are currently no laws or proscriptions requiring Forestry to meticulously check areas for devil dens” said Colette.

We talked about what might happen to the devil seen on our camera, and to her babies. Even if she realised something wasn’t right and managed to get the babies out of the den it may be very difficult for them to survive. Relocating them at that age is problematic because they are too big for her to carry. And if they are in a state of fear due to un-known noise disturbances they may react unpredictably. There is also the very real problem of finding a new home. Devils seem to be picky when it comes to finding the right den, because there are specific conditions that need to be meet in order to keep the babies safe. For example an ideal den has small side-chambers for the pups to hide in to keep them out of reach of danger.  Devils rely on old wombat burrows, caves, or other ready-made homes and these can be in short supply, and can be especially hard to find in areas where borrowable soil is limited. “Unless the mother already knows of another possible denning site, it would be very difficult for her to relocate the babies quickly” Colette said.

According to David Owen and David Pemperton: “Habitat interference affects animals by altering the refuges where they breed, raise young and rest. For the devil this could be critical. Maternity dens are carefully selected to provide a safe haven from the elements and from scavengers. Young devils get cold easily and need the warmth from their nests and the sun. Favored dens are strongly protected and may have existed for centuries. Destroying them through, for example, land clearance, disrupts population stability” (Owen and Pemberton 2005:76).

Due to the impact of DFTD (devil facial tumor disease) the death of one healthy devil can have a major impact on population stability in an area. Because so many devils are dying at a young age, sometimes not even old enough to breed successfully, the birth of new devil pups is significant. “The loss of any healthy individual devil is a significant loss for the genetics of the population in that area” said Colette. “Devil babies represent the potential new healthy generations. DFTD is having a drastic impact on devil populations and we need to be doing all we can to protect this species. More research is urgently needed as to the impact of logging and other disturbances.”

Despite these concerns, Forestry Tasmania is taking no action to ensure the safe survival of the devil seen here on our camera, or her babies. We have not seen any devils on film since the logging started and we can only hope that she has managed to relocate them to safety. It is hard to tell from the brief glimpse of her on this footage if the mother devil is Davina or a different devil, though it seems like it could be a different one. We will keep putting out the remote sensor cameras and see if we see her again. In the meantime, I guess it’s time to really put the pressure on the government, Forestry Tasmania and Ta Ann to stop the destruction of devil habitat before Tasmania loses another iconic species forever.

Reference:

Owen D and Pemberton D (2005) Tasmanian Devil: A unique and threatened animal. Allen and Unwin Publishing: Melbourne.

Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 15

Following on from my Day 14 Blog, I made this little film for you, to show the process of checking up and monitoring the fauna cameras. My apologies for the late post, I had some power problems last night, but I’ve got the computer going again this morning. Make sure you check the website again this evening, because I am working on a very exciting blog for today… about something very interesting captured on film from one of our fauna cameras! So stay tuned!
Till Then, hope you enjoy the film.
Miranda

Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 14

“In May 2009, the Federal Government uplisted the Tasmanian devil to the Endangered category under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The Tasmanian devil’s status was formally upgraded to Endangered under Tasmania’s Threatened Species Protection Act 1995, in May 2008.

In late 2008, the Tasmanian devil was also uplisted to Endangered on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) – widely considered the most authoritative system for classifying species in terms of their risk of extinction.

Populations in which DFTD has been observed for several years have declined by up to 95% (approximate, due to low sample size in recent years), with no evidence to date of either of the decline stopping or the prevalence of the disease decreasing.

The Tasmanian devil is now wholly protected.”

(Save the Tasmanian Devil Program: 2011)

On the night of December 12th 2011 a Tasmanian devil was filmed in this forest. The next day logging began within 100 meters from the very place where that devil was seen. Is this what it means to be “wholly protected?”

The question is:  How can the State and Federal governments allow logging of habitat areas for Tasmania’s most iconic species, which is now under serious threat and is supposedly “wholly protected?” Don’t you think it’s a bit strange how we have all this environmental legislation but Forestry doesn’t have to worry themselves about it?  These amazing forests that provide habitat for endangered and threatened species can be logged with no regard for any regulations of the EPBC Act, because the Regional Forest Agreement exempts forestry operations from such legislation.

I spent the afternoon today sorting through footage captured on our remote sensor cameras. It is always one of my favourite moments… plugging the camera into the computer, waiting in anticipation to see what animals we have on film! I sifted through all the devil footage we have captured in this coupe so far to identify the devils. Almost all the footage is of the one devil. I thought since we are getting to know this little devil so well now, that it deserved a name. I have named it Davina the Devil. Named after my sister (whose middle name is Davina) because she has been such an amazing support and inspiration for me throughout this project. Davina the Devil has been captured on film earlier this year when we first began surveying this forest, right below me at the base of this tree

Then again Davina was seen in another location in this coupe in September. December 12, the night before logging started is the last time Davina was seen. The logging is within 100 meters of that location. I hope that sometime soon we will get more footage of Davina so that we know nothing terrible has happened.

Check out the footage of Davina and the other animals we have filmed on the “Fauna TV” page of this website. I’ll keep updating this page as more footage comes in. People will be moving and checking the cameras every few weeks, and sending the footage up to me in the tree so I can upload it for you to see.

It is with mixed emotions that I watch this footage. It brings so much joy to see these animals that live in these forests. Particularly the devils because they are quiet shy, so it is rare to see them. The remote sensor cameras give us a chance to get a glimpse into their world without imposing on them.  However, it also saddens me to see them; going about their business, not knowing what is to become of their forest over the next few months. It is an international disgrace that Tasmania continues to allow the destruction of habitat of endangered species. It makes a complete mockery of any endangered species legislation if listed species receive no protection from the loss of habitat. This is why it is even more critical that these forests receive protection.  Julia’s’ broken promise is not only a threat to the giant eucalypts; it is a threat to the survival of the precious wildlife that call these forests home. Please take action today to help protect Davina the Devil.

Tasmanian Devil in threatened forest

This video of a disease-free Tasmanian Devil was captured on camera in the threatened forests of Mount Mueller

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