Green Army: Feral Animal Trapping Workshop

Land for Wildlife were invited to run a workshop this morning for the new Green Army team at Olive Pink Botanic Garden (OPBG) in Alice Springs, to provide training and support for the six months of Feral Cat and Spotted Turtle-dove trapping.

The Green Army team are hosted through OPBG (a historic, well-established and active member of the Land for Wildlife program) with their delivery partner Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA). This is the third successful Green Army program hosted at OPBG, with ecological works focusing on garden bed rejuvenation, Buffel Grass removal and feral animal management to support Black-footed Rock Wallaby habitat conservation.

The current team is a crowd of nine eager participants! The Green Army team coordinator (Candice Appleby) assisted the Land for Wildlife coordinators (Jen Kreusser and Caragh Heenan) to train the Green Army in successful trap-setting methods for Feral Cats and Spotted Turtle-doves, as well as explain the ethical responsibilities for trappers. The workshop included bird identification and call monitoring, as well as a scat, track and trace survey of the Botanic Garden area. The Green Army are enthusiastic to get started on trapping and the Land for Wildlife team had a great time working with them to assist development of their feral animal management skills!

Green Army

Green Army

Green Army

Domestic Cat Responsible Ownership

There’s a lot of talk about domestic cats on the Alice Springs Community Forum this week, where residents are voicing their opinions regarding domestic cats that are roaming into neighbouring yards. Roaming domestic cats have the ability to spray, defecate or fight on neighbouring properties, spread disease or contract disease via other cats, run the risk of being hit by a car, can contribute to the feral cat population and also hunt wildlife. But cats are not all bad – Domestic cats make great companion animals, and when managed responsibly, they can have little to no impact on the local environment. Some simple actions can greatly improve their welfare, prevent them from hunting urban wildlife, and contribute to positive neighbourly relations:

Registration: Alice Springs Town Council by-laws state that a cat at large (outside of the owner’s boundary) can be impounded. Retrieving a domestic cat can be costly, but is achievable if the cat is registered (a requirement of pet ownership in the ASTC). Registration requires cats to be desexed (prevents over-production of kittens but they also live longer on average and stray less) and microchipped (helps authorities identify you as the pet owner if your cat accidentally gets trapped).

Containment: Even well-fed cats kill wildlife because of their hunting instinct. Placing bells on the collar to prevent an individual from hunting has limited effectiveness and so containment is the only effective action. Preventing cats from roaming also gives them a longer life expectancy, due to a reduction in injury-related death. Domestic cats are adaptable and can be kept indoors or in outdoor enclosures without detriment to their happiness, as shown by personality tests from the Cat Tracker program (http://www.discoverycircle.org.au/projects/cat-tracker/). Owners of older cats have no need to be concerned about changing the habits of their pet cats – the adjustment can be made gradually by keeping it inside for longer and longer periods of time. Owners are encouraged to provide their feline friends with a stimulating indoors environment, including somewhere to sharpen their claws. It is vital to give your cat lots of attention and play time and provide places to look out the window, lounge, play, and scratch.

Outdoor cat enclosures: Making use of enclosed areas outside, such as cat runs, can allow domestic cats to experience foreign smells and sunshine. You may like to consider enclosing part of your verandah.

Harnesses: If you want your cat to experience the outdoors you can train your cat to go outside on a harness and leash.

Land for Wildlife Central Australia had great success with the domestic cat monitoring program in 2015-2016, helping domestic cat owners of Alice Springs to identify roaming patterns and travel distances of their cats. Stay posted for the findings of the study!

Palido

Keep an Eye to the Sky – Galahs in Ciccone

Ciccone seems to be the place to be for Galahs (Eolophus roseicapillus) this week! Huge numbers were seen resting on power lines over the last few days. Galahs exhibit flocking behaviour and congregate at communal roost sites, frequently establishing near regular watering points and food sources; and with populations increasing markedly following successful young rearing.

Galahs are occasionally pests, causing damage to infrastructure (electricity cables etc), grasses and crops; primarily due to their habit of chewing for bill maintenance and habitually digging for juicy roots for moisture. There is a risk that they compete with other non-invasive species across the landscape for food resources or nest hollows. Large populations of Galahs are seen as a symptom of general ecological disturbance – exploding in numbers as a consequence of human alteration of the land (such as the construction of artificial environments like cereal crops) or good breeding season with high survival rates in young.

Natural habitats can be restored to increase the presence of mature hollow-bearing trees and minimise effects of high population numbers – but it takes time. Get outside on some of these lovely sunny mornings and get planting some native endemic trees and shrubs! Check out our Vegetation Types webpage to work out which trees are right for you (http://wildlife.lowecol.com.au/about/garden-for-wildlife/vegetation-maps/). It’s also wise to keep in mind that uncovered seed (chook food and pet bird seed) will encourage Galahs and this can be prevented by limiting access of such food supply to wild vertebrates.

Because Galahs are so common in urban environments, we often overlook their ecological significance. Galahs have an important role in the ecosystem as they act as native seed dispersers, tree pruners (they’re excellent at reducing the numbers of seed pods on Acacias to a level the tree can effectively support), nutrient recyclers, and cultural services (such as birdwatching!). Birds have strong ecological roles and so the environment benefits from the many actions of birds going about their day. So next time you are out and about, enjoy the colour and presence of these fun bird clowns hanging from the power lines around town!

 Galahs

Galah

Galahs

Galahs in Ciccone (Images C. Heenan)

Keep an Eye to the Sky – Channel-billed Cuckoo

The Channel-billed Cuckoo (Scythrops novaehollandiae) is the largest parasitic cuckoo in the world. Unlike many other cuckoos, the chicks do not evict the host’s young from the nest, but rather grow faster and demand all the food. It lays its eggs in the nests of the Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) and members of the crow family (Corvidae). While they normally spend time in Australia between August and March each year, this hungry individual was found begging a crow for food in early May around Northside Alice Springs.

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Channel-billed Cuckoo that was being cared for by a crow in Alice Springs (C. Heenan)

Cat Trapping Tips and Tricks

Feral cats have contributed to the disappearance of many ground dwelling birds and mammals in the arid zone and continue to threaten the success of recovery programs for endangered species. As a result, they are listed as a key threatening process under the Commonwealth EPBC Act 1999.

Trapping for cats may be more successful in the cooler months due to the reduced food supply in the landscape (i.e. reptiles) during this time. Now that the air is developing more of a chill, it’s a great time to start thinking about trapping feral cats on your property.

Here are some tips for trapping feral cats:

  • Trap on your own property. If trapping elsewhere you must obtain written permission from the property owner.
  • Use fresh bait (chicken, raw meat or liver, smelly tinned fish).
  • Set traps in the evening and check early morning to avoid accidental by-catch of native wildlife during the day.
  • A cage trap placed in amongst vegetation (so that the opening is the only point available to be investigated) is likely to be more effective than placing it in open areas.
  • A trap may be fitted with shade cloth to prevent captured animals from stress during the warm months and to create curiosity for cats to enter at the entrance.
  • It is also thought that cats are less likely to walk on the cage floor, due to the texture of the mesh, so try covering with soil, sand, or vegetation.

Traps are available from the Alice Springs Town Council (Ph 08 8950 0500). Any captured cats can be taken to the Alice Springs Animal Shelter (Ph 08 8953 4430).

Trapped Cat

Feral cat caught in Connellan last week (J. Kreusser)

Art Competition – International Day for Biological Diversity

The International Day for Biological Diversity takes place on Sunday May 22 2016. Established by the United Nations, the day aims to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The theme for 2016 is ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity; Sustaining People and their Livelihoods’.

IDB Logo

“Biodiversity is the foundation for life and for the essential services provided by ecosystems. It therefore underpins peoples’ livelihoods and sustainable development in all areas of activity, including economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, among others. By halting biodiversity loss, we are investing in people, their lives and their well-being.”

To read more about the International Day for Biological Diversity, Click HERE.

Art Competition

Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife Central Australia members are fantastic at preserving and re-establishing biodiversity on local properties. So to get involved in our little way, we are opening up an art competition to our Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members to showcase biodiversity through art. Paint, draw, etch, stencil (etc) your heart out and submit a piece of artwork that you think represents biodiversity in Central Australia. Either email us an image of your artwork or snail mail it our way and be in it to win it.

What you win: Your artwork will be the headline image for an upcoming Land for Wildlife newsletter and be showcased on social media as part of the competition (with all due credits given, of course!). There may also be another sneaky prize for the best artwork (TBA). Competition closes Thursday 19th May.

Let’s show the national Land for Wildlife members how great our biodiversity is here. Go on, get creative!

Ntaria Junior Rangers

I discovered a new perk to being the Land for Wildlife Coordinator – I get to be involved with the Ntaria Junior Ranger Program! I made the journey out to meet the kids yesterday, which was a riot of fun! I joined them as they learned about Dingos (Canis lupus dingo), drew some of their favourite animals and collected some plant samples… all in the picturesque bushland near Ntaria.

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Keep an Eye to the Sky

After a couple of days of overcast weather, the skies have parted again and the birds are rejoicing. The Red-tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus banksii) were out in force at the office of Land for Wildlife this morning – screeching and parading around. Not surprising that they are active given their breeding season is a couple of months in and there is plenty of seed available after summer rains. Females lay a single egg in a tree hollow lined with chewed wood shavings and the male provides her food while the female is busy incubating the egg.*

Red-tailed Black Cockie

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Meanwhile at the Power Water Ponds, a Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) had caught something of the feathered variety for a morning snack. It’s always a sight to see such a large bird standing over a kill – though the nearby swans didn’t seem too concerned for their own welfare.

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Black Swans

* Readers Digest (1976). Complete Book of Australian Birds. (Readers Digest: Sydney, NSW)