The track consists of 58 sections and is marked at regular intervals with triangular pointers, most of which have an image of the wagyl, a mythical creature from Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. Each section is approximately one day's walk, except for the northernmost 150 km or so, where the sections consist of half-day walks. At the end of each section is either a town or a purpose-built campsite. Each campsite consists of a three-sided shelter with wooden sleeping platforms, a water tank, a pit toilet, picnic tables and cleared tent sites. In the northern half, most campsites also have a barbecue pit and plate (open fires are banned in the southern section).
The Track is almost all through state forest, national parks and other reserves, with only a few small sections of farmland. The first half of the Track is through the Jarrah forests of the Darling Range. It then moves through flatter tall Karriforests until reaching the coastline near the town of Walpole. The remainder of the Track is through coastal forest and scrub along the south coast, in some sections routed along sandy beaches.
Marine mammals along the south coast such as seals, dolphins and whales
The Bibbulmun Track is managed by the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) and The Bibbulmun Track Foundation – an incorporated not-for-profit community-based organisation established to provide support for the DEC in the management, maintenance and marketing of the track to ensure that it remains a "long distance walk trail of international significance and quality". The foundation sells maps and guide books, offers trip planning advice, offers equipment hire and runs courses on camp cooking and navigation.
Most people choose to walk sections of the Track for one or a few days at a time. Hardy walkers who walk the Track from beginning to end typically do so in 6 to 8 weeks. The most popular time to walk the Track is during the wildflower season of spring ( September – November), going from north to south as the wildflower season starts later in the southern areas. In summer the weather can be very hot and water will be hard to find except in the water tanks at the campsites. Winter can be wet, especially in the southern areas but people walk the Track any time from March to December.
When walking on the Bibbulmun Track Walkers are encouraged to follow the 7 Leave no Trace Principles which are:
Nyabing in the Shire of Kent is a small town in the Amazing South Coast region of Western Australia. The name is of Aboriginal origin and is thought to derive from the Aboriginal word "ne-yameng" which is the name of an everlasting flower Rhodanthe manglesii.
The townsite was planned in 1911 as part of the Great Southern Railway the name given to the siding was Nampup. The name Nampup is also Aboriginal in origin and is the name of a local soak. Lots were surveyed later in the year and the town was gazetted in 1912. The name was changed later that year after several complaints that Nampup was too similar to Nannup so the town was renamed to Nyabing.
Nyabing Inn - Nyabing Inn is open 7 days a week. Call in to this typical country pub for a chat with the locals and a cold drink or two.
The Eagle's Nest
About 4 km out of Nyabing, on the road to Katanning, you will see clearly an enormous eagle's nest, out on the swamp flats. Eagles mate for life and return to the same nest year after year, unless disturbed. So far, this one hasn't been disturbed.
If you like to spot and identify birds and other animals, Nyabing will give you many opportunities to indulge this interest. A walk through the nature reserve at Nyabing Creek puts you in the midst of all kinds of wildlife and lots of sandalwood trees. The wildflowers in spring are truly spectacular.
There is lots to see and do in this tiny little town.
Places of Interest (Source: Shire of Kent)
Situated at the Memorial Park in Nyabing, this area is dedicated to the men and women who served our country. The annual ANZAC Day commemoration is held here each year on 25 April, with a march starting at the Town Hall and arriving at the park for the service.
In 1893, John Holland travelled to the Goldfields and this track marks his route. The track can be followed all the way to Coolgardie.
Nyabing Creek Nature Reserve
Nyabing Creek Nature Reserve showcases spring wildflowers and can be seen on a walk through the nature reserve, You’ll also find sandalwood trees, a resource which brought our original settlers to the area as cutters.
Located on Richmond Street, Nyabing the Settlers Hall was built to be used as a school and was officially opened in 1915. It has been moved from its original position on Martin St, where you’ll see a memorial stone, to its present setting. Over the years, the building served as a hall, the Kent Roads Board, school and a church.
Many a wildlife has been seen here including western grey kangaroo, western brush wallaby, echidna, blue tongue lizard and a huge variety of birdlife.
The log in the main street car park is all that remains of a historic salmon gum, You can see the enormous base of the trunk in the garden near the loggia. Lasting for over 100 years, it finally succumbed in 2009 and was lopped on advise from an aborist.
The Brownie Hut, as it is known locally is also a school site, Built in 1924, it has been used as a school and a youth facility.
On the outskirts of Nyabing and marked by a large granite rock that was placed on site as a memorial for this historical site which was used by explorers.
Community Federation Shed
Located in Pingrup, the Federation Shed contains relics from the history of the Shire of Kent and some local artwork.
The pink lakes are situated along the floor of a broad shallow valley that runs in a north-south direction between Nyabing and Pingrup. Over half the area is covered by bare salt lakes with no vegetation. The reason they are pink is due to a microscopic salt-loving bacteria called Halo Bacteris that produces red pigment.
The Shearer’s Monument is significant in its association with one of the main industries of the shire and its proximity to the gran bulk handling grain bin and railway station site. The replica stands on top of what the locals call the “shears shed”. The Pingrup community in conjunction with the Shire of Kent and the Pingrup Lions Club converted the shed into a shearing complex, competitions were held here every year up until 2001.
Located 40kms northeast of Pingrup, early aboriginals are believed to have sued his area as a passing and watering hole. John Holland is believed to have discovered them during his journey to the goldfields in 1893 along Holland’s Track.
Situated 35km northeast of Pingrup, Lake Bryde is an ephemeral wetland that is part of a chain of lakes. Historically Lake Bryde was used as a water source during times of drought.
Twenty-nine Australian land mammals have become extinct over the last 200 years, and 56 are currently facing extinction. These losses and potential losses represent over a third of the 315 species present at the time of European settlement.
We recently published the first review of all Australian mammals, finding that Australia has the worst rate of mammal extinctions in the world, and the situation isn’t improving thanks to feral predators such as cats.
In response, Environment Minister Greg Hunt has proposed investing in research for a cat-killing disease as a form of biological control. But while biological control will be part of the solution, it is not the silver bullet. The real solution will have to involve a change of heart.
Not a thing of the past
Most Australians know of and regret the extinction of the thylacine — but few recognise that this one extinction is symptomatic of a much more pervasive loss. Twenty-eight other mammals have become extinct since 1788, and we suspect that few would know their names, let alone of their loss.
These species are or were not obscure marginalia or predestined for oblivion. Instead many were common and played important and irreplaceable roles in our country’s ecology. These species were part of the fabric of this land. The Australian mammal fauna is the most distinctive in the world: 86% of our 315 land mammal species are found nowhere else.
Since the 1840s we’ve lost mammals at the rate of one species per decade. On current trends, there will be many more extinctions of Australian mammals in the next one or two generations: we found 56 land mammal species (more than 20% of our land mammals) are now threatened with extinction.
Out to sea the situation is a little less bleak, but more opaque. Of 58 species reported from Australian waters, six are threatened but 35 are considered Data Deficient – they may or may not be in trouble, but we don’t have enough information to be sure.
Feral cats the greatest threat
It may sound all doom and gloom — and in many respects it is — but it’s important to note that conservation can work. Both Gilbert’s potoroo and the Bridled nailtail wallaby have been brought back from the brink through dedicated effort.
So how do we go about saving the rest of Australia’s threatened mammals?
Some consider this an economic question — with X amount of dollars, we can save X number of species, but which ones? This is the argument of medical triage, a sharp prioritisation that directs funds only at the most savable and valuable species.
But this is a defeatist mentality. To advocate for species’ extinctions by choice or through disinclination is unconscionable. Triage was born on the battlefields of Napoleonic Europe, where life and death choices had to be made in minutes. It is an inappropriate analogy for biodiversity conservation.
A better analogy is with the education system. Our society accepts the obligation that all children should be schooled, and recognises the benefit to society from that premise. So too with conservation: we should recognise the obligation to attempt to safeguard all species. In a nation as affluent as ours, this can and should be a realistic objective.
Cats are the greatest threat to Australia’s mammals. Like many other threats, they are now a pervasive and deeply-entrenched problem, and we recognise that it will not be solved simply or quickly.
There are some measure we can implement immediately: translocating threatened species, establishing a network of cat-proof enclosures, and better management of dingoes and wild dogs (which can help control cat populations).
But we also need to look at long-term solutions. This has formidable challenges. Current trials in cat-baiting are promising, but we don’t yet know if they will work on a large scale. Biological control (such as a disease) may take decades to develop, and has to overcome concerns from cat owners, and risks to other Australian wildlife and cat species overseas.
Even so, controlling cats is likely to do more for the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity than any other single action.
Learning to care for our country
But we have concluded that we will not solve the mammal extinction crisis simply by repeating the same actions over and over. The problem is far more fundamental.
Conservation is not just an environmental problem; it also charts a moral landscape. How does our society fit into this land? What do we consider is important? Is it reasonable that we gift our descendants only a faint shadow of our country’s extraordinary nature?
We have worked extensively in remote Australia. We have shown old Aboriginal men and women stuffed museum specimens of now-vanished mammals, and been struck to our core by their responses: singing the song of that animal, stroking it, telling its story, crying at its loss. Here is an affinity to nature, a deep connection to our land, an ache of responsibility, that we settler Australians have not yet felt or learned. To become part of this country, to care for it properly, we need to grow some of that sense of belonging and affinity. Otherwise, extinctions will continue to be viewed as inconsequential.
Our review of the fate of Australian mammals reflects uncomfortably on our society. Without understanding of our country, without linkages to, and affinity to, its nature, and without a corresponding commitment to its well-being, our society will fit poorly in this land and these seas, and we will continue to erode the most remarkable fauna in the world.
We must accept that biodiversity conservation is not only an obligation of government, but a shared societal responsibility.
This article was co-written by Dr Andrew Burbidge, who is a co-author of the action plan. He is a Research Fellow with the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife.
That loss is also an important lesson on the consequences of acting too slowly. Hobart Zoo’s Tasmanian tiger died just two months after the species was finally given protected status.
Last year, we wrote about the last-known Christmas Island Forest Skink, an otherwise unremarkable individual affectionately known as Gump. Although probably unaware of her status, Gump was in a forlorn limbo, hoping to survive long enough to meet a mate and save her species. It was an increasingly unlikely hope.
Despite substantial effort searching Christmas Island for another Forest Skink, none was found.
Until the late 1990s, Forest Skinks were common and widespread on Christmas Island. Their population then crashed, and has now vanished. It has been a remarkable disappearance but not entirely peculiar, as it was preceded by an eerily similar pattern of decline and extinction (in 2009) for the Christmas Island Pipistrelle, the most recent Australian mammal known to have become extinct. Nor is the skink unique among the island’s native reptiles – most of them have shown similar patterns of decline.
We think Gump’s death is momentous because it probably marks the extinction of her species. If so, this will be the first Australian native reptile known to have become extinct since European colonisation – a most unwelcome distinction. (Unlike the death of an individual, extinction can be hard to prove. There are, after all, some optimists who believe Thylacines still live. For the Forest Skink, the trajectory of decline and the fruitlessness of dedicated searches provide reasonable grounds to presume extinction, although this conclusion may take some years to be officially recognised. And, of course, we’d like to be proved wrong.)
Lessons and legacies
Gump’s death might be passed over as a trivial bit of bad news and quickly forgotten. But Forest Skinks have been around since before modern humans walked out of Africa, so their extinction on our watch is not trivial. We should treat this loss with a profound respect, and seek to learn lessons that may help prevent similar losses in the future.
These are the legacies we seek from Gump’s life and death:
First, we should acknowledge that extinction is an unwelcome endpoint that is usually caused by ecological factors, but in recent times has often been compounded by deliberate human action or inaction. In most cases, extinction can be seen as a tangible demonstration of failure in policy and management, of inattention or missed opportunities.
In comparable cases elsewhere in our society, such as unexplained deaths or catastrophic governmental shortcomings, coronial inquests are instigated. Such inquests are widely recognised as a good way to learn lessons and to change practices in a way that will help avoid future failures. Inquests are also useful to acknowledge accountability, and to explain negative events to the public.
An inquiry – albeit more modest than a coronial inquest – is an appropriate response to any extinction. The presumed first extinction of an Australian reptile species would make for a worthwhile precedent: how could it have been averted, and what lessons can we learn?
We would urge that this avowed interest be further consolidated by the loss of the Christmas Island Forest Skink, with a clear statement that this extinction is momentous and deeply regretted. The government should explicitly seek to avoid future preventable extinctions (a commitment recognised internationally through the Millennium Development Goals), and should pledge to implement a more effective and successful strategy for conserving Australia’s threatened species (and biodiversity generally).
Third, it is no coincidence that two endemic vertebrate species have gone extinct on Christmas Island in the past decade, and that many other native species are declining there, despite the fact that most of the island is a national park.
Christmas Island’s extraordinary natural values are not being matched by the resources provided to manage them, or by their low profile in our national awareness. The island meets the criteria to qualify as a World Heritage site, and it is time for the government to seek such a listing.
The fourth hoped-for legacy concerns the so far successful captive breeding program for two other Christmas Island species that otherwise would have gone the same way as Gump: the endemic Blue-tailed Skink and Lister’s Gecko.
This is an admirable accomplishment. But it is at best a halfway house, because a species solely represented by individuals in cages becomes an artifice. We urge the government to commit fully to a currently proposed conservation plan for Christmas Island that seeks to allow such species to return to their natural haunts, following eradication or effective control of their primary threats such as introduced black rats, feral cats, yellow crazy ants, giant centipedes and wolf snakes.
Fifth, this extinction has largely been enacted out of public view. With the exception of a 2012 scientific paper, the few reports documenting the Christmas Island Forest Skink’s decline are not readily accessible.
There is an island-wide biodiversity monitoring program (which is admirable), yet the results of such monitoring are not routinely reported or interpreted to the public. Our society deserves to be warned of impending and unrecoverable losses, and to know when good management has averted them.
This case is not unusual: for most Australian threatened species, it is difficult if not impossible to find reliable information on population trends. This makes it difficult to prioritise management, making it likely that management responses will be initiated too late, and it severely limits public awareness of conservation issues. We recommend the development of a national biodiversity monitoring program that would allow ready public access to information about trends in threatened and other species.
It is 78 years since the death of the last Thylacine. Our photographs of extinct Australian animals are now taken in colour, rather than black and white. But has anything else improved? We hope it will.
When it comes to mammal extinctions, Australia’s track record over the last 200 years has been abysmal. Since European settlement, nearly half of the world’s mammalian extinctions have occurred in Australia – 19 at last count. So, when faced with the additional threat of climate change, how do we turn this around and ensure the trend doesn’t continue?
Learning from previous extinctions is a good place to start. A comparison between two Australian species, the recently extinct Christmas Island pipistrelle and the critically endangered but surviving orange-bellied parrot, provides some insight into the answer to this question. Namely, that acting quickly and decisively in response to evidence of rapid population decline is a key factor in determining the fate of endangered species.
A bat and a parrot
Endemic to Christmas Island, the pipistrelle was a tiny (3.5 gram) insect-eating bat. It was first described in 1900, when numbers were widespread and abundant. In the early 1990s this began to change. The decline was rapid and the exact cause uncertain. By 2006, experts were calling for a captive breeding program to be initiated. These pleas were ignored until 2009 when it was finally given the green light. Sadly the decision came too late, and two months later the Federal Minister of Environment announced that the rescue attempt had failed.
Concern about the orange-bellied parrot began in 1917, but it wasn’t until 1981 that it was confirmed to be on the brink of extinction. In an attempt to save the parrot, a multi-agency, multi-government recovery team was set up and a captive breeding program began in 1983. Like the bat, threats to the parrot remain poorly understood. In 2010, monitoring showed that the species would become extinct in the wild within three to five years unless drastic action was taken. The recovery team immediately took action to bolster the captive population as insurance against extinction. There are currently 178 birds in captivity and less than 20 in the wild.
What do these two tales tell us about how me might avoid future Australian extinctions? It seems that one of the main differences, and perhaps the difference over which we have the most control, were the decision-making processes involved.
How we manage endangered species ultimately comes back to the decisions made, including who makes the decisions, who is held accountable, and the timing of these decisions. Examining these cases in the context of decision-making reveals some clear differences and highlights some important recommendations for the future management of endangered species.
Leadership, accountability, and timely action
One of the key differences was in the governance and leadership surrounding the two cases. Experts involved in monitoring the pipistrelle provided recommendations to government bodies, but did not have the authority to make decisions nor was there an effective leader to champion the urgent need to act. Conversely, the Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team had the authority to make decisions and act on them. Indeed, thanks to the Recovery Team’s broad representation, any failure to act would likely have resulted in public outcry – which raises the issue of accountability.
Management of endangered species requires tough decisions, yet they are decisions we must make. If we monitor declining populations without a process for deciding between different management options, we will only document extinctions. In some cases, the logical decision may be to employ a triage system where priority is given to species with a high likelihood of recovery. Assigning institutional accountability around the management of endangered species could help to ensure that tough decisions are made and that the processes involved are transparent.
Finally, the cases of the bat and the parrot also highlight the need to act quickly when a species is found to be on the brink of extinction. Delaying decisions only narrows our choices and removes opportunities to act. We may not always have all the answers, but this cannot be used as a reason to delay decision making. Based on a triage system a decision to not to act might be the best way forward, but if we delay the decision it becomes the only way forward.
Better decisions with science
It is all well and good to say that we need leaders to be accountable and make timely decisions; but in a world where insufficient conservation resources exist to manage all endangered species, how do we ensure that the decisions we make are the right ones?
This is where science can help.
Scientific analysis can be used to determine how much information we need to inform a good conservation decision. In the case of the Christmas Island pipistrelle, the decision to start a captive breeding program came many years too late. By evaluating the costs, benefits, and feasibility of taking different management actions in the light of what we know about a species’ decline (or don’t know - i.e. the degree of uncertainty), it is possible to get the timing right.
Research into the methods used to stem species decline is also underway. For example, captive breeding and reintroduction programs are generally regarded as having good success rates. Further investigation into genetic management, habitat restoration, and effective techniques for reintroduction and risk management will help ensure the success of these programs for a variety of species.
Stemming the global loss of biodiversity through recovery planning will require brave decision-making in the face of uncertainty. Monitoring must be linked to decisions, institutions must be accountable for these decisions and decisions to act must be made before critical opportunities, and species, are lost forever.
Particular thanks go to Mark Holdsworth, Stephen Harris, Fiona Henderson, Mark Lonsdale, and my co-authors on the original paper on which this article is based.
As representatives of Australia’s peak professional ecological body, the Ecological Society of Australia (ESA), we are deeply concerned that the strategy is not fit for its purpose of protecting Australia’s biodiversity.
A bolder, science-based vision
As part of ESA’s formal submission to the public consultation, we provide an alternative, evidence-based vision. This includes nine key recommendations for nature conservation in Australia.
1. Set measurable targets. Any project needs a set of quantifiable targets, otherwise we won’t know whether it has been successful or not. Some suggestions:
establish a comprehensive national network of ecosystem monitoring sites by 2025
reverse the declines of all species that are threatened by human-caused factors by 2025.
2. Commit to preventing human-caused species extinctions. The strategy should state explicitly that human-driven species extinctions are not acceptable, and establish and maintain clear paths of accountability.
3. Adequately fund the strategy’s implementation. Australia should show international leadership in conservation by investing at the upper end of OECD and G20 averages. At present Australia allocates less than 0.8% of GDP to conservation. We suggest 2% as an urgent minimum investment, with scope to expand funding to ensure that targets can be met.
4. Focus on the intrinsic value of biodiversity. The draft strategy is supposed to represent “Australia’s biodiversity conservation strategy and action inventory”, but it does not define biodiversity, choosing instead to focus on the vague notion of “nature”. We recommend the document return its focus to biodiversity, defined in the Convention on Biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.
requiring threat-abatement plans to efficiently manage major threats to many species, such as impacts of feral predators and herbivores, invasive plants and new diseases
specifically protecting high-value ecosystems, including those of economic value such as the Great Barrier Reef, and those that are critical for species survival, and rare ecosystems.
6. Commit to establishing a comprehensive system of protected areas, including marine parks. Despite longstanding commitments to developing a fully representative network of protected areas in Australia, many bioregions remain poorly represented in the National Reserve System and the national marine protected area system.
9. Recognise key issues that affect Australian biodiversity conservation. Any successful strategy should specifically address new and emerging issues that can harm our environment, such as Australia’s increasing use of natural resources, environmental water flows in rivers, and overfishing.
We cannot ignore human population growth, increasing per capita consumption and subsequent resource demand as drivers of threats to healthy and resilient ecosystems.
Our unique plants, animals and other organisms shape our national identity. They have wide-ranging benefits to our society, as well as being inherently valuable in their own right. They need a much stronger commitment to their ongoing protection.
Should your next holiday include a safari, whale watching, or a trip to a tiger temple? Ecotourism has recently been in the spotlight. For instance, we’ve seen claims that tourism helps conserve tigers and that it has been linked to wildlife trafficking.
“Ecotourism” is a very broad term. It may include visitors to public national parks, volunteers for community projects, or adventurous expeditions to remote regions. Some may even include hunting safaris.
Attitudes of local communities towards native wildlife, for example, influence whether they support or oppose poaching. Furthermore, income from ecotourism may be used for conservation and local community development projects, but not always.
We also need some way to measure ecotourism effects on wildlife? Many ecotourism measures are social or economic rather than ecological. It’s often difficult to compare positive and negative impacts on a species. Therefore, quantifying the net effect of ecotourism is challenging.
For species at risk of extinction, such as those in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List, it is critical to be able to assess how various threats, including tourism, affect their survival. So we wanted to develop a way of measuring how ecotourism affects the risk of extinction for these species.
Previously when considering ecotourism researchers looked at revenue to parks, and how much of a species’ global population was protected by these parks.
This approach showed that tourism funding is significant for many IUCN Redlisted mammals, birds and amphibians. But it doesn’t tell us whether ecotourism will help or harm a specific species or population.
Our new approach uses population analysis (specifically population viability analysis). This sort of analysis is the gold standard for predicting future population trends, and probable time to extinction, for threatened species.
We looked at how populations changed over time in response to threatening processes, by simulating births and deaths one generation at a time. We do this thousands of times to estimate extinction risk. These methods are well-tested and widely-used in practical wildlife management.
To do this we need to know a couple of things about the species we are looking at: habitat area; population size and age. We also need to know the birth and death rates for different ages as well as migration patterns. This information exists only for some threatened species such as those used in our study.
We also need to be able to convert ecotourism effects into these measures of species performance. By looking at how ecotourism affects these aspects we can compare ecotourism to other threats such as poaching, logging, or fishing.
Winners and losers
For seven of the species that we looked at, ecotourism provides net conservation gains. This is achieved through establishing private conservation reserves, restoring habitat or by reducing habitat damage. Removing feral predators, increasing anti-poaching patrols, captive breeding and supplementary feeding also helps.
But for orang utans in Sumatra, small-scale ecotourism cannot overcome the negative impacts of logging. However, larger-scale ecotourism yields a net positive outcome by enabling habitat protection and reintroduction of individuals from captive situations.
Unfortunately for New Zealand’s sea lions, ecotourism only compounds the impacts of intensive fisheries, because it increases the number of sea lion pups dying as a result of direct disturbance at haul out sites.
Our research highlights three key messages. The first is that to predict how ecotourism affects wildlife, we need to know basic things about them: ecotourism needs biologists as well as social scientists.
The second is that the effects of ecotourism are not universal: whether ecotourism is good or bad depends on the species and local circumstances.
The third, and perhaps most important, is that ecotourism, at appropriate levels, can indeed help to save threatened species from extinction.
Lake Seppings is a freshwater lake located within the Albany Region. The lake is nearly completely surrounded by a 2.7 kilometres (1.7 mi) compacted gravel footpath and wooden walkways. A wooden bird watching platform has been built along the western side of the lake. A car park for access to the path is located along Golf Links Road.
The lake is situated in the Lake Seppings nature reserve that has a total area of 17.1 hectares
Lake Seppings is regarded as an excellent place for bird watching, particularly for water-birds. Over one hundred different species of birds have been recorded here. Wading species are often seen along the margins of the lake such as the Australian White Ibis, Yellow-billed Spoonbill and the White-faced Heron. Several species such as the Blue-billed Duck, musk duck, black swan, Hoary-headed Grebe, Australian pelican and Eurasian coot can be seen regularly on the surface of the lake. Birds that can be spotted amongst the lake vegetation include Spotless Crake, Masked Lapwing, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen and Buff-banded Rail
The western brush wallaby (Macropus irma), also known as the black-gloved wallaby, is a species of wallaby found in the southwest coastal region of Western Australia. The wallaby's main threat is predation by the introduced red fox (Vulpes vulpes). The IUCN lists the western brush wallaby as Least Concern, as it remains fairly widespread and the population is believed to be stable or increasing, as a result of fox control programs.
Image Credit: Perth Zoo
The western brush wallaby has a grey colour with distinctive white colouring around the face, arms and legs (although it does have black gloves as its alternative common name implies). It is an unusually diurnalmacropod that eats mainly grass.
Although quite small, the western brush wallaby's coloring resembles the larger kangaroos of the region. The western brush wallaby's head and body length usually falls around 1.2 m. Their tail length, which ranges from 54–97 cm, is proportionally long to their smaller body size. The adult western brush wallaby weighs anywhere from 7.0-9.0 kg. Their coloring consists of a pale to mid gray coat with a distinct white facial stripe. Other distinct features include black and white ears, black hands and feet, and crest of black hairs on the tail. The size of the male and female are quite similar.
The western brush wallaby is a herbivore, although there is disagreement on whether it is a browser, eating mainly leaves, or a grazer, eating mainly grass, as there has not been extensive research done. It is a diurnal animal, which is somewhat unusual for macropods, and is active during dawn and dusk.
Like all others in the family Macropodidae, the western brush wallabies are characterized by powerful hind limbs and long hind feet. It runs by weaving or sidestepping, utilizing its powerful hind-limbs, while keeping its head low and its tail extended straight, making it very speedy.
Although decades of research have been done in regards to the reproductive behavior of the western brush wallaby, their habits are relatively unknown. The young are usually born during April and May. Females, like all marsupials, have a well-developed forwardly opening pouch containing four teats.The female gives birth to one young a time, with two rarely occurring. Gestation lasts from three to five weeks. After birth, the young enter the lactation period for seven months, until October or November. After vacating the pouch the young wallaby goes through a weaning period during which it will stick its head in the pouch temporarily attach itself to a teat.
Built in 1838 in Victoria, Bermuda the vessel was constructed from wood and copper sheathed. It had a square stern, single deck, no galleries and a billet head. The vessel was acquired by R. Brown in 1847 and was registered in London. It was then acquired in 1848 by William Younghusband and Company of Adelaide and registered there.
The vessel was in command of James C. Coke and was transporting cargo from Adelaide to Shanghai via Albany and Singapore. The brig left Adelaide 5 June 1848 loaded mostly with flour and was en route to Albany to load a shipment of sandalwood.
The vessel was anchored at Cheyne Bay near Cape Riche when it was blown ashore by a heavy gale. The Champion and Arpenteur were dispatched from King George Sound to assist. The Champion managed to pull the Wave offshore but Wave was leaking badly and foundered then sunk.
Champion then salvaged some of the cargo and then transported the crew, minus the Captain, back to Albany. Captain Coke sailed to Adelaide aboard the HMS Acheron, commanded by Captain John Lort Stokes.
The owners of the Arpenteur acquired the wreck of the Wave and that cargo not already salvaged for £330. The Arpenteur sailed for Fremantle with 27 tons of flour, 1,000 bushels of wheat, the rigging and sails that the crew had salvaged from the Wave
Albany Port was the first port in Western Australia and was settled in 1826. Albany was Western Australia's only deep-water port for 70 years until the Fremantle Inner Harbour was opened in 1897
The first settlers arrived in Albany in December 1826 when Major Edmund Lockyer arrived at the harbour aboard the brig Amity The port started from humble beginnings when a finger jetty was built between 1862 and 1864 in Princess Royal Harbour. The construction was extended in 1874 and fitted with a T-shaped head and gas lighting.
Dredging and land reclamation around the port area commenced in 1893, with a further five dredging operations taking place between 1901 and 1979. Albany was an important arrival point for migrants and settlers in Western Australia with over 40,000 people arriving between 1839-1925.
The Point King Lighthouse, built in 1898, was the first navigational light for the Port of Albany and the second lighthouse to be built on the West Australian coastline.
The Great White Fleet visited Albany on 11 September 1908 and stayed for one week to take coal aboard as part of the fleet's circumnavigation of the world. The fleet arrived from Melbourne and the next port of call was Manila.
In 2004 2,685,000 metric tonnes of cargo passed through the port and in 2005 2,990,000 metric tonnes of cargo was achieved. During this time woodchip exports increased by 105%.
A huge drug seizure was recorded in the port area in 2004 when the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs Service recovered 100 kilograms (220 lb) of powder cocaine, worth over $45 million, was recovered from a local beach after being buried in the dunes. The drugs were imported on a bulk grain carrier Marcos Dias having come from South America via South East Asia, three men were arrested as a result
In 2005 handler and exporter CBH, proceeded with a $130 million upgrade of their grain handling and loading facilities at the port.
The Albany Port Authority won the national Lloyd's Port of the Year award in 2006 for its development of new technology used to restore degrade load-bearing concrete piles without disrupting cargo handling activities
The port was visited by the Queen Elizabeth II passenger liner in February 2008 as part of its final world trip. Albany was the only regional port that was visited during the Australian leg of the voyage.
The largest vessel ever handled by the port was the Bulk carrier 71,749 dwtMaritime Grace which was partly loaded at the port.
The Albany Port Authority recorded a record profit of A$ 7.1 million in 2014 after exporting a record 1.4 million tonnes of woodchips. The Albany Port Authority, which had run the port since 1950 was closed down in 2014 when it was merged with the Bunbury and Esperance Port Authorities creating the Southern Port Authority.
During dredging in 2000 to expand the harbour, a large amount of unexploded munitions was found at the bottom of the harbour so that Worksafe demanded that dredging cease until the harbour was made safe again. It was consequently found that the ordnance had been spilt during loading of excess munitions to be disposed of at sea in 1947 and 1948 by the Australian Army and Navy The Albany Port Authority took the Commonwealth government to court to pay for the clean-up of the munitions. The Commonwealth lost the case and were ordered to pay $5.25 million for past and future clean-up costs and an additional $1 million for legal costs. Some of the ammunition that has been found included a 250-pound aerial bomb, 18 pound artillery shells and rifle ammunitions.
Three recent reports make clear that we should be saving habitat in order to save species. It is pretty simple. Destroy a species’ habitat and you destroy its home.
The first report was issued last week by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Birdlife Austrlia and Environmental Justice Australia*. Its take away message is that in Australia we will do little to halt the continuing threat to and extinction of species here until we get serious about providing effective legal protection to habitat.
The second report accompanied an update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species at the end of June. It highlighted that the main threat to 85% of the 22,784 known and assessed species threatened with extinction (1,839 in Australia) is the loss and degradation of habitat.
The third study, also published at the end of June, was even more disturbing. It found that over the last century the extinction rate for many species was 100 times faster than usual and that we are heading into a human-created sixth mass extinction on Earth. It blamed this on habitat destruction, as well as climate change, trade, and pollution.
Without an adequate home, a species cannot survive. Of course, stressing the need to protect habitat is much easier said than done. Why is that? It largely comes down to three obstacles that have been intractable so far.
Protecting species, but not their homes
First, the law in Australia does not protect habitat per se. It only protects species. It does this through a process of listing and then making it an offence to kill or take the listed species. Listing species alone, however, does nothing to protect habitat.
It is true that it is possible to list critical habitat under Commonwealth law and various state laws. That has largely been ignored. The problem has been a persistent lack of political will.
Politicians are reluctant to list habitat because it means that parcel of land will be off limits to development. That is something most politicians seek to avoid in pursuit of short-term economic benefits.
Second, protecting habitat is subject to politics. Even when a species is listed, it is possible for governmental decision-makers to exercise discretion and permit a development, even if it will threaten the species.
A decion-maker will be required to consider a number of factors (ordinarily environmental, economic, and social impact) in exercising his or her discretion.
However, if these factors are appropriately ventilated, then the law allows the discretion to be exercised against a threatened species. What we have in these sorts of cases is environmental law without necessarily environmental protection.
It becomes a matter of right process and the only remedy for those dissatisfied when the process has been followed is at the ballot box.
Third, protecting habitat is economically tough. David Attenborough, the famous environmental documentary presenter, has highlighted that humans are in competition with the other species for space on this finite planet.
He correctly observed that it will take a great deal of willpower and economic strength to fix things. The questions for us is, do we have what it takes? Or, will we leave future generations with an environment less rich, less diverse than the one we inherited?
Tighter regulation, more money
The ACF report recommends that in Australia we start by improving recovery plans for species. In particular, ACF maintains that recovery plans must contain “measurable and targeted restraints on the destruction of threatened species habitat and outline restorative outcomes that any approval decisions must work toward”.
The ACF recognises this will not be cheap. It calls for an annual investment of A$370 million to implement recovery plans and purchase land for protected areas.
To follow the recommendation would be to start to seriously protect habitat. It would only be a start though.
Much would depend on whether the new recovery plan arrangements deprived decision-makers of discretion to allow the destruction of habitat despite protection.
Much would depend on where and how much habitat was set aside. Much would depend on the sufficiency of funding. Still, it is a start and you have to start somewhere. One thing is certain, we should start now.
*This sentence was updated to include the other contributors to the report.
Norfolk Island, nearly 1,500km from Australia’s east coast, is home to one of the country’s most endangered species, but you probably haven’t heard of it. Clematis dubia, a woody climber with white and hairy flowers, was known to number only 15 mature plants in 2003.
Once common on the island, this clematis illustrates what stands in the way of survival for many of our threatened plants. Around 84% of Australia’s native plants don’t occur anywhere else on Earth.
Threats to our native plants include ongoing habitat destruction, fire, invasive species, more frequent extreme weather events, and declining populations of the animals involved in their pollination and seed dispersal.
Clematis dubia is lucky to call Norfolk Island National Park home. Our national parks are places of beauty and adventure for us to enjoy. They are also a haven for many species.
We found that many of these species don’t occur outside national parks, meaning the parks play a huge role in their conservation. Few of these species have been secured in living plant collections or seed banks, and very few are regularly monitored in the wild.
We have little information on either the impacts of threats or of species biology, which limits our ability to secure these species against further loss.
Threats to plants
Clematis dubia lives in small and isolated populations. It faces many perils of modern life, like invasive weeds. We understand very little of its biology, including how its seeds are dispersed, how long it takes to start producing seed, and even how long it lives.
Another plant we assessed was the Graveside Gorge wattle (Acacia equisetifolia) found in Kakadu National Park. A small shrub, less than a metre tall with small yellow flowers, this wattle is listed as critically endangered.
Fewer than a thousand plants are growing in only two locations about a kilometre apart in a restricted area of the park. There is little information on the basic biology of this shrub.
Like other acacias, Graveside Gorge wattle is probably pollinated by, and provides food for, a variety of different insect species. It probably only reproduces sexually and its seeds might be dispersed by ants and probably germinate after fires. The main threat to this species is fires, especially ones that are too frequent or too intense.
As a safeguard against extinction, Parks Australia has collected seed from the Graveside Gorge wattle, which is now stored in the National Seed Bank at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra.
Seed banking can extend the longevity of seeds to hundreds of years, protecting a species from extinction and helping in its recovery should the worst happen. Germination trials at the National Seed Bank help unlock the often complex germination requirements of different species so that they can be regrown from seed.
As a result of trials with Graveside gorge wattle, the Gardens now has a living collection of this species. In Kakadu, Parks Australia is protecting the two wild populations by planning protective burning to create longer intervals between fires and reduce the likelihood of severe fires.
Seed banking and living collections are two of the strategies we recommended to safeguard populations of threatened plant species. Some species may also benefit from establishing new populations outside national parks, similar to the management strategies used for vertebrate animals.
We also recommend surveying all endangered plant species in national parks that are not currently part of a formal monitoring program or that have not been surveyed within the past two years.
Finally, realising the gaps in our knowledge of the biology of and threats to many of Australia’s threatened plants, we recommend partnering with researchers and NGOs with restoration experience to draw on available scientific and on-the-ground knowledge.
And what of Norfolk Island’s endemic climbing clematis, Clematis dubia? Along with the low number of individuals, competition from weeds is a major threat to the survival of this species, so conservation efforts by Parks Australia have involved intensive weed control work, particularly to deal with the invasive guava plant.
Recent searches in likely habitat have revealed an additional 33 plants, a mix of adults and juveniles. Happily, new seedlings are now showing up in areas where guava has been removed, improving the future prospects for this species.
The report Constraints to Threatened Plant Recovery in Commonwealth National Parks was funded by the Australian Government through the Threatened Species Commissioner, Gregory Andrews. It was authored by researchers at the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, a joint initiative between Parks Australia’s Australian National Botanic Gardens and CSIRO.
As a wildlife veterinarian, I often get asked about bats. I like bats, and I am always eager to talk about how interesting they are. Unfortunately the question is often not about biology but instead “what should I do about the ones in my roof?”.
With some unique talents and remarkable sex lives, bats are actually one of the most interesting, diverse and misunderstood groups of animals. Contrary to popular belief, they are beautiful creatures. Not necessarily in the cuddly, human-like sense – although some fruit bats with doey brown eyes and button noses could be considered so – but they are beautifully designed.
Soon afterwards, fossils record another game-changing adaptation in the evolution of most bats, and that is the ability to accurately locate prey using sound (what we call echolocation). These two adaptations early in their history gave bats an evolutionary edge compared to some other mammals, and allowed them to diversify into almost all habitats, on every continent except Antarctica.
There are now more than 1,300 different species, divided among 26 different families (compared to fewer than 500 primate species). Indonesia alone has 219 different bat species.
It is not just a quantity though – the variety is astonishing. The thumb-sized bumblebee bat of Thailand is the smallest species, weighing just two grammes. And like other insectivorous bats, it can eat its own body weight in insects every night. At the other end of the scale, some large flying foxes have wingspans of well over a metre and, having lost the ability to echolocate, eat fruit and nectar.
Everyone knows that some bats feed on blood, but despite the “vampire” myth, only three species actually feed on blood. And these haematophagous bats are only found in parts of South America. They also definitely don’t get tangled in your hair. Bats are far too good at flying.
If thus far I haven’t persuaded you to like bats, you must admit that they are useful. Bats defecate while regularly flying very long distances (up to 350km in one night), making them extremely effective at dispersing seeds. Add to that the fact that some fruit bats live in colonies up to 1m strong, and you can start to imagine their impact. So much so, they have been proven key in reforestation.
Another unappreciated and major role is as pest controllers. The sheer volume of insects that some bats species can eat makes them very effective at suppressing pest insects. Bats reduce the nuisance and disease threat of mosquitoes, and it has been estimated they save the US economy at least $3.7 billion every year through increased crop productivity and reduction of pesticide usage.
Despite their ancient design, they show some remarkable talents. One of these is shared only by several select animals. Bats are vocal learners – able to learn and then imitate sounds even in adulthood. This is likely important for the development of the complex social organisation seen in many bat species. Most surprising of all is the recent revelation that they are also members of an even more exclusive and less salubrious club: animals known to partake in fellatio during copulation.
Bats have had some bad press recently due to their association with infectious diseases, from rabies to Ebola. And they appear able to tolerate some viruses fatal to other species. If anything, that illustrates again why they should be respected, especially as various bat species are also endangered and therefore protected by law in many regions.
So my response to those interested in what to do about the bats in their roof? Leave them alone.
Climate change is one of the greatest threats the world’s animals and plants are facing. In fact the world is facing an extinction crisis, which should concern all of us. The major problem with climate change is not so much that climate is changing, but that it is changing faster than species can move or adapt.
One of the solutions is to move species to places with a more suitable climate. But the idea of introducing species to areas where they have never occurred before is controversial, because species introduced to somewhere they’ve never lived could have devastating consequences for the species already there. Just think of foxes, lantana, cane toads and other invasive species in Australia.
So how do we weigh up the costs and benefits? In a new study published today in journal PLOS ONE, we developed a way of finding the answer.
Australia’s species at risk
Moving species threatened by climate change isn’t a new idea. In fact we’ve already moved some, while others are being considered.
One of them is the critically endangered Western Swamp Tortoise from Perth in Western Australia - Australia’s rarest reptile. It currently faces extinction thanks to declining seasonal rainfall, which is drying up the swamps the tortoise calls home. To stop the tortoise becoming extinct, scientists have considered potential new sites far to the south of its home range.
Another species facing climate extinction is the Mountain Pygmy-possum, a tiny mammal that currently resides on three snowy mountain tops in Victoria and New South Wales. As temperatures warm the possum is running out of room to move upwards. Snow cover, and the length of time snow stays on the ground, is decreasing rapidly.
This means the possums come out of winter hibernation earlier, and can’t find enough food. The mountains have also seen an influx of feral predators, which previously found the area inaccessible thanks to snow cover.
Weighing up the costs
It’s far from clear cut which species might benefit from this drastic action, and for which it would be a costly and risky mistake. How should wildlife managers approach the decision of whether to move animals into new areas, or leave them in places that may become uninhabitable for them?
In our study we outlined a framework that can quantify whether the benefit of moving a species outweighs the ecological cost.
The benefit of moving a species is based on the likelihood it will go extinct in its original habitat as the local climate becomes hostile, the likelihood that a breeding population can be established at a new site, and the value or importance of the species.
The ecological cost depends on the potential for the species to adversely affect the ecosystem at the new site. Species are considered candidates for re-location only if the benefit of doing so is greater than the ecological cost.
This decision involves both scientific predictions (what’s the likelihood the species will go extinct in its current range?) and subjective judgements (how do we value the conservation of this species compared to species already living at the introduction site?). Our framework separates these questions out.
We test drove our new framework using the hypothetical case of the New Zealand tuatara which is being considered for relocation from its home on a number of small offshore islands in the north of NZ to the South Island, outside of its current range. The tuatara is the country’s largest reptile and the only surviving representative of an ancient lineage.
The tuatara faces a peculiar threat from climate change. Like many reptiles, the sex of a tuatara is determined by incubation temperature, with higher temperatures giving rise to males and lower temperatures to females. The population from North Brother Island in New Zealand’s Cook Strait is already showing signs of too many males. This is expected to worsen as temperatures increase, putting the population at risk of extinction.
We considered an introduction from the North Brother Island population to a hypothetical mainland sanctuary on New Zealand’s South Island. We used a previously published population model to predict the effect of climate change on the North Brother Island population, and estimated that the current population of 550 tuatara has a 0.43 chance of persisting in 150 years time. If we remove animals to introduce them elsewhere, this slightly decreases the probability to 0.42.
We found that the chance of successfully establishing a new population was good, and that the chance that the new population will impact negatively on the ecosystem was low.
Tuatara show why it’s essential to have a rigorous framework like this to take the gut instinct and guesswork out of the decision, so we can make smarter choices for conserving species under climate change.
Finding the optimum environment and avoiding uninhabitable conditions has been a challenge faced by species throughout the history of life on Earth. But as the climate changes, many plants and animals are likely to find their favoured home much less hospitable.
In the short term, animals can react by seeking shelter, whereas plants can avoid drying out by closing the small pores on their leaves. Over longer periods, however, these behavioural responses are often not enough. Species may need to migrate to more suitable habitats to escape harsh environments.
These areas have been termed “refugia” and their presence has been essential to the persistence of many species, and could be again. But the rapid rate of global temperature increases, combined with recent human activity, may make this much harder.
My colleagues and I recently investigated population genetic diversity in the narrow-leaf hopbush, a native Australian plant that got its common name from its use in beer-making by early European Australians. The hopbush has a range of habitats, from woodlands to rocky outcrops on mountain ranges, and has a wide distribution across southern and central Australia. It is a very hardy species with a strong tolerance for drought.
We found that populations in the Flinders Ranges have more genetic diversity than those to the east of the ranges, suggesting that these populations are the remnants of an historic refugium. Mountain ranges can provide ideal refuge, with species only needing to migrate short distances up or down the slope to remain within their optimal climatic conditions.
In Australia, the peak of the last ice age led to dryer conditions, particularly in the centre. As a result, many plant and animal species gradually migrated across the landscape to southern refugial regions that remained more moist. Within the south-central region, an area known as the Adelaide Geosyncline has been recognised as an important historic refugium for several animal and plant species. This area encompasses two significant mountain ranges: the Mount Lofty and Flinders ranges.
Refugia of the future
In times of increased temperatures (in contrast to the lower temperatures experienced during the ice age) retreats to refugia at higher elevations or towards the poles can provide respite from unfavourably hot and dry conditions. We are already seeing these shifts in species distributions.
But migrating up a mountain can lead to a literal dead end, as species ultimately reach the top and have nowhere else to go. This is the case for the American Pika, a cold-adapted relative of rabbits that lives in mountainous regions in North America. It has disappeared from more than one-third of its previously known range as conditions have become too warm in many of the alpine regions it once inhabited.
Further, the almost unprecedented rate of global temperature increase means that species need to migrate at rapid rates. Couple this with the destructive effects of agriculture and urbanisation, leading to the fragmentation and disconnection of natural habitats, and migration to suitable refugia may no longer be possible for many species.
While evidence for the combined effects of habitat fragmentation and climate change is currently scarce, and the full effects are yet to be realised, the predictions are dire. For example, modelling the twin impact of climate change and habitat fragmentation on drought sensitive butterflies in Britain led to predictions of widespread population extinctions by 2050.
Within the Adelaide Geosyncline, the focal area of our study, the landscape has been left massively fragmented since European settlement, with estimates of only 10% of native woodlands remaining in some areas. The small pockets of remaining native vegetation are therefore left quite disconnected. Migration and gene flow between these pockets will be limited, reducing the survival chances of species like the hopbush.
So while refugia have saved species in the past, and poleward and up-slope shifts may provide temporary refuge for some, if global temperatures continue to rise, more and more species will be pushed beyond their limits.
Today a new paper proposes trapdoor spiders arrived on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, after drifting across the sea from Africa.
Molecular analyses of spiders from Kangaroo Island, other parts of Australia, and Africa show that the Kangaroo Island’s spiders are much more closely related to African species than to other Australian ones. Rough dating of divergences – that is, how long ago different species or groups split apart – suggests that the Kangaroo Island spiders were separated from African relatives long after the breakup of Gondwana (the southern supercontinent), but arrived on Kangaroo Island at least a couple of million years ago (well before humans).
The authors conclude that the spiders must have come to Australia by crossing the Indian Ocean.
So can a spider travel over thousands of kilometres of open ocean? Sure!
There is a lot of evidence that plants and animals can reach new lands by travelling long distances. This usually happens either by drifting across oceans (for example by “rafting” – hitching a ride on floating objects such as uprooted trees or seaweed clumps) or via air travel (blown by strong winds or carried by birds). The evidence has mostly come from genetic studies like the new spider study.
When populations of species on either side of an ocean are genetically very similar, it is reasonable to conclude that there has been some recent movement between them. That’s because DNA changes over time: each time DNA is copied (which happens every time a new cell forms) there is a chance that copying errors will occur. If these errors – known as mutations – are not harmful, they can be copied into later generations. In this way, populations that are not interbreeding gradually drift apart genetically. The result is that populations that have been separated for a long time will be very distinct, whereas those that have been recently connected will be genetically similar.
Genetic and observational studies give us strong evidence that long-distance voyages have happened. It might seem incredible that a plant or animal could survive a long trip at sea, or be blown to a new land by a storm, but it only has to succeed every now and then for dispersal to play a big role in shaping global biodiversity.
A few years ago, seaweed swarming with living invertebrate animals washed up on a beach in southern New Zealand, and DNA tests of the kelp and the animals showed the voyagers had drifted in ocean currents from islands hundreds of kilometres away.
Nonetheless, we now know that intercontinental travel is not something that only those that can fly, swim or build canoes can do – and a good thing, too! Rapid environmental change will force many plants and animals to move to new places. Many species are moving toward the poles, or up mountains, as the climate warms.
The ability to travel is, and has always been, an important part of long-term survival and evolution. But it’s risky, too. Many long-distance trips fail, and the voyagers often perish before finding a new home. These intrepid trapdoor spiders just got very lucky!
Located on the eastern shore of Australia’s tropical north, Shipton’s Flat is home to Marilyn, a Kuku Nyungkal Aboriginal woman, and her family.
She has been living here the ancestral way — far removed from the services and conveniences of modern life.
Like her ancestors before her, Marilyn walks through the Nyungkal bubu, the Nyungkal’s country, acknowledging and conversing with the spirit beings around her.
She greets the spirit of the flowing stream that provides her family with freshwater, the spirits of her mother, father and grandparents that cared for the country before her, the spirits of her ancestors that have been formed into rocks, and the spirits of the trees and animal life around her that lend shade and sustenance.
A change in the weather
Marilyn has observed that the seasons are getting hotter. The rising temperatures are stifling the symphony of life in the Nyungkal bubu — driving animals to higher altitudes and transforming previously flowing streams into quiet pools of stagnant water.
Marilyn feels that the “country is transforming, food is disappearing. If animals continue to move further up the mountain, they will disappear into the sky.”
The changes that she senses may be a result of what scientists term global warming, which is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s air and ocean since the mid-twentieth century.
During the 100 years ending in 2005, global surface temperatures increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C and bioclimatic scientists are projecting further temperature rises of 1.1 – 4 °C by 2070.
What does it mean?
An increase in global temperatures is expected to lead to broader changes, including global sea level rise, variations in precipitation that may result in flooding and drought, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and loss of biodiversity.
For the Australian wet tropics, like Shipton’s Flat, a warming of 4.5°C would lead to the loss of approximately 65% of all endemic vertebrate species (see State of the Wet Tropics Report 2007-2008 from the Wet Tropcis Management Authority)
“There will be nothing left because it is getting hotter,” Marilyn worries. If the temperature continues to rise, it will slowly melt away the sounds and movements of the natural symphony and spirits around her.
Global warming is not the only threat to Shipton’s flat. Not long ago, a mine and a dam were built near Marilyn’s home. The trees around the artificial lake are slowly dying and Marilyn struggles to keep the animals and birds “from drinking the bad water.”
What should we do?
As Marilyn walks away from the artificial lake, she expresses a deep sadness for the destruction of the land.
“We have an obligation to care for everything. All people must stand together. If we do not stand together and speak out, everything on our land will disappear. Our land, our people, and our spirit will get sick if we do not stand together.”
Our human quest for advancement, development and improvement has obscured our senses to the harmony of nature.
The environmental changes in the new millennia challenge us to elucidate our perception so that, like Marilyn and other Aboriginal cultures, we can learn to listen to and respect the movements, colours, and sounds that make up the symphony of life.
This video brief and article complements the on-going Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment. It forms part of the work of the UNU-IAS Traditional Knowledge Initiative. The UNU would like to thank the Christensen Fund for their support for this intiative.
Women who travel - especially solo women travellers - often enjoy some particular benefits. However, they also encounter some particular challenges and risks. This article contains some general tips concerning safety, health and travel practicalities that are of special interest to women. Tips for women at individual destinations (such as, say, appropriate dress when visiting a temple, especially safety issues) are addressed in those articles.
WARNING: The mosquito-borne Zika virus can cause severe damage to a child in the womb. There are defenses, such as long sleeves and mosquito repellents, but there is no vaccine and no cure. Although the WHO has indicated that the epidemic has ended, the risk is severe enough that the US government still advises pregnant women not to travel to countries with active transmission.
Every year, millions of women set out to travel the world, with a companion or alone. While the great majority experiences little or no serious threats, and while the choice of destination can make a huge difference, the risk of unwanted attention and sexual assault is always significantly higher for women travellers than it is for men. Also, women are often considered easier targets for bag snatching, robberies and other crimes. A bit of extra preparation, tips and awareness can go a long way in making you feel at ease and staying safe while travelling.
Being scared takes all the fun out of travelling, and it doesn't help in making good decisions either. Don't be embarrassed to take some extra precautions, even when there's probably no reason to, if they make you feel safer. While you shouldn't be scared, it's good to always be aware of your surroundings and to act accordingly.
Trust your instincts and put safety first when your gut tells you something is wrong. When approached by strangers and you somehow feel threatened, don't worry about being rude. Also, don't be afraid to be loud or make a fuss when you are somehow targeted. Harassing solo females is social taboo in most countries and drawing attention from the people around you can save you from a range of unpleasant situations.
Count on some extra budget for safer transportation. Reading up on your next destination and knowing what the common scams are is a good idea for men and women alike. Especially as a solo female traveller, however, grabbing a taxi instead of wandering through a bad neighbourhood or a dark alley is sometimes the best choice. When planning your trip, make sure budget will not keep you from choosing the safer option if you want it. On a long overnight train, it's sometimes possible to ask to share a compartment with other females or a family. If at all possible, avoid arriving at new places at night. In a sleeper train with multiple beds in a compartment, opt for the upper berth. Keep in mind that smaller more expensive compartments may give more privacy, but they're not always safer, as there's no crowd around to keep bad things from happening.
Dress appropriately and mind your body language. It should be self-evident, but often enough women travellers underestimate the impact proper dress can have. In many countries, it's a sign of respect which will make it easier to connect with local women and make it more likely for strangers to help when you need it. At the same time, being dressed immodestly makes you a more likely target of unwanted attention and harassment. In some places a certain type of dress is even mandated by law or strongly enforced local custom. Be aware that physical contact or even simple gestures that may be perfectly normal at home can be interpreted as something quite different in some conservative countries. Err on the side of caution and keep your distance with strange men.
Hostels are good places to meet fellow travellers
Man or woman, solo, couple or group; making new friends en route is always fun. As a woman, especially when travelling solo, investing a bit of effort into finding like-minded people may not only make for a memorable exchange of stories, but can make exploring feel a bit safer. Especially in places you know or feel to be risky, mingle. Looking for fellow (solo) travellers? Head for a hostel rather than a large, anonymous hotel. Take a local cooking or language course. Join an organized day tour to a nearby attraction. Don't be shy about starting a conversation with other (solo) travellers; one of you has to be the one to start it.
Of course, remain vigilant and don't give out your hotel name or room number to strangers you just met on the streets. Be especially wary of locals who single you out asking for help or wasting no time to invite you to parties or their home. Keep in mind that smart thugs know not to dress the part, and petty crimes are often enough carried out by children, mothers and other people you wouldn't suspect.
For the most part, precautions to stay healthy apply to men and women alike, but there are a few health issues women travellers should be particularly aware of.
Unfortunately, urinary tract infections (also known as bladder infections or cystitis) are a common issue among women. A simple infection is easy enough to treat, but can develop into a harder to treat infection of the kidneys (known as pyelonephritis). Keep in mind that cystitis can be made worse by dehydration, so make sure to keep up your fluid intake when you experience any symptoms. Common symptoms include a strong urge to urinate without much urine being produced, a burning sensation when urinating and strong-smelling or cloudy urine. Healthy women who catch symptoms early may be able to manage the infection by drinking a lot, but if symptoms don't start to diminish in 24 hours, it's wise to seek medical attention. If you are prone to bladder infections, and know how to recognize it, discuss with your doctor if it's wise to take a simple course of antibiotics with you.
While it's usually best and easiest to follow your usual contraceptive measures, you might find it hard to obtain the contraception of your choice (or in some countries, any contraception at all!) en route. In conservative parts of the world, women or even unmarried couples may encounter resistance when trying to get doctor's prescriptions and supplies, while in other places it might just not be available. Inform yourself beforehand and consider taking adequate supplies from home if possible. With hormonal contraceptives, keep storage instructions in mind when travelling to regions where it gets hot. Take them with you in the original packaging with a copy of your prescription. Women who need to visit a doctor regularly for a dose, such as women who receive contraceptive hormone injections, might consider switching contraceptive methods for a long trip, or might want to make arrangements before leaving home.
Oral contraceptives may lose their effectiveness if you become ill and vomit or have diarrhea. Time zone changes may also make it difficult to take each dose 24 hours after the last dose. You need to use a backup contraceptive measure, such as condoms, for 7 days after any interruption in effectiveness, which means either a late or missed pill or illness that might have affected the absorption. Check the information packet that comes with your pills for details of exactly what affects the absorption, and bring condoms from home for areas where they may be hard to find or may lack in quality. Hormonal contraceptives that are delivered at a constant dose, such as by injection, by implant or by vaginal ring, are not affected by illness or time zone changes.
If you're travelling for a long time, contraceptive injections (effective for about 3 months), hormone releasing implants (effective for about 3 to 5 years) or intrauterine devices (effective for about 5 to 10 years) are worth considering. Keep in mind that all of these require a medical professional to apply them.
NOTE: If you want to change your contraceptive for your trip, do so well in advance — not only because you'll need to make the relevant doctor's appointments, but also because switching contraceptives can cause some temporary irregularities in effectiveness and in your menstruation.
There are a number of health issues that women who are planning to travel while pregnant should consider, and discuss with their doctor or health provider as needed:
Risk of pregnancy complications, miscarriage or premature birth varies between pregnancies, and pregnant women might want to consider their own risk when planning travel where they will be away from their own medical practitioners, or away from medical facilities of the kind they are used to. Statistically, the safest weeks to travel are between the 18th and 24th week.
Many vaccines (specifically, live ones) are not considered safe for pregnant women (or often even women who are planning a pregnancy) to receive due to a risk to the health of the fetus. You might not be able to travel to destinations which require vaccinations you haven't had before getting pregnant. A waiver for the yellow fever vaccine can sometimes be obtained, depending on the prevalence of yellow fever at your destination. Some inactivated vaccines are considered safe, including varieties of the influenza vaccine and Hepatitis B. Even if you don't normally get vaccinated for influenza, some doctors may advise you to take this precaution as the disease can be more severe in pregnant women. In any case, consult a medical expert at least 6 weeks before travel.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus can cause severe damage to a child in the womb. There are defences, such as long sleeves and mosquito repellents, but there is no vaccine and no cure. Although the WHO has indicated that the epidemic has ended, the risk is severe enough that the US government still advises pregnant women not to travel to countries with active transmission.
Malaria, in addition to its danger to the woman, can also cause miscarriage or premature birth. Not all anti-malarial drugs are safe to take during pregnancy.
Air travel is not recommended for pregnant women beyond 36 weeks (earlier for complicated pregnancies or multiples), and most airlines impose restrictions on pregnant women close to term. You may need to present a letter to the airline from your doctor stating that you are less than 36 weeks pregnant and that it is safe for you to fly. Inquire with your airline. Also keep in mind that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clots. If travelling by air, get up and walk around to stretch regularly. Make sure to fasten the seat belt below your belly.
Some travel activities are not safe for pregnant women, particularly alpine and water skiing and scuba diving. Unaccustomed strenuous activity, hottubbing or saunaing might also cause complications. Check with your health provider, but in general the guideline is to maintain about the same level of activity that you did before pregnancy.
Travel at high altitudes is not advised.
Check that pregnancy related illness, childbirth itself and medical care for a baby born while travelling are covered by your travel insurance if you're outside the reach of your normal healthcare arrangements. Pregnancy is usually considered to be a pre-existing medical condition that you must disclose to your insurer, and which will have limited coverage, particularly after the 30th week. Pregnancies that you don't know about at the time of application might not be covered. Read your travel insurance documents carefully.
No policies cover expenses associated with a full term birth. Some may cover a very premature birth but then may not cover the baby's healthcare costs (which would likely be considerable).
Most travel insurance policies do not cover multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets etc) or any pregnancy that is the result of medically assisted conception (fertility drugs, IVF etc) even with an additional premium. If you do get cover for a higher risk pregnancy it will not extend as far into the pregnancy as cover for a naturally conceived or singleton pregnancy; it will probably only extend to 15 or 20 weeks. It is close to impossible to get cover for any pregnancy that has already had complications.
Remember that you can't just "fail to mention" pregnancy (or any other information) to an insurer: failing to disclose relevant information invalidates the policy.
Pack enough supplies of your usual menstruation product (tampons or pads), particularly if you are going to a less developed country where they might not be available easily. Tampons are especially hard to come by in some places due to "moral" objections. Modern pharmacies in large cities are often your best bet. If you still have trouble finding what you need, discretely asking female pharmacy staff will usually help. If you use any pain killers for cramps, take them along after checking their legality at the destination. If crossing international borders, leave them in their original packaging so that customs can determine what they are.
For women doing extended travel in areas where obtaining and disposing of normal menstrual products is annoying, reusable menstrual products might be a useful alternative to consider. The primary products in this category are the suction cups: the silicone Diva Cup and the rubber Keeper. These are non-absorbent, reusable and do not even need to be rinsed before re-insertion every time.
Some women travellers might consider using the contraceptive pill to postpone or skip a period. Extended cycle pills such as Seasonale (one period every three months, rather than every 28 days) are approved for use in some countries, however normal monophasic pills can be used to skip periods as well, by skipping the pill-free period or the different coloured sugar placebo pills. Discuss this use with your prescribing doctor.
Reprinted with permission Wiki Voyager Creative Commons Licence
There are lots of travel agencies who cater specifically to women and organise tours just for women. Why not check some of the out. Here is just one of many
Conspicuous Beach is a beautiful unspoilt surf beach 20 minutes drive from Walpole on the south coast of Western Australia. It's one of only 3 places along the Walpole Coast that's accessible to 2WD vehicles. Access to Conspicuous Cliff Beach is via a boardwalk, small stairway, and a walk across the shallow waterway emptying into the ocean. Great excuse to take of the shoes and walk barefooted through the sand and breathe in the ocean air. This is what holidays on the South Coast are all about. We had the whole beach to ourselves, surrounded by beauty and breathtaking views, A beautiful way to spend the last couple of hours of our last day. If you are travelling to albany via Walpole it is worth taking a small detour to visit Conspicious Cliffs and Beach.
The beach is named for the small, yet indeed quite conspicuous, limestone cliff perched atop a tall, steep hill that towers over the beach.
Then we saw more stairs and just couldn't resist climbing to the very top. The views were quite spectacular and the wind almost blew us away.