News Article | December 16, 2015
Feral cats have scratched up another victim. Earlier this month the Western Australia (WA) government listed a rare marsupial called the numbat, also known as the banded anteater (Myrmecobius fasciatus), as endangered. The colorful squirrel-like critters—literally the emblem of Western Australia—only grow to about 45 centimeters in length and have no defense against hungry felines. As a result of this predation, the wild population of numbats—which only live in the state of WA—has fallen to an all-time low of about 1,000. Surveys conducted earlier this year found the animals now have a population density of just 0.24 animals per 100 square kilometers. That’s pretty darned low. Conserving numbats has so far relied on two distinct programs. The first involves baiting and killing another invasive species, red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), which were introduced to Australia nearly two centuries ago and have been linked to other extinctions. WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob announced that state agencies will now step up its fox poisoning program and expand it to include cats. “Control of feral cats is one of our biggest challenges in protecting our threatened animal species,” he said in a prepared statement. The program uses a recently approved concoction called Eradicat, which was developed in WA and contains a mix of kangaroo mince, chicken fat and a deadly poison called 1080. The other program is more positive: captive breeding. Perth Zoo has the world’s only numbat captive breeding program and so far more than 200 of the animals have been released back into the wild to supplement the remaining populations. Last month 15 numbats—10 juveniles and five adults—wearing radio collars were released into an area called the Dryandra Woodland. Ten more were released into the same region on December 7. A conservation organization called Project Numbat helped to raise the money for the radio collars. Despite their risks, numbats are doing better than some other species. The same day the numbat was declared endangered four other long-lost mammals were finally identified as extinct: the desert bettong (Bettongia ogilbyi penicillata), inland burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur graii), south-western rufous hare-wallaby ( Lagorchestes hirsutus hirsutus) and Gould's mouse (Pseudomys gouldii). All were probably wiped out by invasive predators like foxes, cats, mice or rats. None of them have been seen for at least 50 to 100 years. Photo by S J Bennett. Used under Creative Commons license
News Article | December 3, 2015
One of the world’s most endangered birds faces an uncertain future this month after massive bushfires in Australia destroyed at least 90 percent of the species’ habitat. Only about 140 western ground parrots (Pezoporus flaviventris) remained before the fires. The birds—one of just five ground-dwelling parrot species on the planet—depend on dense vegetation for their nests. Many of their known nesting sites were destroyed in fires that ripped through the region around Cape Arid National Park last month. The bushfires destroyed 30,000 acres of crops, killed four people, and burned 15,000 livestock animals to death. Officials for Western Australia’s Department of Parks and Wildlife told the Australian Broadcasting Company that two “pockets” of the birds’ habitat did not burn and that automated recording devices indicate that an unknown number of the birds remain alive in those sections. Two birds—a male and a female—were rescued before fires completely overran the park and are now recovering at Perth Zoo, which already has five other parrots in their collection. The fires also reportedly took a toll on the local population of another critically endangered species, a mouse-like kangaroo called the Gilbert's potoroo (Potorous gilbertii). Fire is a normal part of the ground parrot’s ecosystem, although the birds prefer areas that have not been burned for at least 40 years and which have a high level of low-growing shrubs. The birds can fly, but they spend most of their time on the ground, so it seems unlikely that they could have escaped the flames that hit their nests. Little is known about this species’ breeding requirements, but the conservation organization Friends of the Western Ground Parrot reports that a captive breeding program is undergoing a trial at Pert Zoo. The organization hopes to raise $100,000 to help save the species from extinction. Photo by Brent Barrett. Used under Creative Commons license
News Article | February 7, 2017
Brush-tailed phascogales in Western Australia have been reported for their sexy end. The curiosity on the small marsupials had doubled after the recent spotting of tree-dwelling, insectivorous creatures in big numbers in many of the backyards. Both carnivorous and insectivorous, these small marsupials belong to the Dasyurid family. They are seldom uniformly distributed in south west thanks to the arboreal or tree-centric nature and the declining numbers driven by the loss of habitat and rise in predators. In South West Australia, brush-tailed phascogales have been found from Bunbury to Margaret River, while the wheat belt of Brookton to Wagin seemed to be hosting more of the red-tailed kin. The excessive sex frenzy by males is displayed when they reach the terminal phase of life. This is more pronounced in the last few weeks as the males ditch food and goes wild and crazy chasing females to mate even going beyond their home areas. Ultimately, the high libido takes away the life. "It's an absolute phenomenon — there are no survivors," explained Dr. Tony Friend, principal research scientist at Parks and Wildlife in Australia. He said the creatures stop eating and all the energy goes into mating. That eventually drains hormones and organ breakdown follows. Leanne Kelman, a nocturnal housekeeper at Perth Zoo said high testosterone prevails in the systems of phascogales. They have a limited life span with three years for females and no longer than 12 months for males. However, the unconventional frenzy for breeding among Western Australia's antechinus and red-tailed phascogales has some benefits. The faster demise of males allows females and youngsters to enjoy more resources with litters facing no hard competition from males on food and shelter. "Litters include multiple paternity and there's work showing that there's benefits in that — there's better survival of young," Friend said. The home range varies for females and males with the former restricted to 20 to 70 ha while males have a range of 100 ha with further expansion during May to July breeding season for copulating with maximum females. Friend said that it is not surprising to see phascogales end up in people's backyards. "They do tend to move outside of their home range when they're about to die," he adds noting they look disheveled with heavy fur loss. Friend urged people to report sightings of the deaths of male phascogales to the local DPAW office — which may collect specimens of the deceased or their photographs for mapping a database to give scientists a broader picture of their range. Phascogales are easily identified by their big brush-tail, large eyes, and sharp teeth. Males have a large scent gland that emanates a strong smell, while females are distinguished by an open pouch on their underbelly. Meanwhile, a case of interspecies mating behavior has been cited by a study with a specific example of a male snow monkey attempting sex with female sika deer at Yakushima Island in Japan. According to a report, this was the second recorded instance of sexual contacts between distinct species. Between snow monkeys and sika deer, some bonds exist with the deer helped by monkeys with dropped fruits and monkeys even riding on the back of deer. In a study published in Primates, researchers described an instance of a male monkey mounting on a female deer. While one deer refused another female did not object and even licked the sperm left by the monkey. "This individual showed clearly sexual behavior towards several female deer, some of which tried to escape whilst others accepted the mount," the paper said. According to Marie Pelé, the lead author from the University of Strasbourg in France, it is clear case of sexual behavior. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Hogan L.A.,Perth Zoo |
Hogan L.A.,University of Queensland |
Lisle A.T.,University of Queensland |
Johnston S.D.,University of Queensland |
Robertson H.,Perth Zoo
General and Comparative Endocrinology | Year: 2012
Annual patterns of faecal cortisol metabolite (FCM) secretion were examined in six captive numbats (Myrmecobius fasciatus). The use of enzyme-immunoassay for the measurement of FCM in the numbat faeces was validated using an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenge and the resultant FCM measurements represent the first description of adrenal endocrinology in this species. Total overall, baseline and peak FCM mean concentrations varied according to individual, but not gender. For males, mean baseline and overall FCM secretion was higher in spring in summer (compared to winter and autumn) and was elevated during the breeding season. For females, mean baseline FCM secretion did not differ by season or breeding season, but mean overall FCM secretion was elevated during the breeding season. Thus, male (but not female) numbats display an annual change in FCM secretion that is strongly linked to their seasonal pattern of reproduction. Significant FCM elevations (n = 178) were observed in response to 20 different stressors, with these stressors being allocated to one of six categories: ANIM, ENVIRO, HAND, HEALTH, MAN and UNK. The mean proportion of positive responses to each category varied according to category, season and breeding season, but did not vary by individual or gender. ANIM and HEALTH stressors elicited a higher response rate than all other categories and an increase in the number of ANIM, ENVIRO, and HEALTH stressors were observed during the breeding season. Although there were multiple stressors within the captive environment that the numbats reacted to, this did not translate into a welfare issue. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.
Hogan L.A.,Perth Zoo |
Hogan L.A.,University of Queensland |
Lisle A.T.,University of Queensland |
Valentine L.,Murdoch University |
And 2 more authors.
Animal Reproduction Science | Year: 2012
The reproductive endocrinology of the highly endangered numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) is described for the first time. Patterns of faecal steroid secretion (progesterone [PM], oestradiol-17β [E2] and testosterone [TM] metabolites) were examined within a captive numbat population over 1 year and revealed a highly synchronized seasonal pattern of reproduction. TM secretion increased progressively from September to November, peaked in December and then decreased in February. All females displayed luteal phases (1-3), between late-November to late-March, in association with pregnant (Pr, n= 4), non-productive mated oestrous cycles (NMEC, n= 8) and non-mated oestrous cycles (NEC, n= 6). The mean oestrous cycle length was 30.2 ± 1.1. d (n= 11) and was comprised of a mean follicular (n= 11) and luteal (n= 18) phase length of 16.2 ± 1.6. d and 14.0 ± 0.8. d, respectively. No variation in mean luteal phase length or PM concentration according to cycle type (Pr, NMEC, NEC) or cycle number (1st, 2nd or 3rd cycle) was detected. Longitudinal profiling of PM secretion confirmed that the female numbat is seasonally polyoestrous and that the luteal phase occurs spontaneously. Changes in the secretion of E2 provided little instructive information on oestrous cycle activity. Mating success was 31%, with age and subject having no effect on mating success. Timing of introduction, of male to female, appeared to impact mating success, with paired animals introduced for a shorter time frame (≤14. d) prior to the first observed mating successfully producing young. Collectively, results of the present study confirm that PM and TM can be reliably used to index numbat reproductive activity. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
PubMed | Perth Zoo
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Zoo biology | Year: 2013
Using Geocrinia rosea as an analogue of the two threatened frog species, G. alba and G. vitellina, techniques were developed which contribute to an ex situ rearing program. We tested the effect of two levels of enclosure complexity on metamorph growth, and tested the effect of different substrate types on the success of egg clutch hatching and the subsequent development and growth of metamorph frogs. We found that the simplest enclosure was associated with the highest growth rates and better bone density of metamorphs, while a low pH sphagnum peat substrate was the better substrate for egg clutch survival and subsequent growth of metamorphs. Success of the program was highlighted by the rearing of second-generation frogs. These recommendations have now been applied to the captive management of the two endangered Geocrinia species.
PubMed | Perth Zoo, University of Western Australia and Bentley Delivery Center
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Animals : an open access journal from MDPI | Year: 2015
Populations of Australian marsupials can become overabundant, resulting in detrimental impacts on the environment. For example, the threatened black-flanked rock-wallaby ( Petrogale lateralis lateralis ) has previously been perceived as overabundant and thus unwanted when they graze crops and cause habitat degradation. Hormonally-induced fertility control has been increasingly used to manage population size in other marsupials where alternative management options are not viable. We tested whether deslorelin, a superagonist of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), would suppress reproduction in free-living adult female rock-wallabies without adversely impacting body condition. We trapped, synchronised reproduction and allocated female rock-wallabies to a placebo implant (control, n = 22), one (n = 22) or two (n = 20) subcutaneous implants of deslorelin. Females were then recaptured over the following 36 months to monitor reproduction, including Luteinising Hormone levels, and body condition. Following treatment, diapaused blastocysts reactivated in five females and the resulting young were carried through to weaning. No wallabies treated with deslorelin, conceivede a new young for at least 27 months. We did not observe adverse effects on body condition on treated females. We conclude that deslorelin implants are effective for the medium-term suppression of reproduction in female black-flanked rock-wallabies and for managing overabundant populations of some marsupials.
News Article | November 2, 2015
In fact, the distinctive calls of these birds have been responsible for phone calls to the police, from people thinking someone was screaming in the bush. But for locals living near Whiteman Park they've embraced some new feathered residents and are helping researchers learn more about the movements of these stunning, yet often elusive birds. As part of the Perth Zoo's Urban Renewal Program 12 bush stone-curlews have been released into Whiteman Park which joined 11 birds reared at Caversham Wildlife Park and are now enjoying life in the wild. "Numbers of these wonderful, charismatic birds have declined across southern Australia due to the fox and cat predation and changes in land use," Perth Zoo Director of Animal Health and Research Dr Peter Mawson says. "The releases of captive bred birds form part of Perth Zoo's strategy to re-wild metropolitan Perth. "Ultimately we are aiming to return native species to their former ranges for future generations to enjoy, engage the community with native species and the conservation issues facing them and help rebalance the eco-system," Dr Mawson says. And the collaborative project is working! To date, three chicks have been hatched from a Perth Zoo and Caversham Wildlife Park pairing, with the birds currently sitting on more eggs. Apart from the breeding success, and as importantly, the community have taken the birds under their wing and providing invaluable information about the species' movements. "We're regularly getting updates on the status and location of the birds from members of the public posting their sightings on Facebook, into bird watching forums or sending photos taken on their mobile phones," Dr Mawson says. "These birds are experts at camouflage, and during the day easily blend into the native vegetation, so the updates from the community has been invaluable. "Each bird is banded before it's released and some were fitted with small radio-transmitters, so their extra 'jewellery' has helped prompt a lot of interest from locals and tourists alike. In this new digital age, it is a brave new world with regard to how we can monitor wildlife," Dr Mawson says. "For us at Perth Zoo it has helped us track the movements of some of the birds. Thanks to citizen scientists, we know there are two birds currently exploring various areas of Perth," he says. One Perth Zoo bred curlew which was released in October 2014 was reported at Herdsman Lake in early November, then ventured to Challenge Stadium and Rous Head Ferry Terminal before navigating to Fremantle Aquatic Centre carpark. During all this movement the curlew obviously worked up a thirst as it was then sighted at Bull Creek Shopping Centre outside of Dan Murphy's before moving onto Jandakot airport the next day. The other Perth Zoo bird which has ventured further afield was recorded at Technology Park, Bentley two months after it was released. "On each occasion, thanks to the assistance of the community we've been able to locate the birds, assess their condition, and in the case of two other birds that ventured away from Whiteman Park last year, we were able to return them to Whiteman Park," Dr Mawson says. "They've been none the worse for their adventures, in fact the birds have been fit and well, and amazing little ambassadors for their species, prompting a flurry activity from interested members of the public. "At Perth Zoo, this is exactly what we are aiming for, inspiring people to love their local wildlife." When this bird is breeding or incubating eggs, they search for food close to the nest. At other times they search over vast distances. The female lays her eggs in a small scrape in the ground. Major threats to the species include habitat destruction, as well as introduced predators such as foxes and cats. As part of Perth Zoo's Urban Renewal Program apart from the curlews, to date, 55 dibblers (Parantechinus apiclis) and 11 water rats (Hydromys chysogaster) have been released into reserves around Perth, and a list of other potential candidates for this program has been compiled. Explore further: Birds prove willing to cross the road for dining choices
News Article | October 27, 2016
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - An orangutan at Perth Zoo has been named the world's oldest Sumatran orangutan in captivity by the Guinness Book of World Records, as she celebrated her 60th birthday on Thursday, a zoo spokeswoman told Reuters on Thursday.
News Article | November 6, 2015
Their high-pitched vocal call heralded their movement. Nowadays the size of the flocks has decreased, the black cloud has got smaller, the collective cockatoo call is not as loud. Perth Zoo treats more than 200 injured black cockatoos a year and the numbers are increasing annually. They are brought to the zoo suffering injuries from vehicle strike or after being illegally shot, or the effects of disease or malnutrition. The zoo treats the birds, often involving complicated surgery to fix fractures and then works with rehabilitation centres specialising in the care of black cockatoos to release as many birds back to the wild as possible. But rehabilitating injured birds can be a long intensive process, usually taking months if not years to get the birds back to the required full health and strength to survive in the wild. But do they survive? Is the intensive work worth the effort? Can the birds reintegrate back into wild life? In order to unravel this mystery and discover more about the highly mobile species, scientists soared to new heights, attaching satellite transmitters to endangered Carnaby's Cockatoos before their release to the wild. The research project which was led by then PhD student, Christine Groom, was a collaborative project between Perth Zoo, the University of Western Australia and the Department of Parks and Wildlife WA. The study involved using light-weight ARGOS satellite transmitters attached to the cockatoos two central tail feathers enabling the researchers to monitor the bird's movements. "By following flocks as they left or returned to their night roost, it enabled us to show that the rescued birds behaved in a similar manner to wild birds," Dr Groom says. "It was exciting to see that they flew, roosted, socialised and foraged with wild birds. "Importantly, we saw that the birds are also able to behaviourally adapt to new environments, so it opens up the possibility of being able to release rehabilitated birds into areas where we know wild populations are struggling and could benefit from extra flock mates or new partners." The study also provided invaluable information into the travel capabilities of the species. "One bird flew 224km from its release site in less than two months, although the majority stayed within the greater Perth region," Dr Groom says. "But the birds were not just travelling aimlessly. They made distinct changes in their flight paths responding to seasonal changes in food availability and coinciding with migration towards breeding grounds outside the metropolitan area—they certainly had an idea of where they were going. "The research has unlocked some of the secrets of this highly mobile species and it's hoped will help us develop better strategies to protect them in the future." Carnaby's Cockatoo is endemic to south-west WA, with its range extending from the Murchison River to Esperance, and inland to Coorow, Kellerberrin and Lake Cronin. They are listed as endangered due to habitat destruction, loss of nesting hollows, scarce native food sources and many are also struck by cars or illegally shot. For more information about Perth Zoo's involvement in cockatoo rehabilitation visit their conservation medicine page.