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McClelland K.L.,Conservation Policy Unit | Fleming P.J.S.,Vertebrate Pest Research Unit | Malcolm P.J.,Industry and Investment NSW
Australian Zoologist | Year: 2011

The Grey-headed Flying-fox, Pteropus poliocephalus, is listed as a threatened species in NSW, Victoria and nationally. The Grey-headed Flying-fox is a key species in maintaining forest ecosystems through the pollination of native trees and the dispersal of rainforest seeds. This threatened species is unique in that it is also recognised as a horticultural pest, predominantly in coastal orchards of south-eastern Australia. In times of native resource (pollen, nectar and rainforest fruits) shortage, flying-foxes are known to utilise commercial fruit crops. As such, the species is affected by control techniques employed by horticulturists to mitigate flying-fox damage, including shooting and netting. The NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change and the NSW Department of Primary Industries are working collaboratively to investigate flying-fox damage to commercial crops, quantify the levels of flying-fox damage (temporally and spatially), determine the factors contributing to trends in crop damage, and assess the effectiveness of mitigative measures employed by horticulturists to reduce flying-fox damage.The project is funded for two financial years through the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust Strategic Reserve funding and State Government contributions (cash and in-kind), and addresses several recovery actions of the draft National Recovery Plan for the Grey-headed Flying-fox. The project proposal was also strongly supported by the NSW Flying-fox Consultative Committee. The project commenced in October 2006 and focuses on commercial crops in the western Sydney Basin. To date (May 2007), preliminary evaluations have been conducted, including total yield loss, damaged fruit (including that specifically attributable to flying-foxes and birds), flyingfox crop visitation indices and crop architecture.These parameters will be compared throughout the fruit season across different stone fruit and apple crop types and between netted and unnetted crops to examine spatial and temporal trends. The process of establishing and implementing the collaborative project is discussed, within the framework of flying-fox conservation and management in NSW. Source


Sparkes J.,University of New England of Australia | Fleming P.J.S.,University of New England of Australia | Fleming P.J.S.,Vertebrate Pest Research Unit | Ballard G.,University of New England of Australia | And 4 more authors.
Zoonoses and Public Health | Year: 2015

Summary: Australia is unique as a populated continent in that canine rabies is exotic, with only one likely incursion in 1867. This is despite the presence of a widespread free-ranging dog population, which includes the naturalized dingo, feral domestic dogs and dingo-dog cross-breeds. To Australia's immediate north, rabies has recently spread within the Indonesian archipelago, with outbreaks occurring in historically free islands to the east including Bali, Flores, Ambon and the Tanimbar Islands. Australia depends on strict quarantine protocols to prevent importation of a rabid animal, but the risk of illegal animal movements by fishing and recreational vessels circumventing quarantine remains. Predicting where rabies will enter Australia is important, but understanding dog population dynamics and interactions, including contact rates in and around human populations, is essential for rabies preparedness. The interactions among and between Australia's large populations of wild, free-roaming and restrained domestic dogs require quantification for rabies incursions to be detected and controlled. The imminent risk of rabies breaching Australian borders makes the development of disease spread models that will assist in the deployment of cost-effective surveillance, improve preventive strategies and guide disease management protocols vitally important. Here, we critically review Australia's preparedness for rabies, discuss prevailing assumptions and models, identify knowledge deficits in free-roaming dog ecology relating to rabies maintenance and speculate on the likely consequences of endemic rabies for Australia. © 2014 Blackwell Verlag GmbH. Source


Sparkes J.,University of New England of Australia | Sparkes J.,Vertebrate Pest Research Unit | Sparkes J.,Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Center | Ballard G.,University of New England of Australia | And 5 more authors.
Wildlife Research | Year: 2016

Context Dogs aid hunters in many parts of Australia. Because of close proximity, transfer of zoonotic disease between hunters, hunting dogs and wildlife can, and does, occur. Knowledge about cooperative hunting between humans and domestic dogs and interactions with wildlife in Australia is limited, but is necessary to improve zoonotic-risk mitigation strategies. Aims We aimed to describe the frequency and geographic distribution of hunting with dogs, and to document interactions between them and wildlife that could contribute to zoonosis transmission. Methods Australian hunters were invited via web-based hunting forums, hunting supply stores and government agency communications to complete an online questionnaire about their hunting activities. Key results Most of the 440 responding hunters resided on Australia's eastern coast. Pest animal management and recreation were their primary drivers for hunting with dogs. Most hunters used one or two dogs, and travelled ≥500km to target feral pigs, rabbits, birds and deer. Almost a quarter of respondents (N≤313) had lost a dog while hunting, but most (93%, N≤61) were reportedly recovered within a few hours. Half the respondents indicated that they had encountered wild dogs while hunting, and reported a range of consequences from non-contact interactions through to attacks on the hunting dog or hunter. Conclusions Australian hunters frequently used dogs to assist in hunts of birds and introduced mammals, particularly where access was difficult because of rough terrain or thick vegetation. Interactions between hunters and non-target animals such as wild dogs were common, providing potential pathways for the spread of diseases. Furthermore, hunting expeditions >500km from the point of residence occurred regularly, which could facilitate translocation of important zoonotic diseases between states and the creation of disparate foci of disease spread, even into highly populated areas. Implications Our improved understanding of hunting-dog use in Australia is essential to quantify the risk of disease transmission between wildlife and humans, identify transmission pathways and devise management plans to quash disease outbreaks. To promote rapid detection of exotic diseases, hunters should be encouraged to report unusual wildlife behaviour and interactions with their dogs. © The authors 2016. Source


Sparkes J.,University of New England of Australia | Sparkes J.,Vertebrate Pest Research Unit | Sparkes J.,Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Center | Kortner G.,University of New England of Australia | And 9 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Free-roaming dogs (Canis familiaris) are common worldwide, often maintaining diseases of domestic pets and wildlife. Management of these dogs is difficult and often involves capture, treatment, neutering and release. Information on the effects of sex and reproductive state on intraspecific contacts and disease transmission is currently lacking, but is vital to improving strategic management of their populations. We assessed the effects of sex and reproductive state on short-term activity patterns and contact rates of free-roaming dogs living in an Australian Indigenous community. Population, social group sizes and rates of contact were estimated from structured observations along walked transects. Simultaneously, GPS telemetry collars were used to track dogs' movements and to quantify the frequency of contacts between individual animals. We estimated that the community's dog population was 326±52, with only 9.8±2.5% confined to a house yard. Short-term activity ranges of dogs varied from 9.2 to 133.7 ha, with males ranging over significantly larger areas than females. Contacts between two or more dogs occurred frequently, with entire females and neutered males accumulating significantly more contacts than spayed females or entire males. This indicates that sex and reproductive status are potentially important to epidemiology, but the effect of these differential contact rates on disease transmission requires further investigation. The observed combination of unrestrained dogs and high contact rates suggest that contagious disease would likely spread rapidly through the population. Pro-active management of dog populations and targeted education programs could help reduce the risks associated with disease spread. © 2014 Sparkes et al. Source

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