Saturday, 25 July 2015

Hello from sunny Coquette Point,

The high in the Bight has moved off and taken the rainclouds with it, subsequently the sun once again is shining on the Cassowary Coast after a week of unremitting cold, miserable, rain and wind.
On friday morning the SES rescue boat seemed to glide on a river of glass.
It has also been a week of turmoil for cassowary Ky with yet another altercation with dogs.

On Sunday morning I saw a cassowary having a chat with the pelicans. Unfortunately by the time I reached for the camera and ran down to the beach the cassowary was moving off into the mangroves. It was so amazing to see these animals interacting with each other. The pelicans were very interested in the cassowary and they watched as she walked away into the mangroves. The encounter was like a passage from a movie of Noah's Ark with animals of different species living in peace side by side.

I followed so I could confirm the identity of the cassowary. She went into the mangroves and I managed to follow and get a photo of her through the branches, it was July the new five year old cassowary I had seen the week before.  She stood still on the walking track safe in the dense mangrove forest.  On the beach she left a very large scat full of rainforest fruits, Davidson plum, quandong and satin-ash seeds which I could easily identify.

July's footprints are very distinct. She walks heavily and leaves a deep imprint in the sand.

Just after lunch, on the same morning, I caught a glimpse of Ky walking along the beach in the same direction I had seen July walking earlier.

A little later I heard dogs on the beach, they were running wild having a great old time, their owner was fishing on the beach. The cassowary footprints were all over the beach as well as the scat cassowary July deposited earlier. It could be clearly seen that cassowaries were around. I was very concerned that either or both of the cassowaries might be still in the mangroves nearby, and the dogs might find them. I approached the man and as I did so the dogs ran wildly at me, he made no attempt to call them to heel. I asked him to "Please put your dogs on a lead". He told me he did not have a lead. I pointed out the cassowary footprints all over the beach and asked if he had seen the sign at the end of the road? Apparently he had not. I asked him to put his dogs in his car as I was concerned for the safety of the cassowaries and for his dogs if there was an encounter. The man understood the potential seriousness of the situation and collected his gear and proceeded to walk back to his car with the dogs.

After checking on the nursery I walked quickly down to the end of the road to check if either of the cassowaries were in the area. There was a commotion at the end of the road and I saw an Aboriginal man standing in the river waving and smacking a palm frond in the water while shouting at a cassowary. Cassowary Ky was standing on the edge of the mangroves with his feathers fluffed up and very much on the defensive. The two dogs were further up the track straining to get loose while their owner was doing his best to hold them by their collars.

I told the Aboriginal man to stop shouting and to put the palm frond down as it was frightening the cassowary. I saw another fisherman on the beach and I asked him if he could get a rope and take it to the man holding the dogs.

Meanwhile I walked between the Aboriginal man in the water and Ky and talking quietly to the cassowary I coaxed him away from the dogs and deeper into the mangrove forest.

When I came back to the area the dogs were safely in the car.
Cassowary Ky walked away from the dogs.

Fisherman brought a rope to the dog owner in order to lead them safely back to the car.
Fortunately there was no adverse outcome. However, it is not alway so, I have file photos of dead cassowaries which were killed by dogs, it is not a pretty sight.  I am posting one of the photos to show what is happening all too frequently in all the areas of cassowary habitat in FNQ.

There is no place for large dogs in cassowary habitat. We must have a serious conversation about covenants that exclude large dogs in areas close to National Parks and Wet Tropics lands.

Dog owners on farm-lands should be required to restrain their dogs within a fence. With today's modern technology there is no reason to keep dogs for security purposes.

The cassowary does not have much of a chance:  loss of habitat, motor vehicle collisions, dog attacks and unsafe pig cages are all taking their toll of cassowaries. We have to change our ways if we wish the cassowary to continue to live in the Wet Tropics rainforest of FNQ.

Mandubarra and I have written to a number of authorities requesting we be allowed to erect the sign below in the Moresby Range National Park.
I spoke to Councillor Mark Nolan today at Kurrimine Beach and he pointed to a large 'no dog' sign at the beach and told me he was looking at regulations regarding dogs in the region as the Council was receiving too many complaints from people in the Shire being frightened by or attacked by dogs. Something has to be done Councillor Nolan told me.

As a follow-up to the story about injured cassowaries a few weeks ago, Anne and Lawrie Martin of Murray Upper have written an informative letter to the editor of the Tully Times.
It's not easy being a young cassowary, even without all the added human problems. Young cassowaries must adhere to the rules of their Kingdom, they must establish their own territories and Matriarch cassowary Jessie is again on the hunt for any young bird not adhering to this rule. Ruth told me, 'Madame Jessie was at the top of the Moresby Range this week bullying everything she saw.'

Old Hero mostly ignores Jessie and stays close to his chick Ruthie. The Panama berries are ripe again and Hero and Ruthie can be seen around the tree almost every day. Hero arched his long neck back, as far as he could reach, to pick the ripe berry fruits.

Cassowary Ruthie's wattles are starting to take shape and I managed to get an ID photo of them for the file.

It  was a very big week for green sea turtle Etty B.
Etty B was rescued by the Etty Bay surf lifesavers in September,  at the time she was covered in a thick layer of mud and had "floaters" which meant she could not dive. Henry and Nellie Epong with sons Allan and Jason of the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation centre nursed this 15 year old turtle back to life and now 11months later she was ready to be released.

Dr Jenny Gilbert from the Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre brought down a satellite tracker which she fitted to Etty B on Friday.

It was a big job to fit the tracker. Firstly all the algae on the turtles shell had to be removed by alternately, gently rubbing with sandpaper then wiping with acetone. This procedure took around an hour. Then the satellite tracker was positioned and fixed in place with a non heating Sikaflex and fibreglass. Everything was proceeding well when the Sikaflex gun seized. Fortunately Russell Constable was carrying out a replanting of the vandalised revegetation plot at the end of Coquette Point. Dr Jenny called out 'help Russell we need your muscle' and Russell found another sealant gun in the nursery and soon had the Sikaflex flowing. Etty B was so good she lay there throughout the two hour ordeal, raising her head occasionally to take a deep breath.

Russell got the Sikaflex flowing again.

At last the satellite tracker was fitted and Henry picked Etty B up and with a big splash she jumped into the water and swam proudly around the tank displaying her tracker.


Early this morning, Saturday, Henry collected Etty B from the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and took her down to Kurrimine Beach.

Over one hundred people gathered to see Etty B released. Many children were fascinated to hear Etty B's story and to touch her and to try to understand the ocean journey she was about to undertake, once again.

Gordon Johnston from GBRMPA, left, told Councillor Mark Nolan about the issues facing turtles on the Cassowary Coast.

Dr Jenny Gilbert, below, with Nellie Epong and Cassowary Coast Mayor Bill Shannon and Councillor Mark Nolan listen to Henry Epong talk about the ongoing  tracking of Etty B and what she will tell us about the health of the sea grass beds and other habitats she visits.

Dr Jenny Gilbert said the battery in the tracker could last for three years. The fate of the tracker will depend on the growth of Etty B's shell as she sheds 'scutes' in her growing phase, when this happens it could dislodge the tracker.

Jenny told the group that in 2011 a mass stranding of green sea turtles occurred along the East coast of Queensland, this was caused by weather conditions. It is thought that around 3000 sea turtles died due to the loss of seagrass beds from the cyclone and floods.

Now the seagrass beds from Townsville south have recovered and from Townsville north they are recovering slowly. However, stranded turtles are still being found along the Cassowary and Cairns coastlines.

Etty B was carried down to the water's edge by Henry and James Epong and lifted out and placed in the ocean.

Out to sea the pelicans flew in and formed a guard of honour for Etty B's release.

Henry and James gently placed Etty B into the water while the pelicans watched on as if waiting to greet her.

QPWS has postponed the July burn of Hinchinbrook Island, they placed the above advertisement in this week's Tully Times. 
Please note The Fire in the Landscape meeting will be held in the Cardwell Community Hall at 5.30 pm on July 27. Guest speakers will be Peter Stanton from QPWS and Ian McCallan representing, 'Don't burn Hinchinbrook Island'.

Hinchinbrook Island National Park burning September 2014.
Since cyclone Larry some part of Hinchinbrook Island has been burnt every year.  QPWS with Girringun Rangers burnt part of Hinchinbrook Island on June 18 this year. They had planned to do another burn on July 20 but have postponed the burn.

 I received a recent report from a naturalist who visited Hinchinbrook Island two weeks ago, he  emailed me that he could not find the iconic blue banksia in many of the places it was once dominant. He also said, "Orange footed scrub fowls are gone, beach stone curlews, goannas, noisy pittas and any other ground dwelling and egg laying animals were not sighted."                   "A number of issues need addressing on the Island such as Singapore daisy weeds at Zoe Bay and Mulligans Beach camp sites. Feral pigs have moved into Little Ramsay Bay, Nina Bay and Blacksand Beach." His general observation was that Hinchinbrook has,' blitzkrieg over-burning'.

Hinchinbrook Island's Blue Banksia, Banksia plagiocarpa, conservation status rare and only found on Hinchinbrook Island.

Hope to see you at the meeting Monday arvo,

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