Green sea turtles released from Queensland rehabilitation centre mark release of 150th animal

Eight years, hundreds of kilos of squid and thousands of volunteer hours later, a rehabilitation centre is celebrating the release of its 150th green sea turtle.

The Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, off Gladstone, takes in sick and injured turtles along the Queensland coast from Mackay to Bundaberg.

The animals are fed lots of squid, love and care until they are healthy and can be returned to the ocean.

Owner Bob McCosker has spent thousands of dollars on the animals since opening the centre more than eight years ago — and says it has all been worth it.

“We’ve got probably 100 volunteers in the region who are involved and who are dedicated, so it’s a big organisation.

“It’s not just us at the other end, on the rehab side, there’s a lot in between to make it happen.”

The release marks Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre’s 150th green sea turtle release.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

A unique triple turtle release at Zilzie beach, on the Capricorn Coast, marked the milestone.

“Nature turns on as soon as they can smell that salt water,” Mr McCosker said.

“Their DNA takes over. They’re not looking for the pool anymore. They know what they’re doing out there.”

‘A miracle recovery’

Centre manager Kim van Oudheusden said the turtles washed up in winter, very underweight.

“They had some parasites and they were very unhealthy, so we just cleaned them up, fattened them up, and released them back to the ocean,” she said.

“It was so exciting, especially because it was three, which is quite special. That doesn’t happen very often.”

Kim van Oudheusden, holding green sea turtle, smiling, wearing sunglasses, beach, ocean and man in the background.
Manager Kim van Oudheusden is thrilled to be releasing another healthy green sea turtle.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

Ms van Oudheusden said each turtle’s journey to recovery was different.

“One stayed with us for four months, one three months and one two months,” she said.

“The third one, he made a really speedy recovery. He was in the main pool in a week’s time eating and fattening up, and the other ones just needed a little bit more care.

“With Kahana, the second one, we thought she wouldn’t make it so we didn’t give her much of a chance.

“But she was the first one in the water so it was a miracle recovery.”

Andrew the human, releases Andrew the turtle

Andrew Kaney found one of the turtles washed up on Zilzie beach covered in barnacles, algae and leeches.

“It was actually during COVID-19 and we were working from home, and I decided to take my dog for a walk in the middle of the day to get out and get some fresh air,” he said.

“I actually walked past the turtle because it was in such a poor state. It actually looked like a rock. I didn’t take any notice of it.

“My dog hung around it and wouldn’t come, and then she’s looking at me, and I said, ‘What have you found?’

“I went back and it was the turtle. It was in a pretty poor state.”

Sea turtle covered in barnacles and green moss lying on blue towel.
Andrew the green sea turtle was found washed up on Zilzie beach lethargic and covered in barnacles.(Supplied)

He called the rehab centre’s local volunteer, Paul Mitchell, who picked up the sick turtle and drove it to Gladstone.

Mr Kaney was moved to see the turtle, named after him, return to the ocean healthy.

“It was a pretty good feeling,” he said.

A message to fishers

The centre constantly sees turtle injuries and deaths as a result of recreational fishing, with hooks, crab pots, and fishing line causing some of the worst trauma.

“Our constant cry is just be really careful with your tackle and your gear,” Mr McCosker said.

“If you know you’re going to get snagged, don’t just break your line off because that’s going to be there for the next thousand years.”

Three turtles make their way along the sand towards the ocean, little boy and woman watch on.
Andrew, Mossy and Kahana recovered well after being found sick and underweight in the Yeppoon area.(ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)

He hoped boaties and fishers would make a move to biodegradable fishing line.

“That’s going to be the ultimate answer because our shorelines and our oceans at the moment, our reefs, are getting just massacred with fishing tackle,” he said.

“It’s sort of overlooked because you can’t see the damage you’re leaving behind.

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Ecological insights from three decades of animal movement tracking across a changing Arctic

Ecological insights from three decades of animal movement tracking across a changing Arctic

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Tusks and crocodile blood seized at UK borders in crackdown on endangered animal products | UK News

Crocodile blood and elephant tusks are among thousands of endangered animal products seized in a month-long operation at UK ports and airports.

Specially-trained UK Border Force officers took part in the international drive against wildlife criminals, who are responsible for a huge increase in the trade in rare animal and plant items.

The operation, led by Interpol and the World Customs Organisation, specifically focussed on the activities of criminal gangs in more than 100 countries, who feed off organised wildlife trafficking.

An elephant tusk with wall mount

As part of that effort, Border Force officers intensified their operations at sea ports and airports, making 178 separate seizures of items totalling thousands of products, banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The seizures included elephant tusks and other ivory goods, live corals and reptile skin products and bottles containing crocodile blood.

The reptile blood products are increasingly popular in Thailand and a number of other countries in the Far East, where some believe they are effective in preventing cancer.

Officers also seized a number of rare cactus plants. The cacti astrophytum asterias plants are native to a small number of states in the US and Mexico.

Border Force officials unwrapping cacti
Border Force officials unwrapping cacti

They are classed in the highest category of protected plant species and described as critically imperilled.

But despite this protection, illegal collection continues to threaten the future of this rare cactus.

Other items seized at the UK border included queen conch pearl, among the rarest type of pearl in the world. High-quality specimens can fetch up to £15,000 per carat.

Despite a UK ban on the trade in ivory, Border Force agents still regularly recover ivory products at Britain’s ports and airports.

Astrophytum asterias cacti are endangered
Astrophytum asterias cacti are endangered

Elephant tusks, attached to wall mounting chains, were among the ivory products found during this latest operation.

The European Union has come under increasing pressure to follow the example of the UK and US in banning the trade in ivory products.

The international trade in those products was outlawed 30 years ago, but trade in antique ivory and shipments of personal effects for non-commercial purposes are still allowed and this loophole is being exploited by some traders within the EU.

A queen conch pearl
A queen conch pearl

Conservationists have accused the EU of helping fuel the trade, which has seen a rise in elephant poaching in parts of Africa over the past decade, with around 20,000 elephants killed each year for their ivory.

Home Office Minister Chris Philip said the UK was proud to play a part in the latest international efforts to combat wildlife crime.

“The trade in endangered species is driven by organised crime groups and the movement of banned animal products is key to how they operate,” he said.

“This is why Border Force’s specialist officers will continue their vital work at the border to prevent the importation and exportation of endangered animals and plants, as well as working alongside enforcement partners such as the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and police from across the UK to eradicate this ruthless and exploitative trade.”

Codenamed Operation Thunder, the international drive against the trade in endangered animal and plant products led to the worldwide seizure of 1.3 tonnes of ivory, more than one tonne of pangolin scales, 1,400 live turtles and 1,800 reptiles.

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Cattle deaths prosecution options running out as minister flags animal welfare legislation overhaul

As time runs out to lay animal welfare charges after more than a 1,000 cattle died of thirst in Western Australia’s north, the Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan flags an overhaul of animal welfare legislation.

GRAPHIC WARNING: This story contains photos that readers may find distressing.

The bulk of the animals had to be destroyed on two Indigenous-owned properties between December 2018 and January 2019, after being discovered in very poor condition due to a lack of feed and water, with others dying after becoming trapped in mud at dried-up dams.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has never confirmed the total number of deaths, but on Yandeyarra Reserve in the Pilbara, 760 cattle were destroyed and hundreds more are believed to have died from thirst.

Further north in the Kimberley, authorities confirmed 85 cattle were euthanased and it is understood around 490 cattle died on Noonkanbah Station, near Fitzroy Crossing.

The department also confirmed that “a number of cattle deaths” occurred on a Goldfields property, which has never been publicly named.

The incidents rocked the northern cattle industry and prompted debate around how to prevent what Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan described as “catastrophic failures in management”.

Investigations ongoing

But almost two years later, Ms MacTiernan has cast doubt on whether charges will be brought before the 24-month statute of limitations lapses.

“All I can say is that … the process will have to stop by the end of the year because if they haven’t made their decision, then there won’t be any way of taking it forward,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“This has to be concluded within two years of the events that led to the allegations. So we’ve really only got a couple of months more before the time statute limitation kicks in.

“We have made it clear that they [the department] do need to give priority to bringing this matter to a solution.”

The cattle industry has pushed for prosecutions around cattle welfare concerns.(ABC North West: Susan Standen)

The matter rests with the State Solicitor’s Office, and Ms MacTiernan said she had done what she could to push for prosecution.

The statute of limitations in WA is two years for litigation under animal cruelty legislation, while in other jurisdictions around the country it varies between 12-24 months.

A spokesperson from the department said it was confident the matter would be settled prior to the expiration of the statutory limitation period.

“Investigation briefs on both matters have been referred to the State Solicitor’s Office for advice and DPIRD is undertaking further enquiries before finalising its position on potential breaches of the WA Animal Welfare Act.

“The investigation timeframe is not unusual for complex cases involving alleged offending under the Animal Welfare Act.”

Industry wants action

Kimberley Pilbara Cattleman’s Association CEO Luke Simpkins said it was surprising how long the investigations into the cattle deaths had taken.

Mr Simpkins said animal welfare was a top priority for the northern cattle industry and important to Australian consumers.

“Our sector and the public care very deeply about the welfare of the cattle,” he said.

“If persons are found to be at fault, then they should be absolutely dealt with. I think the State Solicitor’s Office will bear the brunt of public disapproval if they can’t get this job done.

“I think there’s still time to get this done properly and even if COVID has had an impact on the State Solicitor’s Office, I believe, with the will [to do it], this should be able to achieved before the end of the year.”

A man wearing a blue shirt standing in front of trees in the bush
Luke Simpkins is the new CEO of the Kimberley Pilbara Cattleman’s Association.(Supplied: Kimberley Pilbara Cattleman’s Association.)

The incidents at Noonkanbah and Yandeyarra, have raised questions about the State Government’s role in supporting pastoral leases run by Aboriginal communities and concerns.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development currently provides governance and business capacity-building support to several Aboriginal pastoral businesses in WA, including business planning, corporate governance support and training.

Mr Simpkins said it would be good to see more training opportunities for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous station workers to maintain best practice across all levels of industry.

“It would be good to have the right training support mechanisms in place to make sure that not just events like Noonkanbah don’t happen again but also to make sure there is a good career progression for young people coming into a very good sector.”

Prevention work undertaken

The Mugarinya Community Association, which manages Yandeyarra Reserve, has never publicly spoken out about the incident on its property and has not responded to interview requests.

But ABC understands it was not the first-time large-scale cattle deaths have occurred at the Pilbara property.

It was alleged 100 cattle perished in 2012 in similar circumstances.

Pictures of some of the more than 100 Pilbara cattle which allegedly perished in 2012
Cattle that died in a previous incident in 2012 on the Yandeyarra Reserve cattle station.(Supplied:)

After the 2019 mass cattle deaths, DPRID ran a program in a bid to prevent welfare issues on pastoral stations suffering from ongoing dry conditions.

Over six months, a team of officers from the Department of Primary Industries and Department of Lands visited more than 170 pastoral properties across the state’s vast rangelands, which cover the Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne, Murchison and Goldfields.

The stations were identified as part of a risk assessment launched in partnership with the Pastoral Lands Board, which examined the level of rainfall, management experience and infrastructure on each property.

Noonkanbah Station’s owner, Yungngora Association, said, at the time, it was working with authorities to improve livestock management.

“[We are] actively cooperating with the Department of Primary Industries and the Pastoral Lands Board to put in place measures to ensure that any re-occurrence is prevented.”

Cattle grazing in arid pastoral area south of Broome.
Work has been undertaken to protect the welfare of cattle living in arid conditions.(ABC News: Joshua Spong)

Musters have been successfully completed by contractors at Noonkanbah and Yandeyarra over the past two seasons without further incident and that both properties had secured professional pastoral management services.

The cattle sales from the muster at Yandeyarra have gone towards making a dent in the bill for the State Government’s animal welfare responses, which was estimated to be in the order of $500,000.

Costs include money spent on aerial surveillance and humane livestock destruction, as well as basic infrastructure upgrades to improve access for livestock water points.

A DPIRD spokesperson said Mugarinya Community Association had met its annual repayment obligations for the financial year 2019-2020, with a $50,000 repayment.

They said annual repayments were anticipated until to recover the remaining $435,944 owed for the Yandeyarra incident response, but revealed that Yungngora Association was not bound by a cost recovery funding agreement.

‘Trying to modernise legislation’

The RSPCA WA told the ABC the organisation was unable to comment on the situation while investigations were ongoing.

Ms MacTiernan said the problem with bringing a prosecution over the cattle deaths stemmed from Western Australia’s animal welfare legislation.

“So it becomes problematic whether or not it crosses that threshold.”

A lady leaning against pole
Minister Alannah MacTiernan says she is trying to “modernise” animal welfare legislation in Western Australia.(ABC Rural: Courtney Fowler)

Ms MacTiernan said some reforms to animal welfare in Western Australia had been introduced, but legislative reform might be needed.

“We’re currently undergoing a very profound inquiry into the animal welfare legislation, we’re really looking at whether we need a whole structural reform,” she said.

“We are trying to modernise that legislation, not always getting a lot of support in the legislative council to do that, but we will continue to attempt to do this.”

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Do all dogs go to heaven? Study finds pet cemeteries add to belief in animal afterlife

Do all dogs go to heaven? A U.K. study suggests the growing answer among pet owners is yes.

The new study has found that belief in a pet afterlife has been on the rise since the Victorian era, with more recent animal graves featuring a greater number of references to owners being reunited with their pets after death.

The research out of Newcastle University examined the graves at pet cemeteries in Newcastle and London over 100 years, starting with the opening of the first public pet cemetery in 1881, to track the changing relationships people had with pets.

While many studies have explored changing social trends with human cemeteries, the study’s author and historical archaeology professor Eric Tourigny says few experts have studied the animal equivalent.

The findings, published in the December 2020 issue of peer-reviewed archaeology journal Antiquity, reveal significant changes in people’s attitudes towards pets over time.

The research analyzed more than 1,000 animal headstones at four different cemeteries.

According to the study, pets were most often referred to as beloved companions or friends in the Victorian era, but later pet burials treated the animals like valued family members.

“References to animals as family members increase after the Second World War, coinciding with a rise in the use of family surnames on pet gravestones,” Tourigny said in the study.

“Some early adopters of surnames put them in parentheses or quotation marks, as if to acknowledge they are not full members of the family,” he added.

The study reported that part of the hesitancy to acknowledge pets as family members may stem from conflict between personal feelings towards the animals and social norms of the time.

For example, research on pet cemeteries in Scandinavia has noted many inscriptions are emotionless. Tourigny said in the study that this seems at odds with the care that went into creating pet memorials.

The study explained that someone may not have wanted to show as much affection in a pet grave because of social pressures, despite how they felt.

Another trend documented in the research was an increasing belief in a pet afterlife. The study noted that more pet gravestones were inscribed with references to the afterlife during the 20th century than before this period.

“Few 19th century gravestones reference an afterlife, although some may ‘hope’ to see their loved ones again. By the mid-20th century, a greater proportion of animal gravestones suggesting owners were awaiting a reunion in the afterlife,” Tourigny said.

Despite the increased belief in a pet afterlife, the study noted that this did not change how people perceived death, with researchers reporting that it was viewed as “sleep-like” throughout the entire study period.

“Society’s attitudes towards death have changed little, as the sleep metaphor is used continuously throughout the 20th century,” Tourigny said.

Tourigny says the findings highlight how pet cemeteries can provide a unique insight into the past and the people who lived in it, and shows how relationships with pets have evolved with, and sometimes come into conflict with, social expectations.

“Such information can help us understand how our current attitudes towards animals developed and how we have historically struggled to cope with grief following the loss of a pet, as many continue to struggle today,” Tourigny said.

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Wombat killer search underway after animal dies post-surgery from multiple gunshots

National parks and wildlife investigators are calling for public information to identity the shooter who killed a wombat near Kingston in South Australia’s south-east.

Warning: images in this story may be distressing.

The wombat, affectionately known as Harold, died after being shot multiple times.

It is understood the young wombat, aged around 4 years, was peppered with pellets that left the animal with extensive internal injuries.

National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers have made extensive door-to-door enquiries of properties in the vicinity where the wombat was rescued.

It is believed the animal was shot some days before he was found and taken to Adelaide for emergency surgery.

The call for public information coincides with World Wombat Day this week that aims to raise awareness over the iconic marsupial.

Wombats being shot a ‘huge problem’

Wombat Awareness Organisation founding director Brigitte Stevens warned wombats were being shot with no consequences.

Veterinary staff perform surgery in a bid to save Harold’s life after the wombat was sprayed with multiple pellets.(Supplied: Adelaide Veterinary Surgical Services)

“Every weekend people are going out shooting and every weekend we have people calling us to say wombats have been shot in the burrows or on the side of the road. It is a huge problem,” Ms Stevens said.

She described Harold’s injuries as shocking and “heartbreaking”.

“He was obviously just too weak to pull through after the surgery. He was just one incredible little wombat that just tried so hard and it brings tears to my eyes,” Ms Stevens said.

“We found so many holes. Even after surgery Harold had pellets coming out of his feet,” Ms Stevens said.

“It’s really hard for the department because the people that are doing it are not the people who are going to dob them in.”

An injured wombat after surgery
Harold underwent major surgery after being shot multiple times. Sadly, he did not not survive.(Supplied: Adelaide Veterinary Surgical Services)

She warned shooters chose isolated areas in regional areas so people did not see their actions.

“It’s just us who get to see the carnage afterwards,” Ms Stevens said.

“It’s terrifying to think that we have people like that in the community that don’t have any consideration to the welfare of animals, let alone our native wildlife.”

Calls for the shooter to ‘own up’

Adelaide veterinary surgeon Richard Savory treated Harold and described the incident as shocking and the worst he had seen.

“This wombat was left on the side of the road to die. This is an abhorrent and senseless use of a firearm,” Dr Savory said.

He said he wanted the shooter to be found and face the consequences.

“I have never seen anything like it during my 30 years,” Dr Savory said.

He said the animal was shot in the abdomen and left shoulder, leaving extensive injuries.

Given wombats had thick and leathery skin, he said most of the pellets would have “bounced off” and not penetrated.

Dr Savory said the incident was particularly cruel given the perpetrator would have known these pellets would not kill the animal straight away.

“I want the shooter to own up and admit they did it and think about their actions.”

Door-to-door inquiries underway

The South Australian Department for Environment and Water has confirmed an investigation into the incident has begun.

“National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers have conducted extensive door-to-door enquiries of properties in the vicinity where the animal was rescued last Monday,” a spokesperson said.

“Investigators are also working with the vets who treated Harold to gather any relevant medical-forensic evidence.”

Harold was found between Robe and Kingston on the side of the road by local wildlife carer Julia Dangerfield before he was taken to the Mount Barker Veterinary Clinic.

People with information are urged contact the department on 08 8204 1910.

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Melbourne Cup 2020: Darren Weir, Animal cruelty, Stand trial, Racing news

Melbourne Cup-winning Australian trainer Darren Weir was committed to stand trial Monday on animal cruelty and conspiracy to defraud charges stemming from the 2018 spring racing carnival.

A magistrate ruled there was enough evidence for a jury to decide whether Weir, his former assistant Jarrod McLean and stable hand Tyson Kermond conspired to cheat and deceive racing stewards in Victoria state.

They are accused of horse torture, including the alleged use of electronic shock devices known as “jiggers” on three thoroughbreds to enhance their performance in the lead up to the 2018 season.

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Darren Weir trial, Melbourne Cup, animal cruelty, conspiracy to defraud

Melbourne Cup-winning Australian trainer Darren Weir was committed to stand trial Monday on animal cruelty and conspiracy to defraud charges stemming from the 2018 spring racing carnival.

A magistrate ruled there was enough evidence for a jury to decide whether Weir, his former assistant Jarrod McLean and stable hand Tyson Kermond conspired to cheat and deceive racing stewards in Victoria state.

Golfer wanders on to track


They are accused of horse torture, including the alleged use of electronic shock devices known as “jiggers” on three thoroughbreds to enhance their performance in the lead up to the 2018 season.

All three pleaded not guilty via video link at the Ballarat Magistrates Court with another hearing scheduled for November 19.

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Horse racing trainer Darren Weir committed to stand trial on charges of animal abuse, conspiracy

Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Darren Weir has been committed to stand trial on multiple charges of animal abuse and conspiracy to defraud racing stewards.

Weir is charged with “engaging in the torturing, abusing, overworking and terrifying” three racehorses during the 2018 spring carnival, and conspiring to cheat and defraud Racing Victoria stewards.

His former assistant trainer, Jarrod McLean, and stable hand Tyson Kermond also face multiple animal abuse and conspiracy charges.

The trio allegedly stuck three racehorses with an electrical device known as a jigger while they were galloping on a treadmill, in an attempt to train the horses to run faster in the lead-up to the 2018 spring carnival.

Mr Weir, Mr McLean and Mr Kermond each pleaded not guilty to their indictable charges which include conspiracy, firearm possession and betting offences.

They will return to court for a directions hearing next month.

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