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Apr 11, 2008

Hi all

I have just been prodded by a foreign correspondent – “you should write more about your life, it’s interesting.”

I replied “but I don’t have the time at the moment - the past 3 months have been full on pressure trying to save 2 sites from housing – one, a new suburb, and the other, 3 new suburbs.”

Yes, it was early December when I put the last blogalong together.

Since then, I have been consumed with the above projects.

Its not that I want to stop housing, but I have a moral responsibility to ensure that this government, nor any other government, does not willingly allow the destruction of extremely rare genetic material, and listed threatened and endangered species, as well as abiding by their own laws when making decisions that will push some species to the brink of extinction.

And there are species new to science in all proposed sites.

Whilst on the issue of extinction, I must relate the story of the Canberra Kangaroo Cull catastrophe. When the issue surfaced, I put together the following –


The Canberra site is a military signals base with mostly grassland. It is a totally fenced site, and the roos have no means of escape from the site.

They have been there for many years, and without predators such as dogs, they have increased in population size.

Roos have a natural contraception that can be switched on when bad times are ahead, but this population is not slowing down its breeding so obviously they consider they can multiply on the site without overgrazing it. Eastern greys have a tendency to breed profusely when the rainfall is 200mm over the monthly average, and this has been the case in Canberra within the past six months.

After speaking with govt scientists, I have been told that there has never been an environmental impact statement prepared for this site, and there certainly has never been an orchid survey of the site.

Arachnorchis actensis is a critically endangered species, found in a semi circle around Canberra. The gap in the circle is the military site. This orchid has been previously been located only kilometers away in an area which is now housing. As there is some habitat on the Military site suitable for this orchid, it could be assumed that the precautionary principle should be applied until the circumstances effecting the ongoing growth of this species are mitigated, and surveys done for the species.

Unfortunately, kangaroos eat the succulent leaves and flowers of terrestrial orchids, and are a specific threat to this species. The orchid, however, can survive underground for many years despite the above ground parts being eaten, as they have an association with a fungus to provide the carbon transfer to the plant, and allow it to produce annual underground tubers for reproduction.

The release of roos from this site will put the known orchid sites under pressure, as roos commute around Canberra already, and to leave the population expanding as it is, will eventually remove all orchid populations from the Canberra site.

Arachnorchis actensis - Canberra Spider-orchid -
threats -- being eaten by kangaroos –


photo from the above link

Failing to manage kangaroo populations around Canberra could be interpreted as a significant impact to the habitat of this critically endangered orchid.

Then the greens put out a media release on the issue –

Politics costing endangered species

ACT Greens MLA Deb Foskey today expressed her deep concern that the politics of
the issue of the kangaroos on the Lawson Defence site has overtaken good science.

"Let's go back to first base: In May last year we were told that as a matter of urgency, the captive kangaroos reproduced beyond sustainable numbers, threatening an endangered grassland and its dependent species," said Dr Foskey today.

"That was an election year, so the decision was deferred, worsening the situation for kangaroos, grasslands and the endangered species."

"So the situation this year is even more urgent."

"These are difficult issues, but they cannot be shirked. It seems to me that Defence is putting off the hard decisions that a responsible land manager must make."

"And the reported refusal of the Chief Minister to contact his federal colleague to put the ACT's case is unhelpful, to say the least."

"The primary concern must be protection of the grasslands and the endangered species because nothing returns from extinction."

"The endangered species at Lawson apparently don't have the emotional pulling power of the fortunately abundant Eastern Grey kangaroo, but they are part of the ecological fabric."

"While a research project looking at the ecological and animal welfare consequences of translocation of kangaroos from Lawson would be useful if this horrendous situation arises again, funding for the project must not come at the expense of protecting endangered species on Defence land."

"When the Commissioner for the Environment's report first appeared, I commented on the paucity of information behind her dismissal of the translocation option. That lack of
scientific rigour has come back to bite the ACT Government."

"Since then I have sought detailed information about the impacts of translocation and have been surprised that there is no systematic scientific data."

"All the evidence to date suggests that it is not a humane or effective solution to the problem, although Defence apparently finds it politically expedient."

"If it is to go ahead, I urge Defence to restrict the scientific translocation exercise to about 100 animals and proceed with the cull immediately in order to protect the grasslands. The research must be pursued with scientific rigour and documented, because if Defence continues to manage its land so poorly, it will be faced with the same situation again - perhaps at Majura in the very near future" said Dr Foskey.

In the midst of all that, was the issue of whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, which became an interesting chess game between Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, the Japanese military [who are barred by law from entering Antarctic waters by a treaty Japan does not recognise], the Whaling fleet, a refitted Japanese fishing/spy vessel bristling with electronics, fuel wasting chases, the Australian customs ship, hide and seek behind icebergs, a boarding of a Japanese ship by 2 Sea Shepherd members to deliver a letter of warning to the captain that they were in breach of Australian law which the Japanese do not recognise], the attack by grenades on the Steve Irwin by Japanese military, the shooting and attempted murder of Captain Paul Watson, the necessary denials from the Japanese, the still photo of a possible gun flash from the Japanese ship, more denials, political meetings to try to solve the situation by allowing Japan to whale elsewhere without impunity, most likely endangered fin and humpbacks taken before Japan &lsquoromised’ not to take humpbacks and an interrupted season with few whales taken.

And the Lepidoptera study I started in earnest in December, has grown, with 49 named species, and at least 17 species either unknown, undescribed, or impossible to photograph. All these species have been recorded within a 300 meter radius of Wadalba Hill.


Eurema hecabe, the Common Grass Yellow Butterfly, resting at Wadalba.

All the photos of both identified and unidentified Lepidoptera species can be found in the Whale Call photo gallery, at and the initial Wadalba Lepidoptera report is online at report # 26.

Wadalba Wildlife Corridor and Cultural Heritage Report # 27 has also been put online since the last blogalong, and can be found on the above link as well.


To the south of Wadalba, clearing for grazing land in the 1950’s removed the vegetation from part of a wetland – this recent fog covers the area where the wetland was. In heavy rain events, this area is also flooded. The wood ducks in this pic are all facing the rising sun.

If you have been following the blogalong, you may remember that I have been restoring a 1974 Toyota Coaster Motor Home, to use as a Whale Call Event bus, and to access natural areas of isolated bushland for extended study.

We took it on its first trip since the restoration to test it out for any problems – yes there were some probs, but it ran well, and didn’t leak.

To save duplicating, go to the two threads in the Whale Call Café, posted by Tony, who came with me to run a Whale Call information stall at the festival we attended, the Nundle Go For Gold festival. All the pics I took are in these 2 threads –


Briefly, I volunteered to assist the Go For Gold Committee to teach gold panning to interested people. Now disturbing rivers and streams by panning is an avoidable behaviour, so as I showed people how to pan gold, I explained to them that they should not dig up stream banks, they should not make the creek or river muddy from the panning, and be aware of the environment so you minimize any damage.

Environmentally sensible gold panning involves taking a bucket of water from the creek, digging and prizing all the dirt from cracks and crevices in the rocks in and around the stream bed, and using the water to pan in an area away from the stream.


Topic: Arc en Ciel Trout Farm at Hanging Rock Mountain

Over the past few years there have been a number of reports dealing with fish farming that have been scathing on the industry due to problems created in aquaculture relating to sea lice, nutrient/food intake usage and disposal of concentrated aquaculture water after farm usage..

The world average for trout production is 2.2 kilos of food in, to 1 kilo of trout meat produced. This figure is far from ecologically sustainable, but the Arc en Ciel Trout Farm is producing trout by getting 1 kilo of trout from 1 kilo of food put into the system.


The bonus for me during this trip was to photograph a Graphium macleayensis, the Green Triangle Butterfly, rarely seen at ground level, and never seen alive by my expert butterfly advisor.

Last time I was there, I saw a spotted tail quoll – quite a rare sight in the Aussie Bush – it was too fast for my camera, but the farm owners see them regularly.

That’s all for now folks – I hope you understand how I find it difficult to acquire time to write more blogalongs –

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Friday April 11, 2008, 5:34 am
Tags: whales [add/edit tags]

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Jenny Dooley (830)
Monday May 5, 2008, 4:17 am
Hi Boris, thanks for blogging your latest activities - I'm in awe of how much ground you cover - correct gold panning,roos,new orchids,the army, and housing developers.
The photographs are really lovely.
Care2 have asked the (Orchid in Australia) group to go Beta, and in doing this I chose a Murwillumbah sunset I snapped up from Nat Geo rather than ones on offer. Open to suggestions though.


Boris Branwhite
male, age 68, single
All, ALL, Australia
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well folks i am off line from today - its been nice communicating with the care2 mob, but circumstances have not allowed me to stay online - i can get messages via the whale call cafe -- have fun - keep up the good work:}b
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hi all --for those of you that have been following the Wadalba Wildlife Corridor reports at http://www. whalecall. org/index. php?page=improving. htm , it may be of interest to you that wyong council has approved the removal of numerous aboriginal sit...
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