Irwin's turtle. Will we lose this shy Australian before we even get to know it?

Photo supplied by Jeff Tan

For those who may have missed it Thursday 22 May was world turtle day, a special day to celebrate and raise awareness of these iconic creatures.  

Here in Central Queensland we have a wealth of sea and freshwater turtles including the unique Irwin’s Turtle (Elseya irwini). Irwin’s turtle was unknown to science until 1990 when it was discovered by renowned conservationists Bob and Steve Irwin.

Irwin’s Turtle is a fresh water turtle found only in the Broken-Bowen River system in central Queensland and has an estimated range of only 25km. Very little is known about Irwin’s turtle and there may be as few as 5000 individuals.Population studies of Irwin’s turtle have found that juvenile turtles, particularly young males, are under-represented.  These kind of population imbalances are concerning and may be caused by increased predation, making the species especially vulnerable to population shocks, habitat destruction and climate change.

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Salties threatened by proposed Katter legislation

Crocodiles are an iconic species of Northern Australia. They were almost hunted to extinction during the mid twentieth century but in 1974 legislation protected all crocodiles from unlicensed killing. 

A bill has been introduced to the Queensland parliament by Katter Party MP, Shane Knuth, that would permit crocodile hunting, egg collection, removal and relocation to crocodile reserves. The Safer Waterways Bill is based on the false premise that there is a significant problem of crocodile attack in Queensland. The explanatory notes to the bill provide a thorough summary of the intentions of the proposed legislation.

The ABC recently undertook a fact check of Bob Katter's claim that a person is killed by a crocodile every three months in North Queensland. They found his claim to be false. Since 1985 there has been one fatal attack by a crocodile every three years. Meanwhile, in the 2007-2016 period there were on average 8.5 people killed in boating incidents in Queensland, a far more dangerous activity it seems. 

The Queensland parliament's Innovation, Tourism Development and Environment Committee is currently seeking submissions on the Safer Waterways Bill 2018. You can help maintain the current protections for crocodiles by making a submission before 4pm on 31 May 2018 asking the committee to*:

  • reject the entire Safer Waterways Bill 2018
  • call on the Queensland Government to commit to rigorous community consultation with all First Nations Peoples regarding Crocodile Management
  • ensure there is increase employment and training of ‘Indigenous Ranger and Protected Area’ programs
  • call on the Queensland Government to explore nature-based tourism ventures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, First Nations Peoples communities
  • require further crocodile surveys to gain accurate scientific data on crocodile populations and crocodile egg health.
  • require research investment into possible changes in crocodile egg mortality and survival rates to sexual maturity
  • ensure there is no interference with crocodile populations through culling, removal or egg-harvesting be permitted unless conducted by authorised officers for essential public safety management, approved scientific research
  • ensure there is well resourced "Be Croc-Wise" education campaign in Queensland

To be valid your submission must include your name and two of the three below:

  • mailing address
  • email address
  • daytime phone number 

Address your submission to

The Secretary
Innovation, Tourism Development and Environment Committee
Ph: 3553 6662 Fax: 3553 6699
Email: itdec@parliament.qld.gov.au

*Thanks to Michael McCabe of Capricorn Conservation Council for these points

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Submissions on Tree Clearing Laws close this Thursday

On March 8, the Queensland government introduced a bill into the parliament to amend tree clearing laws. The parliament is now asking for submissions about the bill and we only have until midday on Thursday 22 March to make the laws stronger.

To make a submission click here: mackayconservationgroup.org.au/treeclearingsubmission

The most recent government report shows that 400,000 hectares of bushland was destroyed in Queensland during 2015-16. The previous year 300,000 hectares were lost. Over five years, more than one million hectares were bulldozed. That's equivalent to 1000 bulldozers driving side-by-side, destroying forests all the way from the New South Wales border to the tip of Cape York and killing 46 million native animals in their path. 

You can help put an end to this uncontrolled destruction of wildlife habitat by making a submission to the Queensland parliament about the new tree clearing laws. By adding your voice the parliament will know that Queenslanders want strong laws that protect important habitat. 

Make your submission by clicking here: mackayconservationgroup.org.au/treeclearingsubmission

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Australia is a global top-ten deforester – and Queensland is leading the way

Chain___Burning_logs_small.jpgNoel D Preece, James Cook University and Penny van Oosterzee, James Cook University

When you think of devastating deforestation and extinction you usually think of the Amazon, Borneo and the Congo. But eastern Australia ranks alongside these in the top 10 of the world’s major deforestation fronts – the only one in a developed nation. Most of the clearing is happening in Queensland, and it is accelerating.

Only last year a group of leading ecologists voiced their alarm at new data which showed the clearing of 296,000 hectares of forest in 2013-14. This was three times higher than in 2008-09, kicking Australia up the list as one of the world’s forest-clearing pariahs. At the 2016 Society for Conservation Biology Conference, a Scientists’ Declaration was signed by hundreds of scientists, expressing concern at these clearing rates.


Read more: Queensland land clearing is undermining Australia’s environmental progress


But the latest snapshot, Queensland’s Department of Science report on land cover change published last month, showed a staggering 395,000ha of clearing for 2015-16: an increase of one third on 2014-15. As far as we can tell this rate of increased clearing is unmatched anywhere else on the globe.

showed a staggering 395,000 of clearing for 2015-16: which is an increase of one third on 2014-15, or 133% over the period

Strong vegetation management laws enacted in Queensland – the Vegetation Management Act 1999 – achieved dramatic reductions in forest and woodland loss. But the subsequent Liberal National state government, elected in 2012, overturned these protections.

The current government, elected in 2015, has tried and failed to reinstate the protections. In response, “panic clearing” caused clearing rates to shoot up, in anticipation that the state election will deliver a government that will reintroduce the much-needed protection of forests.

The Queensland Parliament is now in caretaker mode ahead of the November 25 election. The Queensland Labor Party has pledged to reinstate laws to prevent wholesale clearing, while the LNP opposition has vowed to retain current clearing rates.

Forest cleared by bulldozers towing massive chains. Noel Preece

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Let’s get this straight, habitat loss is the number-one threat to Australia's species

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Brendan Wintle, University of Melbourne and Sarah Bekessy, RMIT University

Earlier this month, Australia’s outgoing Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews told ABC radio that land clearing is not the biggest threat to Australia’s wildlife. His claim caused a stir among Australia’s biodiversity scientists and conservation professionals, who have plenty of evidence to the contrary.

The ecologist Jared Diamond has described an “evil quartet” of threatening processes that drive species to extinction: habitat destruction; overhunting (or overexploitation); the presence of introduced species; and chains of linked ecological changes, including co-extinctions.


Read more: Australia’s species need an independent champion


In modern times we can add two more to this list. The first is catastrophic disease outbreaks, such as the chytrid fungus that has been instrumental in the catastrophic decline or extinction of almost 200 frog species, or the facial tumour disease that still threatens to wipe out Tasmanian devils in the wild.

The second is human-induced climate change, which appears to have caused one extinction in Australian Territories and is predicted to result in many more.

So the evil quartet has now become an evil sextet. It sounds ugly because it is. But does habitat loss through land clearing still top the list? The answer, in short, is yes.

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Tree Clearing Rally - Planning Meeting

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If you lined up 1,200 bulldozers side by side and drove them from Brisbane to Cairns then that's equivalent to the area of trees cleared, or planned to be cleared, in Queensland since 2013.

In September Mackay Conservation Group will be holding a rally to show we care about wildlife and want new tree clearing laws in our state.

Over the past four years one million hectares of woodland and forest has been bulldozed or the landholder has notified an intention to clear. We must end this practice that is destroying forests, killing wildlife, damaging the atmosphere and increasing runoff into streams and rivers that flow to the Great Barrier Reef. We need to show politicians that people in our region care as much about tree clearing as other Queenslanders do.

To make this rally a success we'll need people to take on some of the the big and small tasks. The first one is planning the event. If you would like to help protect our wildlife, please come along to our first organising meeting at the Mackay Environment Centre, 156 Wood St Mackay on Tuesday 18 July at 6.30pm.

You can RSVP here: http://www.mackayconservationgroup.org.au/tree_clearing_meeting_18_july_2017

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Koalas heading for extinction in SE Qld

Tree clearing is destroying koala habitat so fast in South East Queensland that there may be no koalas left there in a couple of years. Here in Central Queensland trees are being destroyed at an alarming rate.

Sign our petition to call on the state government to enact strict tree clearing laws in urban and rural Queensland.

 

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Uncontrolled Tree Clearing Must End

clearing_5.jpgMore than 1 million hectares of bush, forest and trees have likely been cleared since the Newman LNP Government let loose the bulldozers on Queensland. 

In response, organisations including Mackay Conservation Group, WWF-Australia, the Wilderness Society and the Queensland Conservation Council have launched an alliance to end land clearing in the state.

“Queensland is in the midst of an environmental crisis from land clearing,” said Wilderness Society Queensland Campaign Manager Gemma Plesman.

“The Newman Government gutted land-clearing laws four years ago today but the explosion in land clearing had started beforehand when the LNP announced it would stop enforcing the laws.

“More than 1 million hectares of bush, forest and trees have likely been razed since the Newman LNP let loose the bulldozers on Queensland. Since 2013 nearly 300,000 hectares has been cleared in Queensland every year we have data; an area the size of the Gabba is bulldozed every three minutes.”

Sign our petition to call on the Queensland Government to end uncontrolled tree clearing

Queensland Conservation Council head Dr Tim Seelig said: “This is one million very good reasons to make our land clearing laws much better and more effective in protecting native wildlife.

“Today we are launching an alliance of organisations from across the state united in their efforts to stop this terrible destruction.

“Parliament needs to be given another opportunity to end Campbell Newman’s destructive legacy on land clearing. By strengthening tree clearing laws, we can protect wildlife and bushland and ensure a future for species such as the endangered koala.”

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Defend the gentle dugongs

Dugongs were once so plentiful in Queensland that observers commented that it would take hours for the 100 metre wide herds to pass by, the water thick with their wallowing movements.

Today, dugongs are officially recognised as being vulnerable to extinction.

Will the day come when there will no longer be dugongs in the clear shallow waters off the coast of Queensland, and the only place you’ll be able to see one is in an aquarium? 

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