Sunday 26 March 2017


Tasmanian Devil (Photo: Devil Ark website)

Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harisii) are facing extinction because of the highly contagious Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) which was first diagnosed over 20 years ago.

Since then it has been estimated that populations affected by the spreading disease have declined by more than 90%. DFTD is characterised by cancers around the head and neck which make it difficult for the animals to eat with death resulting from starvation and the breakdown of bodily functions from the cancer.

The rapid spread of the disease led in 2005 to the development of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program – an initiative of the Federal and Tasmanian Governments. A major component of the program has been the establishment of captive populations of Devils in around 30 wildlife parks and zoos around the country and a few overseas in New Zealand and the United States. The Devils in these facilities will serve as insurance populations which it is hoped can be used to repopulate Tasmania once the disease has run its course.

Devil Ark at Barrington Tops about three hours north of Sydney is one of these facilities. It was founded in 2011 with 44 animals on 25 hectares of donated land which replicates the natural Tasmanian environment. 

Devil Ark’s success in breeding has led to an increase in population to 180.  In 2015 22 Devils bred there were reintroduced to Tasmania on the Forestier Peninsula which is fenced off from the mainland. Since then some of these animals have bred and weaned young. 

Devil Ark is seeking to double its population by 2020.  To do this it needs to raise $1.5 million.  It has already received a $250,000 grant from Global Wildlife Conservation, a US organisation, and is hoping to raise more through donations.

The insurance populations in facilities like Devil Ark are reasons for optimism about Devil survival.  Other reasons for optimism are research into a vaccine to immunise against the disease and evidence that some Devils have recovered from the disease.  Another is precocial breeding where Devils in their first year breed and wean their young before they catch the disease and die.
 Leonie Blain

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on March 6, 2017.    

Wednesday 22 March 2017


Switch off to join the future

In 2017, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is celebrating 10 years of Earth Hour and 10 years of progress on tackling climate change.

Earth Hour launched in Sydney in 2007, with 2.2 million people and 2,100 businesses participating in the ‘lights off’ event. Just one year later, Earth Hour became a global phenomenon with over 35 countries, and an estimated 50-100 million people participating. 

2017 will mark the 10th anniversary of Earth Hour as a global phenomenon. It is now celebrated in over 172 countries and over 7,000 cities and towns worldwide. The symbolic hour has grown into the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment, with beyond-the-hour projects and initiatives happening throughout the year.

In Australia, Earth Hour is something that really brings communities together, with 1 in every 4 Australians taking part. In 2016, millions of Australians took part in Earth Hour to show their support for a low pollution, clean energy future.

On Saturday, 25th March, switch off to support progress 
for the next generation. 

Switch off to #JoinTheFuture. 

Sunday 19 March 2017


In a recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald[1], Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), commented on the latest national State of the Environment report.

She said  that while there were some positive signs such as improvements to the Murray-Darling Basin through increased environmental flows, the “story is grim”. 

The report points to inadequate funding and a lack of effective national coordinated action which has contributed to the current state of our environment. Federal government spending to protect and restore nature in Australia is at its lowest level in a decade and is expected to decline further.  For every $100 of federal expenditure less than 5 cents reaches conservation programs.

She points out that while government spending on the environment is so small it is “preparing to spend $1 billion of taxpayers’ money to help build Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, which, ironically, will be a major source of pollution for decades to come.”

The ACF believes the government needs to increase funding for the environment by at least 400% “if it is to reverse the dramatic decline of Australia’s wildlife, reefs and forests.”

O’Shanassy  points to the economic benefits that a healthy environment brings in sectors such as tourism and agricultural production.

“Nature in Australia is one of the key drawcards for international visitors, worth about $40 billion to the economy based on figures from Ecotourism Australia.”

“Healthy water catchments reduce nutrient loading, salinity and erosion.  Healthy soils increase productivity through better water retention and nutrient cycling.  Increased biodiversity improves native pollinators, which improve yields.  Native species can play a critical role in natural pest control.”

In conclusion O’Shanassy called on political and business leaders to stand up on this issue.

[1] “Neglecting nature is a budget burden”, The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

Wednesday 15 March 2017


It will be screened at a later date. 

The documentary The Bentley Effect which describes the community fight to stop coal-seam gas and unconventional gas mining in the Northern Rivers of NSW will be screened in Grafton on Saturday 18th (7 pm) and Sunday 19th (2 pm) 

This 90-minute film will be screened at The Pelican on Saturday 18th March at 7:00pm with a matinee on Sunday 19th March at 2:00pm. 
There will be a Q&A session with Brendan Shoebridge, the Producer/Director, following the film..

The Knitting Nannas will be there in full regalia, selling tea, coffee as an anti-CSG fundraiser.

Tickets are: Adults $15;
oncession and high school students
$12;  Children under 12 - Free.
Tickets available at Buckley's Music Grafton as well as online at
​:​ (click on Screenings).
​  If not sold out, at the door.​

'The Bentley Effect' is a film not to be missed.  It raises the issue of our basic right to clean, unpolluted air, land and water.

Thursday 2 March 2017


Earth Charter, Principle 2:  “Care for the Community of Life with understanding, compassion and love.”

Early January 2017 was for many people a joyous holiday period with family reunions and New Year resolutions but for all of us it was a time of temperatures of 40 degrees or more.  Most of NSW experienced an oppressive heat wave and the people of the Clarence Valley sweltered. 

Even night temperatures became difficult to bear and people needed to be careful to avoid dehydration.   

Some newspaper reports suggested the heat wave posed a threat to human health, especially to older people and the very young.

But in the midst of our discomfort did we consider the impact that the heatwave was having on our biodiversity?

This photograph taken mid-afternoon on January 14 shows a female king parrot suffering from the extreme temperature. She sought some relief in a shady porch behind our house.  Even here the temperature was close to 40 degrees celsius.

Her beak is repeatedly opening and closing and her wings are drooping.  We are careful not to disturb her and she stays in this position for at least two hours.

At the front of the house two more king parrots are perched in similar shady positions, again with beak and wings conveying distress.

Do such images have an important communique for our human community?

If we fail to limit our greenhouse gases urgently, if we go ahead with the massive Adani coal project, if the Donald Trump presidency ignores climate change, if …… the list goes on.

Will this image of the king parrot suffering from heat wave conditions become a symbol for all life on our planet?

Big questions are looming and the future of our Earth Community – our biodiversity and our grandchildren – will be greatly influenced by our answers.

            - Stan Mussared

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on February 6, 2017.