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From the category archives:

Wild Tasmania

Parks and Wildlife Service staff are rushing to the scene of Tasmania’s second mass whale stranding in as many weeks.

Mmore than 80 long-finned pilot whales have beached themselves at remote Sandy Cape, on the West Coast.

Remote Sandy Cape is famed for its large sand dunes and its proximity to the Tarkine forest, and its rugged, rocky shoreline.

UPDATE: Sadly, all the whales have died after taking a “physical beating on the rocks”.

Department of Primary Industries and Water spokesman Warwick Brennan said the long-finned pilot whales, discovered on a rocky area of coastline near Sandy Cape, died when they were forced into rocks.

Mr Brennan said 30 others were saved from the same fate when one whale began vocally socialising with a pod offshore and was taken further up the beach in an effort to stop those whales from coming in.

They moved on after it died.

UPDATE December 1: On the ground body count finds initial estimate from air of 80 stranded way too low. Latest count is more than 150.

whales.jpg[Photography: David Reilly, ABC]

Rescuers have shifted 12 stranded pilot whales to a different beach in north-west Tasmania in an attempt to get them back to sea.

The 12 surviving long-finned whales were part of a maternal pod of 65 mothers and calves which was discovered yesterday stranded at Anthony’s Beach.

Fifty-three of the whales died when the pod became beached.

UPDATE: Eleven whales have been returned to the open ocean.

Rescuers have been working since early yesterday to save the long-finned pilot whales, the only survivors from a pod of 65 that became beached near Stanley.

It is hoped the group will be able to rejoin another migratory pod.

Parks and Wildlife Services manager Chris Arthur says 12 whales, up to three metres long, were transported 17 kilometres along the Bass Highway on trucks equipped for the purpose to deep water at Godfreys Beach.

Lonely Planet, a leading destinations authority has named Tasmania’s Bay of Fires as the best destination for 2009.

To be released in November of this year, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2009 features 850 of the world’s hottest travel trends and experiences, and emerging destinations.

Rated number one in the guidebook‘s ’10 Must-See Regions for 2009′, Tasmania’s Bay of Fires is recognised as a secret, untapped holiday destination.

Listed ahead of France and Spain’s beautiful Basque Country and Chile’s ancient Chiloe, the Bay of Fires is praised for its picturesque and pristine landscapes, its cute cottages, its guided hikes and its sensational suppers. 

“White beaches of hourglass-fine sand, Bombay Sapphire sea, an azure sky — and nobody. This is the secret edge of Tasmania, laid out like a pirate’s treasure map of perfect beach after sheltered cove, all fringed with forest, ” the bible of hot destinations for 2009 says. 



A southern right whale has thrilled cruise passengers by taking a leisurely break in the River Derwent off Sandy Bay.

The whale was spotted cavorting off Bellerive early in the week and spent most of yesterday in the waters between Maning Reef and Wrest Point Casino.

“We caught a glimpse of it just off the casino … it just rolled over a bit,” Peppermint Bay Cruise guide Ben Brown said.

“We had quite a few international tourists and a good number from the mainland, so it was pretty exciting.”

He said the tourists were surprised to see a whale so far up the river.

[Via The Mercury]


The world’s biggest wild abalone fishery, which accounts for 25 percent of the global annual harvest, may be under threat from a destructive virus.

The ganglioneuritis virus has been detected in two abalone from waters off Tasmania and tests are under way to determine the extent of the threat.

The virus has already devastated the abalone industry in nearby Victorian waters.


Dangerous Banks is a large shifting sandbar about 35 kilometres off the tip of north-west Tasmania.

Raging currents, winds and giant swells have kept humans at bay, but on June 27 three surfers finally conquered Dangerous Banks, it was revealed this week.

Australian veteran surfers Ross Clarke-Jones and Tom Carroll and young Hawaiian Ian Walsh were towed on to 10-metre waves as part of their odyssey to surf giant winter swells around Australia for a pay television special Storm Riders, which is expected to be released next summer.

Clarke-Jones, regarded as Australia’s most renowned big-wave rider, said: “It was more than wild, it was complete chaos. I’ve never seen an ocean so angry and confused in all my surfing days.

“We managed to catch a few each but must admit that the ocean beat us to a pulp that day.

“We were lucky to have all made it to shore, to tell you the truth.”

The team gathered in Smithton on Tasmania’s north-west coast, and, guided by local abalone diver Paul Critchlow, put to sea equipped with two powerful powerboats, six power-skis and a helicopter.

[From theage.com.au]

shells.jpgShell weights of marine snails are getting lighter

Tasmanian scientists are worried a microscopic marine snail species found in the Southern Ocean may soon die out due to climate change:

The scientists say it is field evidence that sea life in the Southern Ocean is being affected by warmer water, and if these snails die out it could have dire consequences on the ocean’s food chain.

They took an expedition deep into the Southern Ocean on board the Aurora Australis in February, and collected a number of microscopic marine snails.

The scientists have found the snails have dropped half their shell weight over the past decade.

Dr Donna Roberts says it is evidence that climate change is affecting sea life in the Southern Ocean.

“Many researchers have been assuming we would see this kind of result for the past 50 years and this is the first time we’ve got a measured response to the changing of the ocean chemistry,” she said.

“It’s interesting to know what’s going to happen to commercial fish that eat them because a change in their diet might mean a change in where they actually are living, so it’s not just we might loose one variety of snail it actually could change the whole eco-system of the southern ocean.

“That’s what we’re most worried about that it could completely upset our commercial fish stocks.”

[From ABC News]


A fascinating photograph of Hobart’s little-known ‘underworld’. See it full size here.

devil03.jpgThe Tasmanian devil has been listed as an endangered species by the Tasmanian Government.

A deadly and disfiguring facial cancer, which often kills within months, has cut the island state’s wild devil population by as much as 60 per cent.

The reclassification from vulnerable to endangered status highlights the severe nature of the threat to the marsupial.

Primary Industries Minister David Llewellyn said the upgrading to endangered status reflected the plunge in the devil population resulting from the facial tumour disease. “The order has now been gazetted, and the new status becomes official today,” Mr Llewellyn said.

Wildlife and disease experts are working with state and commonwealth governments to combat the disease.



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Vet Alex Kriess with Cedric the Tasmanian devil

A Tasmanian devil by the name of Cedric may hold the key to the future of his species.

He is an extraordinary devil, guinea pig and possible saviour, who is naturally resistant to the contagious facial tumours which have already killed half the devil population in Tasmania.

Cedric was caught by scientists this time last year. Now it seems he is the best chance yet scientists have to developing a devil-saving vaccine.

By working with their colleagues at Sydney University, Hobart scientists have discovered it is Cedric’s genes that are protecting him from the cancer.