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ISSN 1036-966x Issue 1 2009 Plant PROFILE Discovering OUTDOORS On the BRINK Sturt’s Desert Rose Nature Photography Western Quoll Creature Feature The camel that broke the environment’s back The Dromedary Camel, Camelus dromedarius, is an amazing animal that helped us to explore and develop Australia’s arid interior. When motor vehicles replaced them in the 1920’s, several thousand were set free. Scientists now think that about 1 million camels roam Central Australia. At this level, camels are a problem, and with their numbers predicted to double, to 2 million by 2017, now is the time act. Built for the outback Hairy ears keep the sand out. Camels don’t store water in their humps, they store fat! Although they can drink an amazing 100 litres in one go, they get most of their water from the plants they eat. Nostrils Thick, sun- They are very efficient at saving water. Their pee has so little that can close to reflecting, water in it that it comes out as a thick syrup. Their poo is so insulating fur. dry that you can apparently set fire to it! keep sand out. They have special blood cells that can Extra eyelashes, a third, operate when dehydrated or super hydrated. transparent ‘eyelid’ and Their core body temperature can also range big eyebrows to keep out from 34 -41° C, a range that would kill most sand and sun. other animals. ‘Kneepads’ for kneeling on hot G’day from Gr sand. Welcome to aham Junior Rang the first edition of the e year for everyr Review. I hope this is 2009 more about body and one where yoa great the Territory u environment discover There has be . Territory sin en lots of rain across t Ranger Reviece the last edition of t he can be affec w. Access to many of he Junior Big feet that don’t over the ent ted by the rain. Some cour Parks sink in the sand. Tough mouth that can be closed fo ire wet season, while ot lose heading out r short periods of time. hers can even eat thorny food. idea to chec to explore our Parks, it Before Did You Know? k ’s Parks” report the latest “Access to a good parks. When on our web s our open for all you get out ite, www.nt.gov.au/ Australia’s ca t there, keep healthiest, momels are considered the increase in inhe new plant growth an your eyes sect life as d We also have st disease free in the worl a result of t the th Finally to all he rains. world. Four Afr e most ‘wild’ camels in thd. welcome to the Junior Rangers ou more camels ican countries actually ha e another yea t r of the prog there, camel farms. than us; however, these are ve See you out ram. on in the bush! Graham 2 Long-legged legacy The first camel to arrive in Australia in 1840 was named Harry. Things got off to a shaky start for poor Harry. For starters, he attacked a goat and several people. On one trip, he wrecked a bag of food. Finally, he knocked his owner while he was loading a gun. The gun went off and blew off two of the guys fingers, and several of his teeth! The wounds became infected and he died a month later. One of his dying wishes was that Harry be shot! Despite this, camels soon became vital to the early exploration and growth of Central Australia. They basically carted everything and everyone who went in or out of Central Australia. In many ways, towns like Alice Springs where built on the ‘camels back’. The men who led and cared for them where called ‘Afghans’. They came from different countries throughout the Middle- east, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. They have also made an enormous contribution to Central Australia. The naming of ‘The Ghan’ train from Adelaide to Darwin is just one way that we remember them. Too many camels to act Parts of the NT are now getting over-crowded with camels. All up, there are about 341000 of them. They eat and trample Time st la gers agre nd mana that camels e its s and mo amage ut of plants, and their favourite ones cop a real hammering. Scientist to control the d e fencing them o m for Waterholes can be sucked dry and fouled. now time . Solutions includ em, catching the eat ing th m Camels are starting to invade remote communities. They are caus t areas, shooting for products like y, as n m importa ort or using the this may be tric and k destroy bores, sprinklers, and even air conditioners looking for water. They break down fences, and are a menace on the live exp ther. But doing y remote areas road. Males can also become quite aggressive during breeding and lea them live in ver ven think they most of e people don’t e m. season and may attack people. som ble are a pro Favoured camel food Q Camels love to browse on this lovely little tree. The problem 1 ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ is, it is a threatened species in the NT, and camels are its biggest enemy. Complete this quiz and its common name will be revealed in the boxes. This article mentions all of the 2 ____ ____ ____ answers. Good luck! 3 ____ ____ ____ 1. Camel pee comes out like a thick what? 2. What do camels store in their hump? 4 ____ ____ ____ ____ 3. Camels have big eyebrows to keep sand and what else out? 4. Camels have big feet to help walk in _ _ _ _. 5 ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ 5. Camels can _ _ _ _ _ their nostrils to keep sand out. 6. Camels rarely need to _ _ _ _ _. 6 ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ 7. Harry the camel reportedly attacked 7 ____ ____ ____ ____ what type of animal? 3 Santalum acuminatum is a threatened species that is heavily grazed by camels. On the Brink Missing NT Quoll The Western Quoll, Dasyurus geoffroii, was once one of Central Australia’s most aggressive, small mammals. It lived right through inland Australia but it hasn’t been collected in Central Australia for over 100 years. Scientists now believe they are extinct in the Northern Territory. Long sets of whiskers Desert dwellers Sharp claws Although Western Quolls were once common Distinctive, white and teeth across Australia they are now only found in a spots over the body few small spots in the south west of Western Australia. In the NT they lived amongst spinifex grasses on sand dunes and plains, as well as rocky areas in desert regions. They usually nested in hollow logs and tree hollows. They also dug hollows into large termite mounds. There are many reasons why these quolls are Fine white fur below extinct. Large wildfires in Central Australia have changed the habitat of the Western Quoll. These fires have reduced the shelter available to the quolls. They have also reduced the prey of quolls. Less food means less quolls. Meat munching marsupials Western Quolls are carnivorous marsupials. This means that they eat meat and have pouches just like kangaroos and wallabies. Quolls eat a range of different animals. They like birds, small mammals, reptiles, frogs, and insects. Even yabbies and crabs are on the menu. They are nocturnal, so they usually hunt at night, but will sometimes come out in the day to hunt. Quolls are great climbers so they will climb trees in search of prey. Their strong claws allow them to easily move about in trees and shrubs. Long, spotted tail On the Menu What’s on the men Quolls ate a vast u? Astonishingly, Western Central Australia range of different animals in Did You . Here are just a few... Know? Western Quolls were last seen by scientists Frogs Reptiles in Central Australia way Beetles Grasshoppers back in the early 1900s. Smaller However, Aboriginal people mammals in the western deserts Birds talk about hunting them as recently as the 1950s. Cockroaches 4 Spiders Unfriendly ferals Most of Central Australia’s ‘mid-sized’ mammals are either extinct or on the brink of extinction. Foxes and feral cats eat these mid-sized mammals. They also eat the same foods as quolls. These unfriendly ferals arrived over a hundred years ago in Central Australia. Many of our native animals have declined dramatically since then. The control of feral cats and foxes is not an easy task. Both animals are cunning hunters and will usually not enter traps set by Rangers. Not only do foxes and feral cats feed on the same animals as the quoll, but they also feed on young quolls as well. Northern relative under threat! The Northern Quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus. The Northern Quoll, Dasyurus hallucatus, is a Top End relative of the Western Quoll. They are about half the size of their southern cousin. Their numbers are also decreasing and scientists are very worried about their future. They too have been affected by changes in fire patterns and the introduction of the feral cat. This quoll is now listed as ‘critically endangered’ in the Northern Territory. The arrival of the poisonous introduced Cane Toad, Chaunus marinus, is a new worry. The Cane Toad, Chaunus marinus. You are a quoll. Start at the entrance and see if you can reach the Spinifex What are your Hopping Mouse for a quick feed. chances? So what are your chances of see Quoll in the wild in Central Austr ing a Western almost no chance at all! There isalia? Answer… tiny, tiny chance that a populatiostill just a somewhere out in remote areas n may exist people. This doesn’t mean that well away from see them at all. Western Quolls you’ll never the nocturnal house at the Alic can be seen in e Desert Park. Remember to be patSprings because they are not always ient active. The Desert Park has a breeding program which has had some recent success when two male quolls were born in 2008. Western Quolls have very unique tracks. The only other animal that 5 looks similar is the Common Brushtail Possum - another rare animal of the desert regions. Urban Encounter Fantastic Fiddler Crabs Most of us who have visited intertidal areas, like mangrove forests, creeks, sandbars or mudflats, will have seen the colourful violin-like play of the fantastic Fiddler Crab, Uca spp. Let’s look a little closer at the special lives of these fascinating little crabs. Fiddler facts & features It is the males who have the one huge colourful claw. When they wave this claw it looks a little bit like they are playing a fiddle (like a violin) giving them their Did You common name. They use this claw to attract females and to fight off intruders. You will know where and when fiddlers have been eating as there are little balls of mud lying around. Check out these other fiddler features: Know? There are about 100 species of fiddler crabs worldwide, Males have to spend twice as long as with Australia home to females feeding because the big claw makes Depending upon the species fiddler around 20 of them. There are it difficult to collect food from the soil. crabs can be very colourful. Some of the 9 different kinds in Darwin. local species are bright red and yellow. One is called Uca flammula, or Darwin Red Legs, as it ha Males can be left or right Fiddler crabs are small, with flame coloured legs. s handed it depends on the the bigger kinds being 5cm species. across. Most are smaller. The impressive male’s claw is quite a weapon. It can weigh half his weight and be wider than his body. Loss of a claw, because of fighting, does not happen Female fiddlers have two smaller very often. When it does a new one may regrow. claws. They can look like other crabs. Look closely at their shell shape and colour to be sure! Prime real estate Burrows are prime fiddler real estate and worth fighting for. There may be thousands of crabs on a mudflat and each defends Fiddler crab burrows and those of other an area around their burrow. Their animals help the intertidal system. territories are important as: places to hide when the tide is out; escapes from predators; sources of water for keeping their gills wet; and as feeding and mating areas. Burrows also help the overall health of intertidal areas. They allow water and oxygen to penetrate the soil and reach the roots of plants 6 like mangroves and other soil life. The turning over of the soil also helps recycle nutrients, much like worms do in a garden. Fold down, compound eyes on stalks. Fiddler families Although their courtship is a flashy affair, mating is usually a secretive thing. In some species the female chooses a boyfriend. She wanders around, checking out their claws, before choosing one and mating in his burrow. In other species, it is the male doing the wandering, waiting for some interest, before mating in her home. Either way, mum incubates her eggs belowground. She carries them in a mass of hundreds underneath her. When A panoramic the time and tide are right (high) she releases them. For a while they float around as plankton, growing, before being view washed back into intertidal areas and growing into tiny fiddlers. Like all crabs they must moult (shed) their hard shell and make a bigger one as they grow. Fiddler crab eyes look pretty weird! They sit high above on periscope-like A male fiddler stalks which fold down into grooves waving his claw on their head when they enter and tapping their burrows. Their compound eyes the ground in (like flies) are specially designed courtship display. for the flat world they live in. They give a clear panoramic view of everything going on around them all at once. They provide an early warning system, enabling fiddlers to judge distance and spot potential mates, intruders or predators, even from behind. It’s also like having an in-built compass, helping them to navigate back to their burrows. Some scientific studies suggest that these crabs can see others up to 2m away; a bird flying over them Bird snacks at around 17m; and a person walking near them from 100m away. Bet you There are lots and lots of fiddler crabs, so they are a rich can’t see them from that distance! source of food for other animals, particularly birds. Use the grid to decode the name of one such secretive bird pictured (hint: it is a beach resident!). 1 2 3 4 5 A B C D E Science F G H Snippet I J K L M N O Scientists have found that fiddler crabs have an P Q R S T unusual behaviour... they operate their U V W X Y own Neighbourhood Watch programs. Even though they 2 5 1 3 3 4 5 5 4 5 are territorial, each fighting to protect their own turf, males will come to help their weaker 3 1 3 2 5 3 7 neighbours fight off any wandering burrow snatchers. Plant Profile Sturt’s Desert Rose Sturt’s Desert Rose, Gossypium sturtianum, has one of Central Australia’s most beautiful and well known flowers. This interesting plant has some famous connections, and it has come to symbolise the Northern Territory in more ways than one! Famous family Despite its common name, Sturt’s Desert Rose is not in the rose family. It is a member of the Malvaceae family. This family includes the similar looking Hibiscuses, but its closest cousins are much more famous and important to humans.... they are the cotton plants. Four species of Gossypium have been used for thousands of years to produce cotton. Have a look at the clothes you are wearing; at least some of them would be made of cotton. White fluff covers the seedpods of all Gossypiums. They can look like cotton balls and basically they are! People harvest the fluff and spin it into cotton. However, our native Gossypiums do not have enough fluff to harvest. Desert Rose ID The flowers are mauve to lilac in colour with a dark red centre. They only last a couple of days. The leaves are dark green. Sturt’s Desert Rose grows to about 3 metres tall in arid central Australia. It flowers all year round, but produces more in winter. (Drawing by Marion Westmacott, ANBG). Science Snippet Famous name Oil glands cover most parts of the Sturt’s Desert Rose. They Sturt’s Desert Rose is named contain a substance after the famous Australian called ‘gossypol’. You explorer, Captain Charles Sturt. can smell it if you He first collected it in Central crush the leaves. It Australia, in 1845, while looking for is poisonous to most the legendary ‘inland sea’. He did not native animals, but find a sea, but he found Sturt’s Stony it does not affect introduced hoofed 8 Desert, Sturt’s Desert Pea, Cooper Creek, and the Simpson Desert! animals, like sheep and cattle. An NT icon Sturt’s Desert Rose is the Northern Territory’s official floral emblem. It appears on the Territory coat of arms. It is also on the NT flag, which was unveiled in 1978. The flag depicts a stylised Sturt’s Desert Rose flower insignia. The real flower only has five petals, but the insignia has seven. These seven petals A stamp and the Northern represent the Northern Territory and Australia’s other six states. Territory flag, both featuring The Australian Capital Territory misses out! Sturt’s Desert Rose. All Territorians would have seen the NTG logo. It consists of the flower insignia with the words ‘Northern Territory Government’ attached to it. Look around and you’ll see it everywhere. Checkout the front cover of this magazine for a start! Gossypium hirsutum, the The mystery of the fluffy feral ‘fluffiest’ of the The most widely used commercial cotton, Upland Cotton, Gossypium world’s cotton hirsutum, came from the Americas. Now people grow it all over the plants. world. Its seedpods are especially fluffy and they make great cotton. You are most likely wearing some of this fluff right now! These cotton bushes actually grow wild in many parts of the Top End of Australia. How they got here is a bit of a mystery. Keep an eye out for them in places like Casuarina Coastal Reserve in Darwin. A variety of G. hirsutum was trialled in the NT in 1882. The plan was to start a cotton growing industry, but insect pests soon ended it. Some people think our wild plants escaped from this old farm trial. However, these ‘ferals’ are slightly different to commercial cotton, and they also occur all the way out in remote Arnhem Land. Maybe our wild plants are escapees that changed slightly, and have been able to spread hundreds of kilometres. Some scientists, however, believe that our wild cotton arrived here naturally on ocean currents some time in the past. We may never know the truth. W E R F L O I N T M G A G H F L Fluffy feral N O R S U O M A I E S T U N S word find T E C U T T O A S I n, E mercial cotto R M A T ame for com s. G O S The species n word, hirsutu D I Y mes fr om the Latin all of E B S V U hirsutum, co , firstly find P N C ha t this means p left corner, I P T To find out w start in the to S L O I L S Then, ce the I these words. own, and pla Y O R ya cross then d E E R R R work your wa ces provided . U U A rs in the spa O L D leftover lette D M O G I POISONOUS G T M GOSSYPIUM P Y S S O COTTON ROSE L O S H RT GOSSYPOL N O U S DESE SEEDPOD O I S O HIRSUTUM P L U F F EMBLEM STURT A L G F INSIGNIA S D N FLAG STURTIANUM LOGO FLOWER 9 MALVACEAE FLUFF OIL GLANDS Discovering Outdoors Taking Nature Photographs Have you ever heard the saying ‘take only photographs and leave only foot prints’? This refers to minimising the impact we make when exploring the natural environment. Taking nature or wildlife photographs is a great way for us to enjoy being outside and learning more about our environment without causing any damage. Since the development of digital cameras, more people are enjoying photography. But how easy is it to take good photographs of nature? The good news is that anyone can take great wildlife photos right from the start. But there are a few tricks that will help you to take better photographs. Want to get some great nature photos? Just grab a camera and follow these easy tips! Fit the shape Think of your camera’s viewfinder as a picture frame. Try to match the frame to the shape of Get the your subject. If it is up-and-down, turn your camera side-ways to fit the shape. Don’t have it on an angle or people might think they are looking at the side of a hill. light right If you shoot toward the sun, your picture may come out too dark. Stand with the sun behind you or to the side for a better result. If you shoot in bright sun, your photo may have lots of bright light (glare) and dark shadows. Wait for a cloud to come along to reduce the light a bit, or better still shoot early or late in the day when the sun is less bright. Fill the frame Having the item or scene you’re trying to photograph almost fill the frame makes a much better photo. This is because details are often more interesting than an overall view. Small things can ‘disappear’ if you take the photo from too far away. Each time you spot a subject, snap a shot and then move in closer for a better shot. Keep 10 getting closer, using your camera’s zoom or by moving in, until you are sure the photo will best show your subject. Get to the point Try a different Check all parts of your frame before you take your picture. Watch for stuff that doesn’t belong - and angle takes attention away from the main subject of When photographing animals and plants try using your photo. some different views. Most animals are much shorter than we are, and so we need to get low onto their level to see the world as they see it. If we photograph from a standing position, we may get an accurate picture of the animal, but not the picture that represents it best. So for a more exciting and interesting photo get down on your belly or knees. Know your subject Hold your To photograph animals, whether it’s your pet at camera steady home or a ‘critter’ in the wild you will need patience, A camera that jiggles while you’re taking a persistence and an understanding of the way photograph will result in a blurry picture. So be animals behave. Try to predict how they will act, especially careful to hold the camera still when and wait for that special moment for the best shooting. If you’re right-handed, use your left hand photograph. to support the weight of the camera or vice versa. Rest your camera on a stable surface before While it often helps to have good equipment, taking the picture or if you have one, use a tripod. taking fantastic photographs needs nothing more than a bit of thought. So take some time before each shot to think about ways to make the picture great! Quick Tips Photographin g Animals Follow the tangled lines • Make sure t he to find out what this Nature Photographer are in focus (if animals eyes is trying to capture! the whole pictu they’re not, out of focus). re appears • Take the ph oto different angle on a normal every d than your ay viewpoint. • Hold your ca mer steady when yo a very to take the ph u are about oto. • Approach a nima and have patien ls slowly them first to ce. Watching their behaviouunderstand r is a big help. • Cheat a litt le – and adjust th you can crop contrast and e brightness, co final images to lour of your their full poten bring out tial. 11 • Have fun! Discover a Territory Park Butterf ly Gorge Nature Park Butterfly Gorge Butterfly Gorge is tucked away at the base of a low sandstone plateau. The Nature Park Darwin Jabiru sheer rock faces, edged by dense riverine plants and rocky spinifex country, offer Katherine shaded walks and beautiful scenery. The Wagiman people speak for this place. Kununurra What to see and do Stu art Tennant Creek Camooweal Hwy WESTERN AUSTRALIA Follow the Creek Walk along the river to the entrance of the gorge. The path follows the creek for NORTHERN about 600 metres, terminating at a rocky outcrop. Be adventurous; make like Indiana Jones QUEENSLAND TERRITORY and climb over or swim around the rocks to reach the main pool. You can also reach the gorge Yulara Alice Springs and main swimming area by following the longer Lookout Walk. This is a 30 minute walk through open woodland offering great views of the gorge before descending SOUTH AUSTRALIA down to the main pool. However, you should not walk alone, follow Past logging industries the signs and beware of slippery rocks. removed many of the huge Paperbarks. The Quite often you may be the only visitors and will be able to timber was used to experience the true tranquillity and isolation of this beautiful build the Stokes Hill spot. The Park protects a part of the Douglas River Wharf in Darwin. which eventually flows into the Daly River about 50 km downstream. Why not make a day of it and have a picnic. It is a great place to swim. Swimming across the main pool and through the narrowest of gorges will get you to the upper pools. A little further climbing and swimming leads to the most beautiful and peaceful gorge. There are lots of shady grassed areas with tables and barbecues. Break out the cricket set or toss a frisbee. After lunch why not go for a walk along the Monsoon Rainforest and Woodlands Walk - a lovely loop walking track takes you through two of the Top End’s habitats. It starts from the picnic area. Take binoculars if you are keen on bird watching. Getting there Puzzle The Park is approximately 130 km from Answers Katherine and 200 km from Darwin along e: Creature Featur the old Stuart Highway scenic route. The final 17 km into the Park is a four wheel drive Quandong. r: track. Caravans cannot be taken into this Urban Encounte Beach- stone Curlew. Park nor can you camp there. However, you may camp nearby at Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs Plant Profile: Park. You can also camp at the Douglas River Esplanade Hairy. The Park’s name comes doors: Conservation Area, which is looked after by the Douglas Daly from the large number Discovering Out Tourist Park. Visitors should first check in at the office where of Common Crow The Kangaroo. you will be given a camp site. Camping fees apply. Butterflies, Euploea core corinna, which can It is only possible to visit the Park during the dry season (May -September). be seen amongst the Heavy rains close the Park each year during the wet season. plant foliage. The Junior Ranger Review is published four times a year by the Contributions & subscription Please Note: You are welcome to photocopy the text Parks and Wildlife Service of the NT. This edition was written by Dean requests are welcome and & illustrations in this book without prior permission for 12 McAdam, Emily Findlay, Michael Barritt & Dave Rochford. Editor Dean should be sent to: non-profit educational purposes only. If text is reproduced McAdam. Design and layout by Graphics’ll Doo. The front cover by The Editor separately it must not be altered and the Parks & Wildlife Leonie Richards. Illustrations by K. Day, K. Kerr, L. Richards, N. Pike, Junior Ranger Review Service of the NT must be acknowledged as the source. A. Taylor, R. Whitlow, M. Westmacott & B. Whiteford. Printed on PO Box 496 (If you wish to use the illustrations, permission must be recycled paper. Palmerston NT 0831 sought). Please contact the editor if in doubt.
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