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Beware of Scammers

A number of Blogs and web sites have reappeared for the purpose of obtaining donations from people that are genuinely concerned about animal welfare, in particular dogs and cats.

Before you send any money ensure the money isn't being transferred into a personal account, that the people running the blog have experience in the pet industry or the animal welfare industry and have been operating for a number of years. Better still, stick with the main stream welfare agencies like the Animal Welfare League or the RSPCA. Do your due diligence before you part with your hard earned money.

These scammers will tell you what they think you want to hear. They exaggerate the number of pets that are put down and they lie about the reasons animals are abandoned.

They will blame pet shops despite the fact that pet shops are about 5% of the market. There were 2 Parliamentary inquiries, in NSW and Victoria that found that pet shops were not the cause of the Puppy Farm problem. Pet shops have had a bad rap over the past few years, some justifiably, but these are in the minority.

Another sign that these web sites have questionable motives is when they blame large ethical breeders, Pure Breed and Cross Breed, ones that have proven records of legitimate and ethical operation. Large breeders have the resources to build the infrastructure to house the animals in an ethical manner, employ staff to properly look after the animals. Both parliamentary inquires also found that the size of the breeder was not conducive to unethical puppy farms.

The bottom line is don't just take what they say as true, make your own inquiries and use your donations where they will do the best good.

Flea now: parasites from domestic pets affecting wildlife world wide

A cat flea. Photo: Stephen Doggett.

Fleas from domestic pets are infesting native wildlife and feral animals in all continents except Antarctica, a new study reveals.

The University of Queensland-led global study found domestic pet fleas feeding on species as diverse as Australian brushtail possums, coyotes, golden jackals and Iberian lynx.

UQ School of Veterinary Science researcher Dr Nicholas Clark said the potential for urban-wildlife parasite exchange represented a considerable threat, especially since fleas could transmit harmful bacteria including those causing bubonic plague and typhus.

The study showed that so-called cat fleas –  the main flea species found on domestic dogs and cats --  were infesting more than 130 wildlife species around the world, representing nearly 20 per cent of all mammal species sampled.

“Dog fleas are less widespread and to date they’ve been reported on 31 mammal species,” he said.

“Both flea species are commonly reported infesting free-roaming (feral) cats and dogs or introduced mammals such as red foxes, black rats and brown rats.”

The breakdown of barriers between wildlife and invasive species had increased the transfer of fleas between domestic animals and wildlife.

Dr Clark said this was a threat to One Health – a concept from the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention that recognises that the health of people is linked to the health of animals and the environment, and requires a global effort to address.

University of Sydney researcher Associate Professor Jan Šlapeta said that despite the extensive risk for flea spill-over between domestic and wild animals, there was a lack of knowledge on cat and dog flea distributions among wildlife.

“This study is the first to uncover the magnitude and geographic spread of the wildlife occurrences of domestic dog and cat fleas,” he said.

“We have provided tangible evidence that invasive species contribute to the spread of the most common parasites from domestic pets.”

Dr Clark said that reducing contact between wild species and domestic animals would be crucial to manage invasive flea infestations in wild animals.

The study, which also involved UQ Associate Professor Jenny Seddon and Griffith University Dr Konstans Wells, is published in Parasites & Vectors (doi 10.1186).

Degrading coral reefs bad news for commercial fishing

The degradation of coral reefs might have short-term benefits for some fish groups, but would be bad for fisheries long term, according to a University of Queensland-led study.

The research, which focused on fisheries’ productivity under progressive coral reef degradation, also found that the industry may be fairly robust up until the early reef degradation stages.

However, UQ School of Biological Sciences researcher Dr Alice Rogers said authorities need to change management practices to take advantage of the benefits.

“The loss of living corals alters the flora and fauna found in the sea which means less refuges and places to hide for reef fish, and more algae and invertebrates that many reef fish eat,” Dr Rogers said.

The study modelled how these changes affect coral reef communities, food webs and the potential productivity of coral reef fisheries.

“We found that initial losses of living coral, but not erosion of their structure, increased fisheries productivity in the short-term, but productivity increases were from herbivorous fish and smaller fish which may not be the most highly valued targets," Dr Rogers said.

“However, when the structure of the reef eroded following coral death, all benefits to the industry were lost.

“Coral reef health around the world is deteriorating, and that could affect the lives of tens of millions of people.”

The study, in collaboration with UQ’s Professor Peter Mumby of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies and Dr Julia Blanchard of the University of Tasmania, is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology (doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.13051)

Turkey-sized dinosaur discovered in ancient log-jam

A dinosaur species discovered a decade ago in south-eastern Australia is giving fresh insight into the diversity of dinosaurs that inhabited the Australian-Antarctic rift valley.

University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences alumnus Dr Matt Herne and colleagues describe the turkey-sized herbivore for the first time in an international journal published today.

The species was identified from fossilised tail and foot bones found in 113-million-year-old rocks that form a sea platform near Cape Otway in Victoria.

Dr Herne said the new dinosaur had been named Diluvicursor pickeringi (pronounced di-loovy-cursor pickering-i), meaning Pickering’s flood-running dinosaur.

Diluvicursor shows for the first time that there were at least two distinct body-types among closely related ornithopods  ̶  small, two-legged grazing dinosaurs  ̶  in this part of Australia,” he said..

“One called Leaellynasaura was lightly built with an extraordinarily long tail, while the other – Diluvicursor – was more solidly built, with a far shorter tail.”

“Our preliminary reconstruction of Diluvicursor’s tail muscles suggests this dinosaur had powerful leg retracting muscles and was most likely a good runner.”

Dr Herne said the discovery highlighted the extraordinary diversity of dinosaur species in the ancient rift valley that existed between Australia and Antarctica.

Sea erosion over millennia has exposed fossils in wave-cut rock platforms around the Otway coast.

Volunteer prospector George Caspar discovered the skeleton of Diluvicursor pickeringi in 2005.

The fossil was buried along with flood-transported tree stumps, logs and branches in deep scours at the base of what was once a powerful river.

“The Diluvicursor pickeringi carcass appears to have become entangled in a log-jam at the bottom of this river,” Dr Herne said.

“The Diluvicursor skeleton was discovered in 2005, but it’s taken this long to fully understand the geology of the area where it was found, and also Diluvicursor’s relationships.

“Much of the fossil vertebrate material from this site has yet to be described, so we hope to discover further dinosaur species, specimens and other exciting animals there.

“Understanding the ecology of these dinosaurs — what they ate, how they moved, where they roamed — based on the interplay between anatomy and the environment presents exciting challenges for future research.”

The species name honors the late David Pickering, who was Museums Victoria’s Collection Manager, Vertebrate Palaeontology.

The Melbourne Museum plans to put the Diluvicursor specimen on public display.

UQ experts Dr Steven Salisbury and Dr Vera Weisbecker were involved in the research, along with UQ PhD student Jay Nair and Monash University researchers.

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