|Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on August 8, 2012 at 2:30 AM|
Australian Rare Fauna Research Association Inc.
Annual General Meeting 29th July 2012
The last year has been a very quiet one, with several members limited in active participation by health problems and commitments to family and work. Although field work no longer has the priority that was formerly possible, and we have lacked the publicity of the past, sighting reports continue to come in, public interest is sustained, membership is stable, and research notebooks and report forms continue to proliferate among our faithful, longstanding members.
Administration has been somewhat scrappy, but in accordance with our constitution jobs have been redistributed within the committee, different aspects of secretarial duties now being shared through delegation by secretary Helen Burrell to Phil Burrell, Gordon Williams, Rosemary Chapple and Sonya Dobson, a welcome example of good teamwork. Our triennial committee election is due to take place in 2013.
We were pleased to welcome back from residence in Queensland Jan McDonald, whose very long association with ARFRA has been recognised by Honorary Membership. We also retain connections with members who are no longer able to attend in person. As our former Research Coordinator, Andrew Robinson, has in his turn removed to Queensland, I have now offered for that position in order to complete our long-planned work of publishing the results of our research.
This is now being assembled in a form which we hope will have an appeal to the general reader in addition to taking a professional approach to our evidence. Its basis relies on Peter Chapple’s interrupted drafts, updated and complemented by the work of other members, present and past. In the meantime other comparative work has been published elsewhere and we have been in touch with two more authors about to publish: Dr. David Waldron, whose expertise is in unravelling folklore, and our Patron Dr. Bob Paddle, who has been researching the effects of disease on the decline of both Tasmanian Tiger and Tasmanian Devil. Recent research by Marie Attard of the University of NSW indicates that the thylacine would not be able to bring down an animal as large as a sheep, which will lead to tighter focus on our predation reports.
Newspaper reports of big cat sightings in the Yarra Valley earlier this year brought us further reports. A consequent invitation to give a presentation on Mystery Animals at the Belgrave Library, was accepted by Dorothy Williams and Rosemary Chapple and drew still more reports. It is hoped that this presentation can be repeated at other places during the year. Other sightings continue to come to our web site, and an interview with Dorothy concerning a Kallista thylacinid sighting was posted on a student journalist’s web site.
Our visit to Ballarat University to inspect a box of files with which Dr. David Waldron is beginning a collection, and a double page thylacine spread in the historical ‘Significance’ guide from the Collections Council of Australia Ltd., point up our concern with the long-term care and preservation of our extensive database in a protected but accessible library or museum. With the loss of Andrew Robinson as Database Manager, working bees are essential to catch up and keep up with maintenance and presentation of our extensive and significant collection of scientific and historical reference material.
As a part of this, a Prints Workshop is planned for August for the study, identification and evaluation of our Prints collection of casts, photographs and photocopies, to be followed by something similar for our Predation material (non-organic!). Our Treasurer, Richard Sealock, also continues statistical work and others are following up reports on local areas.
My personal thanks are due, together with thanks on behalf all members, to all who have persevered, contributed, assisted and cheered us on, through a year that hasn’t always been easy.
|Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on July 18, 2012 at 8:05 PM|
Venue:- Pakenham Uniting Church Hall, 47 James St, Pakenham I(Melways ref 317-D8)
Time:- 12.00 for 12.30 p.m.
BYO lunch to share – tea & coffee provided.
12-30pm; Arrive and organise
2-00pm; Annual Meeting;
2-30pm; Guest Speaker--Dr Bob Paddle: The Tasmanian Tiger - did disease aid its decline?
3-30pm Afternoon Tea
4-00pm; Peter Chapple Tribute, followed by Social Time. Bring along your memories.
6-00pm (Estimated finishing time,or earlier)
|Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on July 15, 2012 at 10:00 PM|
Following the spate of Yarra Valley sightings, ARFRA was invited to speak about our Mystery Animals to a group at Belgrave Library. Rosemary Chapple and Dorothy Williams were warmly welcomed by the National Trust and an interested audience commented on our PowerPoint presentation. Three more reports of big cat sightings were received, a not unusual outcome!
|Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on July 15, 2012 at 9:50 PM|
Yet again reports of panther/puma sightings have been making the local papers in Yarra Ranges in past weeks. On February 15th the Free Press Leader reported a ‘great big black panther’ encountered on the Warburton Highway, walking along the roadside. The cat ‘reached the height of the bottom of her car window’ and reflected back big yellow eyes when the driver flashed her high beams to get a better look.
A week later Healesville farmer Ken Lang spoke of both pumas and panthers living in the area. He regularly loses stock to foxes, eagles and the occasional wild dog, but had also seen a large black animal stalking his deer. The panther presence he bases on a neighbour's complaint back in 1980 of finding two chewed dead lambs high in a tree fork, and a later incident of a pony left with big claw marks on its flanks following a failed attempt to bring it down (an incident repeated at The Basin last November with injury to a seven-year-old thoroughbred).
Bernie Mace, an original ARFRA member, added further evidence from within the Shire going back thirty years, and both had spoken to witnesses regarding releases by American soldiers. Both had spoken to people who claimed to have been at the Gippsland farm where a puma and her cubs had been released. Mr. Mace was shown the spot where the animals were released, and Mr. Lang was told that they came up to the farm to be fed for six months before disappearing.
As usual, the report emboldened a number of other witnesses to come forward with sightings from all over the Shire and beyond. And, as usual, a Parks ranger claimed to have no evidence of big cats in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
In March a cat-like animal was spotted from a garbage truck taking a ten-foot leap up a ridge at Sassafras, followed on 3rd April by a teenager and two companions who heard a low growl in the bushes along the Belgrave-Gembrook Road. She turned to get a partial view of a cat-like animal whose height to her hip or waist set it beyond the range of a giant feral domestic cat.
The published photograph of a cast taken of a paw print appears to me to have the X gap between pads, toe pairs, and the more triangular plantar pad typical of a large dog, an opinion also expressed by a reader. Many similar casts were rejected when the ARFRA collection was moved from Clematis because size alone is not evidence of a big cat presence.
A workshop on print recognition is scheduled for Sat. 18th August 2012.
|Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on June 10, 2012 at 4:10 AM|
Venue:- Pakenham Uniting Church Hall,
47 James St, Pakenham I(Melways ref 317-D8)
Time:- 12.00 for 12.30 p.m.
BYO lunch to share – tea & coffee provided.
Guest Speaker:- Dr. Robert Paddle
Dr. Paddle’s research has taken him around the world, investigating records of thylacines, devils and other marsupial carnivores in zoos and museums. His forthcoming book focuses on evidence of disease, and its importance as a major factor in the decline of the thylacine.
Bounty statistics from the deliberate killing of thylacines as a pest species support contemporary records at the turn of the twentieth century, of an epidemic disease in thylacines, devils and other marsupi-carnivores. Detailed symptoms of the disease have been recorded by museum staff, and zoological-garden curators and veterinarians.
It is argued that the effects of the disease in captivity, which more than halved thylacine longevity, and preferentially affected juveniles, are conformable with the expression of the disease recorded amongst wild thylacines.
He seeks recognition of the importance of this disease as a major factor in the thylacine’s decline, and its consideration as an influential factor on the genetic diversity, distribution and population dynamics of extant marsupi-carnivores.
|Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on June 10, 2012 at 4:00 AM|
As we approach the tenth anniversary of Peter’s premature demise in August 2002, we take this opportunity of honouring his painstaking work to bring about recognition and knowledge of our ‘mystery’ animals over three decades.
Old friends are invited to join us at the AGM - also to contribute any further research material as we work on gathering, extending and interpreting ARFRA’s collected information for publication.
Please bring or send your favourite reminiscences of your time with Peter and your connection with his passions: searching and singing - and laughing.
As the Committee are feeling the ravages of time and of competing responsibilities, we would also appreciate any offers to assist the Committee with any of its functions.
|Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on June 10, 2012 at 3:55 AM|
Thylacine’s suspected ongoing existence in the Dandenongs
31st May 2012
Driving down an isolated, gravel road amongst the forest of the Dandenong Ranges, a woman finds herself following what appears to be a fox. As the animal strolls confidently down the road, she notices it seems to lack the typical features of the common introduced pest. Its tail does not resemble that of a bushy, fox-like tail. Instead, it is thin and straight with dark stripes following from its lower back to the tip. Its jaw is fuller and its stride is unusual. As the woman approaches slowly in her vehicle, the animal turns to look at her. She opens her car door to approach it on foot, but it abruptly disappears into the roadside scrub.
What Justine Merry encountered is not uncommon in the area. Many locals in the Dandenong Ranges and surrounding suburbs claim to have sighted this unusual creature, a creature that all too closely resembles that of a Thylacine.
The Thylacine, better known as the Tasmanian Tiger, was driven to extinction in the early 1900s by farmers and bounty hunters who blamed the species for the killing of sheep and other livestock.
However, the mysterious sightings of a similar looking creature are common and ongoing in Victoria, Southern and Western Australia, raising the question as to whether they are actually extinct.
Member of the Australian Rare Fauna Research Association (ARFRA), Dorothy Williams, has spent the past twenty years researching the Thylacine and its possible existence.
“You cannot prove non existence, you can only prove that nobody has seen one,” she states.
Ms Merry explains that although initially she presumed the animal to be a fox, she is familiar with the common animal and believes that the creature she saw did not have the main features of a fox.
“I am constantly on my farm witnessing foxes and different animals in our eco system. All I know is the foxes that are on my property don’t look like that,” explains Justine.
… Environmentalist and writer, Vivian Benton, spotted a thylacine crossing the road while driving early one morning with her husband, not far from where Ms Merry had her sighting.
“At first I thought it was a dog, but its tail was different and it had stripes, and it also had a pronounced heel,” Mrs Benton explained.
A believer in the possibility of the Thylacine’s ongoing existence, Mrs Benton raises the question of whether or not it would be in the species’ best interest to prove they are still walking the earth.
“What would happen if the thylacine were to be discovered? Scientists would want samples to do testing. Someone would want it killed to parade its body. Is it better to be left along as a marvel mystery?” Mrs Benton asks.
However, Ms Williams believes the rediscovery of the Thylacine could lead to more protection and preservation for the species.
She explains that so many of our native species are endangered purely due to the spread of settlement and cities.
“They talk about how many more millions of people we can fit into Australia, but I’m afraid that we fit them in at the cost of losing more of our wildlife,” she says.
Through establishing the Thylacine’s existence, it is possible that steps could be taken to assist the species in once again flourishing in Australia.
“The value we place on our unique wildlife has grown enormously. I would be glad to see its existence proved,” says Dorothy.
(http://thehillsreporter.weebly.com/articles.html is a student website that here inserts an interview with Ed.)
NB: Names and specific localities remain confidential without specific permission from the witness.
|Posted by Dorothy B. Williams on June 10, 2012 at 3:55 AM|
After several earlier attempts we are now setting out to pull together and interpret the store of information collected by ARFRA since its inception.
The sudden interruption to Peter Chapple’s intensive work without completion of his ongoing specific projects made producing a publication difficult, as it was Peter as Research Coordinator who gathered together the team’s individual work for interpretation.
Collecting and organising the vast database, both software and hardware, is now under way, together with Peter’s various drafts and articles for different purposes.
Members will also present chapters on their contributions. Gathering all this material together into an organised, readable and reliable publication is a rather dizzying task.
It had been begun earlier. Now it will be brought to completion. The participation of hundreds of people who have contributed to the ARFRA team over the decades deserves recognition, and this has always been our aim.
We hope that former members will return with relevant information and interpretation, especially if they have continued to concentrate on a particular aspect of the evidence, e.g. prints, predation etc., and can now add more to their earlier work in the team.
The main focus of the book will be the search for the mainland Thylacine but evidence concerning other animals will be included.