Australia’s threatened insects

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk at the Insect Ecology Research Chapter workshop at the Ecological Society of Australia’s annual conference in Brisbane. I talked about how policy and popular media influence insect conservation in Australia; as an example, I discussed this research by Toby Smith and me showing how introduced honey bees dominate mainstream media coverage of pollinators in Australia.

I also collated data on which insect species are officially listed as threatened species in Australia. In Australia, we have a national list (under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) of flora and fauna species that are considered threatened at a national scale. In addition, each individual state and territory has its own threatened species list under various state legislation. Continue reading

Bats out of Hell

Why is it so easy to lose perspective on environmental issues? With so many regulatory organisations and frameworks, multiple perceptions on the “right” way to conserve or protect, Media interference, and the ghosts of environmental lessons from the past breathing down our neck, it is easy to feel like you’re living inside an Escher drawing when you try and dissect any of today’s environmental concerns.

Take the Hendra virus issue currently making news along Australia’s east coast. Horses are dying after contracting the virus from flying foxes and people are dying after contracting the virus from horses. Now other domestic animals are proving susceptible to the virus, including dogs, cats and guinea pigs.

I don’t wish to resort to dramatic statements, but there is no other way to say it – entire human communities are being plagued by bat colonies, with many sleep-deprived residents living in fear of their health. My mother is one of these – she has been putting up with a flying fox colony that likes to roost in a eucalypt just outside her bedroom window for nearly 10 years. The colony started off small and only visited occasionally. Over the last few years their numbers have swelled and their loyalty to mum’s tree has been cemented. She averages about 3 or 4 intermittent hours of sleep a night and spends hours most weeks scrubbing bat excrement off her roof, to no avail (her water supply is from a rainwater tank). Continue reading

In search of wilderness…

The human relationship with ‘wilderness’ is an intriguing one.  For centuries, we have shown simultaneous apprehension and admiration for the wild, untamed Nature that surrounded our own carefully controlled environments.

From the anthropomorphic gods of ancient mythologies to modern-day idolising of big game hunters and ‘survival experts’, we have an uncanny ability to keep that which we admire at an arm’s length.  Show someone a picture of a stunning mountain range, an adorable wild animal baby or a serene tropical island, and they’ll wax lyrical on the astounding beauty, the majesty of nature, the sense of peace it creates within, rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb…  But, put that person into said picture and it’s suddenly not so appealing—there’s insects and spiders crawling around, it’s raining, that animal has teeth and claws, it’s hot, I have to pee behind a bush, there’s no toilet paper, I need a drink, there’s no food, I’m getting bitten… Continue reading