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Australian Environmental Issues

Blue-tongue
A true-blue battler

Box jellyfish
How to avoid the stings and what to do if stung

Crocodile
So you wrestle crocs...

Dingo
Unfairly judged in killing off the thylacine?

Echidna
The wise little gnomes of Australia

Emu
Victors of the great Emu war

Flies
Shaping everything from how Australians speak to how they salute

Funnel Web spider
Yyou'll never leave your ugg boots outside

Kangaroo
Most herbivores don't grow a spine until they are the size of an elephant. Not so the roo.

Snakes
Kill less people than cows

Shark attack Australia
How to ensure you don't go by the name of Bob

Tasmanian Devil
The solution to mainland extinctions?

Tasmanian Tiger
A sad tale

Wombat
Keg of muscle

Quoll
The mainland's largest marsupial carnevore

Mythical creatures
Yowies and dropbears; some say they are myths but those who are not afraid to talk have shared their stories

 

 

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Blue-Tongues

Blue-Tongues

A true blue Aussie battler

When threatened, a Funnelweb rocks back on its hind legs and lets venom drip down its fangs, a Dog raises its hackles, growls and bears its teeth while a bull will lower its head, point its horns and snort. Such acts are nothing when compared to the Blue-Tongue, which opens its mouth and shows that it has a big blue tongue. To reinforce the bluff, the lizard stands its ground, hissing and drawing as much attention to the tongue as possible. Confronted with such an odd sight, one can't help but think that there is something to fear about tongues afterall.

If the bluff is called, there is no risk of a poison bite or even sharp teeth, but the assailant may discover that Blue-tongues have a tenacious habit of not letting go, contributing considerably to the pain.

The main threats to Blue-tongues are Dogs, who often come across Blue-Tongues stealing their food. Although the Dog will growl, sniff and perhaps bark, the intimidating tongue usually ensures the Dog keeps its distance.

The Cat is not so easily fooled. As an ambush predator, Cats are able to attack the Blue-Tongue before it gets a chance to show its tongue. One minute the Blue-Tongue is eating a snail, the next it has the claws of a Cat sinking into its body.

Humans are another threat to the Blue-Tongue. Some garderners are of the opinion that the best way to deal with snails and slugs is to use lots of poisons. Unfortunately, when the Blue-Tongue eats the poisoned snails and slugs, they can be poisoned themselves.

The death of Blue-Tongues is neither in the interest of the species nor the garderner. When snails recover, they do so in an environment where there are no longer predators and their populations skyrocket. In the meantime, spiders such as Funnelwebs have free rein of the garden, unfettered by any predatory lizards.

The lawn mower is another major threat to the Blue-Tongue. Rather than run away from danger, Blue-Tongues prefer to hide in longer grass and get ready to show their tongue if need be. Unfortunately, a fleshy blue tongue is no match against spinning blades of metal.

Finally, cars are a major threat. Blue-tongues like to come to the road to warm up and tend to act a bit comotose when sunbaking. Cars then go straight over the top.

Blue-Tongues live alone for most of the year, but between September and November males seek females for mating. The competition for the ladies is fierce and the males fight aggressively among themselves. Once the lady is found, the romance soon blooms. Often the happy couple can be seen crossing the road in pairs. Sometimes the male is following the female. Sometimes the male is carrying the female.

Blue-Tongues

 

 

Which is the best species for your garden?

The table below lists the preferred habitat and favoured food of the various species of Blue-tongues. Imagine you would like to have some Blue-tongues living in your back yard.

  1. Which one would be most suitable for your backyard?
  2. What could you do to make your backyard more desirable for Blue-tongues?
Name
Favourite habitat
Maximum size
Preferred food
Young
Western Blue Tongued Skink dry 50 cm./ 19.5 in. berries and spiders 5-10
Common/Eastern Blue-Tongued Skink semi-desert to agricultural areas, suburban gardens 60 cm./23.5 in small animals, plant material 12
Northern Blue Tongued Skink tropical/savannah woodlands 60 cm./23.5 in Omnivorous 5-20
Central Blue-Tongued Skink desert and tropical environments 40-45 cm./15.5-17.5in wildflowers, small vertebrates, and insects 2-5
Australian Pink tongued skink wetter forest habitat than the other Aussie Skinks 0-45 cm./15.5-17.5 almost exclusively on snails and slugs 12-25

 

Icon

Below are examples of the Blue-tongue being used as icons. For each example, try to speculate what the designers/selectors were hoping to achieve by using the image of the lizard.  

1) Aboriginal mythology

In one Aboriginal legend, a fella was sitting around the campfire when he spotted the lizard. He thought to himself: "If that lizard is still around in three days I will do something terrible. My spirits will curse me for what I am going to do." Three days later the lizard was still there so he threw a bit of blue ochre at the lizard just it was poking his tongue out. The lizard has had a blue tongue ever since.

3- Bluetonge brewery

Lots of good things come out of the Hunter Valley. Such products include ex-convict Molly Morgan, league star Andrew Jones, coal, McWilliams Wines and now the Bluetongue Brewery.

Industry

Below are methods that allow some people to make money out of the Australian birds. How do you think working in each industry would affect attitudes to the birds?

1) Pets - There is a great deal of affection for Blue-Tongues as pets. They have gentle personalities, longevity and undemanding husbandry. Even the intimidating tongue adds to the appeal.

In foreign countries, a captive bred jouvenile sells for around US$200. In Australia there is no industry as it is illegal in Australia to keep native animals without a permit.

 

Invasive ferals

Carp

Carp and Trout
A tale of two ferals

New hope for Cane Toads
The many unknown predators of the toad

Rabbits
A fence almost 2,000 km long to keep rabbits out of WA? Sounds like a great idea! If it doesn't work, we'll build another one!

The Willow
How a change in its status from asset to weed led to fish kills with blackwater and blue-green algae outbreaks

To bait dingos?
Should the health of the ecosystem be considered or just the kennel club registration?

Koala control
What to do about the "koala plague" on Kangaroo Island

Cat
Apex predator in Australia. Confined to urban areas in America.

Environmental values

Environmental problems
How money and ideology shapes environmental "science."

Bushfire
Australia's Stockholm Syndrome with gum trees.

The Kangaroo industry
Should we eat skippy?

Climate change in Australia
Australia was once covered in rainforest. Could it be again?

Sustainability
The dark side of sustainable environmental policies

Native pets
Why no pet wombats?

 

 

       

Australian environmental science is defined by an ideology that is not unlike a prison warden. There, the scientists are not seeing themselves as part of the ecosystem, but as masters over it; protecting the rights of the species that they say have rights and killing those that they say do not…but inevitably killing both.

"It was always seen as desirable to remove or cull the introduced species. We also need to ask whether it was possible to do so, how it should be done, whether it could have unintended consequences and what it would cost? I don't think anyone really asked those questions." Physicist John Reid - 2012