Posts Tagged ‘australia’

surviving australia

November 30, 2008

When I saw the posters outside of the Australia Museum for the exhibit “Surviving Australia,” I thought maybe it was an exhibit about how humans survived all of the deadly creatures on this isolated continent, once known in Europe as “terra australis incognita” (unknown southern land). This was only part of the story.

Upon entering the exhibit I realized it was more about how the creatures survived the deadly invading humans. Extinct, endangered, and threatened animals were featured in varying media. Threatened and endangered animals had taxidermied representatives. The extinct were mainly shown in illustrations, with the eerie exception of the Tasmanian tiger, of which there was archival film footage.

Thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, was exterminated by man by the early 20th century. It had the appearance of a canine, but like many Australian animals, it was marsupial. [Read more here.]

There were life-sized recreations of megafauna, long extinct when Westerners arrived. Giant wombat-like marsupials and enormous kangaroos (up to 10 feet tall) once roamed the continent.

Thylacoleo, an extinct marsupial lion.

The fate of several animals was doomed upon the arrival of the white man. According to the exhibit, “in the last 200 years, over 50 vertebrate species and an unknown number of invertebrates and plants have disappeared from Australia — presumed extinct.” With habit destruction, introduction of foreign plant and animal species, and sometimes intentional extermination, the pig-footed bandicoot, several types of emu, kangaroo, and wallaby, and the Tasmanian tiger met their untimely end. Today, countless birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals are endangered or threatened because of humans. And Australia is sparsely populated compared with other continents (barring Antarctica), with about 21 million people covering the whole country.

The endangered regent honeyeater.

The endangered Tasmanian devil (I have a photo of a live one in my broken memory card).

When land is cleared did you know that everything living is killed? Between 1972 and 2006 it has been estimated nearly 4 billion birds, mammals and reptiles have died as a result of land clearing in Australia.

One-third of Australia’s woodlands… has been destroyed.

An estimated 50 percent of wetlands have been destroyed.

Over three-quarters of Australia’s rainforests have been destroyed.

Alright, let’s get down to the fun stuff — the animals that are deadly to humans! I timed my trip to the museum perfectly, because the next day we were off to the tropical north, where all of these toxic creatures live. Saltwater crocs, chironex and irukandji box jelly fish, death adders — they’re all in Queensland’s coastal regions. And let’s not forget the great white shark!

Huge, predatory Saltwater Crocodiles are one of Australia’s most famous dangers. They’re the world’s biggest living crocodiles and can swim underwater at 30 kilometres per hour [18.6 mph] without causing a ripple. They can leap out of water fast enough to outrun a horse (over a short distance) and far enough to catch low-flying birds.

It was kind of an exciting prospect to be able to possibly witness one of these creepy beings. I avoided going in the water for fear of deadly jelly stings. (I went for a horseback ride and even Rocky, my trusty steed, wouldn’t take a dip — maybe he knows something I don’t!) Every branch brushing against my legs was a Sydney funnel-web spider waiting to intoxicate me.

An interactive display describes the chironex box jellyfish

Alas, the scariest thing I came across was a little baby reef shark on the Great Barrier Reef — and he was so scared of me that he darted away as soon as a I spotted him. But my boyfriend got to see a young saltwater crocodile on Bedarra Island — I wonder where mama croc was?!

back from oz with little remorse

November 25, 2008

I had an amazing time down under. The people are friendly, the food incredible, and — it’s spring now — so the weather is terrific.

In Sydney, I walked all over. As eco-conscious as the city is (after all, they were the pioneers of Earth Hour), their public transport system is not the greatest — certainly nothing like NYC’s. Sydney’s economy isn’t the greatest right now either (whose is, really?), so they’ve cut funding from their public transport developments. I got an earful from a local about it — he’s none too pleased that he moved to a neighborhood that was meant to be receiving new public transport options, but after he relocated, the city reneged on the deal.

Budget cuts aside, there is a decent bus and train system and a centrally located ferry system that makes it easy to get to various points on the Parramatta River and other parts of Sydney Harbor.

But there’s nothing like walking a city to get to know it. We stayed in Woolloomooloo, with a great view of the skyline. It was a perfect central location away from the really touristy parts, right by the Royal Botanic Gardens, and a short walk to The Rocks (where Sydney’s Western history begins), Darlinghurst, and Kings Cross (a cleaned up red-light-like district).

There are farmers’ markets all over the city (organic and plastic-bag-free), as well as weekend shopping markets where you can get locally made goods (we went to a great one in Paddington). I tried my hardest to buy only Australian-made goods during the entire trip. I was doing really well until the day before we left Sydney for Dunk Island, Queensland.

I was feeling run down, had the sniffles and a sore throat. I’d also been walking around a lot, trying to collect souvenirs for friends and family. I’d walked all the way to Woollahra and then all the way down to The Rocks (about 9km or about 5.6 miles). I wanted to soak in the sights one more time before heading out of the city. I was feeling really tired and vulnerable. I spotted an interesting gift for someone (who shall remain nameless, as will the item!) and the sign said it was Australian. Why then did I ask the merchant if it was made in Australia? I guess I had to be sure. As I place the item on the counter, she says, “It’s designed in Australia, and made in China. But it’s really good quality!” I was weak. I caved. It was the only thing I bought not actually made in Australia. Even the muesli bars I bought at Woolworth’s boasted 100% Australian owned and made.

I thought about returning it, but I was already out of the shop… and hurting for a nap. Maybe I’m a bit neurotic, but I beat myself up a bit for the purchase.

Though by the time I arrived at the tropical confines of Dunk Island, I think I got over it.

in seclusion

November 21, 2008

Sorry for the lack of posts the last couple of days. I have so much to share I’m bursting at the seams!
I’m up at Dunk Island in Queensland until Sunday and there’s only one computer for the whole island. There’s also no cell phone service. So I’m forced to have a good time. Poor me.

Will be reporting back in a few days with tales of all my adventures.


rain (and trash) down the drain

November 18, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(9:43am Sydney, 5:43pm NYC)

It’s raining here in Sydney, which means that the oceans may be unfit for swimming for the next day or so. Like in other coastal cities (NY, LA), heavy rains wash all the trash from the streets into rain gutters and out to sea. Another reason to give a hoot and not pollute.

more animals!

November 18, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(9:12pm Sydney, 5:12am NYC)

It’s been quite an animal extravaganza for me in Australia. Flying foxes, various exotic birds, baby farm animals, and just yesterday, I got to pet a koala and feed a kangaroo.

As part of an Eco Adventure tour (Dal Myles Tours), I got to visit Featherdale Wildlife Park where they boast one the most diverse private collections of Australian native wildlife. Since I was on a larger tour, I only got to spend an hour at the park. I think I could have spent the entire day.

Here are a few of the animals I saw on my visit. Unfortunately, my memory card or reader is on the fritz so I couldn’t download the rest of the photos, including pics of the Blue Mountains. Hopefully I can get that sorted out when I get home.

Hey fat wombat!

Soft and cuddly… and potentially dangerous

A roo eats out of my hand…

…and holds hands with this woman

Yes, there are penguins in Australia. Africa, too.

Some of the animals on the other memory card: albino wallaby, crocodile, various birds (including a white peacock), and a tasmanian devil. I’ve got to get those pictures!

baby farm animals!

November 16, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(11:06pm Sydney, 7:06am NYC)

Yesterday we went to Paddington Market, a nice outdoor shopping market where local artists and designers peddle their wares. Before we left I checked out their website… it mentioned that every second Saturday baby farm animals are brought in for children to pet. Too good to pass up!

Since I’m a big kid at heart, I paid the $5 to enter the mini petting zoo. I got to feed the calf and lambs and pet the goats. Bunnies, a spotted piglet, guinea pigs, ducklings, doves, and chicks were also there to ooh and aah over. All of the animals were from Bowral Farmyard Friends, a service run by Malcolm Dowling that introduces young city kids to farm animals.

Freaking adorable!

MORE pictures to come!!!

protection from the hole in the ozone layer

November 14, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(7:38pm Sydney, 3:38pm NYC)

I like to pack lightly when I travel, meaning what I can’t carry on stays at home (in most cases). So that means I’ve got to comply with TSA regulations and carry a clear quart-sized bag with all of my liquid toiletries each under 3 ounces in volume. I went to Whole Foods with the intention of picking up Badger SPF 30, but it only came in a 4 ounce (unlike the one sold here). But then I spotted California Baby SPF 30 (fragrance free). I had read that it was a safe choice according to Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep cosmetic safety database.

The ultimate test for a sunscreen’s effectiveness has to be under Australia’s beaming hot sun. After all, the hole in the ozone layer flirts with the Australian continent.

So here’s what I think about Cali Baby.

A little bit goes a long way. If you use too much, you’ll be white as a ghost. But if you rub it in good, there’s only a subtle whiteness. Zinc oxide is a physical sunblock as opposed to the chemical blocks which have in some instances been shown to be carcinogenic and carry other health risks. (kinda defeats the purpose, no?).

Bottom line: The stuff works. Yesterday I put it on my face and arms and walked around all day. Today I spent a couple of hours at the beach and it’s pretty safe to say my skin was unscathed by the powerful Aussie sun. I definitely didn’t burn and I’m not sure I got much color really. It is a bit greasy, so I wouldn’t recommend it for everyday use, but it’s great for a day at the beach or poolside.

Read more about EWG’s recommendations for safe sunscreens.

fresh, free, filtered water

November 13, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(12:42am Sydney, 8:42am NYC)

Yesterday, we took the ferry to Manly Beach, a laid-back little community that’s part of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We unintentionally sat on the sunny side of the ferry and got a little overheated. Thankfully, this little public service was available: free filtered water. Sure, it’s just a hyped-up water fountain, but it’s got the right message. And as always I had my Sigg on hand to fill up (BTW, that’s not my manly hand in the photo!)

it’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s fruit bats!

November 13, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(12:08am Sydney, 8:08am NYC)

At dusk on the day we arrived in Sydney, I saw what I thought were birds flying around the city, filling the skyline (see little specks in picture above). “I think those are bats,” one of my travel companions said. “No way!” I didn’t believe there could be so many. She said that she saw them in a tree at the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens. We had heard that there were big bats in the gardens, but I didn’t believe it. The prospect of seeing them during the day was too exciting for me.

Yesterday, we finally went to check out the tree that was the daytime refuge for these fruit bats. When my boyfriend asked the women at the gate which tree (or two) the bats were in, they laughed. Tree or two? Try hundreds. “They’re destroying our garden!” The women pointed us in the right direction and gave us a flyer with more information. Here’s what it read:

Grey-headed Flying-fox
Fact Sheet

Named because of its fox-like face, the Grey-headed Flying-fox (Pterus poliocephalus) is one of the largest species of bat in the world, weighing up to 1 kilogram [2.2 lbs] with a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres [nearly 5 feet]. Flying-fox are very intelligent, they have large eyese and oval ears capable of acute hearing.

Grey-headed Flying-fox are distributed along the eastern coast of Australia from Rockhampton in the north to western Victoria in the south.

At night the Flying-fox feed on the fruits of rainforest trees, especially figs, and the nectar and pollen of eucalypts and melaleucas. The Grey-headed Flying-fox is particularly important because it is one of the few species that pollinates the flowers and spreads the seeds of these rainforest species. They use their excellent night vision and acute sense of smell to navigate and seek out food sources over a wide area. They have a nightly feeding range of up to 40 km [close to 25 mi] from the camp (roost) site. [Continued below…]

That’s not fruit… it’s bats!

So cute and fuzzy


Grey-headed Flying-fox give birth to a single, well-developed, furred young in October/November. The baby suckles milk from a nipple in either of the mother’s wingpits for 6 months. From birth, a baby Flying-fox holds onto its mother when she flies out of the colony to feed at night. At about 5 weeks it is left with the other bab Flying-fox in the camp trees until she returns. By 4 months the young have learned to fly and join the adults on nocturnal feeding flights. [Continued below…]

Mama and baby

From time to time the bats set up camp in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. As you can see by looking around the Palm Grove, they are damaging the trees they roost in. If the bats continue to camp here they will cause permanent damage to these trees which are part of our living heritage. For this reason, the Royal Botanic Gardens has been given a licence by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to use non-harmful methods to discourage the bats from roosting here. [Continued below…]

I love them, but they’re devastating the trees

Major threats to the survival of Flying-fox are destruction of their habitats and roost sites, and clearing and fragmentation of their feeding sites. Loss of these areas has a direct impact on Flying-fox populations. The colony size in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney varies between 1000 and 8000 individuals depending on the time of year and food availability both in the immediate area and along the eastern coast of Australia.

Read more about Flying-foxes (fruit bats).

Getting ready for the big dusk flight

It’s almost time!

what’s on in sydney

November 12, 2008

Writing from Sydney, Australia
(11pm Sydney, 7am NYC)

Some great earth-friendly events are happening here in Sydney right now. I hope to make it to a few.

National Recycling Week
Mon 10 Nov – Sun 16 Nov
Various times and locations

Several events take place all over the city, including waste and recycling facility tours, swap parties, and lightbulb giveaways. The initiative encourages community involvement and brings awareness to the issue of waste as it impacts the environment.

Bicycle Film Festival

Thu 13 – Sat 15 Nov 10am-10pm
Various locations

The Bicycle Film Festival celebrates the bicycle. We are into all styles of bikes and biking. If you can name it – Tall Bike Jousting, Track Bikes, BMX, Alleycats, Critical Mass, Bike Polo, Cycling to Recumbents – we’ve probably either ridden or screened it. What better way to celebrate these lifestyles than through art, film, music and performance? We bring together all aspects of bicycling together to advocate its ability to transport us in many ways. Ultimately the Fest is about having a good time.

[Sustainable Living Calendar]

The Water ProjectPart of Riverbeats 08
Fri 14 Nov 10am-2pm
at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta

It’s the great environmental debate – a free youth-orientated symposium hosted by our favourite scientists, Adam Spencer and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. They’ll be exploring issues on Sydney’s water resources and sustainable future.

[TimeOut Sydney]

The Rocks Farmers’ Market
Every Fri 10am-3pm and Sat 9am-3pm
Jack Mundey Place (cnr Argyle & George Sts)

At The Rocks Farmers’ Market you’ll only find authentic growers and producers who display their food miles so you’ll know just how local their produce is. The Rocks Farmers’ Market is also plastic bag free.

Intro to Permaculture

Sat 15 – Sun 16 Nov 9:00am – 5:00pm

Camden St, Newtown

by Milkwood Permaculture

Over this weekend you will learn how to apply pro-active, sustainable design techniques to your immediate environment – whether you live in an inner city apartment, a quarter-acre block, or a rural property. Covering organic food production, system design (and re-design) for comfort and lower energy consumption, and ideas on how to approach a sustainable and positive community existence within your neighbourhood.

Come and learn practical strategies to better care and provide for yourself, your family and the planet. A jam-packed weekend of information, techniques, a site visit to Angel St Permaculture Garden and great piles of organic food, all within a comfortable walk from an inner-city train station.

This course will be taught by Nick Ritar, an award-winning educator of community technologies and strategies for communication, and co-founder of Milkwood Permaculture, providing practical, ecological, do-able solutions for sustainable living and development. All previous editions of this course have sold out quick smart – so come along, and start your process of skilling-up for adaptation in a changing world.

[Sustainable Living Calendar]

Sadly, I won’t be around for this one…

Earth Festival
Sat 29 Nov, 12pm-10pm
Centennial Park, Moore Park

Celebrate the planet through creative arts and entertainment. Music, outdoor movies, art, and dance are just a few of the media for the environmental message. The event coordinators strive to be seriously eco-friendly through practices like using only biodegradable plastics for all food and beverage, vermicomposting biodegradable waste, supplying free drinking water, and using biodiesel in event generators.