How do you like your eggs? Scrambled or Caged?

Australian farms raise a huge variety of livestock in lots of different settings. We rely on our farmers, and the animals they look after, for our meat, our eggs and our milk and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt.

According to the National Farmer’s Federation, our farmers produce almost 93 percent of the food we eat each day in Australia and grow enough food to feed 600 people: 150 in Australia and 450 overseas. They also contribute $38 billion in export income to the economy and manage some 59 percent of Australia’s land.

Caged birdsSometimes the way farmers raise their animals is seen as unkind to the animals. Chickens and pigs, especially, might be raised in cages without much room to run around. This is sometimes called factory farming because the animals generally live in large factory-like sheds. While there once may have been good reasons for this, generally people believe animals are happier if they can roam around more freely.

Rather than being raised in cages, it is kinder to raise animals as “free range”.  Being free range means the animals live in open paddocks.  This lets them behave as they would normally.  For example, chickens love to scratch and peck looking for worms or shoots. Pigs like to wallow in mud and female pigs find grass and sticks to build a big nest to have their piglets in. They can do this in a paddock but not in a cage.

Farm freeMost farmers care passionately about their animals and their land. Often farming systems have developed because supermarkets want the food they buy from farmers, to always be the same. This is so that when you go to do your grocery shopping you know exactly what you are getting.

But making food this way means more and more control over how an animal is raised and less freedom for farmers and their animals to just do what comes naturally.

Free range animals and their produce are simply not as predictable as those raised in cages.

For example, free range eggs from chickens that have lots of room to forage in the paddock vary widely in shell colour and size.  But they are all delicious and if you choose an extra big egg you might even find a double yolker!

To help change how farmer’s raise their animals, we need to help them raise their animals outside of cages, while still making money. If the farmer’s can’t afford to produce our food then, maybe, there will be no food!

The best way to bring about change is at the supermarket. Supermarkets in Australia pretty much get to choose what we eat.  In turn, they tell the farmer what they will buy.  If growing an animal in a free range environment costs more, then we need to be prepared to pay that little extra.

eggsHere’s what you can do to help.

– Ask your teacher to dedicate some class time to teach others about it, or present to the class!

– Join a group which speak up for animals like Unleashed.

– Take action by joining a pledge like #makeitpossible.

– Ask your supermarkets where their food comes from and encourage them to stock the foods that come from farms that are kind to animals.

– talk to your local politicians who can change laws to protect farm animals.

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Exclusive post: Possum Wars – Raising brushtail possums

Hi there, my name is Chris and I am a wildlife carer. I run a wildlife shelter with my partner Jodie, which means that the government wildlife department gives us a permit to handle and hold Australian native animals. Our shelter is unusual in that we live in an apartment close to the CBD. Luckily we have a big apartment! I do most of the rescuing, and tend to get calls mostly in the city or the North Western fringe from Carlton across to Port Melbourne. Jodie does a lot of the research into animal husbandry methods, which is important when raising orphaned babies as well as when we get injured animals. We are also registered with Wildlife Victoria, who operate a phone rescue service, and they call us whenever members of public find animals who require our assistance. This is the story of two brushtail possums who we rescued and who we raised up to adulthood. Their story is being featured on the upcoming documentary “Possum Wars” on the ABC on 15th December.

In September 2012 I got called out to the Carlton Gardens near the Exhibition Building, where a member of public had found a baby male brushtail possum beneath one of the magnificent fig trees. Baby possums of all varieties often get separated from their mothers during “baby season”, often during attack from predators. The brushtail possum was very cold when I got him from the man who had found him below the tree. Hypothermia can be fatal for all babies, so as I drove home I had him in my hand and blowing warm air on him. He was small enough to fit in one of my hands so he must have only been 150 grams. When I got him home I kept warming him and gave him some milk formula. I then noticed some objects in his mouth and when I looked in there found some small sticks! He had been crawling around in the dirt beneath the tree and had some got a mouthful of dirt and sticks. I cleaned this out and he got the name “Stix”.

Of course, since he had just lost him mum he was very sad.

Possum_01

Next up, we got a call to go to a house in Fitzroy, where a couple had heard the sounds of scratching behind their kitchen rangehood. After breaking through the back of it, they found a small baby female brushtail who had fallen down the shute and got trapped there. We then tried to reunite this baby (who we later renamed “Beatle”) with her mother. Reuniting mothers and babies sometimes works with possums, but you need to find the right mother and then you almost hand the baby to her when she comes to investigate the calls of her baby. On this occasion, although other possums came forward to see why Beatle was calling, none seemed to be the mother. So we had to take her home with us.

Possum_02

We always pair up orphaned possums so that they have a friend to grow up with and learn how to socialise. So Beatle and Stix became brother and sister. Because they were so small they were placed in a pink Rio basket with a heat pad. The possums sleep in small knitted pouches which we place on top of the heat pad. The Rio basket is then placed inside a small cage with branches to climb on. Although very small, we like to encourage them to learn to climb as early as they can, although they often need some supervision as they are very wobbly.

Possum_03

Of course there are always some close calls when you are learning to climb. Especially if you are an adventurous brushtail possum like Stix.

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When the brushtails are very young and still missing their mums, a little bit of time needs to be spent with them each day giving them a little reassurance, at least until they are old enough to look after each other.

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One of the biggest things to learn is good eating habits, especially eating your greens! Although some flowers are offered to the brushtails, we try to ensure that a large part of their diet consists of native leaves such as eucalyptus and wattle.

In the first picture below you can see Beatle, and the next shot is of Stix. You can see how important their hands are for picking up their food. Ringtails similarly pick up their food with their front feet. Their tails are important to help anchor them while they are eating. Notice also that they have moved up to the next size in cages, which allows them to do more climbing given they are now probably over 400 grams in weight in these pictures.

Possum_06

Possum_07

It should be noted that collecting the possum food every night is my job. I have a number of trees around the local area that I prune on a daily basis to ensure the freshest food. We have to put this up around their cages so that they get used to browsing. Picking the foliage and putting it up in the cages takes over one hour every night.

Although eating solids at this stage, they are still given their milk formula each day to ensure they keep putting on weight. At this stage of life, if they were with their mother they would still spend time in her pouch and still get milk from her. The milk formula (which is specially formulated for marsupials) gives them protein and assists the healthy development of their bodies. When small they are given milk bottles, but as they get older they are encouraged to lap. Once they have learned to lap we can then just put the milk out for them around the cage and they can drink themselves. Here is a photo of some “training laps”.

Possum_08

Another thing that happens when the brushtails become young juveniles is that they are moved into their final large cage and put in a possum box. They sleep in the possum box now instead of their pouch, and when they are taken to be released will be taken with their box so they have a familiar home to go with them when taken to a new environment.

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This is a picture of Stix just before he was taken to his new home.

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Being orphans, Stix and Beatle essentially had no territory. It might be possible to take them back to where they come from if this is appropriate, but we generally don’t return orphaned babies back to any of the inner city gardens, due to the fact that these are usually quite crowded in terms of possums and there is usually no supply of native foods in those parks. In addition, we like to do a slow release with hand-reared possums, as they have no experience of being in the wild and need to develop their skills and confidence slowly. This usually involves keeping them in an outside aviary for several weeks, getting them used to eating the local foliage, and then leaving the door open so they can come and go until they no longer require the outside aviary, either for the shelter it provides or the supplementary food that is provided until they seem to have left permanently. Such a release strategy is not possible in the inner city gardens, nor is it generally possible in most people’s backyards, even if they agree to us bringing back a juvenile possum to put in their garden! The other option is a hard release, where you simply stick the possum up a tree in their possum box and hope for the best. We feel certain that such a strategy will have poor outcomes in terms of the possum’s long-term survival prospects.

In this case, we decided to release Beatle and Stix at a friend’s property outside of Melbourne. Our friend’s property is 100 acres, and there are some other possums there but plenty of room to accommodate a couple more. It is helpful to release the males particularly when they are juveniles as other males do not find them a threat to their territory. This gives the males a better chance to make their way in a foreign territory without getting into fights. It must be remembered that possums are very territorial. This is another reason against returning orphans to where they came from, as it is likely they will be forced to fight with other possums for territory.

The car trip out to their new home can be somewhat stressful for the possums, as they generally haven’t been in a car since we picked them up as babies. You can see Stix is somewhat upset here.

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Here we can see the new release aviary for Beatle and Stix. Their possum box is placed inside the cage to remind them of home. They seem to settle down quickly. You can see the ABC cameraman in the shot.

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Possum_13

Here you can see the property where Beatle and Stix now live, with the huge release aviary off to the right. They get moved to this aviary after adjusting to the smaller aviary first, where the woman managing the property (Kate) can keep a better eye on them and ensure they are doing well. Kate (in red) and Jodie can be seen in the foreground of this picture too.

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Kangaroos also use the property.

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Here is some of the foliage that is collected from the local area each day for Beatle and Stix to eat. They need to get used to this as this is what they will find when the go out on their own.

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Here is one of the last shots of Beatle and Stix that we took. Beatle is on the right. We went and visited them a few weeks and they were both doing well. We were there when the aviary door was left open and although it took a few days, they eventually left the safety of their aviary. They did hang around for a couple of weeks before moving on to possum boxes around the property.

Possum_17

Beatle and Stix one year later

What is fantastic about a slow release on a friend’s property is that you get reports of your “babies”, and in this case, your baby’s babies! One year later, Beatle spends her time moving around possum boxes around the area, and Kate often finds her in one of these. Then she noticed one day that Beatle had a baby!

Possum_18

We think given the timing that the father of the baby was probably Stix! Therefore we called the baby “Bix”. You can see Bix is yellow-coloured, just like Beatle was when she was a baby.

Unlike hand-reared orphans, babies in the wild grow up very quickly! Bix was soon sighted away from his mother, feeding on his own, although still not even a juvenile – you can see why they get separated from their mothers in the city, they are very independent! Kate found him a month later looking very big already and in his own box. He was somewhat wilder than the hand-reared possums and didn’t appreciate the intrusion.

Possum_19

Over the last month, however, Kate has not sighted Beatle or Bix, so they have likely moved further afield into the deeper forest where there are more brushtails.

As for Stix, he moved into an old disused wooden shed several hundred metres away from his release aviary. There are possum boxes in the shed and Stix lives in one of these. Kate still gives him almonds now and again, although he is quite wild now so you cannot touch him. We don’t know if he and Beatle still see each other around the property, but it is likely.

So hopefully that is a bit of an insight into the story of Beatle and Stix, and now Bix, and some of the toils and rewards of caring for wildlife. It takes great commitment but hopefully we are giving these native animals a chance to lead a wild existence. Check out the story of Beatle and Stix in the upcoming ABC documentary on 15th December at 7.30pm. Here is a link to the show: www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/possum-wars/

Talking Animals

This month here at Cool To Be Kind To Animals we are delighted to have a guest blogger, Ondine Sherman. Ondine is the Co-Founder and Director of Voiceless, the animal protection institute.

Rosie and bottleLast year my daughter Jasmine and I found a tiny kitten abandoned in a box.

She was so little that she couldn’t yet meow, eat, or even wee alone. We fed her with a small bottle every few hours (imitating her mother’s teats), wiped her tiny furry bottom to help her urinate (a mother cat would use her tongue) and gave her a warm, soft place to sleep and grow. We named her Rosie and she followed us everywhere, watching our every move and learning about life. Rosie learnt that the sound of the fridge opening indicated dinner time; the creak of the front gate, a potential new play-mate and; quickly understood to avoid our dog when she had a bone.

Rosie was our first cat and we were amazed by how she could talk to us in her own language; with chirrups, purrs, growls, hisses, and meows. Her body language also told us what she was feeling: a flick of a tail or flattening ears spelled trouble and a likely bite (we called her ninja kitten); dilated pupils signaled an intention to play and; when her lids half closed over her gorgeous green eyes, we knew we would be honoured with a sweet cuddle.

Many of us know the pleasures of caring for our pets; especially dogs and cats. In fact, Australian’s own more companion animals, 8 million in total, than most other countries in the world. We experience just how smart, sensitive and communicative they are and how much they need the guidance of a loving guardian.

But what about other animals, like the ones that grow up, not snuggled in our cosy beds, but living in fields, barns or cages? They are also sentient.

Sentience is an important word to know. It is defined as “A being who has interests…who prefers, desires, or wants.”  These animals avoid suffering and seek positive experiences just as humans do. Not only that, but they too communicate with, care for and teach their young the ways of the world.

Did you know that mother pigs sing to her piglets whilst feeding them?  It helps them relax. And she builds them a nest made of grass and straw? That keeps them warm and safe. Pigs say ‘hi’ to each other by touching noses and grunting. And they are even smarter than dogs.

In factory farms, where piglets are denied the love and care of their mothers or even a human surrogate, like what Jasmine and I became for Rosie, it causes them to suffer. Just as it would a human baby, puppy or kitten.

Although animals can talk with a myriad of different sounds and gestures, many of us humans don’t learn their language or just don’t want to hear.

Together, we humans have to learn to listen, and become their voice, loud and clear.

Will you help be a voice for animals?

Ondine Sherman is happy to hear from you with ideas for blogs, or your thoughts and concerns at ondine@voiceless.org.au

Get involved with CTBK!

The Cool To Be Kind To Animals project is in its early stages and needs your help to grow into a successful animal care educational movement. Please share this article to raise awareness of the concept of viewing all animals as sentient beings and of the project.

If you are interested in being a guest blogger we would love to hear from you.

You can also follow us via this blog, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Take care – of all animals! The Cool To Be Kind to Animals team

Rhinos

Rhino PortraitThis month we are concentrating on the amazing rhinoceros.

Unfortunately, like many of the world’s most unique species, these amazing creatures are under a lot of pressure to survive, and three of the remaining five species are listed as critically endangered.

Read on to find out more about rhinos, their plight and what we can all do to try to make sure they are around for future generations to enjoy.

Sad rhino facts

With the western black rhino declared extinct in 2011, only five species remain:

Black rhino (Africa)

  • Estimated number left: 5000
  • IUCN classification: critically endangered

White rhino (Africa)

  • Estimated number left: 20,000
  • IUCN classification: not classed as threatened at the moment (hurray!)

Greater one-horned rhino (Asia)

  • Estimated number left: 2900
  • IUCN classification: vulnerable

 Sumatran rhino (Asia)

  • Estimated number left: 200
  • IUCN classification: critically endangered

 Javan rhino (Asia)

  • Estimated number left: 50
  • IUCN classification: critically endangered

Greater one-horned rhinoTwo major issues facing the rhino

1. The illegal rhino horn trade

This is the single biggest threat to the survival of the rhino. Although international trade in rhino horn has been banned since the 1970s, poaching is still a huge problem. In fact, alarmingly the WWF reported that poaching levels in Africa have actually increased dramatically since 2007.

This is because demand for rhino horn remains high, particularly in Asia where it is highly prized (it’s more expensive than gold!). Here it is considered by many to have medicinal qualities even though there is no scientific evidence to show this is the case.

This has led to the creation of highly organised criminal poaching groups. Enforcement agencies are struggling to cope with these criminal organisations, which are well funded and use highly advanced technology like night vision equipment, silenced weapons, tranquilliser guns and helicopters to kill rhinos.

2. Destruction of habitat

Habitat loss is another threat to rhinos, particularly in Asia. This loss is largely being caused by expanding agriculture and intensive (unsustainable) logging.

Black rhino South AfricaAnd the good news …

As you know, at Cool To Be Kind To Animals we also want to make sure we show you the positive things people are doing to help and to show you how you can do your bit.

WWF

When the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund) launched their African Rhino Programme in 1997, there were only 8466 white rhinos and 2599 black rhinos remaining in the wild. Today it is estimated there are more than 20,000 white rhinos and almost 5000 black rhinos. Great work!

The WWF also runs the Asian Rhino and Elephant Strategy and continues to work on establishing new protected areas, improving security monitoring to protect rhinos from poaching and improving local and international law enforcement to stop the flow of rhino horn.

What about rhino horn farming?

A number of researchers, including Dr Duan Biggs of the University of Queensland, argue that there is another way to protect the rhino: farming.

These researchers argue that if we start humanely farming horn and operating a highly regulated legal trade, we could undercut criminal gangs. They also point to the crocodile skin trade in Australia as an example of how a highly regulated legal trade can benefit a threatened species.

In theory, farming is possible because rhino horn is mostly made of keratin (a substance we have in our hair and nails) and if shaved off, will regrow.

But not everyone agrees this is the future. The WWF feels that places like Vietnam just don’t have the enforcement regimes in place and such a scheme would just provide a way of ‘laundering’ illegally poached rhino horn. There is also some concern about the effect of having no horn on rhino behaviour.

Interesting … What are your thoughts on this idea?

White rhino and baby in KenyaWhat you can do to help

1. Don’t buy rhino horn products

If you do receive treatment from a traditional Asian medical practitioner make sure that the products you are being prescribed are free from rhino horn. Rhino horn is traditionally used to treat a variety of ailments, so if you’re unsure – ask.

2. Use sustainable wood, paper and palm oil

Make sure you are not contributing to habitat destruction by purchasing sustainable paper, wood and palm oil.

With paper and wood, look for FSC, PEFC and Australian Forestry Standard certified or recycled products.

Avoiding unsustainable palm oil can be a bit trickier but is really important because it is threatening the survival of many endangered and vulnerable species, not just rhinos. Palm oil is in a huge number of cosmetic and food products but it can be hard to identify because it’s often labelled as vegetable oil in food or appears as a chemical component in cosmetics.

Initially, look for RSPO certified products but if you can’t find their symbol don’t get disheartened. Lots of global food and cosmetic brands like Unilever, McDonald’s and Johnson & Johnson are recognising that using palm oil is causing a big problem and are taking steps to ensure their products only contain sustainable palm oil. Why not check your favourite brands’ websites to see what their sustainability policies are?

For more information on sustainable palm oil check out the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil website.

3. Support the WWF’s efforts

Donate or learn more about the WWF’s great work to protect rhinos and other animals on their website. You can even adopt a rhino!

Get involved with CTBK

Like what you read? The Cool To Be Kind To Animals project needs your help to grow into a successful animal care educational movement. Please share this article to raise awareness of the plight of rhinos and the project.

You can also follow us via this blog, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Take care – of all animals! The Cool To Be Kind To Animals team

Information sources: WWF, National Geographic, BBC, ICUN, The University of Queensland.

Easter bilbies!

Bilby road sign

In Australia we are very lucky to have all sorts of cool and unusual animals, many of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

This month we are focusing on one of these animals: the bilby. It’s a cute, fluffy little marsupial that is unfortunately in a bit of trouble as a species.

Read on to find out more about the bilby, including what you can do to help make sure these endearing little creature have a place in our future.

 Fast bilby facts*

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The greater bilby (scientific name macrotis lagotis):

  • Is a nocturnal marsupial and the largest member of the bandicoot family.
  • Is an omnivore, meaning it eats plants and animals – bulbs, fruit, seeds, fungi, insects, worms, termites, small lizards and spiders.
  • Lives in a burrow, which can be up to two metres deep.
  • Has a very short gestation period – the female will be pregnant for only 12–14 days and, like a kangaroo, will initially keep the young in her pouch, where it will stay for about 75–80 days.
  • Used to have a sister species – the lesser bilby. However, the lesser bilby is now believed to be extinct (it’s hard to be completely sure in such a big country).

Issues facing the bilby

The main issue facing bilbies is thought to be non-native species, in particular feral cats and foxes. Bilbies need a few million years of evolution to be able to cope with the honed skills of these extremely efficient hunters and that’s just not an option.

Additionally, rabbits (another introduced species) are moving into areas that used to be occupied only by bilbies. Because rabbits breed so quickly, they are competing for food and burrowing space with the native bilbies.

The bilby could once be found all over Australia but today its population has dropped so much it is classed as a vulnerable species by the federal government. (To find out more about what that actually means, read our previous blog post about threatened species in Australia). Very sad news indeed.

Don’t feel helpless, you can make a difference

Now at Cool To Be Kind To Animals we’re not all about doom and gloom!  We also want to make sure we show you the positive things people are doing to help and even how you can do your bit.

1. The Save The Bilby Fund

The Save The Bilby Fund is a really cool organisation that is absolutely determined to save the bilby. They run bilby education and breeding programs and have also created a large predator-free area for bilbies in Currawinya National Park, Queensland. Learn more about their great work on their website. (Check out their cool fridge magnets too.)

2. Buy chocolate (no really!)

Pink Lady Chocolates has stepped up to fill the boots of Darrell Lea and is producing this year’s chocolate bilbies. (We’ve heard they are even tastier.) What a great way to celebrate this Easter AND help support the valuable work of the Save The Bilby Foundation. Click here for stockists.

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3. Get your cat neutered

We love kitties, but feral cats are a real problem for bilbies. There are millions of feral cats in Australia and we really need to make sure that as responsible cat owners we aren’t adding to this problem (for the sake of cats as well as bilbies). So, one thing you can do is make sure your cat is neutered as this will help to stop the creation of stray and unwanted litters and the spread of feral cats across Australia.

Additionally, if you have a cat and live in an area with a known bilby population, wildlife organisations suggest that you keep your cats inside, particularly at night, as this is the time they are most likely to harm the little creatures. If your cat does go outside, they also recommended that you put a bell on its collar as this can help warn bilbies they are coming.

Get involved with CTBK

Like what you read? The Cool To Be Kind To Animals project needs your help to grow into a successful animal care educational movement. Please share this article to raise awareness of the plight of bilbies and the project.

You can also follow us via this blog, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Take care – of all animals! The Cool To Be Kind To Animals team

*Source: Save The Bilby Fund. Chocolate Bilbies are Back image © Save The Bilby Fund

Threatened species in Australia. What can you do?

CTBK shutterstock_2819301 KOALADid you know that here in Australia it is estimated that 80 per cent of our animals and 40 per cent of our birds can’t be found anywhere else in the world? Now that’s cool!

But after being around for thousands of years, some of our amazing animals are finding it hard to survive in the modern world. Read on to find our more, including what you can do to help.

First, conservation categories explained

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is widely accepted as the leading authority on environment and sustainable development. To help explain these animal issues, IUCN has created the following categories to describe species that are in trouble:

  1. Vulnerable – this is bad; it means that a species faces a high risk of extinction in the medium future.
  2. Endangered – this is very bad; the species is at a very high risk of extinction in the near future.
  3. Critically endangered – this is very, very bad; the species is at extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future. It is one step away from extinction in the wild.

When governments or organisations say something is ‘threatened’ or ‘rare’ it generally means it falls into one of the above categories.

Here in Australia…

Depending on where you look, a species’ conservation status may vary, which can get a bit confusing. This is due to a combination of things, including the fact that:

  • Australia is so big – animal populations can vary a lot over 7.7 million square kilometres.
  • Australia has state and federal governments that have their own classification systems and laws.
  • People don’t always agree with each other.

Below are examples of some well-loved Aussie animals that are widely accepted as having problems.

Greater bilby

CTBK shutterstock_62954407 BilbyCroppedThis little guy used to live all over Australia but is now presumed to be extinct in NSW, classed as endangered in Queensland, threatened in NT, rare in WA and vulnerable in SA. Overall, the federal government and the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species class the greater bilby as vulnerable.

The reason? The biggest threat to the bilby population is thought to be non-native species. Feral cats and foxes are just too fast for bilbies and easily catch and kill them. Also rabbits compete for their food and burrowing space.

Tasmanian devil

CTBK shutterstock_12243208 Tassie DevilThese little critters are having a really tough time at the moment and the situation is so serious that Tasmanian devils are classed as endangered by everyone.

The reason? The wild Tasmanian devil population is under threat from a rare condition called devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), which is passed from devil to devil through close contact. Just to make things worse, Tasmanian devils are also hard to see at night and often get hit by cars.

Koala

Although there are larger populations in parts of Victoria like Cape Otway, the koala population is in decline, particularly in NSW and Queensland where it is classed as vulnerable. The federal government currently classes the combined koala population of NSW, ACT and Queensland as vulnerable.

The reason? The main cause of the reduction in koala numbers is thought to be the loss and fragmentation of their habitat and food – eucalyptus trees and leaves. Koalas are also at risk of being hit by cars and attacked by dogs.

What can I do?

Great question! It’s easy to feel a bit helpless, but you can make a difference!

1. Give your support!

There are lots of really cool organisations that have been set up to help.  Here are a few examples:

  • Save the Tasmanian Devil Program – working hard to understand DFTD and to find a long-term solution to the plight of the Tasmania devil.
  • The Australian Koala Foundation – has ‘Adopt a Koala’ and ‘Plant a tree’ programs aimed at increasing koala habitat.
  • Save the Bilby Fund – runs bilby breeding programs and helped create a large predator-free area in Currawinya National Park, Queensland.
  • WWF Australia – has an ‘Adopt an animal’ program aimed at raising awareness.

Visit their websites for more information about the organisations, their programs and all the ways you can help.

2. Keep your cat in at night!

At CTBK we love kitties but despite being cute and fluffy they can also be little killing machines – even when they are well fed! Not good for threatened birds and marsupials!

To help minimise the risk, wildlife organisations ask you to keep your cats inside at night, as this is the time they are most likely to catch little creatures. It is also recommended that you put a bell on your cat’s collar as this can help warn little creatures they are coming.

3. Drive slowly between dusk and dawn!

CTBK shutterstock_59214304 KoalaMake sure you slow down when driving at night, particularly if you see a road sign indicating that the area is populated by animals. Lots of our native wildlife is nocturnal, meaning that it is most likely to get run over between dusk and dawn.

Running over an animal is sad; running over a threatened species is a tragedy!

Get involved with CTBK!

The Cool To Be Kind To Animals project is in its early stages and needs your help to grow into a successful animal care educational movement. Please share this article to raise awareness of threatened species and the project.

You can also follow us via this blog, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Take care – of all animals! The Cool To Be Kind to Animals team

A guide to finding a new cat or dog

So, you have made the decision to get a dog or a cat. Yay! But where is the best place to get your new pet? Read on to find out.

First things first

At CTBK we love animals and we know that getting one as a pet is a big responsibility. Pets need lots of your time and attention, and need looking after if you go away. They can also cost a fair bit of cash, especially if they get sick – consider pet insurance, it is affordable and can save you thousands of dollars.

If you haven’t done so already, please have a really good think about whether you are ready for the responsibility that comes with having a pet.

Definitely ready? Great!

Adopt, adopt and adopt

We cannot stress this enough! Before you go anywhere else visit your local shelter, for a dog or a cat or both – or even a guinea pig! Many shelters help lots of different types of animals. Animal shelters in Australia are bursting at the seams with gorgeous furry friends of all sizes, colours, breeds and ages, looking for a loving new home.

We can pretty much guarantee you will find a lovely pet at a shelter. It’s best to keep an open mind but if you are looking for a particular breed or age, contact your local shelters and they will let you know when a pet that matches your requirements comes in.

Also consider the age of pet you would like. Shelters often have puppies and kittens, usually from unwanted or stray litters, not just older animals. When these youngsters are raised by shelter staff or foster carers they are usually incredibly well behaved, because the people raising them are so experienced in animal welfare and simply love them to bits!

But think carefully. Sometimes an adult animal might suit you better. Although there will still be training and ‘getting to know you’ time, an older pet might suit your lifestyle better and these animals really need an enduring and loving home – it could be yours.

If you want to start looking straight away, Pet Rescue, a not-for-profit organisation, has a great online directory and a free iPhone App that can help you find pets looking for forever homes in your area. Brilliant!

You can also contact your local Animal Welfare League (AWLA):

Or contact your local RSPCA – they are in every State.

Avoid funding cruel, irresponsible breeders

You may have heard of Oscar’s Law, a campaign that has helped to highlight the plight of dogs that are mistreated by irresponsible breeders operating puppy farms. Not cool.

We always recommend going to a shelter, but if you have decided to get your new pet from a breeder, make sure they are registered with the local council or the breeding association (ask to see evidence) and make sure you are happy about the conditions the animals are being kept in.

There are different regulations and guidelines for breeders in each state of Australia, so check with your state government, RSPCA or your local Animal Welfare League. Of course, there are responsible and dedicated breeders. However, if you have any animal welfare concerns with the one you visit, please report the breeder straight away to your local council or the RSPCA.

How much is that puppy in the window?

Imagine being kept in a small cage in a pet shop window when all you want to do is run around and play and be with your mum, brothers and sisters! Not kind.

Shops put puppies and kittens in their windows because they attract customers and increase sales. Although most pet shops adhere to the standards of care for their animals for sale, unfortunately they also encourage impulsive pet purchases, which often result in an unwanted pet a few months down the line. Even if you are not being impulsive, this is not a practice we would like to encourage.

There are some really cool pet stores though – like Petbarn, which has teamed with the RSPCA and Lort Smith Animal Hospital and Best Friends – that have changed what they do now by offering or promoting shelter dogs and cats for adoption: they have arrangements with local shelters. What a great solution! Contact your local pet stores to see if they are participating in an animal adoption program.

Be cool and kind to animals – get your pet from a shelter. In our view, there is nothing more rewarding than giving a rescued animal a second chance.

Get involved!

The Cool To Be Kind To Animals project is in its early stages and needs your help to grow into a successful animal care educational movement. To get involved, to help us stamp out animal cruelty and neglect and for regular updates, please share this article and follow us on this blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Together, we can help to reduce the instances of animal cruelty and neglect in Australia and help to create a generation of more responsible pet owners.

Take care – with all your animals! The Cool To Be Kind To Animals team.

All pets featured in this blog entry are either available for adoption or have been re-homed by Lort Smith Animal Hospital, Melbourne. 

Photographs © Lort Smith Animal Hospital