Answer Sheet

(Click on answer number to go back to the question.)

Answer 1 is about Classificaton/Taxonomy.  Answers 2 to 50 are about Snakes.  Answers 51 to 66 are basically about Feral Animals & Forestry.  Do think about Question/Answer 63 - Cats, Foxes and Bushfires.

Answer 1.   What are meant by the words Taxonomy and Classification?

This question on classification is rather lengthy though not too difficult to follow.  Whoever bothers to work through it will get a useful grounding in taxonomy.  Much of what follows will make more sense if this section is read through a couple of times.  Perhaps once, then again a week or two later.

(Printable version in PDF available here.)

Taxonomy and Classification basically mean the same thing.  The words are sometimes interchangeable in the form written here.  That is to say a person can work in taxonomy or classification.  The person who does such work is usually called a taxonomist; that is a classifier of the animal or plant kingdom.  The first word is of Greek origin the second is of Latin origin.  In natural history it is the way we put order into the chaos of the millions of living creatures with which we share the planet.  Whether that creature be a human, a whale, a lizard, a monkey, a bird, a tree, a sea shell, a bacterium or a piece of seaweed, they are all classified according to the international rules of taxonomy.

The system of binomial nomenclature or naming of the animal and plant kingdom by giving every creature its own two part name was devised and first used by a Swede called Carolus Linnaeus in 1753.  The system gave us such a solid base to work from that it has been expanded to be all encompassing.  It can now cater for every possibility in the individual naming of all the creatures of the planet.  This system is still used today. 

Many people refer to these specific names as Latin names and, although most of the names are in Latin form, many of them are not Latin but Greek.  For example the common tiger snake found mostly in the south eastern corner of mainland Australia has the  specific name Notechis scutatus. The first word or genus is made up of two words.  Notos meaning south and echis meaning viper or adder, both Greek words.  The species name scutatus is the Latin word for carrying a shield with scutum being the Latin word for shield.  Though most specific names do come from the classical languages, it is not always the case.

To classify the animal kingdom we use six basic words, and you should learn at least these six words in this order.

The Animal Kingdom  
Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species

There are eight sub-groups.  To these six words can be added two prefixes: sub and super.  The prefix sub can precede the six words.  The prefix super can only precede two of the words; namely, order and family.


This gives us fourteen pigeonholes into which we can place the names of living things.  So, the full sequence would go like this:

  Phylum Subphylum
  Class Subclass
Superorder Order Suborder
Superfamily Family Subfamily
  Genus Subgenus
  Species Subspecies

Someone may have found the need to use the terms superclass, supergenus or superspecies though as yet i've not found these words in use.

  Note: The plural for genus is genera (not genuses).

To name most creatures on the planet you would never need to use all of these pigeonholes.  So, let's name some animals starting with the wolf.

Phylum Chordata  
Subphylum Vertebrata fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
Class Mammalia breast feeding mammals.
Subclass Theria marsupials and placental mammals. (For the mammals this subclass is sometimes split into three groups:)
    prototheria monotremes egg laying mammals - platypuses and echidnas
    metatheria marsupials pouched mammals - kangaroos and possums
    eutheria placental mammals mammals that carry the unborn in a placenta - humans and dogs
Order Carnivora flesh-eating mammals.
Family Canidae fox, coyote, jackal, wolf and dog.
Genus Canis coyote, jackal, wolf and dog (note that fox is not included in this genus).
Species lupus wolf
Subspecies youngi  

Canis lupus youngi - This is the classification of the Southern Rocky Mountain Wolf.  You will notice that the name of the genus Canis must start with a capital letter.  The species and subspecies names lupus and youngi must start with lower case letters.  It is also convention to write genus, species and subspecies names in italics.  You might be interested to know that Canis lupus youngi a native of Nevada, Utah and Colorado became extinct in 1940.  The Texas Red Wolf Canis rufus rufus became extinct in 1970.  In the specific name Canis rufus rufus you'll notice that the second name is not lupus, the Latin word for wolf, as in the first group.  This is because the Texas Red Wolf is not a true wolf.  It is more closely related to the coyote so it does not carry the species name lupus.  However, if the person who first described the animal really believed it to be a wolf and had used the term lupus for the species name, it would have to remain as such.  That is International Taxonomic law.

Now let's look at how you would differentiate between a domestic dog and a dingo in the taxonomic system.

The domestic dog.
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Canidae
Genus Canis
Species familiaris
Subspecies familiaris

If there were no subspecies you would just use the species name once, so a domestic dog would be called Canis familiarisHowever, because a subspecies does exist you must repeat the species name Canis familiaris familiarisThis then shows that at least one subspecies does exist and leaves a place for it in the taxonomic system.  So a dingo is called Canis familiaris dingo.

Although the dingo has been classified as a subspecies, for convenience sake or some other reason, it is just not possible that a dingo is a subspecies.  If you imagine that when the dingo was first looked at by science and, if it had been noted that:

(a) It had a shorter back to height ratio than other dogs, giving the impression of it being rather tall for its length.  Also, instead of a bark or a howl its call was something akin to a cross between a chortle and a yodel.

(b) It was almost as small as a chihuahua and looked as strangely different as such, when compared to other dogs.

Then, with a description like this it could be reasonable to call a dingo a subspecies.  Also, if it were found that it could not breed together with other dogs then it would be reasonable to classify it as another species.

However, when you consider the difference between a chihuahua and a great dane which are both classified as the same species and you then consider the dingo, what do you get?  Just another dog.  A distinctly different dog when compared to other dogs but Canis familiaris none the less.   The dingo is what is correctly called a cline or a gradation amongst the world of dogs.  And, with all the special features that go to make it as such it should be respected as a dingo.  It would also be reasonable and very sensible to protect the dingo in its pure form as a genetic resource; we do not know what we may need in the future.

The descriptions above (a) and (b) go part way in describing the basenji.  The basenji can be found in the engravings of ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to 3,600 B.C.  It was found to still exist in 1870 by explorers of the Congo region of Central Africa and is kept by many people to this day.  The basenji is still a dog Canis familiaris.

The classification of humans and apes

Humans did not come from monkeys, chimps or gorillas; the proof is in the DNA but we did come from a common ancestor and that proof is also in the DNA.  However, it appears that our ancestors did not swing through the trees, nor did they walk around on two legs.

The scientific jury is in, on the genetic relationship between humans and the apes; so i�ve had to change my original work on classification a little.  In recent years there has been some real understanding on the measuring of how much we share our DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) with all the other species of monkeys and apes.

The creatures in question are listed below, but this story excludes the monkeys found in the Americas, they are known as new world monkeys and have nothing to do with our lineage.

Our family tree
> old world monkeys (many genera and species)
----> common gibbon
----> siamang gibbon
--------> orangutan
------------> highland gorilla
------------> western lowland gorilla
------------> eastern lowland gorilla
----------------> human
--------------------> common chimpanzee
--------------------> pygmy chimpanzee

 Monkeys share around 93% of their DNA with humans and also with the anthropoid apes; they differ in over 7% of their DNA from the rest of us, so the old world monkeys are the farthest from all apes, including us.

     Gibbons differ by 5% in their DNA from humans and other apes.  Siamang gibbons and common gibbons differ from each other by 2.2% of their DNA.

         Orangutans differ by 3.6% in their DNA from humans, gorillas and chimpanzees.

             Gorillas are equidistance apart from humans and both of the chimp species by about 2.3% of their DNA.

                 Humans share 98.4% of their DNA with both common and pygmy chimpanzees.  Both these chimpanzees differ from us by about 1.6% of their DNA.

                     Common chimpanzees and pygmy chimpanzees are 99.3% identical in their DNA and so they differ from each other by 0.7%.

It all started to happen over 30 million years ago, which was well after the dinosaurs.  At the end of the cretaceous period, about 60 million years ago, the last dinosaurs left the earth.  If you dig up dinosaur bones you�ll not find any bones belonging to: humans, monkeys, apes, elephants, cows, horses or even rattlesnakes, they came much later.  However, there must have been something in our lineage around during the time of the dinosaurs, or we would not be here.  Sometime over 30 million years ago, what were to become all the different kinds of old world monkeys had split company from what were to become humans and apes; the tailless ones, excluding guinea pigs of course.

There is a recurring telltale pattern in our DNA, which is the pattern of equidistance.  Starting with what we call monkeys, you�ll notice that they, the monkeys, are all about 7% distance in their DNA from all the other apes including us.  So when whatever it was that split company to go on its merry way and eventually become a monkey, it did so leaving a decisive record of its departure.  What became monkeys, kept or developed tails while we, the anthropoids, remained tailless or became tailless.

Just over 20 million years ago what were to become gibbons broke ranks from the rest of us and by about 10 million years ago they had split into two groups: the common gibbons and the siamang gibbons; in all there are now nine species of gibbons in these two groups.

The interesting fact is that gibbons are all 5% distance from all the rest of us in their DNA even though they have split into two groups and have also differentiated into nine species.  The two groups of gibbons differ by 2.2% in their DNA from each other and yet they have remained 5% different from the rest of us.  There is something consistent and constant about deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

The orangutans parted company from the rest of us about 15 million years ago and have kept a 3.6% distance from all the others in their DNA ever since.

The gorillas left our group about 10 million years ago and they have split into three types of gorillas: the highland gorilla, and the eastern and western lowland gorillas and their DNA has remained at a constant 2.3% distance from both humans and chimps.

Around 7 million years ago what were to become humans started to do their own thing and left what were to become chimps to do theirs.  We humans have remained exactly 1.6% different in our DNA from both the other species of chimps (common and pygmy), even though they have split from each other by 0.7% in their own DNA.  Their split occurred within the last 3 million years.

This means that the gorilla branched off from our family tree before we did and when we parted from the lineage, we left what were to become the both species of chimps.  So the closest relative to the chimp is the human, not the gorilla, orangutan, gibbon or any other creature.  The common and pygmy chimps differ from each other by 0.7% of their DNA and differ from us by 1.6%, so we are their closest relatives.  The DNA of the chimpanzees is closer to ours than is the difference between that of the two species of gibbons.

Another way of looking at it

As each creature broke ranks it kept a record in its DNA of the order of its departure in relation to all the rest.  The strange, interesting and valuable tracer phenomenon left for us to understand our family tree, is that once one of us broke away, the percentage of difference that appeared, seems to remain constant, regardless of what happens to the one that broke away.  For example since the old world monkeys separated from our lineage they have diverged into many species, some of them becoming quite different from each other.  However it seems that they all retain that 7% difference from the rest of us.  The first to leave were the monkeys, which are not apes.  The most obvious difference between monkeys and apes is that monkeys have tails.

We all broke ranks in this order and the DNA proves it
Monkeys Gibbons Orangutans Gorillas Humans Chimpanzees
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
Percentage (of DNA) from the rest of us from chimps from us
7% 5% 3.6% 2.3% 1.6% 1.6% that =
98.4% like us
old world          
      western lowland    
      eastern lowland    
Approximate years ago (in millions) when each group split from the lineage:-
30 20 15 10 7  

Notice also that the percentage markers get smaller down the line from monkeys to chimps: 7%, 5%, 3.6%, 2.3% and 1.6%; meaning that five markers have landed in sequence which is a rather hard call.  You try to throw just by chance numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in that order.

Chimpanzees are genetically closer to us than they are to gorillas or orangutans.  Whether we want to believe it or not chimpanzees are our closest cousins, we left their lineage about 7 million years ago and the story is in the DNA.

There is something else worth considering.  When each of these creatures listed above branched out to go it alone, the chances are that each of them did not look anything like what their common name suggests.  So what started out to look like a monkey most likely looked nothing like a monkey and what turned out to be what we know as a gorilla most likely looked nothing like a gorilla to begin with.  So it would follow that humans or chimpanzees could not have started out looking anything like what we would name as a human or chimpanzee today; they each had a long road to travel and we are all still traveling it.

How should chimps and humans fit into the taxonomic system?

It appears that the common and pygmy chimps differ by only 0.7% of their DNA and are accepted as different species or at least sub-species, so it would be fair to assume that by our 1.6% difference, we would have to also be a different species.  It may also be reasonable to assume that we are of a different genus; considering that some creatures that appear much closer to each other than chimps do to humans, are of different genera.  However, it is looking more and more like the chimpanzees belong to the same family as the human family �Hominidae� and in plain language they should be called hominids, but they are not humans and never will be.

After all the shouting has died down, a fact still remains a fact, so perhaps it�s time that some of us grew up and had a serious look at what is real.  It is now permissible to present evidence in court based on DNA as �irrefutable evidence�.  Being able to see and interpret a pattern is a sign of intelligence.  Let us continue to develop our intelligence and continue to move on; we are not chimpanzees.  A problem with many of us is that we try to get facts to fit a theory instead of finding a theory to fit the facts.

It might also be fair to have a little more respect for our unfortunate long lost cousins that cannot speak for themselves and stop those hideous experiments that are performed on them; both medical and military.  These experiments are carried out by their clever and civilized cousins, the humans!  Sadly some of their cousins have proven to be the most dangerous and sadistic animals ever to walk the earth.  As you read this, such experiments are happening.

It might also be a very civilized idea to seriously consider that they might also like a place left for them in which to live.  All of the tailless apes, who can never speak for themselves, are in trouble and that trouble is caused by their civilized cousins who are very good at speaking on their own behalf and very quick to take what they want for themselves.

When you learn about classification it is worth learning about the plight of, and afford some respect for that which you are classifying, otherwise classification is nothing more than academic twaddle.

Now let us look at how we the humans, until quite recently, were seen to differ in the taxonomic system from the apes.  You will notice that we have a lot in common with the chimps.  So much so, that the criteria used in the laws of classification kept us together right up to the Superfamily called Hominoidea; it is at that point we parted company.

This is how it was generally accepted that humans were differentiated from the chimpanzees, changing immediately after Superfamily.

Human Chimpanzee
Phylum Chordata Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia Class Mammalia
Order Primates Order Primates
Superfamily Hominoidea Superfamily Hominoidea
Family Hominidae Family Pongidae
Subfamily Homininae Subfamily Ponginae
Genus Homo Genus Pan
Species sapiens Species troglodytes

The small table below is how i personally believe that a minimum grouping should look, with one change made in the line of Family with all else remaining the same.  My thoughts may change with more information and extra thought on this subject.

Family Hominidae Family Hominidae

Considering that the Superfamily is already Hominoidea, then it should follow that in the Family line we humans could not be classified as Pongidae, so the chimps would have to join us in the Family Hominidae.  However, perhaps we are quite far enough removed to keep the chimps in the Subfamily Ponginae; though some taxonomists may have clearer thoughts in that area.  Personally i do not believe that the chimpanzees could be grouped into the Genus Homo and should remain in the Genus Pan.

Below are the conventions used to differentiate between three meanings.  Otherwise, with the classification of the humans the words look rather similar.  We belong to what is called the family of hominids to which perhaps the chimpanzee should also belong, instead of belonging to the family called pongids.

Look at the endings of the following words
Superfamily - oidea - Hominoidea
Family - idae - Hominidae
Subfamily - inae - Homininae

When classifying plants the family name takes a different ending, whereas in animals, the family ending is - idae, in plants the word must end in - aceae.  So, for example, the family name for the cypress tree is cupressaceae.

It is sometimes useful to understand how the taxonomic system works in the real world.  So, we will step back a moment to look at an argument that is going on about the naming of the chimpanzees.  As stated there are two types of chimpanzees, one from East Africa called the Common Chimpanzee, and one from further west in central Zaire.  The West African chimp is known as the Pygmy Chimpanzee or the Bonobo.  There are some who say that they are two different species, and if that proves correct; their specific names would look like this:
Common chimpanzee Pan troglodytes
Bonobo or Pygmy chimpanzee Pan paniscus

The other argument says than the Bonobo is a subspecies.  So if that proves to be the case then their specific names would have to be:
Common chimpanzee Pan troglodytes troglodytes
Bonobo Pan troglodytes paniscus

If you�d like to read a very well researched book on this subject and much more, i recommend: �The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee� by Jared Diamond, read at least chapter 1 called �A Tale of Three Chimps�.

If any person has a problem with my figures on DNA please let me know and if need be they can be corrected.  It is not fair having people commit numbers to memory that are not correct.

Classification of tiger snakes

Here is the full classification of the common tiger snake Notechis scutatus which is a full species in its own right, followed by Kreffts tiger snake Notechis ater ater to which are related various sub-species of tiger snakes.

Common tiger snake Kreffts tiger snake
Phylum Chordata Phylum Chordata
Subphylum Vertebrata Subphylum Vertebrata
Class Reptilia Class Reptilia
Order Squamata Order Squamata
Suborder Serpentes or Ophidia Suborder Serpentes or Ophidia
(The Latin name 'Serpentes' or the Greek name 'Ophidia' are optional here.)
Family Elapidae Family Elapidae
Genus Notechis Genus Notechis
Species scutatus Species ater ater

The word next to Order you see is squamata, that is from the Latin word squama meaning scale as on snake or fish etc.  Squama is also the Italian word for a scale but not the scale on which you weigh something.

About International Taxonomic Law

A type specimen is the original specimen after which a species is described and named.  The specimen is called a holotype if it was collected by the person who described it.  All type specimens and holotypes must be deposited in some major museum collection to allow reference or further research in the future.  Once a species name has been given to a type specimen or a holotype that is the name it must keep for ever more.  That is international taxonomic law.  A species may be moved from one genus to another if it is found to be in a genus that is obviously incorrect.  However, if someone attempts to change a species name where there exists a type specimen or holotype wherever it may be, then technically that new species name is invalid.  That is the law in place and agreed to by taxonomists the world over.  That law is there to stop personal egos getting in the way of a stable system that has been working for over two hundred years.  If we ever allow people to change a species name then it would become a free for all.  We would be left with an unreliable and unstable system of chaos.  What would then be the point of classifying anything?  

Here is an example or a mistake that by International Taxonomic Law that cannot be changed.   The Garial which is sometimes referred to as the Gavial.   It is a large Indian, river dwelling long snouted fish eating crocodile.   In Hindi a small pot is galled �ghara� and the male of this crocodile carries a large raised area on the end of its snout that looks just like that.   Hence its name in Hindi Garial.   When the name was submitted for acceptance, the person in the office misread the letter �r� for a �v� and so officially in the International Taxonomic system the creature carries the name Gavialis gangeticus instead of Garialis which is what it should have been.   The Garial by the way is the rarest crocodile in Asia, in recent years their populations have crashed.   It has lot to do with the skin trade.

Here is another example, if once its proposed name is accepted, it cannot be changed by International Taxonomic Law.   This snake was named after the author of this site.   As a newly described species it was given the name Pailsus rossignolli.   Now considering that this new species carries my surname it does jump out at me that my name has been misspelled.   Rossignoli has only one letter L not two.   The person who described the snake as a new species did not check up on the correct spelling before giving the snake its name.

I may change my name legally by deed poll.   By International Taxonomic Law that snake, if accepted in that form, must keep its name as it is, unless it is found that it is not a new species.   If that were to happen then it would just go on being what it has always been.   The poor old snake of course would not know anything about these human shenanigans.

Hopefully the correct spelling will be accepted and not have this snake go the way of the Garial/Gavial.

Pailsus rossignoli
Photograph by: Attilio (Joe) Marra

(Printable version in PDF available here.)

Answer 2.  There are 7 families of snakes in Australia and approximately 400 worldwide.  The Australian families are: Elapidae (elapids), Colubridae (colubrids), Boidae (pythons), Typhlopidae (blind snakes), Hydrophiidae (sea snakes), Laticaudidae (sea kraits) and Acrochordidae (file snakes).

Answer 3.  There are now said to be 49 genera of snakes in Australia and this number is not likely to change.  To find a new genus of snake in Australia would be quite difficult though not impossible.

Answer 4.  Approximately 170 species and this number is likely to change.  For example, the brown snakes of the genus Pseudonaja (meaning false cobra) are very complicated and have not been clearly worked out as yet.  There is one called the western brown (known in WA as the gwarder) which is found in all states except Victoria and Tasmania.  There have been just a few found in Victoria in the Mallee around Ouyen.

These snakes vary greatly around the country.  They vary so greatly that it is impossible that they can all belong to the same species.  Until such time as we put in the effort to work out just what we have, they have all been classified as the western brown (Pseudonaja nuchalis) for convenience.  When the western browns are finally worked out we may finish up with another two to four species, in that genus alone.

Answer 5.  Worldwide there are said to be 2700 species of snakes though I've seen numbers of a few hundred less than that, so the figures must be approximate.

Answer 6.  The most prolific family of snakes in Australia are the elapids.  Proportionately, Australia has more elapids than any other continent.

Answer 7.  The most prolific family of snakes worldwide are the colubrids.  There are said to be about 1500 species; more than all other species put together.

Answer 8.  Australia has only 10 species of colubrids, a very poor showing when you consider that the colubrids are the most common family of snakes in the world.

Answer 9.  There are about 15 species of pythons so far described in Australia though this number will vary depending on opinion.

Answer 10.  The two main sub-families of the family Boidae are the Pythons (Pythoninae) and the Boas (Boinae).

Answer 11.  Australia has only pythons while South and Central America have only boas.

Answer 12.  Pythons are oviparous (egg layers) while the boas are viviparous (live bearers).

Answer 13.  In South East Asia there is a very large snake called the reticulated python or the regal python (Python reticulatus).  There are claims of this python laying up to 100 eggs and the snake itself attaining a length of some 10 to 11 meters.  And yes, they have been known to eat the odd person, though people are not in their normal diet!

In South America there is a boa called the green anaconda (Eunectes murinus).  This snake, it is claimed, will easily reach a length of 9 metres and claims of 10 meters have been bandied around.  Although this snake does not get as long as the reticulated python, it sure makes up for it in weight.  It can become the heaviest snake in the world and, without doubt, could be the most dangerous non venomous snake to humans.  So, if you happen to be in South America, do not go swimming with green anacondas!  But by the same token, do not believe a movie like the recent hit ANACONDA.  That movie was made to make money.  Not to educate people.

Answer 14.  According to the fossil record, snakes did not really get going until part way through the Cretaceous Period which began about 135 million years ago and ended some 65 million years ago.

Answer 15.  It seems, according to the fossil record, that the earth did not see vipers and pit vipers until sometime around the beginning of the Tertiary Period which started after the Cretaceous Period ended some 65 million years ago.

Answer 16.  The Cretaceous Period saw the height of the reign of the dinosaurs.  It appears that the mammals had been held in abeyance during their reign.  By sometime around the beginning of the Tertiary Period the dinosaurs were gone and the mammals began to flourish.  If you dig up dinosaur bones you cannot find the familiar mammal bones that we know today.  For example, together with the bones of a brontosaurus or tyrannosaurus you will never find those of: elephants, lions, cows, horses, monkeys, humans or even the pit vipers like the rattle snakes etc, though the fossils of other snakes are sometimes found.

Answer 17.  If you look at the face of a pit viper, for example a Rattlesnake, you will notice extra holes as though it has another set of nostrils.  To locate them, draw an imaginary line between the eye and the nostril and drop down just a little.  They look so much like nostrils that in Latin America these snakes have been referred to as (cuatro narices) which means 'four noses' in Spanish.  These extra two holes  have nothing to do with noses.  These holes are highly developed infra-red or heat sensing pits.

A pit viper, especially a rattlesnake, is a well equipped animal.  For daylight hours it has a wonderful camouflage.  Its prey can stumble upon it and be struck before it knows anything about the snake.  Of course it has its rattle, so if any large beast happens upon it and is likely to step on the snake then the snake can sound its rattle and so both animals can avoid any mishap.

At night if a large animal such as a deer, bear, wolf or a bison were to come too close for the comfort of the snake, then it can see the creature with its infra-red sensors.  It can register its size and know that it is too large to eat.  A good loud rattle will see the intruder off and no harm will come of the encounter.   However, if a rat were to come within range of the pit viper, its size and distance are instantly known.  It is not safe for rats to walk around at night where there could be hungry pit vipers in the neighbourhood.  It appears that at the beginning of the Tertiary Period when the mammals began to flourish so did the pit vipers.

During the day for hunting and defence, a rattlesnake will use camouflage and its rattle.  When it is dark, it will use its heat sensing pits and its rattle.  That will cover most animals most of the time except for humans the most dangerous animal of all.

Australian venomous snakes do not have heat sensing pits like the rattlesnakes or the other pit vipers of the Americas.  There are no pit vipers in Australia.

Answer 18.  The Death Adder is found in Australia and New Guinea.  The three major species found in Australia are the Common Death Adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) the desert death adder (A. pyrrhus) and the northern death adder (A. praelongus). Because the death adder is one of the slowest traveling snakes in the world the most important method of hunting and defence is just like that of the viper, camouflage.

The death adder does have another trick up its sleeve for hunting.   As it lies in the leaf litter looking quite invisible it may just take a lizard or rodent as it passes by.  However, if it feels hungry and if at that time it sees movement, it will start to lure with its tail.  The end of the tail is rather flat and about half the length of a matchstick.  It is specialised to perform a series of fine undulations.  Any creature that thinks that this is just a tasty wriggling grub is in for rude shock.  The death adder cannot strike its prey much further than about half its own length.  What it lacks in a distance strike, it sure makes up for with speed and accuracy.  It's very rare to see an adder miss its target.  I have heard reports of super leaping feats by death adders though i must admit that i've never witnessed such a phenomenon.

Each snake species has its own way of telling its keeper if it is hungry and the death adder is no exception.  The adder will not move its body but as you pass your animal you can give the box a bit of a nudge and if it is hungry it will start to lure.  Sometimes it may do this if it sees you moving about the room. 

Answer 19.  Many of the boids that is, the pythons and boas have heat sensing pits but, as far as i know, never in the same place as the pit vipers.  If you look at the lower lips of most Australian pythons you will notice that there are indentations along the lip line.  They will appear as deep furrows and in some species of pythons they will extend further along the lips than in others.  These pits, as do those of the pit vipers, allow the python or boa to see warm blooded animals in the dark.

Answer 20.  The two primitive Australian pythons without heat sensing pits are the black-headed python (Aspidites melanocephalus) and the woma (A. ramsayi).

Answer 21.  Batesian mimicry means that the shape (morphology [or morph]) and/or coloration of one species imitates those characteristics of another species.  The species being mimicked is usually dangerous or tastes unpleasant.  In this way a harmless creature may be safe from predators because it resembles its dangerous look alike.  By the way, the term 'colour morph' is a misnomer when referring to snakes or for that matter, when referring to anything .  The problem with this term is that the word morph is derived from the word morpheme which comes from a Greek word meaning shape; it has nothing to do with colour.

The coral snake and the milk snake of the Americas are well known for the phenomenon of Batesian mimicry.  The coral snake, an elapid, is deadly while the milk snake is a harmless colubrid.  There are many species of coral snakes and milk snakes in North and South America.

Answer 22.  Snakes cannot usually or naturally be found in areas of permafrost such as Northern Siberia, in ice and snow, inside the Arctic circle, in Antarctica, in Greenland, Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland or on many of the Pacific islands because these islands were formed (usually volcanically) much too recently for snakes to have evolved on them.  The only plants and creatures that you can find on these islands are those that could have flown there, swum there, drifted there, been blown there by the wind, hitched a ride on another animal or been carried there by humans.  It is worth noting that the limited types of endemic species found on these volcanic islands give testimony to the islands' recent formation.

Answer 23.  A pelagic sea snake is that type which would normally spend its whole life in the sea, never needing to venture onto land.

Answer 24.  A true sea snake belonging to the family Hydrophiidae is pelagic and is a live bearer (viviparous).  The most far ranging sea snake in the world is the yellow-bellied sea snake (Pelamis platurus) a truly pelagic sea snake.  A sea krait belonging to the family Laticaudidae is an egg layer (oviparous) and never strays too far from land where its eggs are usually laid in sand on a beach.  There is possibly one exception to this egg laying rule.   There is said to be a species of krait, the Laticauda crockeri, that lives a lake-locked existence in the Solomon Islands and is a live bearer.  However, i know nothing about this snake i've only read about it, so i presume that it does exist.

Answer 25.  Lizards can be carnivorous, herbivorous or omnivorous.  Snakes however, are carnivorous and some snakes are very specific in their dietary requirements.  If a rat has just eaten a meal of greens which is part of a rats normal diet and that rat is in turn eaten by a snake, then of course the snake will get a side salad.  This may be a normal way for some snakes to get a little green matter into their diet which could be necessary for some species.

There are some types of snakes that will only feed upon warm blooded creatures such as birds or mammals (including bats).  These snakes include (but are not limited to) those with the heat sensing pits (for information on heat sensing pits see questions 17, 19, and 20).

There are snakes that will eat only reptiles and some that are specialised snake eaters.  The king cobra or hamadryad of the Indian Sub-continent, Southern China, South East Asia, parts of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Philippines is perhaps the most renowned of these snakes.  The king cobra's name, Ophiophagus hannah, shows the animal as a snake eater.  The Modern Greek word for snake is phidi, but the classical Greek word is ophis or ophios.  The other part of the word, phagus, is from a Greek word to do with food and eating.  So Ophiophagus would loosely mean snake eater.

There are some snakes that are specialised fish eaters while others may just include a fish in their diet when they can catch one.  There are others known as Crawfish snakes because they include these creatures in their diet.  For the Australians who are unfamiliar with the word crawfish, it is roughly equivalent to our yabbie, marron or fresh water crayfish.

There are snakes known as Slug-eaters.  These snakes are found in damp areas of East Africa, from Ethiopia in the north to Namibia and Angola in the south.   This harmless snake dines almost exclusively on slugs and snails and is a boon for gardeners in its range.  The snake will follow the slime trail of its prey swallowing the slugs as it finds them.  When it comes across a snail it will grasp the forepart of the creature and slowly pull the rest out of its shell.

There are the Egg Eaters, one species on the Indian Sub-continent and about six species in Africa.  This snake is designed to eat only birds eggs.  It has short teeth protruding out of the gums to grasp an egg.  The egg is taken into the throat where it is moved back and forth against projections that come into the gullet from the backbone.  They are a kind of specialised vertebrae with something akin to an enamel finish to give them durability.  After puncturing and collapsing the egg and swallowing the contents the snake will then discard the shell.  These harmless African Egg Eaters display a form of Batesian mimicry for defence (For Batesian mimicry see question 21).  They look much like venomous vipers and will strike with their mouth open as if to bite, though it is all bluff.

Although many in Australia believe that snakes will frequent a chookhouse to steal eggs, this is seldom the case.  In Australia we do not have true egg eaters.  Some snakes in this country may struggle with an egg because they are interested in the smell.  Large pythons can swallow eggs, but they will eat whole chooks as well.  The large venomous snakes that can sometimes be found around chookhouses are usually hunting the mice which are stealing the wheat.  It is very rare for any venomous snakes in Australia to eat chook eggs.

There are also some snakes in the world that eat insects, spiders, earthworms, ants, termites.  From time to time the odd person can be taken by one of the giant pythons or boas though humans are not usually listed on a snake's menu.

There are many snakes that sometimes eat amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders and newts), and some that exclusively eat amphibians.  However there is one amphibian that is deadly to most of our native animals.  It is the cane toad  (Bufo marinus) a native to parts of South and Central America extending, historically, as far north as Mexico.  Late last century cane toads started to be introduced into various tropical areas of the world in an attempt to control agricultural pests.  Wherever this toad has been introduced it has been an ecological disaster.

The Australian stock were brought from Hawaii in 1935 where they had been released a little earlier for, what turned out to be, yet another disastrous attempt at biological pest control.  By 1936 they had been released into North Queensland and their plunderous march has, to this day, not stopped.  In the mid 1970s i saw them at Ballina in northern New South Wales and how much farther south they have since travelled, i don't know.  They have moved across the top of Australia from Queensland into the Northern Territory and will soon be in Kakadu. The wetlands in this area will become 'cane toad heaven'.  Another disaster waiting to happen.

Perhaps we could short circuit this impending disaster by taking "genetically broadly based" samples of the creatures from the path of the cane toads.  We could select animals that we know are vulnerable to this feral pest and farm them out to the public for breeding.  This will serve two purposes.   Firstly, we can keep stocks of at least some of our threatened animals for the day when we have learned how to rid the land of the cane toads.  Secondly, it will bring the Australian public into closer contact with our native animals;  animals about which most  Australians know or understand little.   Australians i believe, are far too removed from their wildlife though we find cats everywhere and they are on the increase.  It would not cost the government a cent.  Some of these rarer animals we could breed back into the thousands which is how they should be.  Sadly some people don't want us to breed up the numbers of these animals because they are rare.

Answer 26.  There are various forms of body display that are meant to frighten off potential enemies, perhaps one of the most famous of these is the display of the cobra's hood.   Other forms of defence include escape, camouflage, hissing, huffing and puffing, skin odour, spraying a foul smelling anal discharge, feigning death, Batesian mimicry, spitting venom, biting, rattle of the rattlesnake's tail, vibrating tail against earth or bushes.

The saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus) produces a rasping sound by rubbing its specialised flank scales together when it is threatened.  This snake is found in parts of Africa, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent where it is quite common throughout its range.  It also uses camouflage for its defence which makes it a very dangerous snake because of the high density of human population who share the same land.  Because its camouflage is so good, many people come to grief because they accidentally step on the snake.   

Answer 27.  It is the organ in the roof of the mouth of a snake or goanna (monitor) into which the tips of the forked tongue are placed to identify scent.  A rodent eater for example can, even in the dark, tell the difference between a mouse and a rat in an instant just with a flick of the tongue.  Researchers have claimed that some species of snakes can identify as little as one molecule of scent.

Answer 28.  It is believed that the forked tongue is a great advantage when tracking prey.  If a snake picks up the scent of a prey animal it can get direction with the forked tongue.  So, stronger scent on one fork of the tongue gives an important directional message to the snake, thanks to the Jacobson's organ.

Answer 29.  The word 'glyph' is used when referring to the fangs of snakes.  The four  groups of snake teeth are aglyphs, opisthoglyphs, proteroglyphs and solenoglyphs.  The word 'glyphein', comes from an old Greek word 'to carve' and gives us the technical word used for fangs.  There are many specialised forms of teeth in snakes but they all fall into these four groups.  The first group are the aglyphs. The 'a' at the beginning of the word 'glyph' is a negation, so it means no fangs or without fangs.  All the boids (pythons and boas) are aglyphous.  There is also a family of snakes called the Colubrids (see questions 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8) of which most (though not all) are aglyphous and so, like the boids the aglyphous colubrids have no venom.

Then there are the opisthoglyphs.  The Greek word 'piso' means 'to the back' or 'behind'.  You'll notice that the letters in 'piso' make up part of the beginning of the word opisthoglyph.  The opisthoglyphs are all Colubrids.  They have fangs (unlike the aglyphs) which are at the back of their mouths, hence the word 'piso' pronounced pisso.  There are some taxonomists who believe that the opisthoglyphs should be taken out of the family Colubridae and put into a family of their own.  Most of the opisthoglyphous snakes are only slightly venomous, usually no more venomous than a bee sting, as is the brown tree snake of the tropical areas of Australia and some of the Pacific Islands.  However, there are at least three or four kinds of Colubrids that have proven to be deadly to humans.(see question 30)

The proteroglyphs are the front fixed fanged snakes.  This means that the fangs are either not hinged or are only slightly hinged and are usually quite short.  Elapids, sea snakes and sea kraits are all proteroglyphs.  All of Australia's deadly snakes belong to this group.  In the word proteroglyph, the word 'protos' is the Greek word for 'first', as in prototype (the first type for an invention etc...).  Relating to this word, the Greeks have  another word 'proteros,' meaning 'former' or 'earlier'.  So these fangs could be classed as the first type of fang or the fangs that are forward or up front in the mouth.

Although all our deadly snakes in Australia belong to this group it does not mean that all proteroglyphs are deadly.  As a matter of fact, most of these snakes are only slightly venomous and a bite would usually cause no more than slight swelling and some discomfort.  However, it is not a good idea to experiment with bites, because if by chance you are allergic to the venom or develop an allergy to that venom it could be more dangerous to you than a deadly snake bite itself.

Then there are the solenoglyghs.  These snakes have the longest fangs of all.  The first part of the word 'solena' is from the Greek word for 'pipe' so, they could be referred to as the pipe fanged snakes.  These snakes have to fold their fangs back to shut their mouth.  The rattlesnake of the Americas is a solenoglyph.  All vipers, pit vipers and true adders belong to this group.

Remember, the Australian and New Guinea death adders are not true adders.  They do however have the typical diamond head and stocky body of the adders and vipers but they are elapids with short fixed fangs.  They are not solenoglyphs.

There is a beautifully marked snake called the gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica), that is sometimes called the gaboon adder of Africa.  The name gaboon is so called  because of the west African country Gabon.  This snake must have the longest fangs of all living snakes.  They can measure around 5cm or (2in) from tip to base.

Answer 30.  There are at least four kinds of Colubrids that have proven to be deadly to humans.  Three of them are from Africa and one is from Asia.  Firstly, there is the boomslang (Dispholidus typus) from sub-saharan Africa.  The word 'boomslang' means tree snake in Dutch/Africaans.

There are also two species of closely related twig (or bird) snakes (Thelotornis capensis and T. kirtlandii) from tropical and southern Africa.  Then there is the snake known as the Asian tiger snake (or yamakagashi in Japanese) of the genus Rhabdophis.  There are a dozen or so species within this genus and at least one of these, the Rhabdophis tigrinus, has been responsible for a human death.  Snakes belonging to this genus are found in South East Asia, India, China and Japan.

Now a little aside concerning snake vision.  The twig snake is quite special.  It has binocular vision and i've found reports of this snake being able to identify a lizard from a distance even while the lizard is not moving.  I have never heard of or witnessed this ability to visually recognise stationary prey in any other species of snake.  The copperhead Austrelaps superbus seems to recognise a prey item slightly better than most other Australian venomous snakes.  At times they seem to be able to recognise a dead mouse from about the distance of the width of a man's hand; to date however, i've not been able to establish whether it is due to vision or scent.
In my experience with brown snakes of the genus Pseudonaja, (a snake which you could call a classic mouse hunter), the snake cannot see a mouse which is not moving.  Once a mouse sits still, the snake loses sight of it.  Following this, one of two things can happen.  The mouse may move and the snake could react and pursue its prey.  Or, the snake will move around the area flicking out its tongue.  If it comes close enough to identifying its prey by a flick of the tongue which touches and tastes the mouse's fur, it will take the mouse.  Remember, the mouse shows no fear at this time because it does not know that the snake is dangerous.  You see, the last mouse taken by a snake did not get to tell the other mice about snakes.  If a snake chooses not to take a particular mouse, then the two of them may even curl up and sleep together.  However, there is a problem here.  When the mouse gets hungry it will seek food.  Because mice are omnivorous (both carnivorous and herbivorous) they can start nibbling on the snake.  The snake does not understand what is happening and will not defend itself.
There have been many captive snakes that have suffered like this because keepers did not understand the true nature of these creatures.  There are many stories of hungry rats killing snakes for food because they were left unattended in a cage with a snake.

Answer 31.  At least 11km per hour has been recorded.   Never at the speed of a galloping horse, as some legends do tell.

Answer 32. a)  The black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) of southern and eastern Africa is the fastest snake recorded.  It is a very large, very shy and deadly snake, though its legendary aggressive nature is overstated.  However, it must be remembered that a black mamba can grow to be a huge snake, one of the largest venomous snakes in the world.  If you are in a confined space with common tiger snake you only have to move backwards a metre or so and you are out of range and if you then keep still then you are not seen by the snake as a living creature.  With a large black mamba you could have to move at least three to four metres away or even further, so as not to appear as a threat to the snake.  One of the best ways to be bitten by a snake is to frighten it.  That means moving close to a snake that is not used to the shape of a moving human to which many, though not all snakes, may eventually become accustomed.  Don't try moving close to any large venomous snake unless you know what you are doing not think you know what you are doing; or else you are quite prepared to be bitten.  That is your choice.  Whatever the outcome never blame the snake.

Just imagine if the common tiger snake could grow to be three or four metres in length and be as powerful as a black mamba.  This is the reason why a large specimen of the Australian or New Guinea taipan (Oxyuranus scutellatus ...) can be so dangerous if you step too close to one or find yourself in a confined place with one that feels threatened.  Remember it must feel threatened or confuse you for food or it will not bite.  These are the only two reasons that a snake will bite, even a taipan.  It does not matter what anybody has told you about taipans, they do not look for people to bite.  As a matter of fact there is no snakes in the world that look for people to bite.  If snakes just went around biting people then we would have a special ward at the hospital for snake bite and an ambulance on call at all times, just in case. 

You will find that as with most 'snake attack' stories that there is part of the story that was not told, usually because the true nature of the creature was not understood.  A snake never gets to tell its part of what happened.  (To read a story on so-called tiger snake attack see question 33)

b)  The black whip snake (Demansia atra) of northern Australia could possibly travel faster than the black mamba.  I know two men who chased a large black whip through open scrub in the top end of the Northern Territory and they just could not catch it.  This is hard to believe because snakes just don't travel that fast and especially not for sustained periods.  I believed their story.  That they were unable to catch it surprised them as well.  You can catch up to a black whip, though not in long grass because it will disappear.  Only a male black whip snake may be able to grow big enough to outpace a human in open scrubland for any sustained length of time.  In the end however, unless a snake can find a hiding place it will run out of steam regardless of how large it is.


Tiger Snake Attack � the myth

This is a look at how a tiger snake sees the world.  To be fair with snakes you must understand that a snake does not see the same world that we see.  A snake sees a totally different world to us.  Because we are intelligent we can learn a little of the world of the snake.  A snake can never learn or understand anything about us.  There are many that like to believe that a tiger snake has chased them.  This story will explain how it is impossible to be truly chased by a tiger snake.

A snake will travel at top speed to pursue its prey or escape a predator, but definitely not to chase a human.  If you aggravate a snake so much that it feels threatened enough to chase you, the truth is that it does not really want to catch you.  That is why it will give chase with its head and neck raised.  This is a time when you could perhaps receive a bite if you are too close, very close.

However, for a snake to travel with part of its body raised, it can never travel at top speed.  This is a form of defensive display, which you, as an intelligent human should take heed of and understand that there is a frightened animal asking you to leave it alone in the most polite and forceful language it knows.  Remember that snakes do not have a voice so they can�t growl at you.

Unless you are a very selfish person, and only interested in what you think you know about the world, you can get to understand some of what is happening in the mind of the snake.  First though, you must attempt to empathise with the creature.  Try this next time you see a large venomous snake in Australia.  Try to put yourself in the place of the terrified snake and imagine what you would do if you were the snake.

Remember that you are an animal that can only travel at your top speed when you are warm and to travel at top speed the total length of your body must be on the ground.  You are totally deaf and only respond to very powerful vibrations.  It is most unlikely you would ever notice the vibrations of a person bashing through the bush, regardless of what people might say.  Bashing through the bush will frighten away birds, animals and lizards but not snakes, unless they see you moving.

Your eyes and brain are designed so that you can only notice an object when it is moving.  Of course you do see other things but they are only shapes with no meaning, such as trees or rocks.  Objects only take on a meaning of life when they move.  For your survival you possess the capacity for fear but your short-term memory only lasts a few seconds, though your fear can last a little longer.  You do not even know that you are a snake or that you are venomous you don�t know the meaning of venomous or non-venomous; as a matter of fact you can�t reflect on the meaning of anything.


Let�s say you are a tiger snake and you have been startled, and then, that thing which frightened you becomes motionless.  You can remain scared even though you cannot remember what it was that frightened you to begin with.  So now you make a run for it.  A tall tree like object seems like a good place to head for.  Suddenly there is a problem.  That tree comes to life and perhaps you realise it or perhaps you don�t but that was the thing that scared you to begin with.

One of two things may happen now.  The tree will run away and soon you lose sight of it because you are so close to the ground that the grass is blocking you view.  So you soon forget the incident.  Or else, that tree will remain there and menace you.  You understand nothing about it but it looks dangerous because it is very large and it is waving about in front of you and will not leave you alone.

Perhaps there is enough grass for you to get into so you run for your life as fast as you can.  If you are a large tiger snake and you are warm you can travel at about the speed of a brisk human walking pace, for a short while.  If you are a large brown snake you can do at least three times that speed.  You can�t go on forever and suddenly there is that monster in front of you again and you are out of breath.

You do not know that you are venomous, you just accept that when you bite a mouse or a rat it slows down and eventually it can�t bite you any more and so you can eat it.  You have no arms or legs to defend yourself with, so you raise the front part of your body to look as scary as you can.  The creature that is menacing you is huge but this is the best you can do and you are frightened.  If you feel really desperate, you will head towards that scary thing with your head raised.  Remember this is the best you can do and you are now very frightened but you have to be brave.  You do not want to catch that scary thing, as it is too big to eat and looks to be very dangerous.

By chasing it with your head raised, many of those ventral scales along your tummy are off the ground and you have less traction to move forward.  You can now only travel at about a quarter speed but that suits you fine because if you caught that monster what would you do with it anyway?  You will only bite if it gets too close.

You understand nothing about the world and you don�t look for enemies, they are the last things you need.  But this big scary thing is a civilised human.  Some of them seem to enjoy playing heroes by senselessly destroying small creatures.  Although you a being as brave as you can you hardly stand a chance.  This human has a long handled shovel in his hand and is going to teach you a lesson for being a snake.

You feel a sharp pain in your back then a few more blows and you feel no more.  You are a creature without a voice so you could not have screamed in pain anyway; so who cares?  You are hung over a fence for the world to see what some brave person has done to you.  All you really wanted to do was to eat rats and mice and be left alone.

(Printable version in PDF available here.)

Answer 34.  Viviparous means that the creature is a live bearer like all mammals except the egg laying platypus and the echidna which are called monotremes.  Oviparous means that the creature is an egg layer and ovoviviparous means that the creature produces eggs but they hatch just prior to being laid or immediately after.

Answer 35.  It is a rule of thumb that in cooler regions of the world most snakes are viviparous as it is not good to leave your eggs lying around in the cold.  There are some snakes however, that produce eggs that can hatch at quite cool, though not cold, temperatures.  Conversely, this does not mean that all snakes from the warmer regions of the world are oviparous.  There are snakes even on the equator that do not lay eggs.  They bear live young, just like the tiger snakes and copperheads from the cooler regions of southern Australia.  One group of snakes in Australia that occur also in the cool areas but lay eggs are some of the browns of the genus Pseudonaja.

Answer 36.  About one hundred years ago, mice were introduced onto two of the five islets of Pelican Lagoon, changing the pattern of food available to the snakes.

Answer 37.  The snakes have since developed narrower heads to hunt the mice down their burrows; whereas those snakes on the other three islets have retained the typical broad heads of the tiger snake.

Answer 38.  They were forced to eat young mutton birds (short tailed shearwaters) which were only available for two or three months of the year.  Compared to their mainland and Tasmanian relatives, they have nearly doubled in length and at times tripled in girth.  Whereas most (though not all) other tiger snakes are banded, these island snakes are jet black.  This is a possible adaptation for absorbing heat to aid in the fast digestion and metabolism of the food while it is available.  The extra weight that they gain in their short lived feeding spree sees them through the nine or ten months that they must survive without food.

Answer 39.  The word poison, comes from the French word 'poison', not to be confused with the French word 'poisson' which means fish. The word poison is a reasonable generic term for poisons, venoms and toxins

In English, when being specific, the word poison is more correctly used with reference to poisonous food, like rat poison for example.  The cane toad Bufo marinus that was introduced into Northern Australia in the 30s would most definitely be classed as poisonous if you were to eat it.  A cane toad is not venomous.

Technically, if you eat poison it can be harmful.  Venom is only dangerous to you if you inject it, as the molecules in venom are much larger than those in poison and, at least theoretically, can't be absorbed through the stomach wall.  However, only a fool would eat venom to prove a point.  If by some chance you had an ulcer, a bleeding gum or scratched tongue or any internal lesion whatsoever, the venom can enter through that opening and you will suffer the consequences.

The word venom comes from the Latin word 'vellenum'.  The same word is in Italian in a slightly different form 'veleno' with the word 'velenoso' meaning venomous.  There is a Spanish word 'veneno' which is even closer to the English word venom.  It is this word venom which we should use in English when talking about stings or bites from venomous creatures.  Most wasps and spiders are venomous, at least in Australia.  Some types of bees and ants are venomous, and some types of snakes are venomous but not poisonous; unless you were to eat one that happened to have poisonous flesh.  I don't know however, that such a snake exists.

The word toxin comes from a Greek word 'toxa' which is one of the Greek words for arrows.  This word has various uses in English.  You can refer to toxic waste or speak of relative toxicity when comparing two toxic substances.  Venoms are made up of different types of toxins.  The fumes of cars and cigarettes are toxic.

Answer 40.  Without snakes, goannas, hawks and eagles in Australia plagues of rats and mice would be common.  It is true that a cat can catch a mouse; so can a hawk, an eagle and an owl.  However good these creatures are at catching a mouse or rat, they are nowhere near as good at the job as a snake.  A cat can catch only one mouse at a time.

When a brown snake enters a mouse burrow it will first envenom the adult mice.  If there is room enough to move it will bite one mouse.  If it sees or picks up the scent of another with the aid of its tongue, (see question 27) it will throw its coils around the first while it waits for the venom to take effect, then it will bite the second.  It may even envenom a third.  After those larger mice have been consumed, it will turn its attention to the baby mice and eat every one of them.  It is the consumption of these young mice that can curtail a mouse population explosion.  In Australia, reptiles are the best means for controlling rodents and, it appeares that bats (the echo location types) are amongst the best at controlling insects.

About plagues.

There are those who believe that it is a natural part of nature to have periodic plagues of pests: rodents, locusts or cockroaches etc.  You must realise that something is only a pest if it is where it should not be and you have no use for it.  Plagues only manifest as a "natural phenomenon" to try and correct what we have done to nature or to find a new balance after changes in weather patterns or some other natural or man made disaster.

Once nature reaches a climax state, that is, it has reached its natural balance there is no need for plagues of anything.  There is just no way a plague can take hold in any pristine environment unless it is an introduced organism or someone or something has upset the balance and made or left a niche.  So a climax (pristine forest) will remain so until it has been interfeared with, from without.  That is a biological fact.  It is a axiom.


Another reason for preserving our venomous reptiles is precisely because they are venomous.  Unknown to most people, venoms are a most valuable tool in medical and scientific research.  Venoms are not just used for the production of antivenom for the treatment of snakebite.

There is a flourishing trade in venoms to scientific institutions worldwide.  Each venom is of value because of its difference.  For example, there are six species of tiger snakes.  They are the snakes of the genus Notechis in Australia and the venom from each of those species has a value in its own right.

The venoms from within a species can vary as well and so have their own value to science.  The Peninsula Tigers of South Australia Notechis ater are a good case in point.  Some of these snakes live on the mainland while some live on Kangaroo Island and the islands of Spencer Gulf.  The diets of these snakes vary considerably; some eating mainly rodents, others frogs or lizards.  Then there are those that are specialised to eat birds.  Some of the bird eaters, after beginning their lives by eating small skinks, have adapted to eat mainly White-faced storm-petrels Pelagodroma marina or Muttonbirds (Short-tailed shearwaters) Puffinus tenuirostris.  Over the millennia since they were isolated from each other as a common species type, they have had to adapt to the food that was available and so, fine tune their venom.

All venoms are cocktails of toxins (see question 39) and so they are of value because of their difference.  It would not be unreasonable to suggest that there will come the day that more lives will be saved than lost from biological discoveries and medicines emanating from venoms, poisons and toxins..

Toxins and poisons from the skins and glands of amphibia (frogs and toads) are also proving to be most valuable.

There are the dart-poison frogs known as dendrobatids of the family Dendrobatidae from Central and South America.  These are often very beautifully marked frogs, but don't touch! or you may not touch much more.  They are often deadly to humans even when they come into contact with the skin.  However, some years back there was a rainforest being wiped out in Central America where a particular species of dendrobatid made its home.  Some biologists decided to have a look at some of the creatures that could be lost, and a dart-poison frog was one of those studied.

There is a word 'analgesia' meaning 'without painful sensations but still with tactile sense'.  For example, at the dentist you may be given something to kill the pain before drilling or an extraction and this will usually render the gum completely dead to touch.  Whereas, an analgesic substance would alleviate the pain but leave feeling.  On the skin of this particular little frog was discovered an analgesic substance that was found to be 200 times more powerful than morphine.  It is believed by many researchers that a large percentage of frogs in the world contain medicines of types never before imagined.  Sadly, of the 4000 to 5000 or so species of frogs on the planet, many are just disappearing; either becoming extinct or very rare.

Answer 41.  The major snake venoms of Australia are: Neurotoxic, Myotoxic, Coagulant, and Anticoagulant.

Briefly, it can be explained like this.  Neurotoxic venoms attack the nervous system.  Myotoxic venoms break down myoglobin, the muscle protein.   Coagulant venoms will coagulate the blood.
If you'd like to read further on the subject of Australian snake venoms look at the web site of 'Australian Venom Supplies' in Tanunda  South Australia.  This site will give you links to other sites on the subject as well.


Answer 42.  The Australian lowland copperhead (Austrelaps superbus) is said to have a venom as toxic as the Indian cobra Naja naja.  You must remember that we are talking about the venoms being tested on mice not on people.  If you were to test a venom on guinea pigs you'd probably get a different result than if you were to test the same venom on sheep.

Answer 43.  When you talk about how deadly a snake venom is or how dangerous a snake is, you are talking about two entirely different things.

Australia is said to have the top ten deadliest snakes in the world.  In some respects that may be correct.  However, you must first understand how this theory was arrived at.

Firstly, deadly to whom or to what?  We can't go round seeing how many people a snake can kill, so the standard for the test is mice.  When you want to see how many mice a particular species of snake can kill you obviously can't let it continually bite mice until it runs out of venom.

You start with a measured amount of venom.  You must administer the dose until you find the minimum amount of venom that it will take to kill a mouse.  You can then work out a figure for a given amount of venom.  When you want to test another venom you must start with the same amount as was used in the last test.  So, in plain language, you can say the test is done comparing drop for drop of venom.

Tested on mice, the Australian lowland copperhead  Austrelaps superbus is said to have venom of the same toxicity as that of the Indian cobra Naja naja.

That is, equal amounts of their venom will kill roughly the same number of mice.

The venom of the common tiger snake Notechis scutatus will kill four times as many mice.  The coastal taipan  Oxyuranus scutellatus, also known as the common taipan, will kill eight times as many mice.  The eastern or common brown   Pseudonaja textilis textilis will kill twelve times as many mice.

Then comes the super toxic venom, belonging to the Inland taipan  Oxyuranus microlepidotus (small-scaled snake, fierce snake) whose venom is just on fifty times more toxic than that of the copperhead or the Indian cobra.

All of this must be seen in perspective, remembering at all times that the venoms were tested on mice.  Remember also, that the same amount of venom is used in each test.  I personally believe that a bite from a coastal taipan would be a much more dangerous bite to a human than that of the inland taipan.  However, i would not like a bite from either one of them!

Answer 44. Saw-scaled viper. Echis carinatus the most commonly mentioned plus six or so other species of the same genus.  Africa, the Middle East, India and Sri Lanka.

Answer 45. Food or Fear, these are the only reasons a snake will bite.  If you have frightened a snake, which may mean standing on it or running over it with a car or bicycle, the snake could bite you out of fear.  If a hungry snake is hiding under something and sees only your finger moving, it could easily confuse your finger for a mouse and bite you.  (see so-called tiger snake attack question 33)

Answer 46. When you confront a snake.  Remember, you are looking at a creature whose vision is very limited.   If you had the same vision as a snake you would be classed as having a form of blindness or at least very very impaired vision.

The venomous snakes of Australia can only see that you are a living being when they see you move.  All but two Australian pythons are different in this respect.

Many people will tell you about the snake that slid over their foot or between their legs and did not appear to notice them.  This is because the snake did not see them as a threat, in other words, the person meant no more to the snake than would a tree or a rock.

When you are moving though the bush a snake cannot hear you, even when you make a lot of noise.

However, some snakes can sometimes pick up certain vibrations.  For example i've heard from a reliable source of a species of snake in New Guinea that sought out the call of a particular species of frog in the branches of a tree.  It is unknown at present how many frog calls this species of snake is sensitive to.

I have seen a coastal taipan respond with a jolt to a loud clap when that clap was close, i.e: within a metre or so.  Normally by the second or third clap, the snake would take no notice.  I've never been able to elicit the same response from a tiger snake, brown snake, copperhead, mulga or even an inland taipan.

I have however, observed a tiger snake move in an agitated way to highly amplified music.  That same music i might add, was loud enough to be uncomfortable to my ears.  Of course, you are not likely to be moving through the bush with an amplifier playing heavy metal music and chasing snakes out of your path!

Bush walkers have frequently told me of a snake that was on their path.  They tried to make as much noise as possible by clapping their hands and stamping the ground to move the snake on its way so they could pass.  Never once has anybody told me of success by this method.  A handful of sand or dust thrown over the snake will get it to move off without hurting it.  This way no one gets hurt.

Snakes are not very clever.  I have heard ridiculous stories of snakes sneakily waiting in ambush for people so they can bite them as they walk past.

The short term memory of most snakes for simple things is very short indeed.

Remember question/answer 33 got you to try to think like a snake.   A few seconds movement by you and then stillness will remain in a snakes memory for only a moment.  The snake will then forget that you were the one who moved.

It is preposterous to believe that any snake can think ahead to sit in ambush for you.  And, why on earth would it want to do such a thing?  A snake cannot recognise you as food nor would it want to have anything to do with such a frighteningly large creature as yourself.

So, for your own safety you have a lot in your favour when next time you see a snake.  Firstly, the snake can only notice you as a threat when you move.  Secondly, as far as you are concerned, the snake is effectively deaf.  Thirdly, the creature is almost brainless and i'd guess that for the dangerously venomous snakes of Australia, with the possible exception of the coastal taipan and just possibly a large mulga, their short term memory can last not much longer than that of a goldfish.

Even when compared to the coastal taipan,  (our most intelligent snake)  the average two year old child is a genius.

So, compared to a smart person like yourself who can understand this story, snakes don't have a lot going for them, do they?  You would have to be pretty stupid to be outsmarted by a snake.  Accidents can happen to the best of us so just be sensible around snakes.  It is very hard to be bitten by snakes, so long as you don't pick them up, step on them, hit them or somehow be mistaken for a mouse. (see question 33)

Answer 47. There is not much advantage at all in making a lot of noise when moving through the bush to scare the snakes away.

As far as we are concerned, the noise that we make will not have any effect on the snakes whatsoever.  It is much more prudent to keep your eyes open when walking through the bush and make sure that you don't step on a snake.

If you walk quietly you just might get to see some of the birds, animals and lizards, all of which have ears.  In the past, these creatures would have been frightened away by your noise.

Answer 48. The most valuable item of FIRST AID when dealing with a bite from an Australian snake is a pressure bandage or at least a broad bandage.  A broad bandage will cost you no more than a few dollars in a pharmacy.

All the dangerously venomous snakes of Australia belong to the family of snakes called Elapidae or in plain language, they are called the elapids.  Elapids are described as a front fixed fanged snake.  That means their fangs do not have to swing back when they close their mouth because, with the exception of just a few of them, the fangs are short enough to remain rigid.  For fangs and snake dentition (See question 29).

Some snakes in the world have fangs that can be half as long as your finger.  The snakes with these long fangs are called the solenoglyphs.  They have to fold their fangs back when they close their mouths.  A bite from one of these snakes can deliver the venom quite deeply into the flesh.

Because Australian snakes have such short fangs the venom will usually be left just under the skin.  There can be some exceptions to this rule.   For example, a strong bite from a large taipan could put the venom somewhat deeper than this.  Also, a bite directly over a vein in the back of your hand from a large tiger snake could land you in more strife than a bite over a non veined area.

Discounting these possible exceptions, a pressure bandage will hold the venom in place just under the skin in the lymphatic system.

This does not mean that you forget about going to hospital.  Firstly keep the bitten limb or area as still as you can and get to a hospital.  You must  also keep the whole body as still as possible.  It is only by remaining still that the pressure bandage can keep the venom from travelling through the lymphatic system and so envenoming you even further.  It is sometime advised that you raise the bitten area.  For example if the hand has been bitten it may be raised.  This will help to keep the swelling out of the hand; too much swelling in a small area can be dangerous in the long term.  But you must keep still.

You may like to drink something and this is quite alright and even recommended by some.  However, it is very dangerous to drink alcohol with snake venom in your body.

Answer 49.  For Australian terrestrial snakes there are five specific antivenoms and one polyvalent which you could refer to as Australian universal antivenom.

(1) Tiger snake antivenom is used for bites from: all the six species of tigers, this antivenom can also be used for copperheads, red-bellied blacks, blue bellied blacks, Collett snakes, rough-scaled snakes (Clarence river snake), large specimens of the small eyed snakes and the broadheads of which there are three: the broad-headed snake, the pale-headed snake and Stephens banded snake.

(2) Taipan antivenom is used for bites from: the common or coastal taipan and for the inland taipan.  The inland taipan is also known as the western taipan, small-scaled snake, fierce snake and, a name that seems to be losing ground, the lignum snake.

(3) Brown snake antivenom is used for bites from: the eastern or common brown, western brown (gwarder), dugite, speckled brown, Ingrams brown, peninsula brown and Tanners brown but not the king brown.  In short all snakes of the Genus Pseudonaja

(4) Death adder antivenom is used for bites from death adders only.

(5) Black snake antivenom is used for bites from: mulgas (king browns)

This looks confusing, using black snake antivenom for something called a king brown.  A king brown snake has nothing to do with a brown snake.  It is just a silly name given to a snake which, in some cases though not always, is brown and can grow very large.  The king brown, better called a 'mulga' to save confusion, belongs to what has been loosely termed the 'black snake complex'.  The genus is Pseudechis whereas that of the brown is Pseudonaja.  It seems that the mulga (king brown) with a few of it's close relatives will be moving into the genus CanniaSo the mulga should perhaps now be called Cannia australis.  With only the Red-bellied black retaining the genus Pseudechis.   

The snakes in the black snake complex were the red-bellied black, blue bellied black (spotted black), Colletts snake, the mulga (king brown) and Buttlers snake.  Buttlers snake has not long been described from the southern central area of Western Australia.  This snake has since been referred to by some as the spotted mulga snake or the yellow-bellied black snake.  To me it looks more closely allied to the mulga than any other of the black snake group.

There is also a snake in New Guinea called the Papuan black which now appears to be very rare (perhaps as a result of eating the introduced cane toad which some idiot took to New Guinea).  This snake also belongs to the Australian complex.  Its specific name is Pseudechis papuanus however, it may now be more appropriate to use the new specific name of Cannia papuanus for the Papuan black.

Before we had a specific mulga (king brown) antivenom, Papuan black antivenom was used for mulga snakebite in Australia.  Nowadays, for the bite from any of the five black snakes in Australia, black snake antivenom could be used.  However, the dose is massive when compared to most other antivenoms because it is a dose for large mulgas which can grow to become Australia's largest venomous snake.  The bites from the other blacks contain a much lower volume of venom and can be quite adequately dealt with by using tiger snake antivenom.

Venom yields from Buttlers snake could be large so perhaps king brown antivenom would be more appropriate in this case, but i'm only guessing.

By the way, Victorians please note: it does surprise many but there are no mulgas (king brown snakes) in Victoria. 

There are many people who live in the west and north west and northern Victoria who, when they see a brown coloured snake that measures two meters or six foot in length, assume that it must be a king brown.

Mulgas (king browns) have never been recorded south of the Murray River.  The big brown snake found in the drier parts of Victoria is a common or eastern brown of the genus Pseudonaja not Pseudechis or Cannia.

Something else to note: in Tasmania or the islands of Bass strait, only tiger snake antivenom is needed as the only other snakes in these areas of any concern are copperheads.  The other venomous snake in Tasmania and some of the Bass Strait islands is the white-lipped snake .  The white-lipped snake (Drysdalia coronoides) is only slightly venomous.  The bite is usually like a bee sting and the snake will only bite you if you handle it.  However, in case of some kind of an allergy all venomous snakebites should be treated seriously.  In Victoria brown snake antivenom can be added to this list, tiger snake antivenom will not give cross protection against brown snake bite.

In areas like the Little Desert and just possibly in parts of the Northern Mallee it is just possible to find a death adder though this is no longer very likely.  All other states of Australia have snakes of the five antivenom groups.

Now that you have some background on the venom groupings we can get to the reason for not washing a snake bite in Australia.  As far as i'm aware, this is the only country in the world where we have a venom identi-kit in every hospital.  It was developed by Struan Sutherland, the same man responsible for the antivenom for the funnel web spider.  A little aside here, Straun worked at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories until that was privatised and then they sacked him.

If you don't wash the venom residue from the skin site of a bite, a swab will be taken as soon as you arrive in hospital.  It only takes a few minutes to establish which of the five groups you have been bitten by or if in fact you have been envenomed at all.  In most cases you would be kept in under observation, perhaps overnight.

If you have washed the bite area, the identity of the snake or its group may not be easily ascertained.  Though by squeezing beside the puncture marks it is sometimes possible to carry enough of the venom out with the lymph for identification.    If positive identification cannot be made and if you are obviously suffering severe envenomation then the polyvalent antivenom may have to be used.  However, it is not quite as simple as that.  Otherwise we could use polyvalent in all cases of snake bite.

So far, antivenoms have been made by collecting the antibodies from horses that have been envenomed by a specific venom.  The horses have built up an immunity to the venom and so do not suffer from a bite.  The problem is that humans seem to easily develop an allergy or sensitivity to horse serum which can be quite dangerous and even fatal if not promptly treated.

The polyvalent antivenom is a large dose because it is designed to cover all the possible snake bites of Australia.  If you were in the north eastern area of Australia and sustained an unidentified bite, it could, theoretically, be the bite of a taipan, death adder, mulga, one of the browns or just a red-bellied black.  Just a red-bellied black does not mean that their bite is insignificant.  They have very painful venom and can leave you with serious side effects.  However, they are not generally regarded as a super deadly snake.

So back to the polyvalent antivenom.  It is not advisable to receive a massive dose of polyvalent antivenom for a black snake bite when a much smaller dose of tiger's would have been ample.  Such a situation can usually be avoided by not washing the bite.

Since the privatisation of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories there does not seem to be much interest in developing truly safe antivenoms.  Profit and the share market seem to be the only driving force around there these days, not the understanding of science with its flow on benefits to humanity.  So much for capitalism.  However, free enterprise may have the answer.  There are some 'small business people/venom enthusiasts' who are doing research into clean, effective, safe and cheap antivenoms.  Hopefully, these modern antivenoms will be on the market not too far down the track.

Answer 50. a)  It is not smart to pick up snakes in the bush or try to kill them because these are the easiest ways to get a bite.  A snake does have a sense of fear.  It does not sense your fear as many people like to believe, but it can feel fear.

If you pick up a snake and it is frightened it is very easy to get a bite.  If you try to kill a snake with a stick, it can also get frightened because they hate being whacked.

Many people have ended up in hospital for these reasons.  Of course the other most common reason for sustaining a bite is because you stand on a snake. The snake does not know what is happening, it can only see and feel something large and heavy on top of it.  This is very frightening and so it might bite that which is hurting it.  It would bite a branch of a tree as well if that were to fall on it.

Let's say you had no arms or legs and had no voice to yell and you were trodden on by an elephant.  What would you do to let the elephant know that it was hurting or frightening you?  My guess is that you would bite it on the foot to say "please get off me, you are hurting me".  How would you then feel if the elephant called you a 'vicious animal' because you bit it.  After all, it only stood on you!

b) Of course snakes, lizards and turtles feel pain.
Just because they are silent does not in anyway mean they are without feeling.  Perhaps they feel it in a different way to us but they most definitely feel pain.

Let's say that you hurt your leg.  Perhaps you've just walked into the towbar of the car and hit your shin.  What's the first thing you'll do besides making a noise?  Of course you'll reach for the painful area and hold it or rub it.  That might lessen the pain somewhat but the pain will have to run its course.  After rubbing the sore area holding it will not help much at all, still, we all do it.  The only physical action that could help a little is to lightly tickle around the edge of the painful area.  It does not remove the pain but it does help a little.  Most people have never thought of trying that.

So, what can we expect from a snake that effectively has no brains at all?  Many people have told me that when they have run over a snake with their car and had gone back to see what they had done, they found the snake biting itself.

Remember, a snake does not have hands, the only thing it can use to hold on with is its mouth.  A snake is immune to its own venom so all the creature is doing is holding on to the painful area.  This is exactly the same as you would do if you had been hit by something and were lying there in pain.

There was one disgusting man who once assured me, in a very matter fact way, that if you break a snakes ribs it can't travel any more.  I did wonder how well he'd have travelled if i'd broken his ribs.

There are some people in the world who skin snakes alive to remove their organs and drink their blood with some bizarre belief that this will somehow be good for their health.

Because the creature does not scream in pain as that person would do if the same thing were done to them, they could not care less about the animal.  They will tell you that it is tradition or that it is part of their culture.

I believe that some aspects of all our cultures are long overdue for the garbage dump.  There is no way that the world will ever be any worse off without them.
(see question 33) The world of the tiger snake from its point of view (Tiger snake attack).


Some important facts about Australian wildlife loss.

Consider the link between cats, foxes and bushfires at Question/Answer 63 

Answer 51  About 20 vertebrates have become extinct in the last 100 or so years in Australia, at least 27 since European settlement; for the given time span that is the highest number on record for any continent.

Answer 52.  About 32 animals the average breakdown of this figure is 8 birds, 8 reptiles and 16 mammals.

Answer 53.  About 800

Answer 54.  6.4 billion native animals.

Answer 55.  two

Answer 56.  A bell does not help much at all with a cat as many people can testify.  Cats learn to move silently when stalking once a bell is attached to their collar.  The only bell that is guaranteed to stop a cat taking wildlife is a cow bell.

Answer 57.  Locking up your cat at night will only be moderately successful at keeping cats away from wildlife.  Almost the only creatures in urban areas that are likely to fall prey to cats at night are some possums which are not rare at all in most places.  Possums seem to have adapted quite well to suburbia (most of the gliders have already been wiped out of these areas).  There are usually some possums living close to most people in built up areas.

Most of the other small nocturnal marsupials that once roamed the country and especially those that should be living in what are now built up areas have long since fallen prey to cats and foxes.

It is in the daylight hours that cats take most native animals these days, especially birds and reptiles.

Answer 58.  You will notice that cats seldom catch the introduced birds such as starlings, Indian miners and sparrows.  However, it is quite easy for a cat to catch small native birds.  Cats originated in the lands of starlings, Indian miners and sparrows and so these birds have it in their genes to be naturally wary of cats.
Many native birds of Australia on the other hand, find it very hard to see a cat or a fox, unless they see the animal moving.  By then it is often too late.  There seem to be some exceptions to this rule.  I've never seen or heard of a cat catching a raptor (hawk or eagle etc) or a corvid (crow, magpie or butcher bird).  Perhaps this is because those birds are carnivores themselves, used to seeing prey, and can see a cat whether it is moving or still.
At times a small native Australian bird gets to learn of cats especially at nesting time.  You may then see it swooping at the cat to try and get it to leave the area.

Answer 59.Personally i have no problem with people keeping a tiger as a pet.  It may be the only way in the future that we will be able to save them from extinction.  However, it would not be wise to allow tigers to wander loose as we do cats!

Relative to most Australian fauna a cat is like a Siberian tiger.  That is the nature of the animal.  It is basically a tiger in miniature and it does all the things that a tiger would do.  The only difference is that it does those things to smaller animals.  You cannot blame the cat for this.

If we care for the future of what is left of our native fauna and would like to get those numbers back to some useful and visible level, then it is we who must act.  It is we who set the problem in motion so is we who must take the steps to correct it.

Cats are not animals to be roaming loose in Australia.  Most people who own a cat will tell you that their cat would never kill wildlife.  I'm sure that this is true in some cases.

However, i once lived with a cat in Belgrave near Sherbrooke forest in the Dandenong Rangers just east of Melbourne.  It was called Ellie, a lovely old cat but very decrepit, unable to get up onto a very low couch without our assistance.

It never occurred to me that she could ever catch a bird, a small skink perhaps but not a bird.  One day Ellie walked into the house and proudly presented us with a thornbill, a very small native bird about half the size of a sparrow.  The bird was still warm, it had just been caught.

There was no need for Ellie to chase that bird.  All she had to do was sit in the low shrubs where the bird was flitting about.  Eventually it would pass by her.  The little thornbill however, would have been oblivious to the cat until her claws had pierced its flesh.

There is no way that the introduced starling would have come anywhere near the cat.  This bird can spot a cat lying motionless and, to such a bird a cat spells danger.  Starlings originated in the land of cats and must have a survival gene when it comes to cats.

So what do we do?  First we must face the truth that cats are deadly to most Australian wildlife.  Then we must come up with some time frame where, sooner rather than later, all cats must be caged just as we would do if we kept tigers.  For those drongos who insist that we need yet more research into what cats do, perhaps it's time that they looked at what is already known and stop wasting our time.

These days there are beautifully designed cages available.   One style that i've seen is called "Catnip".  It is made by a company at Stawell in western Victoria .  There website is:
These cages attach onto the wall or window of a house.  They are like a mini adventure playground for cats.  The cat has access to the house and to the outside where there can be sunny spots and shaded areas.  Also, if there are bullying cats in the area that sometimes bash and terrorise other cats, people can be reassured that their cat is quite safe from the local thugs.

We must get the people of Australia more in touch with Australian animals.

While doing Bio-diversity lectures in secondary schools i've sometimes found up to fifty percent of students did not have a clue what a cassowary was.  There was one year 11 student to whom i showed a picture of a cassowary and he thought it was some kind of a turkey.  That is very sad because if we lose our cassowaries, then the integrity of the northern rainforest in Australia will collapse.  Cassowaries are a keystone species, they pick up the fruit from the rainforest floor.  When the seed passes through the cassowary it is ready to germinate.  There are many trees that just would not exist if there were no cassowaries and, in turn, many creatures that could not exist without those trees.

Sadly, the feral pigs which are in the rainforest in their thousands eat the fallen fruit and our cassowaries are starving in their own forest.

The pigs chew and destroy the seed so, after they have passed it through their system, it is useless.  I've been told by people in North Queensland that pigs have been seen killing and eating young cassowaries.  The most optimistic figures i've seen on the numbers of cassowaries left in the wild is around 1400 and there are not a lot in captivity.

We do know that we can breed these birds easily and get the numbers up to a safe level so that when we rid the land of the pigs then we'll at least have the birds with which to restock the rainforest   To think that so many Australians do not even know what a cassowary is, let alone what may happen to our northern rainforest if we lose them, is a national disgrace.

I do wonder if our Prime Minister, the Opposition leader or the Premier of Queensland have any idea about the value, status or plight of our cassowaries.  Or, if in fact they care. 

In the downloads section of this website there is a 1 page story about our Cassowary in PDF so it is easily printable.

There are many other small marsupials about which the general public know precious little.  You can ask the average person if they have any idea what a potoroo, bettong, pademelon, bandicoot or quoll might be.  My guess is that most people and i mean most people would not be familiar with any of those words except bandicoot.

All of these creatures should be in their millions across Australia but they are not and are never likely to be unless we change our ways.

As i understand it, all of these animals with the exception of the bettong which can scale a fence, are quite easy to keep in captivity and can be bred en mass.  So long as we keep the cats and foxes away they do just fine with humans and, if collected young or after the first generation they become extremely tame.

When a child wants a fluffy pet he or she will accept a kitten when that is all that is offered.  However, if you were to offer the child a pet pademelon or bilby the child would love it just the same.  The pademelon would mow your lawn and eat the leaf litter. The bilby is an omnivore.  Because it is both vegetarian and carnivore, it eats many types of food and it is also quite easy to keep.  You can feed your bilby on canned cat food and also give it a variety of grains and seeds.

If it were normal for people to keep native animals as pets, instead of so many exotic creatures, the general public would start to breed them in their thousands just as we have done with cats.  The people of Australia would become more in touch with our native animals and start to learn something about them.  We would also have a stock of many species ready for the day when we can rid the continent of the ferals.

Best of all, it would not cost the government a cent because the public would love to do it for the sheer love and enjoyment of it all and with the knowledge that they are helping to preserve our wildlife.

There is a beautifully coloured python called the green python or condropython.  It is an iridescent green creature and will stop people in their tracks because it is so stunning to behold.  This python is found in New Guinea and there is another genetic stock of the same species in Australia.  It can be found in North Queensland in the Iron Range and Portland Roads area of Cape York Peninsula.   They are not rare where they live although they are restricted in their range and this makes them vulnerable to disease or the like.  These pythons could also be bred in captivity, and because there is always a higher survival rate in captivity than in the wild we could, within a few years, increase the captive population by thousands.

This non venomous snake is basically a green carpet python.  They have already been bred in captivity and because they are so beautiful many people would love to keep them.  This way we would always have a safe population held by the public just in case of some unforseen disaster.  Again, at no cost to the government.

Once again the people of Australia would be more in touch with and knowledgeable about our wildlife.

Alas! There is a strange twist to this idea which many people see as a common sense approach to conservation.  The bilby for example, is rare and the gene pool is quite narrow.  This makes the animal very vulnerable.  The loss of just a few individuals with the genetic information they carry could spell doom for this exquisite species of bandicoot.

They are quite easy to keep in captivity and they breed well as they have been doing, without any help from us, for millions of years.  What a lovely creature for a child to have for a pet.

At this point it is illegal to keep bilbies and breed them to bring the numbers back to the hundreds of thousands where they should be, because, it is stated, that bilbies are rare.  I really don't understand the logic in this or perhaps i've just lost something in the translation.  Perhaps you might like to find out why we have laws like this by telephoning or sending a letter to the Minister for Conversation.

Answer 60. Foxes, cats, rabbits, pigs, cane toads, goats, starlings and mosquito fish (gambusia).

The starlings take the much needed hollows to nest in, filling them with grass which of course gets fouled.  I have often seen lice on starlings so i guess they or their eggs must be left in the nest as well.  Starlings are quite aggressive and many of our birds don't get a look in.  When the nesting season for the starlings is over it can be too late for our native birds to start even if a hollow becomes vacant.  Many native parrots do not fill a hollow with grass, they just use a clean base to nest on.  So what the starlings leave behind could quite easily deter many native birds from nesting.

Answer 61.  Habitat loss, feral animals and ignorance.

Answer 62.  Just east of Melbourne in the Dandenong Ranges, there is a small mountain ash forest called Sherbrooke Forest.  The trees in this area appear huge. To the average person, those trees look like they may have been here in Captain Cook's time.

Around 1986 i met a man in the Dandenongs who was getting on in years.   He said that when he was a boy he could look across where Sherbrooke Forest now stands and see all the way to Melbourne.  He said that all of what is now called Sherbrooke Forest had been logged and cleared.  Over his lifetime he had watched that forest grow.  I did not know his age but i estimated at that time that the forest must have been 65 - 75 years old.  So, as i write this, Sherbrooke can not yet have reached its century.

Leadbeaters possum, Victoria's state animal lives high up in mountain ash forests.  At one stage, they were thought to be extinct because so much of the mountain ash had been cut out and the animal had not been seen for years.

However, some years back they were rediscovered though they are not common.  Today you are still unlikely to find Leadbeaters possums in Sherbrooke Forest because that forest is far too young.  It will take many years for that forest to develop the hollows required for the Leadbeaters to breed.

There are many types of possums and gliders such as the the yellow bellied glider, the greater glider, the sugar glider and the squirrel glider.  All these creatures need old forests to survive.

There are nine species of owl in Australia.  One is a grass owl but the the others nest in the hollows of old trees.  Then there are the frogmouths, the kookaburras and their relatives the smaller kingfishers.  There are various types of cockatoos:  black, grey, salmon pink and white.  The cockatoos have smaller cousins, the parrots:  rosellas, parakeets and lorikeets of which Australia has some of the most beautiful in the world.

New growth forest just does not have the hollows that all these creatures need for their survival.  So, for someone to suggest that we need some scientific reason to protect old forest then that must be a very selfish, arrogant and ignorant person indeed.

Answer 63.  (Question) Are Cats and Foxes responsible for the worst bushfires in Australia?
Before European settlement in Australia, some (but most definitely not all) areas were regularly burned as a form of rural husbandry by the indigenous inhabitants.  How may this burning have been possible, without incurring the great fires that have beset Australia since the 1930s?

Before feral cats and foxes roamed this continent in their millions, there were other animals that did so.  These were the small marsupial nibblers: Potoroos, Pademelons, Bettongs, Tammar and Parma wallabies etc, and there were various types to fill every ecological niche in Australia.  However, now, with the exception of some isolated pockets these beautiful little marsupials have all but vanished in the wild.  An animal as large as a fox or even a large feral cat can kill a tammar wallaby; and they do, that is why the nibblers are so rare.

Before the great bushfires that surrounded Sydney in the New Year of 1995, it was estimated that the litter on the forest floor in some areas had built up to between ten and fifteen tonnes per hectare.  A build up of this magnitude could never have happened if those small animals had been there to nibble it away as they had done for millions of years.

There are three master nibblers of the litter on the forest floor, and they include in their diet the greatest fire hazard of the Australian bush, the fallen leaves of the eucalypt.  These creatures are the Pademelon, the Tammar and the Parma wallabies.

Would it then, not be reasonable to say, that cats and foxes are responsible for the worst bushfires in Australia's modern history?  One must then ask.  Who is responsible for the introduction of the cats and foxes?  Well i'd suggest that we don't blame the cats and foxes, we have caused the problem so it is we who must fix it.

What is the point when the Departments of Conversation will decree that, this or that animal, is to be protected by law and spend $millions to enforce such laws when they do nothing towards the eradication of the feral animals that are responsible for a good part of the problem.

Why do �INQUIRIES� never consider the Ferals versus the Nibblers?

(Printable version in PDF available here.)

Answer 64.  Plantation forests.   There are those who would have you believe that our present forestry practices are working and are sustainable.  If that were so, then they would not have to touch what is left of our wilderness areas would they?  They would be naturally left as 'broadly based gene pools' for the future.  If you'd like to understand what a Broadly Based Gene Pool is all about then you could read answer 66 or for a shorter version there is a story on this site called 'GMOs in a Nut Shell'.  Very simple!

If you'd like to do some more reading on the subject, there is a nice little book that some slippery people tried to have banned in Australia.


Here is an extract from pages 8 and 9.  The heading for these two pages is:  Ten Reasons To Use Plantation Timber.

(1).  Industry leaders know that there's enough plantation timber without the need to log native forests.  Consider these two quotes:

"We're expecting a substantial increase in available plantation wood products in the next three to five years.  We'll get to the stage where we don't have to log native forests at all in the next two to five years."   (and look when this quote came from the forest industry)
(Adrian De Bruin, 1995, General Manager, Auspine, one of Australia's leading producers of plantation pines. )"If the hardwood industry packed up and left tomorrow we could do the whole job (in housing)".  (Lance Duvals, Associated Kiln Driers, The Sunday Age, 22/1/95, p.17.)

(2).  In the period between 1788 and the year 1980, Australia's forests have been cleared at an average rate of around 480,000 hectares a year.  That's an area of forest 87 times the size of Sydney Harbour - cleared, every year.  (Australia's State Of The Forests Report, Bureau of Rural Sciences, Commonwealth Government, 1998.)

(3).  Half Australia's forest have disappeared since since Europeans arrived.  (D. Lunney, The future of Australia's forest fauna, Conservation of Australia's Forest Fauna, The Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Mosman, 1991, pp. 1-24.)

(4).  Australia has the worst record for plant and mammal species extinctions in the world.  One hundred and twenty six species have totally disappeared since European settlement.  (NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act, 1995; Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act, 1992.)

(5).  Many forest animals are threatened by native forest logging, including the Leadbeaters Possum, Long-footed Potoroo, Sooty Owl, Baw Baw Frog, and the Western Quoll. (Kirkpatrick, A continent Transformed, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, 1994; The National Strategy For the conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity, DEST, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 1996; Australian National Botanic Gardens, 1998, electronically published at Australian Flora Statistics   Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act, 1992, [revised Schedules January, 1998]; P.W. Bridgewater and B.H. Walker, 'Scientific aspects of major environmental issues: bio-diversity', Prime Minister's Science council, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Commonwealth of Australia, 1992.)

(6).  In Australia, there are almost a million hectares of softwood plantations, and around 130 000 hectares of hardwood plantations; this area is expected to treble by the year 2020. (Clark, Australia's Plantations, Environment Victoria, North Melbourne, 1995, p.11; 'Plantations for Australia: the 2020 vision',  (C), Plantation 2020 Implementation Committee, 1997.)

(7).  Eighty per cent of the plantation timber cut is processed in Australia, whereas 50 per cent of native forest timber is exported overseas as woodchips.  (J. Clark, Australia's Plantations,  Environment Victoria, North Melbourne, 1995,p11.)

(8).  Native forests and their wildlife are important for Australia's tourism income; koalas contribute over $1 billion a year to the nature-based tourist industry.  (An Economic Evaluation of Koalas and Tourism), by Tor Hundloe (University of Queensland), and Dr Clive Hamilton (Australia Institute), commissioned by the Australian Koala Foundation, published July, 1997.

(9). (and check this out for a scandal)  The native forest industry is subsidised by government funding to make it viable; for example, the Victorian Government spends $2.25 of taxpayers' money on native forest logging for each dollar it receives in royalties.  (Dr. Andrew K. Dragun, former senior lecturer, law, economics and public policy,  The Subsidisation of logging in Victoria, La Trobe University, Victoria, 1995.

(10).  Australia has more unique plants and animals (endemic species) than 98% of the world's countries. At least 50 per cent of this bio-diversity is in native forests  (B. Groombridge, (editor) , Global bio-diversity: Status of the Earth's Living Resources, a report compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Chapman and Hall London, 1992; Conservation International, 1998.

This book is called:  Forest-Friendly Building Timbers.  By Earth Garden.  Its cost is about $10 so it should not break the bank.  Any good bookshop should be able to get it for you.  Their phone number is 03 5424 1819 or fax 03 5424 1743 (in Australia).  They have a web site:

Answer 65.  What is going on in our forests and are there any alternatives?

500 000 hectares/year of Australia's virgin forests are being cleared, and over half of this is going on in Queensland.

In Australia, Harris Daishawa and Gunns of Tasmania (Greedybushwacker gunni) are destroying so much of what is left of our remnant forests that if the general public could take a flight over the areas that they are raping and see the truth, this company would be run out of the country and many would consider sending some politicians to gaol (jail).

The catch cry is usually jobs but how smart is it to destroy our irreplaceable genetic heritage for ever more for some short term jobs..., and i thought we were supposed to be the 'clever country'!

Any reasonable person should take a little time to just have a look at the destruction that is going on in Queensland by graziers most of whom are not on the breadline or anywhere near it.
As you read this many of them are working day and night, destroying hundreds of thousands of hectares or sclerophyll forest as fast as they can, to turn it into 'grazing land'.  These people call it useless scrub.  They are getting away with destroying the nature of Australia.  They are destroying flora and fauna at a rate normally only seen these days in some third world countries.  Many of these people are well established and quite well off.
One would think that when a person gets to such a stage in life they would be only too happy to give something back to the world that made them well off to begin with.   Perhaps there are no limits to greed.

In Western Australia there is a man called Mr Bunnings he is the same one of the Bunnings Hardware chain.  Some years back i saw him gloating over woodchips from virgin karri forests.  These trees were over 1000 years old when he turned them into chips to send to Japan.  Bunnings are responsible for 90% of woodchips from virgin forests in Western Australia.
Besides Bunnings there are two other companies who are helping to clearfell as much as possible of the Western Australian forests before the country wakes up to what they are doing, they are 'WA Salvage' and 'Westfarmers-owned stores'.  These companies are all backed by the Western Australian Department of Conservation called CALM.  

Some years back there was a German man who had collected half a dozen Stumpy tailed lizards in Western Australia to take back to Germany to breed them.  Stumpy tailed lizards, by the way, are killed on the roads and by cats, dogs and foxes in their thousands every year in Western Australia.  This man spent something like seven years in jail for his effort.  The charge brought about by that department called CALM in Western Australia.  The same department who allows the destruction of millions of our animals and ancient native forest.  Yes that is the Western Australian Department of Conversation called CALM  We pay for such departments with our taxes in the name of conservation.

What's going on in the forests of East Gippsland?

Here is another little scandal to tickle your fancy.  There is a group called 'Business Victoria' and they have plans for the 'ancient temperate rainforests' of Victoria like that called Goolengook in East Gippsland.
In the Age 22/7/1999 a Mr Craig Eyes, the forest products specialist for 'Business Victoria' said East Gippsland forests had such low quality trees "that you might as well burn the lot standing" to make way for better timber.
It appears that Business Victoria have a wonderful plan to have native forests chipped as fuel for a "Biomass Renewable Power Project"  In other words old growth forest to power our lights.
Did you know that about 85% of clear felled Victorian native forests already end up as woodchips.  This is because our government lets it happen.  These companies know that once it has been cleared then they can say that the area has no biological value.  Then, they will have it given to them by the government to do with it as they will, for our benefit of course.  It appears that in this country we have two types of feral pigs those with four legs and those with two legs.

It would be interesting if someone could ask some of these political animals or Bunnings of WA or Business Victoria or some (though not all) of those Queensland graziers a question.  That is, if they have even a clue, what the difference might be between a 'broadly based' and a 'narrowly based' gene pool and then the difference between bio-mass and bio-diversity?
Further more they could be asked, whether or not they even care what those words mean?  The ex Federal Minister for conservation Wilson Tuckey most definitely did not know and most definitely did not give a damn.  


Of course those workers, who at present, rely on logging these precious areas, in reality, do need productive work to pay their bills and make a living.  But would it not be smart and fair to these people, if Australia could help them organise work that will go on forever instead of whipping a dying horse.

Drip irrigation from filtered sewage, works fine, and will produce trees for ever more.

In every climate of Australia there is marginal farm land.  And because there are so many environmental variations across Australia we can plant hundreds of different types of trees.  Basically, every town can have its own forest owned by the town and the workers that grow it.  I'm sure Harris Daishawa would not like that but bad luck, it's our Australia (though by the actions of some of our "caring" politicians you would hardly think so).

As far as sewage goes, each of us puts our little contribution every day to the mass of what is pumped here and there across the country, even at times into the sea. Well, how clever of us!

It seems that the only real problem with tree plantations from sewage is that there can be too much nutrient buildup for the trees to be able to utilise.  However, it would seem logical that perhaps we should just plant more trees so as all the nutrient can be used up.  I'm sure we are not going to have too many trees, at least in the short term.

One good thing about such plantations is that the trees can be planted close enough together that they all reach for the sun.  And guess what?  That means long straight logs, just what the timber industry wants.

I went to see what a man had done in Loxton in South Australia with drip irrigation from sewage onto trees.  Would you know that one of the greatest problems he had was with the plastic pipes.  Of all the things to go wrong.  The bloody foxes would chew the pipes which did cramp his style a little.  But if nutrient and foxes are the only problems with this system of tree farming then i'm sure we must have the brains to deal with those and whatever other problems may pop up.  Or else we must be really stupid.  See Question 62 and 63.


There is an abridged version of this story in 'GMOs in a Nut Shell' and it is in the downloads area.

This is a look at the dangerous implications of gene technology.  I am most certainly not saying that all genetic engineering will be bad.  I am positive that much of it will be wonderful.  However, there is one aspect of it that is extremely dangerous and, we are being forced to accept it without question.  Usually when something goes wrong in life you can fix it.  If what some people are trying to do to us right this minute is allowed to happen then it can never be fixed and we will all suffer the consequences.

Please read on then, check out some of the other sites on the issue.  You'll find many sites on gene technology from all over the world.  These sites can be found on the Links Page under "Gene technology (genetically engineered food plants) links".  It is most important that you find out about the Terminator and Traitor Gene Technology; this is a science fiction nightmare that is being forced upon us.


Firstly the term GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD is what i normally use here because that is what it is.
The term 'genetically modified food or GMO has been used by the chemical industry instead of Genetically Engineered Food.  'Modified' does not sound as bad as engineered when talking about our food.

Broadly based gene pools are a priceless and irreplaceable resource.

There are many reasons to protect what is left of our forests and wild places.  A great percentage of our medicines come from plant material and each plant is of value precisely because it is different.  For someone to say "that is only useless scrub" means that person does not really know what they are talking about.   What they really mean is, "that scrub appears useless to me now".

Every plant that we grow and use, whether it be a plant for fuel, food, medicine, a gum or a fibre, originally came from the wild.  If we are lucky, that plant still has relatives in the wild or 'wilderness areas'.

The 'wild relatives' of all domesticated creatures, whether they be plants or animals, are some of the most valuable biological resources that exist on the planet.  Any minister for conservation that does not understand this is a fraud and excepting pay under false pretences.

A simple way to explain this is with the potato.  The potato originated in South America and potatoes were cultivated by the indigenous inhabitants of that continent.  They had selected wild potato tubers from surrounding areas and, over the centuries, had selected more and more for the types that suited them most.  There were hundreds of types of potatoes in thousands of areas, each slightly different from its neighbour.  It was precisely these differences that gave the potatoes their genetic strength.

The conquistadors then the Irish potato famine.

After the conquest of the West Coast of South America, which is the home of the potato, the conquerors thought that this tuber, which grew quite easily, would be very useful in Europe.

There was a variety of potato which arrived in the British Isles which was called the 'lumper potato'.  This potato did well and soon became a staple food, especially among the poor of Ireland, who had most of the other food they farmed taken from them and exported to Britain by the British powerbrokers of the day.

Things went along well until the 1840s when a blight hit the potatoes.  This blight most likely came from South America.  In its homeland however, it did not matter very much.  If the natives who cultivated the potato found such a blight in their garden, the chances are that it would have attacked the crop in a mosaic (just here and there in the garden) leaving many potatoes unaffected.

You see, those garden potatoes came from a broadly based gene pool, which means genetically, they were very strong whereas those in Europe were all closely related, that is, from a narrowly based gene pool.  A narrowly based gene pool is something akin to them all being brothers and sisters.

Perhaps those early potatoes that were taken to Europe originated from one garden only.  If a South American farmer found a blight or some other disease in his garden he could go and get some seed potato from his neighbour whose genetic stock was slightly different.  If that failed they could go into the wild and obtain some new wild genetic stock.

The plants that traditional farmers have selected from the wild over the centuries are called landrace varieties.  Those varieties, because they are so close to their wild relatives, are genetically very strong and stable and carry genes which make them resistant to many diseases.

Those traditional farmers hold in their gardens some of the most valuable 'broadly based gene pools' on the planet.

In modern agriculture, when you have some problem with a blight or a rust or some other disease or pest attacking your crops you have two choices.  You could go and buy some poison then spray it over the crop, kill the pest and perhaps kill all the earthworms which will of course leave the ground much harder which means that you will have to work the soil much more; but you will have for the time being, saved the crop.  However, the most useful tool with which to fight those pests is to go back to the landrace varieties held by traditional farmers or hunt for their relatives in the wilderness.  You then infuse the new genetic material into your gardening regime and you have natural resistance and you won't have to poison your land.

Many traditional farmers have been duped out of their old varieties in favour of 'magic new varieties' by giant petrochemical corporations (bio-tech drug companies) with the promise of a 'green revolution'.  The farmers find that these magic new varieties will not grow without a special chemical fertiliser or perhaps a ripening hormone and sometimes both, supplied of course by the drug company who supplied the seed.

The farmer is advised to get rid of the old seeds so as not to allow cross pollination that would pollute these new wonder varieties.  In actual fact, this is to make sure that the farmer loses the old seeds so that he has burned his 'genetic bridges'.

These giant corporations will of course, when it suits them, take what seeds they want from any garden to use in their own plant manipulation.  This 'taking of seeds' they are always doing.  These seeds are kept in their own gene banks, which are nothing more than glorified refrigerators.

Of course the farmers would never ever be allowed access to these seeds even if they did originate in their garden.

Just imagine someone telling some innocent farmer to throw away seeds that have been developed over centuries and passed down to them by their ancestors.  Then get them hooked on plants that need chemicals before they will grow.  The farmer and his children must then buy the chemicals from a multinational company for the rest of their lives.  In my opinion that has to be called 'drug pushing'.

To add insult to injury, many of the wilderness areas where these seeds originated have been taken over for logging by other multinationals or given over to cattle barons by corrupt "El Presidente type" governments.

With the wilderness gone, these farmers cannot go and find more original seed to start again.  If these poor people ever try to speak up against such injustice they are quite often labelled 'communist agitators, left wing subversives or insurgents' and dealt with accordingly.


(For those who feel uncomfortable with or don't want to believe this last paragraph they should quietly spend a little time and talk to some of the people who have had to flee such a country.  Any person who keeps asking the right questions of the right people would have to be stupid not to notice the pattern in the story that emerges from so many refugee farming families.)


Now, back to the seeds.  That which is left of these landrace varieties still held by some traditional farmers and the viable non hybrid seeds held by a few farmers and private gardeners in the so called developed world are pretty much all that belong to the citizens of the planet.  However, that genetic material is steadily but surely being eroded by stealth, lies, deceit and in some cases straight out corruption by a handful of multinationals who are hell bent on controlling the food of the world.

The genetic material contained in what is left of our wilderness areas is by and large the total sum of our truly broadly based gene pools for the future survival of the inhabitants of the planet.

The problem with monoculture.

In these days of so called enlightenment every person educated in basic biology understands that many small crops of great variety guarantee genetic strength and sustainability.  Giant monoculture (large areas of land planted in one type of crop which is a banquet for pest and disease)  leaves us vulnerable and guarantees that we must use more chemicals and hormone sprays.  It poisons our land, our waterways and our world.

This last statement is not opinion it is biological fact.

If those potatoes growing in Ireland that ended up with that devastating blight had started at least, from a broadly based gene pool, and if many types of potatoes had been planted across Ireland, then almost certainly, in the 1840s one and a half million people would not have died of starvation.  That is basic biology.

Enter genetic manipulation.

If you have been conned into believing that the world is to be saved by genetic manipulation and genetically engineered food then brace yourself for a shock.

In 1987 our government in Australia that is, the Labor, Liberal and National Party passed a bill called 'Plant Variety Rights' or PVR.  This opened the way for companies to be allowed to patent plants.  It was mostly kept quiet as our government or the opposition of the day did not want people to know what they were doing.  Yes, and our so-called 'free media' barely touched on the issue and when they did the story was given a whitewash.

The policy of the powerbrokers was that this PVR bill was to go through no matter what.  If anybody has a problem with this last statement then, by all means, do your research.

Before the bill on Plant Variety Rights was railroaded through parliament in 1987 the silence in the media was deafening.  One journalist from each of the two major newspapers in Victoria ran one story each trying to outline what was at stake if this bill was passed.  In the Sun (now the Herald Sun) one journalist was able to run a half page story with the headlines "Hot potato lands in Senate's lap".  After that there was silence.  I approached the person who wrote the story to bring him up to date on the issue, so he could do a follow up story.  I do not remember what he said 'verbatim' but it was obvious that he would not be allowed to write anything more on that issue.

If you do not want to believe me, then see if you can find another substantial story on that issue before that bill was passed.  With an issue of such importance that would affect the food of our children forever more, why was there such a deafening silence from our 'Free Media'?  And who were the chief editors working for anyway, our kids' future or some drug pushing monsters?  

There was one politician whom i shan't name here who said, "this bill should be passed because this issue has been debated for years" (what a stupid reason to pass a bill anyway).  That statement from that politician was a lie.  Anything so important which is dismissed with misleading information can only be called a lie.  If this Plant Variety Rights issue had been debated for years then most people would have heard of it.  Right?

If you ask ten people at random whether they have heard of Plant Variety Rights or PVR you'll find that almost no one has ever heard of it.

The name has since been changed to Plant Breeders Rights PBR to fall in line with the rest of the world.

As each country passed this bill it became advantageous for the giant chemical companies to buy up the small seed companies, most of whom had been carrying on the same tradition as farmers had done for thousands of years.  They would select for special traits in a plant that suited a given environment or some other need.  This type of selection and breeding has all but stopped in the public arena because the petrochemical companies needed to sell chemicals.  So what better way than tie them to the food that we eat.


For those who are not familiar with it, we'll quickly cover the word hybrid.  As you may know a mule (the cross between a horse and a donkey) is usually infertile.  This means that you can't normally breed two mules together to get a baby mule.  To get that you have to go back to the horse and the donkey.

For thousands of years around the Mediterranean region, farmers would breed mules because they found that a mule was a very strong animal, often much stronger than either of its parents.

This strength is called 'hybrid vigour' which at least seems to work well in animals.  A mule was a very valuable animal.  However, these farmers were not stupid.  They would never get rid of their horse or their donkey.  If they did, they would have burnt their bridges and so would not have been able to produce another mule.


If you'd like to learn some other truths about hybrid vegetable seeds then there is a book well worth reading.
The Australian Vegetable Garden- what's new is old.  By Clive Blazey
Diggers Seeds  Phone 03 5987 1877  Fax 03 5981 4298


Some years back, as some of these international seed companies got bigger, they sought ways to corner the market in certain food plants so they started to hybridise vegetables and grains.  This meant that a farmer could not save seed, because the hybrid seeds could not be relied upon to reproduce anything like the crop that was expected.  Often these seeds would produce a plant but nothing else.

There is an exception called an apomictic hybrid.  These are not mule hybrids and the seeds are always viable.  Though of course if a company produced seeds whose offspring were viable, then the farmer may not have to return to buy seed  the next year.

As buyers in the market place (that means you and me) were brainwashed to expect uniform looking fruit and vegetables:  i.e. identical size, shape and colour and without blemish we have learned to expect this as normal.


 Here is a little story to think about.  Have you been conned by a shiny apple covered by a petro-chemical wax?

The waxing of apples to produce a product with a 'perfect' shiny skin is another example of how the consumer has been duped into believing that this is how apples come off the tree.  Perhaps we should ask what has happened to the soft pastel 'bloom' that covers ripe apples ready for picking.

Did you know that there is some idiot somewhere in government, who has even come up with the idea of a law where fruit must carry a use by date?  That idiot obviously knows nothing about fruit.

In the real world you could then have fruit that goes off before the date and fruit that will remain perfect, long after the date expires but still have to be thrown away.  If someone could find out the name of that idiot, then his or her name could be added to this site right here (name? of idiot to go here).


With the introduction of the chemical dependent hybrids with their uniform predicability, the farmers realised that they had to tow the line or they could not sell their produce.

Burning our children's bridges

Most farmers did not know that such an option as an apomictic hybrid existed so they bought what seed was offered.  Then of course, they could produce beautiful uniform looking vegetables for the market.  The farmers were never warned by these ever bigger seed companies, that it might be a safe and prudent measure for all of us, if they saved a few of their original seeds and plant some from time to time to keep them viable.  This would at least have given us an insurance policy held in trust by the farmers of the day, so that our genetic bridges would not be burned.  Of course that did not happen.

The saying that power corrupts means also that big money also corrupts.  About the same time that the Plant Variety Rights Bill was passed in Australia, a farmer in Carrum, just south east of Melbourne, told me a story that confirmed my worst fears.

Most market gardeners in that area grew the vegetables called a brassica.  The brassica is a family of vegetable that we all know.  The brassicas include: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and turnip plus many more.
This farmer told me that all the farmers in the area once had their own seed and could save them.  The seeds that they had were of the type we call 'open pollination'.  The plants from these seeds produce flowers that can be pollinated by the bees or other insects or in the case of corn and other grain, by the wind.

If the farmer wanted to try a new variety he could always buy some seed from a seed supplier and those seeds were always viable.  Then, without warning the 'whiz bang hybrids' became the order of the day and these farmers did not ever imagine what was to happen.
This farmer in Carrum said that now, if he did not use the right chemicals, he could not even get a Brussels sprout.  The plants were designed to need a chemical and the company who sold the seed would of course, sell the chemical.
Those seeds were a genetic bridge from the past to reach into the future for our children.   They had come from a line of seeds passed down for centuries.  Those old seeds are now lost.  Is this the price of progress or is it just madness?

One of the great lies peddled for the justification of introducing Plant Variety Rights was that there would be plants that would be less reliant on artificial fertilisers and chemicals.  Well, i wonder what happened?


Now you might think that this is not a happy story.  I'm sorry to tell you, but the story gets worse.  It will take you and your friends and all the reasonable people you know to set it right, if we have time.  Our politicians, The National Farmers Federation the NFF, some selfish short sighted scientists and a few very stupid or uneducated journalists are leading us down a road that, if once we travel, we can never return home.


The sad problem with many politicians is that they are usually no more than 'bean counters' with big egos.

Most politicians study economics, commerce or law but they understand nothing about basic biology and yet, they make biological decisions that will affect our children and future generations till the end of time.

Now those same giant multinational drug companies are still at it.  They will come across as the gentle giant caring for a hungry planet.  If you are of reasonable intelligence, you will see for yourself that their aims are more irresponsible, sinister and dangerous than they would ever want you to imagine.

Starting with the multinational called Monsanto, yes the ones who make 'Roundup',  they have been getting a lot of flack lately and after reading this you'll understand why.  The message around the traps has it, that they are trying to 'vanish' under another name.  This new name it seems is to be 'Pharmacia'.  Remember that a wolf will change his coat but not his habits.

Whilst putting together this story, three people have said to me, independently i might add, that Monsanto is the most evil of them all.
Well i don't know about that because i don't know all that each one of these giant companies is up to.  However, let's touch briefly on Monsanto and the 'Terminator gene'.

In the past, if a farmer grew what is called a broad acre crop like wheat, barley, rye, corn, rice, soy beans or cotton for example, they could always save their seeds for the next year.  This just won't be possible with the Terminator gene because, when the crop ripens the following year, the terminator gene will kick in and render the whole crop infertile.  This then forces the farmer to buy new seed each year.

One of the catch cries of this new technology is that it is,
"to feed a starving world".
I would really love someone to explain to me how, by making a farmer's seeds become infertile you begin to feed a starving world?

Because of such opposition worldwide against the dangerous effects of this terminator gene Monsanto have, as from early October 1999, agreed not to release the terminator onto the market.  Watchdogs are saying that it is a lie because Monsanto have signed nothing and are still keeping the Terminator gene as an option.  The latest news is that Monsanto and their sibling Farmacia also Upjohn, Delta & Pine Land together with Astra Zeneca who have merged with Novartis have decided that giving up the terminator gene is not an option.   These companies have something even more insidious and just as evil in store for us called the 'traitor gene' which we'll cover a little later.

Another catch cry of this technology is that we will need to use less chemicals, sounds great does it not?

There is a weed killer made by Monsanto called 'Roundup'.  One very dangerous ingredient of Roundup is called glyphosate.  Most who understand a little bio-chemistry agree that it is dangerous especially to the the environment because of its broad spectrum activity.  Through genetic manipulation, Monsanto have designed plants especially those of food, that are resistant to Roundup.  They become 'ROUNDUP READY'.

In our region they have lobbied the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) they wanted us to accept accept 200 times more Roundup residue in our produce including food than ever before.  This would bring us into line with US law.  That way the farmers will be able to spray massive amounts of Roundup on their crops to kill all the weeds without killing the crop.  Good business for Monsanto wouldn't you agree?  Especially when our plants are Roundup Ready.

In the long term, will it be good for the farmer or the land or the streams into which this poison must run?

Roundup is 'broad spectrum' this means that it will kill most plants that have not been made immune to it.  Roundup also impacts on other organisms like Nitrogen fixing bacteria and fungi.  Without these organisms we could not possibly live on this planet as we do today; any student who has finished High School Biology can tell you that.
Overuse of one particular herbicide like Roundup, or any other, encourages plants to develop resistance to the chemical.  Then more sprays will be needed.  In other words we develop super-weeds.  That is also basic biology. 

Would it be good for us to eat 200 times more Roundup (glyphosate)? (.1mg/kg to 20mg/kg for human and animal consumption)

You must remember that they have been telling us that this new technology will mean less chemicals.

Would someone please explain to me how 200 times more Roundup residue equals less chemicals?

You might well ask what are the genetic materials that are being added to our food and should we worry.

The silver tongued mouthpieces of the multinational drug companies who are foisting these 'miracles' upon us, assure us that there is nothing to worry about, and to trust them.

After all they are the ones who gave us: Agent orange, DDT and Napalm, all for our benefit of course.  Are they not saying that they are doing all this for no other reason than to feed a starving world?  So why should you be concerned what they are putting into our food?

Well when i eat vegetable i expect to eat vegetable.  It appears as though that is not the way the petro-chemical companies see it.  They have much more interesting food in store for you.  One selling point they use is that we can have broccoli that tastes like chocolate.  Well whacki-do aren't we clever.  Are we also to have chocolate that tastes like broccoli?

Once upon a time, plants were plants and animals were animals and they could not cross breed.  If companies like Monsanto and their ilk get their way you could be eating vegetable together with part insect, part fish, part pig and part any other animal you can think of including human.  Oh yes, even human.  Human genes have already been added to some animals and crops.  I don't know whether they have been fed to humans as yet.  These companies have most definitely been toying with this nonsense.  This just goes to show what these people can even consider.

You may say "well does it matter if our vegetables are part animal?".  Well one could also ask why in the world should we be forced to eat fruit and vegetable that is part animal anyway?  Do we have to?  Because with what is happening now we will have no choice. 

Let's say that you have a deadly allergy to fish.  Some clever biologist has added genetic material from fish to strawberries, but the strawberries were sold without the label that said so.  Would the government issue every household with antihistamine (anti allergic drug), just in case? 
After your evening dessert and that possibly fatal strawberry, you could have your shot of antihistamine before the ambulance arrives.  If you did not know it seems that our Prime Minister has made sure that no fresh fruit or vegetables that are genetically engineered in Australia have to be labelled.  And it seems that the Leader of the Opposition has shown no interest in this state of affairs. 

I do not class myself as a Luddite, as a matter of fact, i'm passionate about genuine scientific progress.  But let's slow down and think a little about what we are expected to trust these people with.
Remember, never before have animals been crossed with plants and released into the world in which we live.

Will your favourite politician be responsible for the pollen flow?

These plants will produce pollen and that pollen must cross-pollinate with any plants that are related to it.  Once that pollen is free, it can never be brought back.  They now have the technology to produce plants that are part animal even part human that can end up in our gardens and in the wild.

You could end up with plants in your garden whose seeds will not re-generate unless you use some special chemical.  Of course you may not be able to find out which 'particular patented chemical' it is that you need to bring your seeds back to life.

Remember, the patenting for control of our plants and food has just begun.  With or without the patents, the damage they are doing can never be repaired.

Could you trust any politician together with a chemical company behind closed doors, to decide for you and your kids and allow them to make irreversible decisions that will effect the world forever more?

Remember that once you have released genetically engineered pollen into the environment, the results are irreversible.

So what do you think of a politician who says:-
"we just have to convince people that this is all safe".
or "we must educate people about gene technology".
Keep your ears open and you might be surprised at the number of politicians who are saying just that.
Take note also of those politicians who remain silent.
As the saying goes:
If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem

The media

I've listened to many an interview with someone from Monsanto or other gene tech companies and never once heard the interviewer seriously ask them whether they, the corporation, had any concern for the pollen or gene flow that is occuring as this genetic material is released.  Nor do they ever ask, "Will the peddlers of this technology be responsible for and, be prepared to compensate the citizens of the planet for the disasters that will flow from this greedy, irresponsible and dangerous monopolising of our plant and animal resources?"  A technology that Insurance Companies will not touch.


Who will take responsibility?

Once catastrophies begin to occur who will be held accountable?
The Insurance Council of Australia says: "considering genetically modified products - more needs to be known and, the risks at this stage may be too high".  Companies like Swiss Reinsurance Company will not insure against mishap with genetic modification.
Many of our 'brilliant' Australian politicians are saying that we should accept this new technology without question, and start to irreversibly destroy much of THE NATURE OF AUSTRALIA.
They, (these bean counters) will tell you, they know best.

Australia is one of the few countries in the world that  can still claim to be relatively clean and green.  In Australia so far we have Bt cotton and Roundup Ready cotton and canola to pollute our biosphere.  There are other genetically engineered trial crops that are being introduced by stealth into our country.  All of these crops are biological time bombs.  That is biological fact. 
The whole educated world is searching for clean, uncontaminated produce and this is one of the few places left on earth where it can be grown.  It is the way of the future.  Prices for clean GM-Free produce are at a premium.  This produce is something that we are guaranteed to be able to sell on the world market forever more.  That also goes for clean non-genetically engineered seeds.  

Of course after reading the preceding paragraph all intelligent Australians would say "Well lets do it".

As you read this, there are some people in Australia this year, sowing in secret locations, test plots of genetically modified canola which is a turnip (rape) and other crops as well.  Once those crops go to seed, the pollen will disperse.  Anyone who says not is a liar.  In the US now they can not stop the pollen.  The pollen is getting into farmers crops and then the farmer is taken to court to pay royalties on the genetically engineered pollen that has polluted the farmers crop.   

Where is our Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition and where are our Premiers and, for that matter, where are the rest of our brilliant politicians?
Do you think they are being responsible about the world they are leaving our children?

Possibly the only case for mandatory sentencing should be for the politicians who sell out our children's future to chemical companies.

Our politicians must be made to understand what is at stake or are they really so stupid that they will never understand?

I'm going to give you a couple of long words Bacillus thuringiensis.  You won't have to remember them because there is an accepted way of abbreviating them (Bt).  So, Bt is what we'll call it and when you read of this subject in the media or wherever, instead of the genus and species name Bacillus thuringiensis you'll usually find just the abbreviation Bt.
(If you'd like to learn about the words genus and species then go and click on question (1) of the Question/answer sheet page of

Bt is one of the micro-organisms deadly to some insects and it occurs naturally in the soil.  The CSIRO together with Monsanto, the giant US corporation, managed to create a cotton plant that manufactures Bt.  If certain insects go munching on the cotton plant then they'll die because, to them, Bt is poisonous.

Remember, once any crop goes to seed its relatives are vulnerable to cross-pollination.  Insect resistance to Bt toxin will build up so that more chemicals are needed in the future.  When Roundup Ready cotton and canola cross-pollinate with wild plants they will then develop resistance to weed killer.
As soon as possible these crops must be stopped in Australia.  It is nothing short of criminal to allow them to be planted in our country.

What about our markets around the world that want to buy clean food?  You might ask. Why the rush to get these plots in so quickly?  It is because once this issue is made public, people will start asking questions.  If the crops are in the ground and growing and allowed to seed, then genetic pollution is a forgone conclusion.  Australia will then have no choice and neither will the world markets for clean produce.

Most children will know the delightful insect called the Ladybird.   This is its name in Britain and Australia.  In the US, it is called the Ladybug.  The Ladybird belongs to the family Coccinellidae.  It is a friend of the farmer and gardener alike as it rids plants of many insect pests, particularly aphids.  In Scotland where Bt crops have been planted, a study was done on the ladybirds.  After ladybirds had been on genetically altered potatoes, their lifespan was reduced by half and they laid fewer eggs.

You might ask what significance that has on the greater scheme of things?  Well, that's just it, we don't know.
Ladybirds (ladybugs) today, so what will it be tomorrow?

This technology is still in its infancy, and the powerbrokers in this dangerous game are doing their utmost to get us all tied into it before they themselves even have a clue where it will lead.
Even the Chinese, who hold many valuable and natural food plants which could be crucial for the world's survival are going headlong into genetic manipulation.  The genetic wipe-out could be a disaster, and i thought the Chinese were smart.  The message around the traps is that there are some Chinese already questioning the sanity of this nonsense.

If, in such a short time, this technology can have that much effect on nature, then what is in store for us in the long term?

So far, only Bt cotton and Roundup Ready canola have been planted in Australia.  If other plants with the Bt gene are released into this country, even as a test plot, then we are on the road of no return.  Those plants will cross pollinate with their relatives, passing on the Bt gene and poisoning many types of insects that come into contact with them.

With this scatter gun approach to insect control we could be in for for big trouble. There are many plants that rely on specific insects for their pollination.  If certain insects vanish then many plants must vanish with them.

It is no wonder that insurance companies are not rushing to insure against mishap with gene manipulation technology.

The 'terminator gene' has now moved into another phase.  The various forms of this are owned by a few companies.  Which company is owned by which parent company is often difficult to determine.  You realise that you are dealing with very sneaky people who have lots to hide.  By having many companies they are able to avoid mountains of taxation and hide much information about what they are doing to our planet.  In an interview you'll here an answer like "our company does not own that technology"  What they fail to say is that their company owns the company that does.  What they do to the planet usually means big money for them now, but big bills for the rest of us forever.

The patents held by these companies for the terminator, now broadly grouped as verminator and traitor (which include their so called killer genes), control the genes for plants to such a degree that it is literally a science fiction nightmare.
These patents give these companies the power and the legal right to control every aspect of every mouthful of food you eat.


Sorry if this sounds a little alarmist but it is a legal fact and it should be alarming (unless you have the brains of a squid).  It is hard to imagine that any legal person including a judge would ever stoop so low as to defend these people and allow us to be dragged down this dangerous path.

Plants are being designed and patented where the seed will not strike without an application of a patented chemical hormone.  The genes that give the plant a natural immunity to harmful viruses and bacteria are switched off.  They will need a hormone to re-activate them again.  You will of course, be able to buy the hormone from the company that sold you the seed.  Then, when it is time for the plant to bear fruit or grain, there is a hormone that the plant will need before it will mature.   Another cost which you must bear.  So, then you save your seed for next year.  Yes, this is much better than the old terminator gene because now with this traitor/verminator and killer gene the company does not have to stock tons of seed to sell each year, they just sell you the chemicals.

Seeds are now designed to commit suicide at harvest.  These giant companies now have in their hands the power, as it were, to bring 'Lazarus' seeds back from the dead.  Seeds can be re-activated but only with the patented chemical.  With this wonderful technology all you will have to do is buy some hormone to apply to your seeds and Hey Presto! you can start the cycle again.

If these companies have their way you will have no other choice.  Why not just use normal seeds as we have been doing for thousands of years?
That would appear to be a natural solution to this problem.

Alas! With the exception of a very few, very small companies, the seed companies no longer belong to us.  Du Pont have said that they are to buy out Pioneer Hi-Bred the largest seed company in the world.  When this happens (if it hasn't already) then the giant US seed industry will effectively be in the hands of two multinationals: Monsanto (Pharmacia) and Du Pont (so much for free enterprise).

What about the gene flow because of pollen?  If we don't stop this madness our crops will become so contaminated by these traitor genes that all our choices will have been removed.  The companies themselves will not be able to fix the damage they are doing.  It is no wonder that insurance companies are not very interested in insuring against any biological disaster with this technology.  It is too dangerous.  With this type of gene technology the direction is towards drug dependent plants.  If you follow this trail 'the obvious' will stare you in the face.

About 80% of all food plants in the US are now contaminated.  The American farmers were not warned.  So why are our Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition not warning us?  


There is one 'RED HERRING' peddled by those who would sell us out "we must accept all this gene technology including control of our food and, the seeds from which they grow because":


Would someone please explain how, by controlling every aspect of our agriculture where it will become impossible to save seeds, are we to cure cancer?


Another great red herring is globalisation, with its attendant trade agreements which state that we must buy each others produce to make a fairer world.

Somehow, when it suits them, there are those who read into such a law that, whatever dangers may come with that trade you must accept them.

There is the ridiculous story of the 'fresh salmon imports' from Canada.  Most everywhere in the world with the exception of Australia and New Zealand fish farming is plagued by disease.  That means that in Europe and America most, if not all fish farming must be accompanied by massive amounts of antibiotics, to at least temporarily, save that industry from collapse.

In Tasmania the salmon farming is still clean.  You would think that any reasonable person would say that if there is such a clean industry somewhere in the world at least that industry should be protected.  Even most Canadians would be happy to allow somewhere in the world to keep clean stocks of breeding salmon that did not need to be continually doused by antibiotics.  You see from canned or perhaps also smoked salmon there would be no problem with imports of this fish from Canada.  However if someone were to use, even a small piece, of fresh Canadian salmon for fishing bait then, our industry could easily collapse.

What if the shoe were on the other foot?

If we had beef that was known to, quite possibly, carry anthrax or mad cow's disease or fresh pork that did carry swine fever.  Then, would it be fair for us to try and force the Canadians to buy such produce by citing the fair trade agreement.  I for one would say no and defend the Canadians right to refuse such a stupid and irresponsible piece of trade.

There is one government minister in Australia who inferred that the Australian salmon industry did not have to worry because with the quarantine restrictions in place not much fresh salmon would be imported.  And so, the local industry would not have too much competition.  Strange how that minister missed the whole point, it does seem to be a pastime of many politicians to miss the whole point.

The Australian industry must compete on the world stage, however, they should not be forced to accept any disease, regardless of some half baked international agreement.  What do you think?


These are some of the giant petro-chemical companies who are buying out the small seed companies of the world thus gaining control of the seed stocks that would otherwise compete with them:
Exxon, ICI, Monsanto (Pharmacia), Du Pont, Novartis, Aventis, Unilever, Upjohn, AstraZeneca,  Rhone-Poulenc, Suntory, Campbell, Heinz, Bayer and there are others.

Avoiding the issue.

There is an old saying that "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel"  Well there is another refuge in which politicians will hide themselves, it is the issue of 'law and order'.  Almost every time a political campaign carries LAW AND ORDER as a slogan, it is a red-herring to avoid issues.  The issues avoided, can easily bring about a breakdown in law and order if they're not attended to.

If you look at the long term implications of this issue, where people can not guarantee their food because they are held to ransom, the issue becomes serious.  This story does not end here with a whimper.  We are talking about the control of food which we must all guard, for the survival of our children and the human race.


This next bit is just my opinion, however:

I'm sure that after Australians learn the truth about genetically engineered plants and food, they will say that 'politicians can not plead ignorance'.

If they proceed with this madness they should be held accountable and charged with something akin to treason against the people of Australia.
And those international dealers of this obscenity should be taken to the world court for crimes against humanity and the irreversable environmental terrorism that they are now responsible for.


If you think that 'crimes against humanity' is a little over the top.  Then perhaps you could look at it like this.

Lets say you are a farmer growing your crop and saving your seeds as your ancestors have been doing for millennia.  Then, in your neighbourhood there are three other farmers who have been conned into using seeds that come with the traitor gene.  Well that is their choice, right?  Your crops are of the same type as theirs only yours are natural whereas theirs contain the traitor gene and so they must pay someone like Monsanto or Aventis for everything they do on their farm.  With untold benefits of course!

At harvest time all goes well, you see no difference and you save your seed for next year as is normal.  Next year only half of your seeds will germinate.  You could have got them to germinate if you had known that the pollen from one of your neighbours had landed a killer/Lazarus gene in amongst your crop.  Then, you could have gone to Monsanto (Pharmacia) and bought some of the hormone spray to bring them back to life to restart their cycle again.  Perhaps the killer genes effected only part of your crop so you still had enough to go on with.

Oh blast it! the gene that turns on the protection against bacteria and some insect attack has been switched off.  But only some of your plants died and you can probably get through, at least this year anyway.

Hello!  Half the crop won't mature because you need the hormone to activate the maturing (ripening gene).  Your not quite sure which hormone to use to activate the maturing gene, because there are now a few companies that have a patented variation of this technology.  The sales representatives had been quite busy in your area all competing for business.  Maybe you get that sorted out and finally harvest your crop.  You did not know that this year all of your crop had been hit again by the terminator gene and the seeds had all committed suicide.

Don't worry there is another representative from Monsanto who has just offered to buy your farm.  The price is not good but at least you could be out of trouble.  And, he promised you that there is a good chance of you getting a job somewhere working for Monsanto.

Do you think this story is a little far fetched?
Well, do you want to bet against it, with the future of your children's food?  You cannot reverse this technology.

Whether you like to believe it or not, much of this technology is in place now.  And they do intend to use it!  If not, why on earth would they bother to develop it and to refine it; which they are doing right now.

"Once bitten twice shy".  In Europe mad cows disease is still fresh in people's minds.  Remember they were told that it was a scientific impossibility that 'mad cows disease' could be transmitted to humans.  Well at least twelve people died from the disease.  How many more would have died if nobody had said, Hey wait a minute!


If only one quarter of what i've written here is correct then this disaster facing our children must be, by definition, nothing short of criminal.
Do a little research and you'll find that i've barely scratched the surface of this nightmare.

In fairness some people are just ignorant because, if you don't know you just don't know, and most people given a chance, do want to know.
Others however, are those pathetic, lazy and selfish people who are ignorant by choice, just ignore them.


Just imagine if one of the infamous world dictators, of whom i'm sure you could think of a name or two, were to take control of our food like this.
Can't you just see the great outrage from the politicians and scientists alike.  They would be  trying to convince us that this is so serious that we should be on a military footing to protect our 'free access to food' for our children's future of course.

It's amazing how they collude in secret, with these giant drug pushing companies who try to tell you that this is just 'free enterprise'.  Well to believe that this is free enterprise you'd have to be a cretin.  When small people, small companies and farmers keep their own seeds for the benefit of us all, then that is 'free enterprise'.  When giant corporations control every mouthful of food that we eat, for which we must pay them royalties for ever more, that is not free enterprise.


On present evidence this is the story as i see it.  I am an ordinary working citizen of no more than average intelligence and will remain so for the rest of my life.
My sole interest in this issue is for the planet as we know it and the security of food and choices for our children's future.



Old saying: If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

So wake up Australia and never say that you can't do anything!
It is our responsibility!

Remember, politicians the police the lawyers and judges and our army should be working for us first, not giant foreign drug companies.

Any person who sells us out to any foreign drug company is a traitor to Australia and its children.  So by definition i believe that any person who tries to stop this story is selling out our children and has no place in public office.


Did you know that in Denmark they are spending around $10 per head of population ($100 million per annum) on organic research and development?  We in Australia spend under two cents ($270,000 per annum).

And we have the gall to call ourselves 'the clever country'.


It is true that future generations must make their own choices.  However, it is nothing short of criminal to burn their genetic bridges before they even reach them, just for the gain of a few selfish people today.

Here is the story of just one American farmer.  Monsanto have put him through hell, and he will show you hundreds like him, his site is:-



What's the rush?

You'll notice that this issue is rush rush rush to feed a starving world.  If these people were really concerned about a starving world then they would be trying to empower people to feed themselves.
The blue links button below will take you straight to many sites on genetic modification.  You can see what many concerned scientists are saying.

I thank you for spending your time to read this story.

This is the Links button below:
Links button to other gene technology sites including Monsanto's



If ever you have time, do check out the:
'Social Issues' and the 'Natural History' links on this website.