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(generated from captions) find them in the wild. But

when European settlers arrived,

the animals were hunted because

the little devils were eating

people's chickens. Now

Tasmanian Devils are protected

by law, but since the mid

1990s, they have been up

against a different threat. It

is called the Devil Facial

Tumour Disease. It is a

special type of cancer because

it is contagious. No-one is

sure what causes it but it

spreads when devils bite and

scratch each other, which

happens a lot over mealtime.

The tumours build up around the

animal's face and mouth until

it can't eat and it starves to

death. So, once they get it,

the devils usually have about

six months to live. A lot of

the scientists, the specialists

in the fieldworking in Tassie,

do believe that extinction is a

real possibility. The hopes

are that the disease will die

out before the devil does. So

what could be one of the

solutions to save this

population? Tasmanian Devil

babies. They are called joeys.

When they are born, they are no

bigger than a grain of rice.

Tassie Devils give birth to

about 30 joeys. Because the

mother has four teats, usually

only four make it. It is

survival of the fittest. It

could be a huge tragedy for the

species if these guys were to

go extinct. I can't imagine it. I don't like to think

about it. You feel every day

like you are doing something

important because this might be

their last hope, what we are

doing, breeding them and

maintaining a healthy

population like Audrey here in captivity. Tiffany manages the

devil breeding program here and

so far they have raised more

than 50 devils. Trying to

learn as much as you can

through that season means I

creep in here at night. I

stay back as late as possible,

as they will let me. But

breeding the Tassie Devils

hasn't been easy. For some

reason, devils born in

captivity don't get pregnant as

easily. Did I wake you up

today? The zoo keepers aren't

sure why but they are looking

into it. The aim here is to

breed another big population of

Tassie Devils in case those in

the wild die out. As the disease spreads across

Tasmania, the race is on to

find the cause and a cure or

else, one day, what we see here in captivity could be all

that's left. That's it for the

show. Don't forget you can go

on to our web site and get more

information about any stories,

you can send comments and vote

in our poll. See you next time. Closed Captions by CSI This Program is Captioned Live # Theme music I'm Waleed Aly. Hi there, welcome to Big Ideas. They shoot lions, don't they? On today's show - of a lively panel discussion, That's the intriguing title South Wales series, The Hot Seat. the latest in the University of New the 'sustainable use of wildlife.' It's a reference to what's called,

captive breeding, Where commercial hunting, of mammals and reptiles, native pets, even trade and export

once anathema to eco-science, everything, for conservation strategy. is on the table as the new direction

The basic premise behind it, are no longer safe in the wild. is that animals The experts on the panel, Museum director, Mike Archer, including the former Australian heads of our most endangered species, now think putting a price on the to save them from extinction. might make us value them enough Catalyst reporter, Paul Willis. Moderating is former start with you. Greg, I'd like to actually a picture for us Maybe you can paint out on Kakadu National Park about what it was like being a ranger and seeing it all go pear-shaped. to that really. Well, there are two answers One answer is, 30 years paid to have fun. I have to confess that I spent Kakadu is a phenomenal place.

you may have been there, And even though many of

see the very surface of it. you only get to the skin of Kakadu What lies beneath what you see as a tourist. is so much better than to work in 1979 but having said that I arrived there it was almost a problem. and wildlife was everywhere - the motorbike seats Animals were chewing out the back of the fridges we had animals chewing out the table if you weren't careful. we had birds taking our food from plenty of buffalo as well Of course in those days there were and things like that

but it's a very strange thing greatly puzzled and scientists are the last decade by the fact that in in the last 5 years more importantly a catastrophic collapse there has been in the wildlife in Kakadu - the whole lot - not just mammals but birds, reptiles and the we don't really know why. is plunging into oblivion greatest national Parks And this is one of Australia's rangers everywhere with a mammoth budget, So you're running a national park, the animals are disappearing. and you say you don't know why I mean are people stealing them? Surely you must have some idea, What's going on? It's not that. completely unimportant. Smuggling is unimportant, It's all environmental factors that inter-relate to one another. and there's a whole lot of things There's changed fire regimes is an interesting one. oddly, the removal of buffalo at any one time in Kakadu. There were 60,000 head of buffalo the landscape's changed Since they've gone, sorts of new and emerging threats fire has changed, there's all might sound paradoxical particularly and this facing wildlife in North Australia but one of the biggest threats are grasses, African grasses. identify when they are small, They're almost impossible to enough to be identified by the time they get large

over the landscape they are throwing seeds all the heat and intensity and they burn at several times or the traditional fires. of the native fires weeds are a big one So those issues - pigs, those sorts of things. there's also feral cats, themselves, And the fact that rangers activities tend to be constrained in their bureaucratic processes because of health and safety and complying with occupational and all the things like that kind of hedge in the activities of rangers to some degree. So they're doing a great job - they're good people both the traditional owners and the white rangers- many of them who have been there for many years but it's a Goliath and David situation. They are fighting a losing battle in many ways. Although I should say quickly that the rangers have had a couple of good successes with a shocking weed, I think it's from South America, called mimosa pigra a big shrubby, woody weed with spikes - and also I think the only animal to be totally irradiated from any given landscape was done in Kakadu and it was an ant. A big-headed ant from Africa which was in the town of Jabiriu and within some of the other communities within the park and that's been totally eradicated. So there are some good stories but overshadowing that - the fight is almost unwinable over time. Mike you are a paleontologist, in fact you were my supervisor all those years ago, back in the Pleistocene, I think it was. And I am sorry and I wanna apologise now... can apologise to the whole of Australia if you wish. But one thing that has developed in paleontology particularly over the last 20 odd years or so is an appreciation of extinction. Of extinction as a positive force in the evolutionary history of the planet earth. So, do you have mixed feelings about the extinction that you're watching? Oh gosh, do I have mixed feelings about it? As a paleontologist as you say, we both watched and wallowed in all the wonderful creatures that have come and gone in the history of Australia and the rest of the world. And that's fine of course, as long as the one that go are replaced by other ones that fill in the gaps. So, bio-diversity maintains a kind of even stability. The problem that we're seeing now is that is exactly what's not happening. We've had an ethic in Australia for too long about preservation,

somehow we imagine the world is going to stay the way we found it. And somehow it's our job as faunal managers, as biologists, to figure out, what is it that we've got to do, to keep things exactly the way they are.

And this is absurd, this is a kind of three dimensional approach to conservation, and it's not conservation it's preservation. So I think what we're saying is, that understanding that extinction is a natural part of the process. Without it, animals and plants that are not particularly well adapted to a changing world, would just stay there and the whole thing would collapse. You've got to get the ones that are not fit to basically more over and let evolution replace them with ones that are fit. But the trick is, how do you maintain eco-systems in a way that ensures that real conservation, ie: replacement of extinction with new species, can occur. And yes, we're paleontologists and I've often been told, 'get back to you're bones and stop worrying about conservation, you're on that side of the fence - all those things that are dead.' But actually they've got messages for us, they tell us, in may ways, what's required to secure the things in the future. And I find more and more, we're using the fossil record, not just to produce horrors and weird toothy things that scare the life out of kids, but what is it we need to learn form this, to make sure that we're conserving the fauna into the future. I've gone into, a bit like one of my other PHD students, Tim Flannery, I've gone into a depressed period where I think this is not working, and like Greg is saying,

we're loosing things at a furious rate, we've lost 18 mammals in the last 200 years. But there are ways to turn this around, and as paleontologists we're saying, how much land do we need to have in conservation capable form, before we can say we've put this system together in a way that evolution will replace the things that we've lost. And this is, I think, why were are all here. Looking for these innovative strategies that will do what conventional preservation type activities have so far failed to do. What else can we do, that will augment the very valuable, important current strategies and give our biota and us and our kids a future? When it comes to novel strategies,

Keith, you've spent the last 25 years in Africa, pioneering the idea that one great way to save an ecosystem, is to selectively shoot it. Can you tell us what you've been up to with elephants and lions, and how, while it might seem contradictory

to conserve species by allowing them to be shot, how that's worked out? The interesting thing, I'd love to admit I started it, but I didn't, it was started in 1975 by Zimbabwe, under a thing called the Windfall Program, which was run by a chap I know, Rowan Martin, and a professor called Marshall Murphree. who came up with a way of looking at wildlife, to protect it outside national parks. Now what we're talking about is in the communal areas of Africa, and we look at this, and we say most of the ranges of large mammals is outside national parks. Mammals don't stop at the borders of national parks. So they're ranging outside the borders, and if we take elephants, which is what most studies have been about, elephant's have a range that's 60% outside of national parks and the group I actually studied longest was in Namibia, and their range was 97% outside of national parks. So they're living inside the communal areas. This is where people live. Now if we want these animals to live on and prosper, as it were, and therefore we can have these community based natural resource management programs, which is what they've been modernly termed. What do we need to support these animals? And it's not just the - we pick up what they called the charismatic species, we talk about lions, and we talk about elephants, and we talk about giraffes, because you know them and you can readily associate with them, their history is well documented, in just about every national park program you'll get lions, elephants, and giraffe, just as an example. You may not get hyena's,

and you may not get the small mammals associated with that, but you get So if we're looking at the charismatic megafauna, how best to preserve this outside of a national park? OK, inside a national park it's a completely different argument, it's not for what this debate is about, but outside of a national park we talk about sustainable use. So, if you're looking at somewhere like Northwest Namibia, when I started in Northwest Namibia, which is 1997, that seems a long time ago now,

there was only about 423 elephants outside of Itosha, in Northwest Namibia. Myself, working with a number of other NGOs, it wasn't just me, but we've now got a population of over 850 elephants in northwest Namibia. Populations of elephants are very interesting. If you read the national media, and listen to conservation programs, you'd believe that elephants are in danger, there are 625,000 elephants in Africa. They do not suit the biological criteria of an endangered, threatened, nor even vulnerable species. Thing is, they're what we call a flagship species, so everybody can associate elephants with conservation, so when you talk about how best to conserve these animals outside their protected areas, outside of their national parks, we talk about a thing called, community-based natural resource management program. Which gives the right of management back to the local communities. And it works. And how it works, is you put a price on that animal. Shoot an elephant in Africa, in most areas,

will cost you US$50,000 through a professional hunting organisation.

The quotas are set by government. So there's never been a decline in a wildlife species, when you have managed professional hunting, which is quotas set by government, undertaken by professional hunters. If we talk about a thing I like to call citizen hunting, where the local people start to shoot the animals, then you can talk population declines

because people are unregulated. If they don't want an animal in an area they will shoot it out, trust me. It will cease to exist. I've seen it in three different areas, where if people don't want animals in the area, they will shoot it out. So what happens, now we have to come up with, as conservationists, is how best to maintain the species in that area, and how best to benefit the local communities who live close association with it. And while I would not like to get into the the morals of the debate of wether it's better to shoot an elephant or not, $50,000 is an incredible amount of money to an African community. From that the government takes $10,000, the local community takes $10,000 and the hunter takes the rest. But that money goes directly to the local community. And you've got, associated with that, less cost than you do with something like photographic safaris, in terms of environmental cost. If you look at an area of land, say we set aside 100,000kms of area, just a big area of land, how much does it cost to manage that land? If you had community based safaris, and professional hunting, normally you have one operator, who uses six sets of skinners, he has a facility, and he has very few other things and he doesn't want anybody else in the area, because he's hunting. So you have a very low environmental impact on the land. If you have a photographic safaris, what you have is up to 50 people in the same area, to earn the same amount of money, and then you have to support them, so you have large lodges, you have lots of people employed, you do, but then you have accumulated waste from those people. And what do you do in a photographic safari? You want to go and see the land, to see the wildlife. So you're touring around that land constantly, looking and disturbing wildlife. So if you're talking about what is beneficial for the animals, and for the land, then hunting is. Simply because of less environmental impact on the land itself, and it returns a large revenue resource. We're not talking endangered - we are talking threatened, but we're not talking endangered species,

they're locally abundant in these areas. So it makes very good sense, plus it keeps the local community from shooting the animals. And isn't it the case, Keith, that because of this there is now more of Africa's wildlife in these game reserves, than there is in all the national parks put together? That is correct. And because the animals ranges are so large, the number of animals you can support on any piece of land, is directly proportional to the area available. So if you only have 100,000 hectares of land, because of the biomass available for the animals to eat, you can only support that number of animals. If you increase that to half a million hectares, then you can increase, proportionately, the number of animals to that area of land. It's a direct, liner, relationship. I actually want to tease that out as a model for conservation later, because I'd like to introduce Rosie, you completed this report on keeping native animals as pets as another strategy to preserve some species that are going extinct. Tell me a bit about this report. What did you actually find? Is it a viable option? Well, the report was a feasibility study, carried out with a number of co-authors, including Rosalie Chappell, who's here in the audience, and we were basically asked by the Royal Industries R&D corp, in Australia, to ask whether it was feasible to set up an industry, based on the keeping of native mammals as pets, in a way that would actually enhance conservation objectives. And it's not a simple answer, and very much the devil's in the detail. It depends what species you're talking about and, very much, how it's done. But we found that certainly there are some species which are very well suited for keeping as pets. For instance, a quoll, Mike Archer has had long experiences of keeping native animals, and has kept quolls and has written about it extensively. We found quolls, with some caveats, would be very suitable for, at least experienced keepers to keep in their yards. And we asked the question, 'why is it that we're keeping these exotic, introduced, dangerous predators, dogs and cats, as pets, which readily go feral and pose serious threats to native wildlife, when we could be keeping our own indigenous wildlife?' So, we looked at a range of potential negative consequences, and there are potential problems, depending how it's done, but we also looked at a range of potential conservation benefits, and there's a number of them, but one of the ones that I think is potentially the most important, is really reconnecting people with wildlife. There are about 100 native mammals on our current federal endangered species list, can anybody in the room name more than say, two or three of them? Apart from you. OK, that's one, out of this whole audience. We don't know our native mammals. You know, our children grow up learning about giraffes, and lions, and rhinos and hippos and dogs and cats and pigs,

but they don't learn about bilbies and potoroos and gliders and cuscuses and all sorts of our Australian native mammals. So, I think there are two visions of conservation competing at the moment.

And one is what I see as a very urban vision, in which we all sit here in our urban environment, and nature is out there behind fences, and it's protected and it's OK because we don't touch it, and the other is not really a new, but a more traditional vision of conservation, where we're out there, we're in the landscape, using the wildlife, and through that we're learning about it, and we're respecting it, and we value it because we use it.

I've worked primarily on wildlife trade primarily based in the UK for international conservation organisations like WWF and IUCN, and all around the world there are successful conservation projects based on people using wildlife and through using wildlife they value it in certain circumstances.

Now, talking about use is very complex because using wildlife can also be what drives wildlife to extinction. So, think of the dodo or the passenger pigeon, or the Steller sea cow or all sorts of animals that were very valuable,

and they were used - southern bluefin tuna - you know, but were driven to very low levels or made completely extinct. But in other situations, like the elephants, people are using wildlife, and through that, conserving them. So it's not a straightforward equation and this is why I think the debate is so complex. Because use can drive conservation in certain circumstances. In other circumstances it can lead to extinction. When you start talking about use people think of all those bad examples, and say, 'That's an absolutely shocking, terrible idea. We shouldn't commodify wildlife, we need to leave it out safe in the bush where it's safe.' And there's two problems with that. One is that wildlife is not safe in the bush anymore, and the other is that you do have these situations, and there are many of them around the world now, where use has really driven very positive wildlife success and regeneration stories. When you mentioned putting a value on wildlife, a stat that blew me away when I found out only earlier this year is back in the days of whaling, in modern terms, each sperm whale was worth $10 million. Wow. That's how much you could actually gain out of killing a sperm whale - it was just this limp of blubber sitting there waiting to be harpooned, it was easy stuff. So when you talk about putting a value on wildlife there's a whole debate there, but something that I'm curious about with the idea of keeping native pets, you mentioned that there's 100 endangered mammals, or vertebrates, in Australia - Sorry, threatened, not strictly endangered. Threatened. OK. Most of those are rats and mice, Like, a quarter of Australia's native species are rodents, another quarter are bats, and they don't actually seem to be that appealing

to be kept as pets, by me. Is that a problem with this approach? I want your PhD back, mate. I worked on crocodiles, remember,

they're unprocessed crocodile shit as far as I'm concerned. (Laughter) Edit! But just the principle of, the idea of keeping pets or saving species by keeping them as pets, works when the animal is charismatic and suitable to be a pet,

but there's surely a lot of species out there that aren't. from your own preferences, to other people. There's a big native reptile pet-keepers' world out there. I don't see any particular appeal of keeping reptiles, but a lot of people would take a great deal of issue with the idea that they were uncharismatic species.

But more broadly, no, it's not the answer to everything. It's not a silver bullet, it's not what's gonna save conservation. But it could be a good idea and it could help. And it's not something that would cost a lot of government money. We're talking about a regulated private industry, so the money which would be coming in

to fund captive breeding of these animals, in well-regulated conservation-focused institutions would be private money - that's what we need - conservation desperately needs private money, you know, government budgets for conservation are being cut all over the country. We're not putting more money into this, as our lists of threatened species grow, as they do virtually every year, we're putting less and less money in. So we need new ways not to displace the current ways, but to augment them. You know, the idea of sustainable use or keeping pets - this is not any kind of criticism of protected areas, you know, they're really important. But it's saying, 'What else can we do? How can we bring more power and force to conservation? How can we enlist the enormous resources of the public and the private sector, in a way which isn't just spreading more dogs and cats around the country but actually potentially setting up reservoir populations of some of the species that could really need it in the future. What Rosie says is so vital because what all of us are trying to push here are all compatible strategies.

There isn't, as you say, one silver bullet here, there are probably an infinite number of bullets - a terrible analogy, actually! Silver hands. There's many different strategies that have been demonstrated to have conservation value all over the world - we need to be smart, look at all of those - the ones that work, the ones that don't, and I think, and the big challenge is to figure out how can we trial some of these here given the bureaucratic constraints that we often have that don't enable us to even attempt to do these things, such as keeping native animals as pets. This is so severely regulated at the moment that it's only a few people like myself, who have actually had these experiences, who know how wonderful they can be, and how effective native animals as pets can be as emissaries to engage the next generation of Australians in valuing and wanting to make sure that our biode is conserved, they have to make contact with these things. But we are in a situation at the moment, apart from Rosie and Rosalie's wonderful study, which at lest says we should think about trialing these things. There aren't too many opportunities to explore this other than - I would imagine individuals are even doing it illegally - you can be thrown in jail for keeping sugar gliders in some areas of Australia, and yet in the US, we know one breeder - I put a student on to exploring the experience of people keeping sugar gliders in the US - our animals. And they found one breeder that's selling 20,000 sugar gliders a year to Americans - they call them 'pocket pets' - and overwhelmingly the experience of people who have them is that they're wonderful companions. And we can't do this yet. We do need to pay attention to what Rosalie's found in that study and somehow that's gotta translate to governments giving us an opportunity to trial these things here.

I was shocked to find that regulation's gone far now, that that thing that all kids did at my age, of collecting a few tadpoles out of the local creek and watching them metamorphose into frogs, you're not allowed to do that anymore. That is against the law. Is that actually true? That's what I was told when I tried to do it a couple of years ago as a demonstration. There is FATS, the Frog and Tadpole Society. I think they have some kind of, maybe, permits but you have go through a lot of rigmarole to get this. Keeping a couple of blue-tongue lizards for a couple of weeks, to observe them, that now is a no-no. Mm. But Rosie, you touched on, you can't see why anybody would want to keep reptiles. Greg, that's exactly what you do. (Laughter) I gather that one of the problems with reptiles, in particular, and people keeping them,

is hybridising them - people mixing species up left, right and centre.

I think there's one quote from you was that one breeder seemed intent on trying to produce a python that looks like a barber's pole. How big a problem is hybridisation? Well, this is quite an interesting element, and I should say that I don't breed barbers' poles. I breed pig-nosed turtles, which are pretty special in their own right. Bum breathers. That's true. Hm, they're not famous for that. Other turtles are.

And one of the reasons I'm doing this is because having lived and worked in Kakadu for 30-odd years, and raising a family there, we were able to keep almost any native animal we chose which lived in the Kakadu environment,

so my children had enormous experience with all sorts of wonderful animals, and I guess that's why I'm here, because it seems unfair almost that, you know, rangers are allowed to have the joy

of having phascogales and black-footed tree rats - rodents - which are fantastic animals, but none of you can.

What a shame. You're missing out on something fantastic. But they could have mice, which is ridiculous, an introduced rodent, but not the more wonderful Australian rodents. But as for barber poles, it is true that, there are a whole lot of reptile people

who try to breed a lot of wonderful, bizarre colours and shapes, in pythons in particular, they're called morphs. But very often these same keepers will also have their pure strains, in the same collection, but guaranteed. So what happens in some cases, is they breed these incredibly looking things,

and they are quite stunning, some of the reds, and brilliant yellows and golds. They can sell those for quite large sums of money, and that money is turned back to help maintain their collection. Which in turn helps their collection of pure-strain olive pythons, or water pythons or whatever it might be. They don't necessarily interchange, you can have this parallel mind set, and really the morphing system, and hybridising -

although not much hybridising happens, it's morphing within a species generally, is a parallel issue, and it's really not that significant in the overall scheme of things.

It's interesting you say they produce a variety of colours and shapes. I can understand a variety of colours in pythons, but surely they're all the one shape? Yeah, pretty much. Head at one end - That wasn't a very well chosen word.

But, I will say you can get scaleless death adders now. Really? I know you want one. No, actually that's probably very low on my list of priorities. What's the point of breeding a scaleless death adder? Well, you'd have to see one to understand. Personally I don't understand it either, I love death adders, I think they're fantastic...pets?

I don't know if you'd call a death adder a pet, but - You wouldn't want to stroke it. When you see a scaleless one, they look like a gecko without legs, they're really odd.

You can interchange, experimentally, scales and feathers in chickens, suppose you could get feathers on the death adder? Let's not go there. (laughter) Mike, you're famous for actually having had pet quoll, what's it like? It was a while ago, but it is so much a core part of me.

it was an accidental experience,

I studied carnivorous marsupials for my PHD when I was in WA,

and somebody knew I had an interest in this and a person asked me, because they has a colony of these associated with a hospital,

would I like to raise a western quoll? And I'm actually studying their skulls,

I'm studying the teeth of all these carnivorous marsupials, but never actually held a live one before. and suddenly, in my hands was this beautiful thing, about the size of a kitten, covered in white spots, and just looking at me like, 'what kind of a quoll are you?' I spent the next twelve months, falling in love with this animal,

it was cleaner than any cat you've ever imagined, obsessively using the kitty litter box, playful throughout its life, I had it for five years, until it bit a cane toad in Brisbane, an introduced cane toad, and died in twenty minutes, in my arm, in tetanic contractions. I was destroyed for weeks after that. But in that period of time, several things happened, one, this mutual love affair, this real bond, as strong as anything you get with a dog or cat, probably even stronger than with the average kid, I would say - (laughter) It was really powerful. But what came along at the same time, was an understanding, about what was considered to be a mysterious, poorly known, endangered Australian animal, in Western Australia, that nobody knew anything about. And I'm living with this animal, and finding out things that I cannot discuss on the ABC, Go on! I'd love to, but I don't think I'd better. Suffice it to say, these are animals of mystery, with extraordinary aspects to their life, that we had no idea about. and I think the reptile keepers have made the same point, Allen Greer said this some time ago, that something like a third of our knowledge of the biology of Australian reptiles, comes from people who have kept them as pets. Things we hadn't learnt, in all the time people had spent in the bush, trying to study them. That knowledge, which was important for conservation, was coming through people who kept these animals as pets. This is another reason why we need this program to expand.

It's interesting you talk about the experience of having studied the fossils of these guys, then meeting a real one in the flesh, how it changed your perceptions. What would it have done for you with a crocodile? Well I spent years studying the fossil crocodiles, my first introduction to a real one was when - On Catalyst, when I had to sit on a 4.5 metre crocodile for half an hour while someone attached a satellite transmitter. It was a different experience, it was moments like that, you find out that adrenaline is brown. (laughter) Keith, moving the conversation along,

did the experience you had of wildlife management in South Africa, or southern Africa, translate that to Australia, is that possible? No. Why not? Because what we do here is, there are no commercial - I mean I'll change that, you know how we cull Kangaroos, but individually they're a very small price per individual. Most of the hunting done in this country is done on ferals. So we're hunting goats, pigs, foxes and rabbits, that's what most of the hunters are doing. So the experience of Africa is not really translatable, where we have a high priced game, that you can actually hunt. So it comes back to what you are saying, we need different scenarios. It's interesting - just as an aside, if we go back to the species, you're gonna love this, that aren't really as sociable, is crocodiles. In 1973 in Africa, in southern Africa, crocodilus niloticus, the southern african crocodile, was hunted to the point of extinction. There was very few of them then. A bloke by the name of John Hutton, in Zimbabwe, what he did is, he looked at it and said, 'Why don't we take the eggs from the remaining nests in the field, rear them in the captive situation, release 2% a year at two years of age back into the wild.' And then the rest we can keep in the croc farms, and harvest the product thereof. That's why they went extinct, was the fact people were harvesting them in the wild, and not leaving enough for regeneration. So John came up with this idea, they implemented it, and now crocodiles are more plentiful in Southern Africa than they are anywhere else in the world. They're a very plentiful animal. And we are again harvesting, and a law is still in place where you must release 2% of the animals at two years of age. Isn't that applicable to Australia? Yes. Absolutely, sorry, yes. The Northern Territory have applied for the right to allow safari hunting of crocodiles to the Federal Government, because this species, the import and export to and from the country,

is governed by the Federal Government. The Federal Minister of the Environment said no, to the Northern Territory's proposal, despite an overwhelming amount of evidence to say this should happen. One of the benefits for doing it, of course, was to provide employment opportunities and income for Aboriginal people, who, in many cases, around the north coast of Australia have very little opportunity to derive any financial benefit from their land unless they happen to have a uranium mine or something like that which is not everywhere. So crocodiles was one opportunity to develop a viable safari industry. And all the indicators said, 'Yes, this is a good thing to do for a whole range of reasons, not the least of which, of course, being that crocodiles are so numerous in the Northern Territory, more than 70,000. Similar story to yours in Africa. That they're killing livestock all around the place. And they're killing and attacking men, women and children. And still the Federal Government said, 'No, we will not allow any trophy crocodiles to leave this country,' and that was the end of it. And it's an extraordinary case because these are animals that are shot as problem animals, there's an off-take of live animals that can be taken from the wild under a legal quota. There's about 70,000 and the quote that the Northern Territory has now asked for several times is about 25. So 25 animals out of a population of over 70,000, you know, it's biologically completely meaningless so the objection of the Federal Government was based purely on, I think, it appears, no reason has ever been given for their rejection of the idea but it seems to be based purely

on the fact that they're concerned about annoying kind of quite vocal animal-rights based opposition groups who are very, very effective at jumping up and down and kind of agitating public opinion

on what should be a kind of carefully reasoned science-based decision. Greg, your experiences up at Kakadu. You're saying that it could work with the crocs if the permission was there. Are there other species that could be managed the same way? Crocodiles, oddly, because they're so common, are not really in need of direct conservation intervention. My thinking is that we have a whole range of threatened species which make good pets. They're charming, charismatic animals

which are disappearing. So there's a whole range of threatened species

which the government has taken the view and this is - all the State governments are saying

that because it's rare, we'd better lock it up and watch it become extinct. You know, this seems to be the way governments work. I don't know why it is. I really can't get my head around it. Why the government agencies, which are responsible for the protection of our fauna, actually oversee its extinction, in many cases. And Kakadu is a classic example. But two things I didn't mention in the earlier preamble was cane toads which, of course, is an immense problem in north Australia, not just in Kakadu an also the problem of African grasses and things like this are not only within Kakadu, but they're right across the Top End. But cane toads, in particular, are like this tidal wave of death moving from Queensland across north Australia towards Western Australia. They're now in the Kimberley which was one of the most fantastic paradises for Australian wildlife that you could get on the Australian continent. And as the cane toad front swarms through the Kimberley, it's killing native animals in their thousands as we speak. Goannas, snakes, marsupials, particularly carnivorous marsupials, of course, a range of bird species, all sorts of creatures are just falling over dead in their tens of thousands. And yet, if you were to go into the Kimberley

and collect a pair of Merterns' water monitors to captive breed to try and save the Kimberley species you'd be arrested for doing it. And yet they're dying in their thousands. Where's the sense in that? OK. We've just about time for questions. But before we do - a question, again, for Keith and Greg in particular is the rise of the private wildlife sanctuaries as opposed to public and government-owned parks and reserves. Does that actually make conservation sense when there are privately funded groups out there trying to conserve areas? Is that a sensible strategy? Yes. Theoretically yes. In the African situation,

and, yes, they fulfil a short-term goal. But primarily in Africa, if you go to a game park, they're interested in showing you the Big Five - as a tourist. They're set up as tourism lodges. So they're interested in the Big Five which is rhino, elephant, lion, hippo and buffalo or leopard and buffalo, depending on where you are. So that's what you want to see if you go to a game park in Africa. So that's what the management strategies are all about, the Big Five. And if you wanted to see hyena, forget it, in some areas, because - and predators, because they eat the species that most people want to see. So you keep them in balance. And the management strategies are about the Big Five. So short-term, yes.

Overall we have to address the national parks issues and national parks are for biodiversity whereas private game reserves tend not to be for biodiversity, they tend to be for selected species that tourists want to see. Having said that, yes, there is a role for them. Personally, I'd much rather go to a national park and see national parks jacked up to the point where they can protect our native species. But there is a role for them because they can offer that to the tourism market and that's what the tourist wants to see. They don't want to spend five days trekking through a wilderness and not see the Big Five. They want to see it in an afternoon so they can get on a jet the next morning and jet out to the next park.

In the Australian context you have a situation where private wildlife parks and enthusiastic amateurs can play an immensely important role in maintaining what are sometimes called insurance collections of animals which are at risk in the wild. And the very good example of this is happening here in NSW - the Australian Reptile Park. A guy called John Weigel, who's been there many years was able to get approval from Western Australia to collect some rough-scaled pythons from the Kimberley, this area I was mentioning earlier, a species which may well be vulnerable to the cane toad when it gets there. And after five years of lobbying he was finally allowed to take ten rough-scaled pythons, which is the second-rarest or one of the two rarest python species in Australia, from the Kimberleys to Gosford where he's been able to breed them so successfully and then sell them into the amateur market to the point now where they're only worth $1,000 - they're about $1,600 each - I think somebody could probably tell me. There are about 1,000 young snakes on the market in Australia today

as a result of his breedings. Meanwhile, back in the Kimberleys, we've no idea what's going to happen to that snake but there is this insurance collection still existing and still available for reintroductions if ever the time came when cane toads could be controlled. On the other hand, in Kakadu, which is a conservation reserve, as you know - the other very rare python is called the Oenpelli python. It was only discovered in the 1970s. It's Australia's second-largest snake. It's a magnificent thing, a gentle giant around 4 metres long and quiet. It seems to be becoming very rare in Kakadu. There's only one specimen in captivity in Australia

in the Northern Territory Wildlife Park, a government-run agency. There's a desperate need to get Oenpelli pythons out of Kakadu. As I said earlier, there are animals just falling off their limbs, falling off their perches, all around Kakadu. Birds, mammals, reptiles - you name it. The Oenpelli python would appear to be at risk of extinction. Certainly the Northern Territory Government has listed it as a vulnerable species and yet expert an python breeder and academic in Darwin who has an excellent record in doing this sort of thing has been trying, unsuccessfully, for eight years to get Oenpelli pythons out of Kakadu to breed in a similar manner to the rough-scaled python but no matter what he does or how he tries, including releasing young animals back into the place where the originals come from and also paying a substantial up front money to the traditional owners of the land plus a very significant royalty for each young one sold, the government, the bureaucrats in the park, will still put every kind of obstacle before him to prevent this from happening. It would appear that they would much rather see this animal go extinct than to allow it to get out into private hands

and persist and be, at some time in the future, available for reintroductions if it does become extinct in the wild. And I just can't get my head around that. There was one point I wanted to make. We haven't touched on one big area here and it's really more in the direction Keith's been talking about - the conservation values of sustainable harvest within the African environment. While those game reserves may be focused on the Big Five, inevitably, if you went through with a microscope, you're going to find thousands of species that are surviving because those areas are working and valued to produce these target species. And in Australia we have a kangaroo industry here which has been going for nearly 40 years sustainably without any impact on kangaroo numbers. Their numbers fluctuate because of climatic changes and droughts and so on, not because of the harvesting industry. And the magic here that can happen is if to whatever extent -

and Rosie has actually developed models for how this could work - to whatever extent the graziers out there

could turn from thinking about kangaroos as pests

to a sustainably harvestable resource that they can get some value out of they will stop feeling any incentive to clear native vegetation because they don't value it, they don't get anything out of it, it's not producing cattle and sheep for them - if they can get some value out of sustainable harvest of kangaroos they're going to be desperately anxious

to maintain the native vegetation and all these other endangered species, the other hundred species we're concerned about, are going to get a chance, even though they're not charismatic, to go back to your original point. You can get the ugliest spider in the world - it's going to luck out because somebody wants to have a kangaroo steak. And I think that's really important, that sustainable harvest can actually be a huge leg-up in Australia

to augmenting conservation for a whole range of species most people don't even know are out there. Alright. Let's open this up to questions from the floor. My question is to all the panellists. You've talked a lot about different things that have worked in other places and you've talked a bit about bureaucratic lethargy that you encounter here. To go just from an inspiring talk to something that actually happens in the real world -

what type of things would you have to do to make sure that these things enable the average person maybe watching at home or in the audience now to be able to have a quoll at home?

Because you brought up a number of issues that have stopped that from happening previously. Anyone? Well, the easiest thing to do is move to the Northern Territory or South Australia where any animal can be kept by anybody with the right specialised knowledge.

In the Northern Territory there are no knowledge requirements. In South Australia you may need to have kept certain other species first. But if that doesn't suit you it gets more complicated. To add to that, there is a book by Steve...what's his surname?

On the husbandry of Australian mammals.

Jackson, sorry. Steve Jackson. What a wonderful man. One of the reasons he wrote that book was to frankly demonstrate to the people who said

we don't know enough about native animals to justify being able to keep them because they'll all drop dead when we're trying to look after them. And he published a book about husbandry of native animals. There's a huge amount of information out there growing every single day. So all we want, I think all those of us who are interested in seeing these kinds of strategies begin to expand is the opportunity to conduct trials. We don't want to see legislation suddenly changed where everybody can have anything they want. That would be crazy and it would go back to situations that could quite likely lead to extinction of species. We want managed trials where you would have a breeding facility that was approved and sanctioned and managed by government, monitored, and that from those breeding sanctuaries you could get individuals. That would not be cheap. People are ready to pay $1,000 for a fancy puppy with a weird-looking distorted face or whatever. Why can't you do the same thing with a marsupial? And then monitor how it goes. I think trials will get us through a lot of these what-if kind of precautionary reasons that people don't want to go down these paths. They think what if we get a fatal disease from some marsupial. What fatal disease?! We give them fatal diseases, cats give them fatal diseases. Trials will get us over a lot of that problem and I think the answer to your question is we just want to be able to run some carefully managed community projects or trials - just demonstrate whether it does or it doesn't work. There's a sense of urgency with this, as well, because if you look at North Australia in particular and even Central Australia, where buffel grass is causing so much environmental damage. Cane toads alone are causing such a shift in the species composition densities across north Australia that the various State governments involved can barely change the classifications of species fast enough to keep up with the rising list of threatened species. So we need to do something soon, not later. And I heard that

when the cane toad arrived in the Northern Territory the first thing that the government did

was take it off the pest species list. Because if it remained there there is an obligation for farmers to do something about it. And it was just such an insurmountable problem that the best thing to do was say, well, it's not a pest. That's a problem we have with these introduced grasses, these African grasses as well, is that nobody wants to list them as an exotic species because it's too hard to do anything about it. But - That's the great Australian solution, isn't it?

Reclassify the problem. When the cane toad first arrived in Kakadu, really the only response that the park would have to that was to monitor the effect. So we've been monitoring the decline of animals - native animals, ever since, but it hasn't helped much. We have another question from the floor. Now, I want to ask you this question -

you have been describing how to cure the symptoms, but you never actually addressed the cause. I believe the cause is - that too many of human people around the world. You're taking up your land masses. (Applause) What are you going to do about it? I mean - are you going to culled us?

I might use the famous edit at this point, but, until they allow us to cull people, then we have a situation where we can actually look at the management of animals in conjunction with living with people. I think that's the problem with population though, everybody thinks it's a good idea not to have so many people, but how do you do it? Who's going to put their hand up and say - they won't have any children? OK, OK, well actually, maybe we've solved the problem. But you know, a lot of the interventions to try to stop population have been really coercive, and, you know, really infringing on human rights. So how to actually do that is complicated. Of course one of the best ways is to educate and empower women. That seems to have more effect than any other intervention, because women in most countries most of the time don't actually want to have a lot of kids, and if they've got control of their own fertility, they won't. I would like to think that this group here actually advocating some solutions. They're only small, but they contribute - Are you talking about keeping people as pets? No, I'm talking about conservation, nature conservation in Australia in particular. We're putting forward ideas and concepts which have never been given much airplay before. So we're here to suggest that there are some other methods that you can use, in addition to traditional methods to save animals. We are trying to develop some solutions here, and there was a very successful program called Property-based Wildlife Management in Tasmania that ran for 14 years. It was developed on private land over 1.5 million hectares and 500 properties.

It managed abundant species and exotic and native species and it was closed down on the whim of the bureaucrats. And there's a common theme here, however - the main ingredient that made it work, was people management. Wildlife management is primarily about people management, and how successful we are about managing people is really reflecting on how well are on managing wildlife. So how can the panel suggest that we can implement Property-based Wildlife Management over a greater area, and how can we educate the bureaucrats to allow these trials that Mike's suggesting to occur? I think we're all struggling with that question ourselves and probably don't have any very clear answers for you. Public support has got to be there.

Not many people in Australia

have even heard of what we're talking about here tonight.

Most people believe that we've got our national parks regime, even though it only covers 11% of the Australian land surface.

We have our national parks, animals are safe there, so what's the problem? How many people actually know that animals are no longer safe in the bush, including in our national parks - well, many of them aren't. And it's getting worse, because right through this nation there are environmental issues which are so intractable, so expensive, that it's just unwinnable. And I'm trying not to be a doomsday here, but - What I find is in - when I give public lectures on topics like this - you really want to stay out of the doomsday,

dark side of things and say, well - here are, we all know we've got problems, we've got challenges, but here's a range of potential solutions

we should be exploring. And I often get people come up afterwards, serious people, with very large properties - one guy, actually, was a cotton farmer and he was refusing to plant cotton on his other properties 'cause he knew what damage this was doing to the land, and he said - I need an opportunity to do something fundamentally different, what can I do? And this is very frustrating for us, who know the kinds of things that should be done, and yet you can't put them down this path, because at the moment they're either not legal, or they're, you know - there's all sorts of challenges here, but there are many Australians, which absolutely delights me - many Australians on the land who know they should be doing and could be doing and would like to be doing something profoundly different with the land that they've got. So I think there's a sense of willingness to go down this path, and Rosie, I know, has been exploring theoretical ways of doing this, and I know George Wilson, for example,

is experimenting with issues like this in Queensland with some combined properties of how they could share resources. So there are quiet experiments going on out there. And we think about the whale story, about the $10-million whale - that knocked me out, Paul. But it's interesting, we have plants in Australia, like Boronia - in south-western Western Australia, where they were in terrible trouble. Destroying land inadvertently, following all the recommendations from CSIRO about how you should manage agricultural land, and unfortunately they weren't good bits of advice. Um, suddenly discovered they had Boronia on their property - that lovely smelling flower that you could smell in the corner of - in Spring when people are selling flowers. And a couple of guys around the south-west wondered what is causing that beautiful smell? And they did some kitchen chemistry and found out there's an oil in the Boronia flower which is like ambergris, the kind of stuff that they used to get out of whales. It binds scent. And just with this simple little experiment of a native species they are now getting $10,000 a litre for Boronia oil harvested on their properties, and they're not raising sheep on those properties any more and the land is restoring itself. So all across Australia - that's what Bob Beale and I put in the book, Going Native, there are experiments that are going on. It's just they're not coordinated nationally. They're what individual, extremely bright, motivated Australians who are sick of seeing the land degrading are doing on their own. So it is happening, it's just not happening as part of a national agenda. Panelists from the UNSW Hot Seat event - They shoot lions don't they? With new RI Aus Director, Paul Willis, wrangling the eco-scientists. That's all from Big Ideas for today, but for more showdowns between the sharpest thinkers around,

point your browser in the direction of our website at the address on your screen,

where you'll find the best panels, talks and lectures in the whole of the webasphere. And don't forget, there are new Big Ideas shows every weekend on ABC News 24 at 1pm, Saturdays and Sundays. I'm Waleed Aly. See you again. (Closed Captions by CSI)

This Program Is Captioned

Live. Asylum seekers or carbon

fax? The PM's support base gets

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Prime Minister who has

comprehensively failed to address the problems that she identified a year ago. Beware identified a identified a year ago. Beware

of low-flying ash. Now it's

Perth's turn to be hit by

Chile's big belcher. The people

of Christchurch try some retail therapy to get over the

tremors. You had some China to

replace? Yes, bits and pieces.

And another first for Facebook,

but not one that stands up in