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New tool to help wildlife

Article appeared in the Parks & Wildlife Service’s Volunteer Newsletter in September 2018.

Western Australian Seabird Rescue (WASR) have acquired a net
launcher, the MagNet, which has revolutionised their ability
to capture injured or distressed timid birds like Australasian
darters and cormorants.

Australasian darters are notorious for getting their beaks
entangled in fishing line, string and other fibrous materials. The tip
of the beak has fine serrations (teeth) that help them hold their
prey, but it also means they are often unable to free themselves of
any fibrous material. If the entanglement is tight the bird quickly
dies of thirst, if it’s looser they may slowly starve to death. Darters
can’t be lured with food so conventional methods such as leg
snares or hand-held nets are not usually successful.

The net launcher uses a small CO2 cylinder to propel a net up
to six metres away. Even timid species like darters and ravens
will generally tolerate a careful approach to within this distance
provided it is done slowly and calmly and without directly staring
at the bird. At the last moment the rescuer faces the bird and
launches the net.

In the past, WASR had only managed to rescue one or two darters
a year in the Perth area. However, in the three months since
obtaining the net they have rescued eight darters, two magpies,
a duck and a raven with an almost 100 per cent success rate for
attempted rescues.

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