Far South Coast bat plague better left alone

The following article appeared in the Merimbula News Weekly on May 6th 2016 by Melanie Leach.

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Alexandra Seddon, founder of Potoroo Palace Wildlife Sanctuary at Yellowpinch, gets up close and personal with a grey-headed flying fox.

Batemans Bay is going batty and residents are calling for the relocation of the 120,000-strong colony of grey-headed flying foxes that have settled in their town, but Alexandra Seddon of Potoroo Palace Wildlife Sanctuary says this will be of no use.

Around 15 years ago, Ms Seddon bought a property in Bald Hills in an attempt to be close to and protect the Pambula flying fox camp that covers about 14 hectares.

The area can quickly fill up with the small mammals as they fly up and down the east coast in search of food, mainly flowering eucalypts and rain forest fruits.

Throughout most of March and until around mid April around 100,000 flying foxes – about a quarter of the world’s flying fox population –  were living on and adjacent to Ms Seddon’s property.

While they have moved on for now, Ms Seddon said the only humane way to get rid of a flying fox colony is to simply wait for the animals to leave of their own accord.

“Asking me if I would support humans relocating flying foxes is asking me if I condone torture,” Ms Seddon said.

“Because our relocation methods really are torturing the poor things. We are saying they can’t be here but there is no where for them to go.”

Ms Seddon said the main ways the bats are relocated was through scaring them with smoke, noise, bright lights or spraying them with water.

“The problem is, once they are relocated, there is no way on knowing whether they will come back or not. They could be scaring and torturing the creatures and it may not work.

“It’s best to just leave them as the problems they cause for people are generally short-lived as they move on in every one to two months as they search of new sources of nectar and fruit.”

Aside from the large Batemans Bay colony, flying foxes are also very common in Pambula where there is a camp flying foxes have been frequenting for hundreds of years and more recently they have started roosting in Bega.

While some people claim the flying foxes are hard to live with, Ms Seddon said the animals are highly intelligent and essential to the Australian eco-system.

“It would cost billions of dollars to do the work they do with regards to seed dispersal and pollination of eucalyptus and rain forest species.”

Having loved grey-headed flying foxes for many years, Ms Seddon said she hopes people don’t take the bat problem into their own hands.

“It’s rare for them to stay in one place for a very long time, they are beautiful, intelligent creatures and it seems like they are better at living with humans than humans are living with them.”

Shadow Minister Visits Palace

penny SharpeYet another public figure was recently welcomed to Potoroo Place. This time staff were delighted to greet the Honourable Penny Sharpe, Member of the NSW Legislative Council and NSW Labour Shadow Minister for the Environment, Planning, and Heritage Departments.

Whilst dining in the park’s café; The Blue Wren, she simply couldn’t fail to enchant the staff who were fortunate enough to meet her, with her warm and friendly nature. She quickly became an easy friend.

Ms Sharpe is a strong proponent for the banning of plastic bags and has spoken out publicly about this in recent times, pushing for new policies to be introduced addressing this major concern, so it is not too surprising that she was captivated by the display outside the Blue Wren Café showing a tank full of water containing floating plastic, mimicking jellyfish. The fascinating and informative display highlights the dangers of plastic polluting our oceans and waterways and shows pictures of seabirds dying.

Ms Sharpe was also keen to discover more about how the alarming continuation of logging of the south east forests continues to impact on local koala populations. She was guided around the park by staff and enjoyed herself immensely. A highlight will surely have been when she was privileged to have a special encounter with our newest and youngest dingo resident “Wollemi”. Still only a juvenile, Wollemi delighted in bouncing and clambering all over a visitor who didn’t put up too much resistance to the lively onslaught.

After an enjoyable and rewarding time spent at Potoroo Palace she left a warm impression on staff and a parting comment in the visitors’ book “Thank you so much for doing what you do to educate, inform and protect our native wildlife. I hope I can help you do this into the future.” Penny Sharpe NSW Labour Shadow Minister for the Environment 3/2/2016


flossyThere is an astonishingly spectacular wildlife event happening on our very doorsteps – and it’s there for all to behold.

In late March this year approximately an incredible 80,000 grey headed flying-foxes were recorded camping at a very old, well established site in Pambula. Numbers were recorded by an experienced local resident who has been surveying and monitoring their fluctuating numbers for many years now. It was an extraordinary number as there are currently only 400,000 left of this species left worldwide.

The Pambula Camp came very close to destruction in 2001 when it almost became a new housing development but was saved by this same passionate local who recognized the value and significance of the site to native wildlife and was able to purchase most of the land the camp encompasses.

It is no coincidence that these heightened numbers correlate with the flowering of the bloodwood trees (corymbia gummifera) in this region. The Pambula Camp provides a sanctuary for the animals to rest during the day until they need to go searching for flowering gums and rainforest fruits – their preferred diet. Orchards will provide little interest when their true food supply Picture flying fox 008 (2)in the forests is plentiful. The introduced fruits from the northern hemisphere make a poor substitute but must suffice when there are hungry mouths in search of nourishment. It is well established that declining numbers are in part due to starvation brought on by our disappearing forests.

A local group of dedicated volunteers (always needing more), counts on the third Friday of every month at the Glebe in Bega, where there is another camp more recently established within the last 10 years. Although a newer campsite for the grey headed flying-fox, the camp can still get large numbers. The largest recording for this site was still only 30,000 back in 2012. Results contribute towards the government’s National Flying-fox Monitoring Program.

For more information or to take part in surveys, contact Lea Pinker at Potoroo Palace 6494 9053

Koalas find their Valentine at Potoroo Palace

This story was featured in the Merimbula News Weekly on February 11th 2016. Photo and article courtesy of Albert McKnight

Potoroo Palace was the site for an early Valentine’s Day romance, as the animal sanctuary is hoping that a pair of koalas will breed.

Recently, staff at the palace introduced long-time female resident Sapphire to newcomer Jimmy, and sparks began to fly.

When they first met the two began fighting and screaming leaving a lot of fur around their enclosure, but the palace’s animal welfare supervisor John Marsh said this was just part of their courtship.

Even before they came together Sapphire had eyes for Jimmy, as despite hating getting wet she would sit out in the rain to watch him in his pen.

On Wednesday, February 10, Mr Marsh said it was possible Sapphire was already pregnant, so if that was the case there could be a new baby koala at the palace by August or September.

Sapphire was born at Potoroo Palace, Yellow Pinch, five years ago.

Her mother was an 18-year-old called Susie and her father a rescue koala called Blinky – “don’t blame us for the name” –both who have since died.

When Sapphire was born a raffle was run with first prize being her naming rights and Mr Marsh said it was likely the palace would do the same thing when the new baby was born.

While she might treat Jimmy roughly, to humans she is curious and friendly – she liked to be picked up and held by staff.

Mr Marsh said staff do not hold Sapphire now as they are trying to wean her off such an action, but the cuddles started because the marsupial wanted to be reassured after her mother died –she liked to be held on the left side of a person’s body so she could feel their heartbeat.

Two-year-old Jimmy was found beside a road in the Monaro in a very weak condition and was taken to a vet in Cooma.

Mr Marsh said when a wild animal is rescued and rehabilitated it has to be known exactly where they were found for them to be released again.

As the motorists who found Jimmy dropped him at the vet and left, it was unknown where exactly he was found so he cannot be released and will stay at Potoroo Palace.

A major issue with breeding captive koalas is the lack of genetic diversity, Mr Marsh said.

Potoroo Palace was extremely excited, because Sapphire’s father was a wild animal as were both of Jimmy’s parents so that meant their offspring will be highly sought-after by other breeders.

He said it is hoped to swap the baby with a young female to continue breeding koalas.

“Once we put it out there that we’ve got these genetics, we’ll have people knocking on our door looking to swap koalas,” he said.

A koala’s gestation period is 36 days, then the jellybean-sized baby enters its mother’s pouch for six months before it emerges onto its mother’s back.

Celebrity Visits Palace

Cowsnest 40th Celebrations

Cowsnest Community Farm celebrates 40th anniversary of ‘common sense’ living


When Alexandra Seddon bought a farm in 1975, she ended up growing a community that for the last 40 years has farmed the land, built a wildlife sanctuary, and created art, crafts, and music.

“We were serious farmers from the beginning,” Ms Seddon said.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, a band played in the shed where the daily tasks are organised.

It is a typical old, corrugated iron farm shed, except it also features a stage and lighting rig in the corner for the parties and enough stoves and benches set up to feed large groups of residents and visiting farm workers.

Ms Seddon said when she and her then husband moved to the farm in the New South Wales Bega Valley in 1975 there was only one house but “right from the outset people used to come and stay”.

This was the Age of Aquarius, famously celebrated at Nimbin in northern NSW, with the emergence of alternative communities establishing communes.

With her brother Peter also involved, Cowsnest was to be a serious agricultural enterprise.

“There were people sleeping on the veranda, in the tents, in cars — it was a community right from the start, and it just grew,” she said.

It was at school that Ms Seddon first heard about Israeli kibbutzim.

“I thought, wow, that’s physical labour during the day,” she said.

“And in the evening it’s music and dance and painting, it’s a community. And I never lost that idea that that would be the ideal way to be.

“I always felt really excited about community, conservation and education and so we went along those lines.

“And I liked the idea that people who didn’t have any money could come and offer their labour in return for food and lodging.”

Some people came and went and some stayed, and in the mid-1980s Ms Seddon established a company so long-term residents could become shareholders.

“You could become a shareholder after two years if all the other residents were happy to have them,” Ms Seddon said.

“And people would give up their share when they left.”

After school in Melbourne, marriage, and living and working in the UK and Papua New Guinea, the move to Cowsnest became a time for Ms Seddon to pursue her dreams.

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VIDEO: Craig Cameron working on a ‘fridge door canvas’ at Cowsnest Community Farm (ABC News)

She had taught creative writing and drama in PNG and developed her crafts and visual arts talents.

The creative community, which was attracted to Cowsnest, began offering regular arts and crafts open days.

With Candelo being the closest town, the group also formed the Candelo Arts Society, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and which has been a significant contributor to cultural development in the region.

That first flush of community in the 1970s was followed up with the emergence of the Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) network which saw ‘woofers’ coming to the farm from all over the world.

The objectives of ‘woofing’ exactly match the foundations of Cowsnest Community Farm: to provide voluntary farm work on an organic farm in return for meals and accommodation.

“Anything I’ve done has just seemed like common sense,” Ms Seddon said.

“I haven’t really got a great intellectual idea about it.

“It’s just that it gives me enormous happiness to see people working together and people being happy and people looking after the land and the plants and the animals and the other people.”

In 2006 Ms Seddon also bought an ailing wildlife park near Merimbula, renaming it Potoroo Palace, and running it as a native animal sanctuary and conservation and education centre.

The company structure of Cowsnest raised risks of shareholder descendents wanting to sell parts of the property so the farm was integrated with Potoroo Palace.

As a charity, Ms Seddon said it provided a more secure structure for the Cowsnest community.

“There are only four rules for the community [and] they imply respect for anyone,” Ms Seddon said.

“You can have the most diverse views possible and still be OK if you treat each other with respect.

“The rules are so mundane: clean up after yourself, return tools and equipment, take responsibility for any tasks you take on — and we recently added the fourth one, keep communicating.

“If they can’t obey those rules, they usually just leave.

“It’s as simple as that.”

Tree Hollows and Nestboxes





Whilst tree surgeons at Potoroo Palace were removing a half fallen tree, they were surprised to discover 6 very young mouse- like creatures who went scattering in all different directions. They were subsequently captured and offered up to the keepers to feed the snakes with. But instead, after seeing that they were in fact antechinus – a small native marsupial – the keepers cared for and saved them.

Very young antechinus are particularly difficult to hand rear due to an underslung jaw, unlike baby pygmy possoms and feathertail gliders who can be fed early on with a dropper, but the baby antechinus will get milk in all directions and have to be bathed afterwards every time.

It proved to be a bit of a struggle and they were in need of feeding every 3 hours day and night at one stage. 2 of the litter survived and have grown up very strong and healthy due to the committed and vigilant care of one of Potoroo Palace’s staff.

There are 2 kinds of antechinus in this area; the Dusky (antechinus swainsonii) and the Agile (antechinus agilis). The Agile are a newly discovered variant who were previously thought to be Brown (antechinus stuartii) but are distinguished by their relatively small size, grey body fur, certain skull characteristics and distinctive tissue proteins. They are just one of several species from the family of dasyurids which also includes the more commonly known tasmanian devils, quolls, phascogales and numbats. There are many lesser known species which belong to this family too, and at least 8 known types of antechinus within Australia.

It used to be thought that the Agile Antechinus was carnivorous, eating mainly cockroaches and spiders but it is now known that they are particularly good pollinators especially of banksias and callistemons and considered even better at this than the honeyeater birds!

Palace Potoroos

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The staff at Potoroo Palace are continually fascinated by the number of visitors who have never heard of, let alone seen, a potoroo and one of the reasons the name was chosen 8 years ago for this local wildlife sanctuary was to highlight the value of this amazing little native marsupial and as a symbol for the importance of protecting our unique environment.

The vulnerable Long-nosed Potoroo (potorous tridactylus) is an endearing little creature, with fur varying from dark red-brown to dark grey, paler on the underside and with a long, pointed nose, bare skinned above the nostrils. The tail usually has a white tip. Their most popular choice of food is truffles, the fruit of underground fungi. They also eat seeds, roots, bulbs and insects. The potoroo spreads fungi spores throughout the forest in its droppings to new places in which they can grow. In addition to this spore dispersal, potoroos also help many trees and shrubs that have a symbiotic, mycorrhizal relationship with fungi, where the fungus benefits plants by increasing their ability to capture water and nutrients. So potoroos do in fact play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the Australian natural environment and by contributing to the elimination of bush fire risk.

There are currently 17 adult Long-nosed Potoroos residing at Potoroo Palace and they can be seen in several different locations within the park. There are 3 visible in the Woodland Aviary sharing the space with 2 bettongs and it is most interesting to see the 2 species together and to try to spot the differences.

There have frequently been potoroo babies (known as joeys) born at Potoroo Palace over the years.  4 have been promised to Chris Humfrey for his Wild Action Zoo in Macedon, Victoria, to prevent any inbreeding and assist with expansion of the gene pool. 3 babies can now be viewed each in different enclosures and adapting to their new life at the palace!



trip advisor 002.1Recognised as a Top Performing Wildlife Sanctuary as Reviewed by Travellers on the World’s Largest Travel Site.

Potoroo Palace Native Animal Education Sanctuary of Yellow Pinch near Merimbula, announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award. The accolade, which honours hospitality excellence, is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveller reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide.  Establishments awarded the Certificate of Excellence are located all over the world and represent the upper echelon of businesses listed on the website.

When selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the honorees that takes into account reviews ratings.  Businesses must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, volume and recency of reviews. Additional criteria include a business’ tenure and popularity ranking on the site.

“Winning the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence is a true source of pride for the entire team at Potoroo Palace and we’d like to thank all of our past guests who took the time to complete a review on TripAdvisor,” said Alexandra Seddon, one of five Directors and the founding member of Potoroo Palace. “There is no greater seal of approval than being recognised by one’s customers. With the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence based on customer reviews, the accolade is a remarkable vote of confidence to our business and our continued commitment to excellence.”

“TripAdvisor is pleased to honour exceptional hospitality businesses for consistent excellence,” said Marc Charron, President of TripAdvisor for Business. “The Certificate of Excellence award gives top performing establishments around the world the recognition they deserve, based on feedback from those who matter most – their customers. From Australia to Zimbabwe, we want to applaud exceptional hospitality businesses for offering TripAdvisor travellers a great customer experience.”