Category Archives: Blog

Shy Albatross endangered

Tasmania’s Shy Albatross is now classed as endangered

Shy Albatross approaching
Shy Albatross flying approaching us..

The Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) only breeds on three small islands which are just here off Tasmania: Albatross Island in the Northwest and Pedra Branca and Mewstone in the South of the state. These Ocean Wanderers with a wing span of up to 2.6 meters can fly from Tasmania around the globe and back in 7 to 8 weeks.

Sadly, fewer Shy Albatross offspring are returning to breed every year. From 2005 to 2014 the breeding population on Albatross Island decreased by an average of 2.2% annually (Alderman 2015). According to BirdLife International,  the population on Albatross Island is predicted to decline by 33% over the next 60 years or 45% by 2100.

The three biggest threats for all Albatross species are:

  • Marine Pollution
  • Fisheries
  • Climate Change

An acknowledgement that threats continue

Shy Albatross swallowing a fish.
Shy Albatross swallowing a fish.

At the start of the 20th century, populations were decimated by the harvesting of their feathers, which were used to plump up mattresses. It was only when numbers got so low that trade was no longer viable that the population began to recover. Fast forward to today, climate change increased the rainfall on Albatross Island as well as air temperatures during the chick rearing period which has lowered the breeding success and violent waves are a hazard for the exposed Pedra Branca colony. Hungry birds ingest plastics and other debris that float in the Ocean and – too often – they end up as incidental by catch by longline fisheries.

This month, the Shy Albatross has been upgraded on the Federal Government’s threatened species list from vulnerable to endangered with only about 15,000 pairs left in the World.

An endangered Shy Albatross sitting on the water.
The Shy Albatross is now classed as endangered.

An amazing job has been done by biologists to try and help the species by installing artificial nests on Albatross Island. Studies have shown that birds with high quality nests have greater chance of hatching an egg and producing a chick than poor quality ones. Not all birds can find and keep sufficient nesting material to make a high-quality nest.

But it’s not only up to the scientists. We can all do our bit to help our Tasmanian Shy Albatross and other marine life:

  • Reduce your waste and dispose of it thoughtfully
  • Pick up rubbish at the beach and along waterways
  • Organise a beach clean up
  • Choose plant-based food – You’ll be surprised how good beer-battered tofu with nori tastes!
  • Or if you can’t live without eating fish, do your research when buying fish and other seafood and only chose products from businesses with sustainable fishing practices

If you would like to see the beautiful Shy Albatross and other sea birds along our coastline, contact us for the next tour departure times! Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we have paused our online booking system and are now running tours on request. We look forward to having you on board!

2020

The Good, the Bad and where to go from here

A storm wave rolling in at Eaglehawk Neck.
A storm wave rolling in at Eaglehawk Neck.

Wow – 2020 – a year that is going to go into the history books. It rolled over us like a storm wave, just that nobody saw it coming. Scary yet fascinating at the same time!

Bushfires and Wildlife Rescue

It started with the widespread bushfires on the Australian mainland. Many people felt the impact of those ferocious fires and lots of wildlife had to suffer. The fires kept burning for a long time. This year, Tassie has been spared, which was a big relief as we experienced some major fires the previous year, during the summer of 2018/19. It was heartwarming to witness an amazing act of kindness and solidarity as the world responded with numerous donations for people and wildlife in need! From knitted pouches to money donations, people from all walks of life wanted to do their bit to help injured and orphaned wildlife. In fact, so many boxes of wildlife supplies have been received, that the surplus was distributed to wildlife carers in other areas not affected by the bushfires as well.

A Wallaby joey in a donated pouch.
‘Sunny’ the rescued Pademelon joey in his donated hanging pouch.

We also received a few hanging pouches and liners this year and are very grateful for the donations. Here is our rescued Pademelon joey ‘Sunny’ trying out his new hanging pouch. You can see how much love went into making these beautiful pouches! And Wombat baby ‘Danny’ seems to like his cozy new pouch as well. 🙂

A baby wombat in a donated pouch.
Baby Wombat ‘Danny’ in his new and warm pouch.

Tourism drop but Whales all Summer

Of course, due to the fires many people were forced to stay at home and travelling was highly impacted. Most tourism operators could feel a drop in customer numbers this summer. This didn’t stop us from enjoying some Ocean time with smaller groups and we got so spoilt this season!

A Humpback Whales tail.
A Humpback Whales tail.

We saw whales literally all through summer! This has never happened before. Generally, we see the Humpback Whales migrate from Antarctica past our coastline on their way north to warmer waters between the end of September and the end of December. We have seen the odd late arrival in early January in previous years, but no later than that. This year was very different. In fact, the local cetacean researchers asked us to take them out to show them the Whales, because they couldn’t believe what we reported. Some of the whales have made Tasmania their home over summer. A lot of food had been accumulated about 2-3 nautical miles out to sea, especially around the area of the Hippolyte Rocks.

The back of a Humpback Whale before it dives.
The back of a Humpback Whale before it dives.

So whenever the weather conditions permitted, we headed out to look for the whales and usually found them feeding, often surrounded by playful seals that made the most of the unusual visitors.

Hungry Albatrosses above a bait ball.
Hungry Buller’s Albatrosses and a Shy Albatross in the background.

Because of the abundance of food, a variety of other marine life got attracted to the area as well. Hungry Albatrosses would fight over the food from above a bait ball and seals and dolphins were feeding on it from underneath.

Dolphins and Seals feeding on a school of fish.
Dolphins and Seals feeding on a school of fish.

And then came COVID-19

After a very different summer season, we were getting ready for the Easter tourist groups. And then COVID-19 hit everybody unexpectedly. Case numbers went up, states locked down and – like so many others – we had to stop our operations and cancel all upcoming bookings.

Young seal pups having their first swims in the rock pools.
Young seal pups having their first swims in the rock pools.

The period between the end of March to early May is usually one of our favourites, since it is generally the time when the little seal pups get all adventurous and start hitting the water to have their first swims. It’s such a privilege being able to watch them with their big puppy eyes and oversized flippers slide via the bull kelp off the rocks and into the rock pools!

4-month old seal pup underwater.
4-month old seal pup underwater.

Lucky us that we were still permitted to launch our boat at the local jetty to head out for some ‘Ocean Therapy’. But it’s just so much nicer to share it with likeminded Ocean frothers and animal lovers! 🙂

A baby seal resting next to its yawning mum.
A baby seal resting next to its yawning mum.

After all that exercise, the little seal pups quickly get tired and climb back up onto the rocks to have a well deserved sleep next to their mumma.

A sleepy seal pup.
A very cute and very sleepy seal pup.

Easing of Restrictions – So where to go from here?

The good thing about the whole lockdown was that finally the planet had a chance to breathe. It’s never been so quiet on the Tasman Peninsula, there has been less roadkill and mother nature got to do its thing.

Black and white aerial photo of Tasman Island.
Tasman Island with no boats in sight.

What if 2020 was the year we’ve been waiting for? A year to stop. A year to slow down. A year for change?

The whole world is set up for consumerism and Nature is paying for it. The recent bushfires and the COVID-19 outbreak are a strong reminder that we are part of nature and depend on it. Things will have to change if we want to ensure a future for the generations to come.

Ultimately, we believe change happens with us and our actions. People can make a difference, with the choices they make on a daily basis. What do we want to spend our money on? Who do we want to support? How do we want to spend our free time? Do I really need this?

Tasmanian Forest
Sunset behind our Eucalyptus forest.

We are aware of our impact and actively work hard behind the scenes to give back to Nature as much as we can. Since the start of our tiny and humble business in 2015, we’ve now raised over 30 wildlife orphans and released them back into the wild. Our focus with our wildlife tours lies on an ethical interaction with the wildlife – no animal gets chased or forced to interact with us. We protect a 20 acre Eucalyptus Forest from logging which serves as habitat for wildlife. We donate to activist groups like Sea Shepherd, to help them protect marine life worldwide. We closely work together with marine scientists to help them with the gathering of data which is necessary for the conservation of wildlife. Our ‘office’ is a solar powered second hand shipping container. Of course, our tours are single-use plastic free and vegan-friendly. We downsized our motors to use less fuel – and the list goes on.

But we want to do more. Maybe we should also slow down a bit more. Maybe we should offer less tours and spend more time on growing plants. Maybe we could incorporate a more holistic approach to our ‘experiences’ and help people reconnect with the Ocean – the basis of life – the wildlife and also the food that we eat and grow. And maybe we can facilitate change or help find ideas for change for those who choose to travel with us. There will be some changes to our operations for sure.

For now, we offer our 2-hour Coastal Adventure tour only. Departure times depend on the weather conditions and our guests preferences. Our online booking system is currently closed, because our availability now depends on travel groups (i.e. families, friends, singles) to maintain social distancing and keep empty seats between passengers. So please contact us for booking enquiries. With the winter Whale migration underway, we should get some awesome Whale encounters again over the next few months. And if the Whales don’t show up on a tour, there is so much else to soak in along our stunning coastline. The Seals are always there, dolphins usually not far behind and the cliffs light up beautifully in the late afternoon when the sun is about to set.

We can’t wait to welcome you onboard!

Christmas Awesomeness

The Ocean has come alive for Christmas

A whale, dolphins and seabirds feeding in the Tasman Sea, Tasman Peninsula.
A Humpback Whale lunge-feeding in amongst Dolphins and Seabirds.

Following a cold and stormy start of summer, the last two weeks of December have been amazing in terms of weather and wildlife activity. The Ocean has come alive! Big schools of fish have attracted predators, Dolphins, Seals and even Humpback Whales for a feast.

A Feeding Frenzy with Australian Fur Seals proposing and a whale rounding up bait fish.
A Feeding Frenzy with Australian Fur Seals porpoising and a Humpback Whale rounding up the bait fish.

It’s the very end of the Humpback Whale migration here in Tasmania. The Humpback Whales spend our winter months up north in warmer waters to breed and give birth. We usually get to see them swim past our coastline on their way south towards their main feeding grounds in Antarctic waters between the end of September and mid December. The incredible amount of food available over the last couple of weeks has been a well deserved treat for the whales that have already swam about 2500km.

Bottlenose Dolphin doing a backflip.
Happy Dolphins putting on a show for us after a good feed.

Some days have literally been Nat Geo style with hundreds of Bottlenose Dolphins putting on a show for us and lots of sea birds cashing in on some left overs. Check out this short video on Instagram filmed with our drone to see how the whales, dolphins and seals were working together to round up the fish.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6fWbrahrFv/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

Most Watersport and Ocean enthusiasts have followed the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. It’s an annual event hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in Sydney, New South Wales on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania. The race distance is approximately 630 nautical miles (1,170 km). It is considered to be one of the most difficult yacht races in the world, due to the ferocious weather conditions that can occur on this route.

The crew of one of the Sydney to Hobart yachts sitting on the side of the boat, heading down towards Tasman Island.
The crew on ‘Celestial’ on their way down towards Tasman Island, which is the turning point to then head up into the Hobart port.

This year, the weather has been relatively calm for the yacht race, which allowed us to head out to sea and greet some of our friends who took part in the race on their way south towards Tasman Island, from where they would turn and head up into Hobart. Not only did we get to wave to our friends onboard the racing yacht, we were also greeted by some more inquisitive Humpback Whales. 🙂

A lucky snap of a Humpback Whale that popped up in-between our vessel and ‘Celestial’, one of the Sydney to Hobart racing yachts.

Albatrosses during our bird charter

Another annual event for us has been a bird charter that we provide for a private group at the end of the year. We’ve encountered lots of different species of seabirds, including these special Albatrosses.

A Wandering Albatross that we encountered on our bird charter.
A Wandering Albatross.

Wandering Albatrosses are the largest of the Albatrosses with the greatest wingspan of any living bird, measuring almost 3.5 meters. They spend most of their life in flight, landing only to breed and feed. Wandering Albatrosses can travel vast distances, with one banded bird recorded that travelled 6000 km in twelve days! Unfortunately, these amazing Ocean roaming birds are classed as endangered in Tasmania, which makes it even more special to see them on our bird charter!

A beautiful Campbell Albatross in flight.
The beautiful Campbell Albatross.

We’ve also encountered this beautiful Campbell Albatross. On first sight, they look very similar to the Black-browed Albatrosses, with the white head, the pretty black brow, a bright yellow beak and strong leading edge on the underwing. The main distinguishing feature is their honey coloured iris (instead of the dark brown iris of the Black-browed Albatross). They breed only on the sub-Antarctic Campbell Island which is part of New Zealand.

Welcome 2020!

With so much activity along our stretch of coastline recently, we can only hope that this will continue in the new year. It will be interesting to see how long the Humpback Whales will stay in the area for.

Snorkelling with seals in Tasmania
Snorkelling with the playful puppies of the Sea.

Late summer and autumn is also the best time of the year to snorkel with the Seals in Tasmania. After the females have given birth and the breeding season is over, the animals are more relaxed and therefore even more interested in playing with us. 🙂

If you love nature and wildlife, join us on one of our tours!

Ever watched a Whale eat?

Looking into the mouth of a Southern Right Whale

A skim-feeding Southern Right Whale on our Seal & Ocean Expedition.

Have you noticed that the Ocean has changed colour in Tasmania, from a clear blue to a deep green? The water appears to be a bit murky or ‘soupy’. This is caused from billions of microscopic algae and shrimp-like animals. These tiny drifting organisms are food for some of the largest animals that live in the Ocean.

A few days ago, we had the pleasure of watching a Southern Right Whale have it’s lunch on our Seal & Ocean Expedition. The Southern Right Whale is a member of the ‘Baleen Whale’ family. These Whales don’t have any teeth and feed by filtering food through 220-260 baleen plates that are up to 2.8 meters long and hang from each side of their upper jaws.

Looking into the mouth of a Southern Right Whale. You can clearly see the baleen hanging from the sides of the upper jaw.

Unlike the Humpback Whales that would often undertake some spectacular feeding displays, Southern Right Whales swim with a steady open-mouthed movement through prey swarms, trapping their prey in their baleen bristles, while also filtering water out of their mouth (see photo above).

To the disappointment of the researchers, there was no poo that we could have sampled, but we are very eager to collect some samples during the Whale season to help the scientists with their work, so they can analyse how Baleen Whales stimulate microbial communities through nutrients released in their faeces.

Follow us on Instagram to stay up to date with our conservation projects and wildlife sightings!

And if you are traveling to Tasmania this season and would like to learn more about why whales are so important for the Oceans health and life on Earth, then come and join one of our tours. We’d love to have you on  board!

2019 Season Summary

Tasmanias South East – One of the most cetacean rich corners of the World

A Pygmy Right Whale in South-Eastern Tasmania.
Every now and again, we come across something different – This is one of 5 Pygmy Right Whales (Caperea marginata) that we sighted on our Seal & Ocean Expedition in Munroe Bight, Southeastern Tasmania.

It’s been pretty quiet on our blog recently, but now that we are having our winter break and pulled our vessel out of the water for routine maintenance work, we also get some time to recap on another amazing season we’ve had!

Looking back, after many years of running tours and cruising on Tasmania’s south-east coast, sharing thousands of Whale sightings with beautiful people that supported our little business…there is no doubt that we live in one of the most Cetacean rich corners of the world. With the tragic history that lies in our recent past with treatment and slaughter of these magnificent and vital Ocean inhabitants, it’s a wonder that we get to see what we do, an incredible example of how resilient some of these species and the Ocean ecosystems must be. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to operate in such a fragile yet diverse marine environment – epic coastal scenery, Seals, Albatross and of course,  seeing Whales is always up there at the top of the list!

Just in the last 18 months we have encountered hundreds of whales across 9 different species, both Toothed and Baleen Whales plus several species of Dolphin. Pygmy Blue, Fin, Sei, Humpback, Southern Right, Minke, Dwarf Minke, Orca and our rarest and most unique visitor to date, the Pygmy Right Whale. Whilst most of the more common whale species we see around Tasmania have distinguishable characteristics and behaviour attributes, every now and again we come across something different.

A pod of super rare Pygmy Right Whales

A Pygmy Right Whale surfacing in Tasmanian waters.
One of the Pygmy Right Whales surfacing. The curved mouth, the size and color are some of the identifying features.

It was a fine and light wind day in April this year. While on one of our Seal & Ocean Expedition tours, we were cruising across Munroe Bight, when we spotted a small dorsal fin. The initial, most likely call was that it was a small pod of Common Dolphins – at times we see these daily. As we moved closer to the area we noticed that the classic dolphin surface intervals were distinctly different and we realised that this sighting was something different, quite likely a small whale, possibly a Dwarf Minke Whale. A few more momentary glimpses and some photos we could cross-reference with our on-board chart and it became clear that we had something very unique around us: a pod of Pygmy Right Whales. Not knowing at the time, there had been less than than 25 recorded sightings at sea, we still knew that this could possibly be the first and last encounter for us with these rare animals. 5 in total, 2hrs later and some 700 photos we reluctantly left them to continue their journey.

According to the research paper by R. Ewan Fordyce and Felix G. Marx, the Pygmy Right Whale, Caperea marginata, is the smallest, most cryptic and least known of the living baleen whales (Mysticeti). As far as we know, there have been less than 25 ‘at sea’ sightings worldwide.

Superficially, it has an arched mouth, long thin baleen but unlike other Right Whales it has a dorsal fin and when researchers look into their anatomy and the relationships with other species of Whales it starts to become unclear which family it belongs to. These Whales are not actually Right Whales. Their latin name Caperea Marginata comes from Caperea – ‘wrinkled’ from wrinkles on the ear bone and Marginata from the black margin on the edge of the baleen plates or filter plates. They have a massive rib cage compared to body size and have flattened ribs from front to back as if to shield internal organs like an Armadillo, no other Baleen whales have this. First described in 1846 by renowned Zoologist, John Edward Gary, Pygmy Right Whales are the smallest of the Baleen (filter feeding) Whales, growing to around 6m in length and weighing around 4500kgs. Some researchers believe the Pygmy Right Whale (Caperea marginata) is a member of the Cetotheres, a family of baleen whales, which until 2012 were thought to be extinct.

The dorsal fin of a rare Pygmy right Whale in Tasmania.
The dorsal fin of one of the rare Pygmy Right Whales we encountered in Monroe Bight, between Cape Hauy and Cape Pillar (Tasman Peninsula).

Love the Ocean, eat more plants & travel responsibly 🙂

Our encounter with the pod of Pygmy Right Whales was another example of how unique our marine environment is and how little we know about it. If you want to minimise your impact on the Ocean and its inhabitants, it is essential to consciously reduce your footprint, reduce your plastic consumption, buy food and goods from as close to home as possible, learn about nutrition and eat more plants. Future generations will thank you for it!

The best time to see Whales in Tasmania with us is during the Humpback Whale migration periods between June and July and October until the end of December, when thousands of Humpback Whales migrate past Tasmania, to and from their feeding grounds in Antartica. Southern Right Whales can also often be seen from land based viewing areas all around the south-east and east Tasmanian coasts during winter and spring.

If you would like to make a booking for an ethical wildlife watching tour with us, you can check out our tour options and availability here.

WOT – Approved Sea Shepherd Dive Partner

Now partnering with Sea Shepherd Dive!

Wild Ocean Tasmania is now Sea Shepherd approved dive partner

We’re stoked to announce that we are now an approved and active Sea Shepherd Dive Partner. To be able to join the Sea Shepherd Dive community, businesses prove that they place marine conservation at the forefront of their operating activities. Sea Shepherd Dive partners donate monthly and adopt the program Rules and Ethics.

These include the following:

  • Look don’t touch
  • No stressing of marine creatures
  • No feeding of marine wildlife
  • No fishing or mollusc or shellfish collection
  • No removing of anything
  • No anchoring where possible & using environmentally safe practises when anchoring or mooring
  • No serving of fish or seafood

All these ethics have been a vital part of our operations from the first day we started Wild Ocean Tasmania. The partnership with Sea Shepherd Dive offers the perfect opportunity for us to manifest these ethics and to support a great organisation in the fight for the health of our Oceans.

 

 

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Sea Shepherd Dive is proud to announce our newest partner and first in Tasmania – @wildoceantasmania! Jump on their website now to book your next ocean adventure, and be safe in the knowledge these guys uphold the Sea Shepherd conservation values www.wildoceantasmania.com.au Wild Ocean Tasmania are a small, couple-owned & operated business. They take their guests to stunning natural sites that can only be reached by boat and encourage an ethical interaction with the precious marine life they encounter in the hope to raise awareness for the importance of the protection of these amazing animals, the natural environment and ultimately ourselves. By joining their tours, you also support their private wildlife rehabilitation projects. Sea Shepherd Dive are recruiting dive businesses to join with Sea Shepherd to drive up industry standards throughout Australia and New Zealand. Thinking of joining our Dive family? Check out the benefits and requirements of our scheme here: www.seashepherd.org.au/dive #SeaShepherdDive #diving #underwater #FortheOceans @seashepherd_tas

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If you would like to embark on an ethical wildlife boat tour and support Ocean conservation, follow this link to check out our tour options!

New Wildlife enclosures taking shape

The first two enclosures are done!

Womby happy in the new temporary enclosure

We have been busy behind the scenes, working on the first few of the new wildlife enclosures that we have planned to build this season. Look how happy Womby looks in the transitional outdoor enclosure! 🙂

We started with the new Wallaby enclosure in October. The old one has served twenty Pademelons and Bennett’s Wallabies over the last 5 years and needed to be replaced.

The progress of building a Wallaby enclosure

New wildlife enclosure made with recycled materials
We are using mainly recycled materials that are also aesthetic and functional for the purpose of keeping the orphaned wildlife safe.

Plan for the new enclosure was to use mainly recycled, strong and long lasting materials. Of course we wanted it to be aesthetically appealing and safe for the animals as well. We chose an area on the property that was partly open and sunny, but also had enough trees and foliage to provide some natural shelter and shade for the wildlife.

New grass shoots
New grass shoots coming through. A week of light precipitation helped the grass grow quickly.

Additionally to those natural features, we mounted up some large branches and soil to create a spot for the animals to hide under cover. We also managed to sow some grass just before we had a week of light precipitation (it has been super dry for months!!), which was perfect timing and really helped the grass grow quickly.

Lush grass after a week of drizzle
Beautiful lush grass for the animals to feed on.

Although the enclosure was not quite finished yet, we were ready for a test run. Our oldest Bennett’s Wallaby Joey Barney got introduced to the new outside enclosure first and seemed to love it!

First Wallaby joey is getting introduced to new outside enclosure
Not quite finished yet, but ready for a test run.

Moving into the new wildlife enclosure
First time in the new wildlife enclosure – Getting used to the new environment.

Barney enjoyed to have a good hop around and scoped out the new shelter straight away. Wallabies naturally seek a place under cover to be safe from predators like birds of prey.

Barney discovering the new shelter
Barney discovering the new shelter.

After a little while checking out the area from his shelter, he felt safe to explore the area a bit further and munch on that juicy grass! 🙂

Wallaby Joey Barney has accepted the new shelter.

Barney looks very happy about his new home
Barney looks very happy about his new home.

Now we just had to finish off the last few details of the enclosure. Chicken wire had to be wrapped around the top of the fence to prevent the wallabies from jumping over it. Some friendly folks helped us with this task and it was done in no time. 🙂

Newly finished wildlife enclosure
The newly finished wildlife enclosure.

Because we currently have three Bennett’s Wallabies in care, we also needed a relatively large shelter to hang up their pouches under cover and to provide a warm area for them to rest on windy and rainy days.

Carrying the newly built shelter into the enclosure
Carrying the newly built shelter into the enclosure.

Animal shelter check
Shelter check  – Yup… It’s big enough! 🙂

As usual, Barney was more than happy to try the new pouch set-up for us. Looking very comfortable!

Hanging pouch in Wallaby shelter
Hanging pouch set-up in Wallaby shelter.

Stoked!! The first enclosure is done. Ready to start the next one! 🙂

New temporary Wombat enclosure is up next

Womby came into care when she was about 2.8kg and has been growing and putting on weight nicely. Time for her to move into a very sheltered outside area, that should serve her for the next couple of months.

Baby Wombat making herself at home in the new burrow

Wombats loooove tunnels,  burrows and digging up soil. All these features were needed for the transitional enclosure. Plus it had to be very sheltered from wind and rain, because Womby is still quite small, weighing 5.5kg now, and she likes it nice and cosy.

Tunnel and burrow system for the Wombat
Tunnel and burrow system for the Wombat.

The photo above shows the tunnel and burrow system we created for her. We used soil, rocks a log and tree stumps to make up a natural looking entrance to the tunnel. The whole enclosure is filled in with soft dirt and rocks, so Womby can dig freely. Digging is an essential skill for a Wombat joey to gain before it can be released.

Time for Womby to explore the new enclosure.

Womby getting introduced to burrow system
Womby getting introduced to the burrow.

Similar to Wallaby joeys, Wombats also seek a safe shelter naturally. She scoped out the entrance to the tunnel that leads towards her burrow straight away. Then she started playing and dug into the tunnel, turned around, came back out and raced back into the tunnel. Practicing important life skills. 🙂

Thanks for your support!

A big THANK YOU to all the lovely people who have joined our tours in the past. You help fund our wildlife rescue and rehabilitation work, as part of the tour rate goes towards our wildlife orphans to pay for their milk formula, medication, building materials etc.

 

Rescued Wombat joey in pouch
Thank you!! 🙂 – Womby

 

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A visit from a Royal

One of the largest birds in the World!

Tasman Arch on misty day
Thick sea fog set a moody scene when we stopped at Tasman’s Arch.

Last week, a quite unusual weather pattern over Tasmania created a moody scene with thick fog along the coast for three days, limiting the vision to about 150m in places. This didn’t restrict the photo opportunities, since the mist raising up through the entrances of caves and arches made the coastal features appear even more dramatic. 🙂

Sea fog at the Candlestick
The Candlestick and Totempole at Cape Hauy breaking through the mist.

We expected it to be rather tricky to spot much wildlife other than the Seals in those conditions, but we got treated with a visit from a Royal on Thursday. About 1 nautical mile east of o’Hara’s Bluff, a Southern Royal Albatross flew right towards our boat and left everyone on board speechless after seeing its impressive wingspan.

Southern Royal Albatross appears in the sea fog
Southern Royal Albatross appearing in the sea fog.

Beside the Wandering Albatross, the Southern Royal Albatross is one of the two largest species of Albatrosses with an average wingspan of over 3m and an average weight of 8.5kg. These birds are rarely seen in the coastal waters of Tasmania. They mature between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, which is when they form a usually lifelong monogamous bond with a partner with whom they will mate every other year. If they are successful the female will lay one egg which both her and her partner will incubate. When the chick hatches, the parents share the responsibilities of feeding and raising it. They usually like to nest on plateaus, ridges or tussock grassland, with the majority of the Southern Royal Albatross nesting places located on the Subantarctic Campbell Island. Significantly smaller colonies can be found on Auckland Island and Adams Island as well as Enderby Island.

Southern Royal Albatross inshore in Tasmania
Close up photograph of a Southern Royal Albatross showing the distinguishing features.

Since Southern Royal Albatrosses are such a rarity in our area we weren’t 100% sure at first if it was truly one of them or a similar looking Northern Royal, or maybe a Wandering Albatross, however upon closer inspection of the photos we could clearly see the characteristic black cutting edge on the pink bill and the clean white leading edge on the wings. It was also missing the peach coloured neck spot usually seen in Wandering Albatrosses.

Getting to see such a rare animal up close reminds us how important it is to protect our Oceans and the creatures living in and around it. Even though the population is recovering after being severely depleted around 1930 (mainly due to the destruction of their nesting places in order to create farmland), human influences like longline fishing and plastic pollution are still major threats to these magnificent animals.

If you are traveling to Tasmania this season and would like to learn more about marine conservation and spot some local wildlife,  check out our tour options. We would love to share a day on the water with you!

Entangled Humpback and playful Dwarf Minke Whale

A strong reminder to look after the Oceans’ health

Monday was a very emotional day – a day that reminded us and our tour guests of the importance of looking after our Oceans’ health. It was a prime example of the impact that humans have on the marine environment.

Entangled Humpback spy hopping next to the vessel
This entangled Humpback Whale spy-hopped next to our vessel, very likely to show us the rope that was hooked down low in the corner of its mouth.

We spotted two Humpback Whales that appeared to be very inquisitive at first. They approached us, spy hopped and rolled over, right next to our vessel. We soon realised that they were literally ‘asking’ for help.

One of the whales was entangled in commercial fishing gear. A very long rope of a Lobster / Fish trap had been caught across the mouth of the Whale. We managed to film the slow moving animal with the long rope trailing from its jaw. Watch the clip to the end to see how long that rope was!

Entangled HumpBack Whale from Wild Ocean Tas on Vimeo.

With the Tasmanian Lobster season currently closed, it’s likely that this animal has travel hundreds of kilometres like this. Minimal tail movement is a sure sign that the animal is exhausted. Not only does it restrict feeding ability, but also creates stress and anxiety and possibly a slow and painful death..

We closely collaborate with the crew of the Marine Conservation Program of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment in Tasmania (DPIPWE) and called up while we were tracking the two Humpbacks in the hope they can send a vessel and rescue team out to free the entangled whale from the rope. DPIPWE has specialist equipment and staff trained in internationally recognised techniques for undertaking Whale disentanglement operations, but unfortunately they were already further up the coast to look for another entangled Whale near Binalong Bay.

As a tour operator we have a public liability to our guests on board and are not permitted to closely approach entangled Whales as they are large powerful animals and present a significant safety risk. It was frustrating that we couldn’t do anything to help. All we could do was to head out the following day without guests on board to search for the entangled Whale, but unfortunately it must have moved on over night. Hopefully it manages to rid itself of this entanglement soon!

Surprise Dwarf Minke Whale

Dwarf Minke Whale Dorsal Fin
On the first glimpse, one could think it is a Dolphin, since Dwarf Minke Whales are quite small Whales that reach up to 7 meters in length.

The Ocean held a surprise for us when we headed back up the coast after having had a snorkel with the Seals.  We spotted a single, grey dorsal fin that disappeared quickly. The animal also left a boil on the water surface. It must have been a small whale! So we waited patiently until we saw it pop up again. It turned out being an inquisitive Dwarf Minke Whale.

Rostrum of the inquisitive Dwarf Minke Whale
This is the rostrum of the inquisitive Dwarf Minke Whale.

The last time we’ve seen a Dwarf Minke Whale on our tour was early December 2017. So it’s been 10 months! They’re super rare to see inshore in Tassie, but a joy to be with. 🙂 Like last time we saw one, this Dwarf Minke Whale playfully circled or boat, approached us from the side, swam down and came back up on the other side – a bit like playing hide & seek.

Tasmania’s south-east coast attracts many different types of Whales at this time of year. Although we cannot guarantee to see whales on every single tour, we do love Whales and bend over backwards to try and find them. 🙂

If you would like to jump on board and spend a day on the water with us, check out our tour options and book online or call / text us to reserve your seats!

 

Endangered Sei Whales spotted

Two Sei Whales on our first Seal Tour

Bushy blow of a Sei Whale
This photo shows the bushy blow of one of the Sei Whales and its long body.

We ran our first Seal & Ocean Expedition for a special request last Thursday. Usually we start our season in October, but this year we were lucky that some persistent travellers woke us up from hibernation two weeks earlier.

Everyone was extra excited to see how the Seals are going to react and behave, because it was the first day to get in the water with them after the winter break. Again we found that patience is the key. We slid in the water quietly and floated on our viewing platform for a while, keeping our distance so that the Seals could get used to our presence. After about five minutes of floating in the water some of the younger seals came over to check us out first, followed by some inquisitive adults. Soon we were surrounded by 15 of them. We couldn’t have asked for a better start into the new season!

Once we got back on board, we had our usual hot cup of tea and some sweet treats and went to check out the Totempole and Candlestick (two massive dolerite sea stacks) at Cape Hauy, when we spotted a bushy whale blow.

Sei Whale dorsal fin & Tasman Island
This is what we saw first of the whale – a relatively tall and sickle-shaped dorsal fin (and the tall cliffs of Cape Pillar and Tasman Island in the background).

It took quite a while for the whale to come back up for its next breath. This time we got to see its dorsal fin clearly. The shape of the dorsal fin was relatively tall and sickle-like, very different to the dorsal fins of Humpback Whales which are regular visitors along our coastline at this time of year. On the first glimpse we thought it could be a Killer Whale, since they have been around this week as well. But the next sighting of the Whale’s dorsal fin ruled out Killer Whales as well. The fin was much more pointy and rather grey in colour.

So we kept course and maintained low speed to stick with the Whale. It turned out being two Whales travelling together. The tracking of their path was easy. The Whales left so called ‘footprints’, which are swirls of water they create from moving their tail that can be seen on the surface. They also leave an oily film on the surface after they exhale.

Sei Whale rostrum and blowholes
Here you can see the Blowholes and rostrum of one of the Sei Whales as well as the beautiful swirly pattern on the side of its body.

The Whales popped up frequently beside us. A great opportunity to take some ID shots. They were quite dark grey in colour and about 14-17 meters long. We were thinking they had to be one of the larger rorquals, like Bryde’s or Sei Whales. Both species of Whale would be super rare to see inshore in Tasmania. They look very similar, except that the Sei Whale has a single ridge running from the tip of the snout to the blowholes, while the Bryde’s Whale (pronounced “broodus”) has three ridges. Going through the photos at home and talking to the Marine Mammal Research Crew at the ‘Marine Conservation Program – Wildlife Management Branch’ of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment and also at ‘Killer Whales Australia’, we can confirm now that they were Sei Whales.

The Sei Whale is the third-largest rorqual after the Blue Whale and the Fin Whale, reaching a body length of approximately 19 meters. Like other Whale species, the Sei Whales were affected by large-scale commercial whaling. As of 2008, its worldwide population was about 80,000, nearly a third of its prewhaling population. The Sei Whale is listed as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.

Two Sei Whales side by side
Here is a photo of the two Sei Whales side by side.

Since 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has officially halted all commercial whaling. However, approximately 50 Sei Whales are still killed every year by Japanese whalers in the North Pacific under Japan’s “scientific” whaling program. Other human caused threats like pollution, shipping strikes and entanglement in fishing gear highly impact these endangered animals. Its important to speak up for the voiceless to ensure their recovery as well as the overall health of the marine environment.

If you are planning to travel to Tasmania this season and would like to learn more about why whales are so important for the Oceans health and life on the Planet in general, then come and join one of our tours. We’d love to have you on  board!