Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment
Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 7 March.
Applicant: University of Tasmania
Species/Taxon: Bare-nosed wombat, Vombatus ursinus
Location: Royal George mine tailings repository, private land in the surrounding district permitted by the owners, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and Zoodoo Wildlife Park
Title of research: Risk assessment of heavy metal bioaccumulation in bare-nosed wombats (Vombatus ursinua) from a rehabilitated mining site at Royal George, Tasmania
Aim of project:
This research aims to evaluate the effects of heavy metal pollution in the bare-nosed wombat community inhabiting historical mine tailings at Royal George (i.e. if the tailings, vegetation and surface water contain metals that are toxic for the bare-nosed wombats have elevated levels relative to ANZECC (Australia and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water) guidelines 2000). This study will form the basis for assessing contaminated mining sites and their potential toxic effects on Australian wildlife.
Humans have continually exploited mineral resources all over the world and this practice can have direct impacts on wildlife (Camizuli, Scheifler et al. 2018). Few studies have looked at how heavy metals biproducts accumulate and affect wildlife living at mining sites. Abandoned mining sites are on the rise and cause serious environmental problems in Australia, including Tasmania. Numerous sites in Tasmania have been identified as major sources of metal pollution with the formation of dangerous acidic waste. There is a need for understanding how and to what extent the natural sources of water, vegetation, as well as the health of wildlife, are being affected. More research is crucial towards understanding the effects of heavy metals on marsupials living at active or inactive mining sites. This is because these metals can be toxic following short-term exposure and intake from plants or drinking water can potentially lead to neurological and reproductive consequences. This research has the potential to form the baseline for heavy metals in wombats and other marsupials living at mining sites across Australia.
Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: N= no more than 40
Activities undertaken and methods: We are going to monitor the site for wombat activity using surveillance cameras placed near the current burrows. After this, we wish to use a non-invasive method to collect hairs, by setting up posts with sticky tape attached that will go across the wombat burrows. We also wish to locate, capture with immediate release methods of collecting hair and ear tissue biopsies from wombats at the Royal George mine tailings site. We wish to do this on another site, preferably private land that is not contaminated within a proximate location of the district. These methods will enable the documentation and insight into the impact of heavy metal contamination on the health of the wombats, and what this means for other marsupials. During the capture and release of the wombats, from both sites, each individual will be monitored for normal behaviour. The procedures will cause minor short-term stress and discomfort to the wombat associated with the capture, which is expected to last not more than 5 minutes. Post-capture monitoring will occur using the surveillance camera traps to take observe the visual health of wombats.
Fate of animals: Following sample collection, wombats will be released at the site of capture. They will then be monitored to make sure they return back to their normal behaviour which is likely to be running down a burrow. After the releasing of the wombats, camera traps will still monitor the burrows of which the wombats come from for normal activity.
Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): Minimal impact from the hair and tissue collection, incidental collection of other species such as Bennett’s wallaby will also have minimal impact. Non-invasive methods will also be used.
Camizuli, E., R. Scheifler, S. Garnier, F. Monna, R. Losno, C. Gourault, G. Hamm, C. Lachiche, G. Delivet, C. Chateau and P. Alibert (2018). "Trace metals from historical mining sites and past metallurgical activity remain bioavailable to wildlife today." Scientific Reports 8(1): 3436.
Lockley, J. and M. Pollington (2006). Royal George Tin Mine tailings rehabilitation review report. P. Sherry. Hobart Tasmania.
Lottermoser, B. G. and A. T. Townsend (2016). "Mobility of arsenic and environmentally significant elements in mine tailings following liming AU - Noble, T. L." Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 63(6): 781-793.
Nasir, A., S. F. Cameron, A. C. Niehaus, C. J. Clemente, F. A. von Hippel and R. S. Wilson (2018). "Manganese contamination affects the motor performance of wild northern quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus)." Environmental Pollution 241: 55-62.
Schneider, L., M. Mariani, K. M. Saunders, W. A. Maher, J. J. Harrison, M.-S. Fletcher, A. Zawadzki, H. Heijnis and S. G. Haberle (2019). "How significant is atmospheric metal contamination from mining activity adjacent to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area? A spatial analysis of metal concentrations using air trajectories models." Science of The Total Environment 656: 250-260.