Friday, October 2, 2009

Satori's 'innovative' cassowary gate exposed as ineffective Canadian deer gate!

A couple of weeks ago I got a heads up that there was a cassowary gate story in the Innisfail Advocate so I grabbed a copy and had a bit of a look. Sure enough there it was ‘Big birds trial road safety gate’.

I have been waiting with bated breath to find out details of Satori’s ‘innovative’ new Cassowary gate. Sadly I was disappointed to find it was just a deer gate with what looks like ping pong balls on the end of the tines/prongs! Suffice to say it didn’t rock my world!!
Here's the story by Lea Guy from the Innisfail Advocate

Big birds trial road safety gate

A one way gate allowing cassowaries to exit roadways has been trialled in Innisfail and is earmarked for the proposed Ella Bay development.

The gate, designed by developer Satori, was installed in the cassowary pen at Johnstone River Crocodile Park for one month with promising results, according to wildlife and environmental officer for the Ella Bay project Adrian Hogg.

‘It was actually modified from a deer fence used in Canada,’ Mr Hogg said. ‘We’re hoping it will be a model that can be used in other cassowary habitat areas as well.’

Some tweaking of the design was needed in the early days of the trial.

‘The vertical gap was originally 100mm and the cassowaries were reluctant to use it.’ Mr Hogg said.

‘I widened it to 200mm and within two minutes they used it.’

Once the cassowaries had become accustomed to accessing their food via the gate, it was turned around to test out the one-way direction.

‘We turned it around to see if they could breach it backwards and they attempted several times to no avail,’ Mr Hogg said. ‘We made the fingers out of soft plastic with round ends so they can’t impale themselves.’

‘We also tried opening up another section of the fence so they could choose whether to use the gate and they still went through the gate.’

Satori plans to build a fence incorporating the one way gates along the full stretch of the road from Flying Fish Point to Ella Bay.

Fencing will direct wandering wildlife to underpasses at regular intervals along the road. ‘We’re aiming for zero harm to cassowaries,’ Mr Hogg said.

He added Satori wished to thank the Johnstone River Crocodile Park for its participation in the trial.

Ella Bay is awaiting Federal Government approval, following a study of marine turtle nesting in the area.
Well there you go some sound science to help us all sleep well …I think not.

For a start the gate was not ‘Designed by developer Satori’ as the article states it is simply a modified deer gate as used by Traffic Canada to assist in the removal of deer from traffic areas where their presence is undesirable.

You can check out the real thing at Deer Exclusion Devices and Deterrent Techniques on the Transport Canada website.
Here are some quotes from this site that do not inspire confidence in this type of gate!
Running deer did not recognize the one-way gates as escape routes after being frightened by motorists that had stopped to admire them. Rather, the deer charged the fence until they became exhausted or seriously injured and died or had to be euthanized.

Only 16.5% (40) jumped through the gate to leave the right-of-way. The other 203 deer remained within the right-of-way until they found other means of leaving, either by walking along the fence to the end, jumping back over the fence or by being struck and killed by highway traffic.
Considering deer are supposed to be a bit smarter than your average ‘bird brained’ cassowary I don’t think this gate is the cure all it is presented as!

I note the newspaper article doesn’t mention that the fence these gates will be attached to will be in excess of 3 kilometres long. As you may well know DEWHA have identified habitat fragmentation as a major threat to the survival of the Southern Cassowary (more about this on the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts website).

If whacking in kilometres of fencing isn’t habitat fragmentation goodness knows what is!

However it was interesting to see that Satori’s Adrian Hogg is working so hard to come up with solutions to the environmental problems that Satori are creating with their planned ‘Road to Cassowary extinction’.

Last time I read about Adrian’s work in the newspaper he was in the Commonwealth bank in Innisfail throwing what was reported to be sheets of ‘Asbestos material’ about whilst wearing a facemask yelling ‘Fix my fuse’…that is before he was arrested!!

It feels kind of nice to see reported irrational behaviour from the developer’s representatives as it’s usually conservationists that are portrayed as tree hugging soy bean eating crazies! That said I can empathise with Adrian to a degree as cyclone Larry did push some people over the edge and was a stressful time for most.

Hey just a thought Satori might be able to sell these gates to the Commonwealth Bank for the safety of their tellers. I think maybe your average bank teller will work out how to use them after a brief trial period (especially if staff were encouraged to trial the gate using foods such as pizza and fried chicken). Just like the cassowaries in the trials (and unlike Ella Bay’s wild cassowaries) bank tellers are reported to be habituated to fences and gates. If a robber or protester throwing bananas, watermelons or sheets of ‘asbestos material’ enters the bank tellers can escape via their one way Satori cassowary gate!!

Ok I am getting a bit silly here but at the end of the day my message is simple.

Fences fragmenting cassowary habitats kill and injure cassowaries both directly and indirectly. Indirectly by isolating cassowaries from water and seasonal food resources and impacting on the ranges of foraging cassowaries.

Directly by entanglement, collisions and restricting escape routes available to cassowaries from predators like dog packs.

Oh come now you say I can see what your saying Russ but as if a fence can kill a cassowary by colliding with it ???

Well check out the following link and you might change your mind ("Cassowary death saddens EPA staff" on the EPA website). Bear in mind this death was documented by the EPA. Also bear in mind this bird was habituated to fencing yet still crashed into it and died as a result.

From Wildlife Friendly Fencing: This old photograph shows the remains of an Emu on 'Cambo Cambo' property, Moonie River district, North West New South Wales, in 1911. The associated notes state: 'death being due to one leg getting caught in the wires of a wire fence while the bird was getting through. The unfortunate bird could not get away from this grip-it died no doubt of thirst and starvation. It will be noticed that the leg resting on the ground has made a hole underneath, through the bird kicking and struggling in its efforts to escape.' Photo by Sidney Jackson, 1873-1946, courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

Of course with fencing you get gates and they present further hazards.

The style of gate Satori are working on will cause mayhem in the scenario where a cassowary chick uses the gate and a parent bird doesn’t or vice versa as once you get a juvenile separated from its adult carer panic and death will be the outcome for one or both birds.
Photo by Di Paul

Photo by Di Paul

To be honest I don’t think wild cassowaries will be too keen on using these gates but they will look good on paper in Satori’s plans and presentations that’s for sure!

A rating of 16.5 percent efficiency by Canadian experts who have used this style of ‘deer gate’ for years is not really good enough when it comes to an endangered keystone species like our southern cassowary is it! I’m sure any parent reading this would not be happy to allow their child to use a pedestrian crossing if the chances of crossing the road safely and effectively were 16.5 %!

Photo by Karl Dekok

Well check out the links and make your own mind up. All I ask is for you to listen like thieves and don’t get mesmerised by the proponents smoke and mirrors!

Cheers Russ


  1. So what do you suggest then Russ?

  2. You want the long or the short answer anonymous?

    Here is the short

    Property developer Ella Bay Pty Ltd have proposed the creation of a traffic strike threat for endangered southern cassowaries by proposed building/enlarging roads through the birds Seymour Range habitat (including road through supposedly protected World Heritage National Park).

    To reduce this unacceptable threat they then propose fragmenting cassowary habitat by putting up huge fences along 3 kilometres of this road. This in turns blocks access to essential food resources and habitat for the cassowaries and creates another unacceptable threat.

    Then to help fix the mess they have created they propose putting up magical (excuse my sarcasm) Satori gates that don't seem to have worked very well for their original inventors in Canada...something the feel good newspaper article kind of forgot to mention!

    So to simplify things they

    1 Create a severe problem
    2 Try to fix the problem which in turn creates another severe problem.
    3 Claim to have invented solutions to the problems the developer is creating even if the solutions have not worked in the field elsewhere (I'm thinking Canada here).

    What do I suggest?

    Don't create a threat to the cassowaries in the first place and then you don't have to come up with fanciful solutions like fences and magic gates etc that you have to fool the public into embracing via feel good media stories.

    Talking of media stories here is a story that shows why I intensely dislike roads through Cassowary habitat

    When you sit with a mortally injured road strike cassowary for an hour or so I can assure you that extra roads slashed through their precious habitat by Ella Bay Pty Ltd seem more distasteful with every minute that passes.

  3. A note on the Canadian system:
    the one way gates mentioned truly are a last ditch effort for removing animals after they have become trapped inside a fenced area. Much more effective have been the various under and overpasses for exclusive migratory wildlife use, mainly employed in the parks of the rocky mountains.

  4. Thank You anonymous was interesting to see images of these gates in use. Thanks for taking the time to share this link and your thoughts on these "Gates of last resort"!
    cheers Russ


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