surveys gather data on animal and bird
movements, growth rate longevity, etc..
Without some form of positive identification
such studies would not be possible.
captive populations the processes of natural
selection are thwarted. Without precise
breeding records based on a method of
identification, it becomes impossible to
maintain a healthy gene pool over a number of
studies in the wild, but especially in
captivity, are greatly facilitated where
identification of individual animals is
4. From time
to time, it may be desirable to have proof of
ownership or proof that fauna was captive bred.
Some permanent form of identification such as
Tattoos or closed rings may seem desirable.
Rings are the
most appropriate method of distinguishing birds.
suggested that the National Parks and Wildlife
Service should insist that all captive bred
birds be closed rung to provide proof of captive
breeding. Such rings would be individually
numbered and supplied by the N.P.W.S. to,
theoretically, provide complete control over the
hobby to avoid nest robbing and trapping.
rings can only be placed on young birds prior to
fledging, such a system could have a significant
effect on trapping. It would not, of course,
affect nest robbing in the least. It would
shift illegal activity from mist netting to nest
robbing and thereby perhaps increasing chainsaw
notable examples of wild species which adapt
very readily to captivity and are easily tamed
and domesticated. Many do not resent
inspection of the nest or handling of their
young. There are exceptions which may number as
high as a majority. These birds would kill or
desert their young. Domesticated species such
as Lovebirds, Budgerigars or Indian Ringneck
parrots are likely to offer a much lower loss
rate due to the proposed compulsory
interference, but the incidence of deserted
young in other species could well be
some native birds lay eggs in cup shaped nest
which lends itself to inspection. But what of
the complex woven nests of many other finch
species? Compulsory closed ringing almost
certainly implies an end to captive breeding of
of birds, notably parrots, but also finches,
softbills and doves, will try to remove foreign
objects from a nest. Many species do not
remove droppings and food waste from the nest
site, and where a clutch is large, it is common
for the feet of the young to become caked with
dried offal causing infection, deformity or just
discomfort. Under many circumstances a ring
on the leg would aggravate this situation. For
many birds, notably ground birds, a ring may
prove a fatal hazard if it impedes its progress
through the grass and scrub.
clearly many advantages to closed ringing, and
undeniably in positive methods of
identification, but advocates of the concept
tend to base their enthusiastic support on
rather sparse data, or on a casual disregard for
the welfare of the birds.
rings, available in a range of distinguishing
colours or colour patterns nay be stretched to
fit over the bird’s leg after it is safely
weaned. It then contracts to a comfortable
fit permanently around the leg,
spring curls may be unfurled and rewound about
the leg for identification, but parrots and some
other species are often able to work these
metal rings, individually numbered, can be
placed on a bird of any age for positive
identification, but do require the owner to
capture the bird, unlike coloured plastic rings
which may be used for identification at a
(Eds. note -
Since this article was first published, as many
of you will already know, the split metal rings
are now available in a multitude of colours with
ready identification from a distance, but would
seem to pose a threat to the welfare of the
animal if they were to catch on twigs and
branches in the brush. It would seem to pose a
special hazard for species such as Pademelons or
Rat Kangaroos which are known to commonly travel
through heavy scrub at speed.
identification is limited to animals which are
first caught, this seems a relatively painless
manner of marking individual animals.
Unfortunately many species will scratch out
possibly on the inside of the leg could prove a
permanent form of identification which may be
applied painlessly to a sedated animal. Its
value is limited by the fact that the animal
must be caught for identification, and with
Macropods the stress can be fatal.
possible to achieve some degree of identity
recognition by means of dyes on the fur of
captured animals in a field survey, but factors
such as doubt on the permanence of the dye, and
the limited range of distinction possible, make
this method unpopular.
off a toe or toes at the first joint it is
possible to provide for permanent
is commonly employed on field surveys or in
scientific institutions such as the I .M.V.S..
most animals survive the state of shock one
imagines must be induced by the experience of
having part of a toes or toes hacked off. If
done correctly at the joint, it seems, bleeding
is minimal and there is little risk of
infection. On that basis, it would seem that
the compensation claims of some workers in
industry for the loss of digits are
over-rated. Or do small toes have less
feeling than big ones?
conduct our surveys of small mammals at Second
Valley, it will not be possible to use leg rings
on the mice, possums or bandicoots we study as
these could become caught in the scrub and so
injure the fauna. Fur dyes are not practical
and neck collars, even if they could be fitted
on creatures such as small marsupial mice, would
pose a threat. It seems then, that we will be
obliged to clip a few toes.
a lot of young ducklings and geese and on a few
occasions have had to pinion an adult bird, and
have no qualms about going culling kangaroos, so
why do I have trouble convincing myself that
hacking the toes off a rat in the interest
science is nothing to get squeamish about?
could console me by pointing out that we will be
using some form of local anaesthetic and spray
on antiseptic plastic skin.