President's Report
2006-07

It is my very great pleasure to present this President’s Report for the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group Inc (CIMAG) for 2006-07.

This a significant report, being the first for the organization and because much has happened since we formed in April 2006.

This first year has seen considerable progress in tackling the problem of Indian (Common) Mynas in the Canberra region. We have been very fortunate to have on the inaugural committee such prominent local people as Bruce Lindenmayer, Jenny Bounds, Ian Fraser, Alison Russell-French, Greg Flowers, Peter Franklin, Anne I’ons, Peter Ormay, and Kristiane Herrmann. I wish to pay tribute to them for the work in this first year of operation.

CIMAG operates as a loose association of like-minded members who individually and collectively work to implement the CIMAG Strategy. This Strategy — developed early by the Committee to guide and direct our efforts — recognizes that a multi-layered approach will be needed to achieve our common overarching objective. That objective is to reduce the presence of Indian Mynas in our region and thereby reduce the threat they pose to our wildlife and the nuisance to our urban and home environments.

The Strategy outlines a number of activities to achieve the CIMAG Objective: the main elements being:

  1. developing the profile and membership of the Group
  2. increasing public awareness that this bird is a serious environmental and health threat, as well as a nuisance
  3. public education aimed at limiting the spread of the species by reducing its feeding, breeding and roosting opportunities
  4. introducing a humane Indian Myna reduction program
  5. monitoring the results of the strategy, particularly on any decline of Indian Mynas in our region and any positive impacts on native birds
  6. developing alliances with similar like-minded groups and working with other stakeholders
  7. being involved in a strong research program
  8. promoting and facilitating other communities to establish similar groups.

We can look back over the past year and take some pleasure in knowing that we made solid progress in most of these areas.

On the governance / administration side of the Group, CIMAG was formally registered as an incorporated association in the ACT in September last year. This gives the group a legal entity — and places some obligations on it. As well as developing the Strategy, a Constitution was developed and submitted as part of our Incorporated Association process. An informative website (www.indianmynaaction.org.au) has been established, together with a CIMAG chatline and an email distribution system, thanks to David Cook and the Canberra Ornithologists Group. We have established a regular newsletter to members — the Myna Matters Bulletin — that keeps members and friends informed of developments and activities.

As well, we have established a collaborative arrangement and good relations with the RSPCA — who we see as vital to us maintaining public credibility: they have cleared our Protocol on Animal Welfare and will take trapped mynas and starlings from CIMAG members for disposal. It is for this reason that we earnestly request our members to be constantly mindful of ensuring that any trapping is consistent with sound animal welfare practices — abide by our Protocol — and the Animal Welfare Act.

We have also worked to develop good relations with the ACT Government and relevant public servants in the ACT Department of the Environment. Furthermore, we have made contact with other like-minded groups in Australia — such as the Central Coast Indian Myna Action Group, the North Coast Indian Myna Project — with regional NSW agencies, namely, the Queanbeyan City Council, the Yass and Goulburn Land Protection Boards, and various regional Catchment Management and Landcare Groups. This is helping to build a wide network of community group and government agency involvement in Indian Myna control.

For a community-action group like CIMAG to be successful, we need to have a large number of people involved in our activities: it is for that reason that a lot of effort has gone into building a profile for CIMAG in the community — and at the same time raise public knowledge about the threat posed by mynas and what can be done about them. This has been through radio interviews on ABC 666, some 9 presentations to community groups and NSW government agencies, through our website and the electronic circulation of our regular Myna Matters Bulletins. This has resulted in good membership and participant numbers. CIMAG membership now stands at over 322 with some 305 people — that we have contact with — involved in backyard trapping. Not only are we getting reasonably well known across Canberra / Queanbeyan, but we receive many calls and emails from up and down east coast communities and from New Zealand.

The public education aspect of the Strategy has been pursued through the same channels that we use to gain a public profile: radio interviews, public presentations and some leaflet drops in neigbourhoods. We have been fortunate that Dr Tony Peacock and Ian Fraser — who are CIMAG members — have regular radio spots on ABC radio 666 and have promoted our organization and activities.

The humane trapping program is where we have made significant change at a local level in some areas. As at end June 2007, our mass trapping program had rid Canberra / Queanbeyan area of some 11,200 mynas and almost 1200 starlings. Our members now report rarely seeing mynas in some suburbs where CIMAG members have been involved in intensive trapping operations; native birds back in gardens and rosellas back nesting in hollows and nesting boxes from where they had previously been evicted. This is good news, and demonstrates that our collective actions can have a significant positive impact.

While many people wish to participate in the trapping aspect of the CIMAG strategy, we have had difficulty in keeping up the supply of traps. As well as making traps for CIMAG members, we have sought to meet this demand by holding workshops where people can make their own trap under our guidance. In this regard, I wish to acknowledge the efforts of Peter Green, Greg Flowers and Peter Ormay in organizing these workshops. Some 9 workshops each involving between 10-20 people were held over the course of the past year, while some 6 other mini-workshops were held at my place where each time three-four people were involved. The blueprints of the PeeGees trap are on our website: we know that many non-CIMAG members have made up a trap from our plans on our website, which assists in the overall effort, but unfortunately it also often means we are not able to keep in contact with them and record their numbers.

A challenge for 2007-08 is to find a ready supply of traps to relieve the large unfulfilled demand — now around 100 people. A most welcome development has been the commercialization of Peter Green’s trap by Peter and MynaMagnet of Mitchell: known as the MiniMyna, this may help satisfy some of that demand. Building traps could be a money-raiser for groups, and for this reason we have approached a number of organizations to elicit their interest. This has yet to work out.

Much of what we know about Indian Mynas is the result of research undertaken by Dr Chris Tidemann and his students at the Australian National University (ANU) since the early 1990s. But there is much yet to learn about Indian Mynas: for this reason, we are delighted that at our prompting, the Collaborative Research Centre for Invasive Animals (Dr Tony Peacock) and the ANU Fenner School (Dr Tidemann & Prof David Lindenmayer) have agreed to fund and to supervise a 3½ year PhD scientific research project into Indian Mynas. The research student will examine, amongst other things, the impact, if any, of our trapping efforts on myna numbers and any positive impact this is having on native birds.

Other research work that we are undertaking with Dr Tidemann at the moment relates to assessing the efficacy of using carbon monoxide as a gassing agent for disposing of trapped birds. This is intended to provide some science around the issue of preferred and acceptable gassing methods.

2006-07 has been a very busy and fruitful year. It is a year when some major developments have occurred that will, hopefully, prove highly successful in tackling the serious problem of Indian Mynas in our local area, and by our example to the wider Australian community.

But there is more that the Committee has planned to do in the coming year. Public education and the wider dissemination of information to the public on what the general public and business can do to reduce the opportunity for mynas to find easy food and easy breeding sites is a major task still ahead of us. To this end the Committee applied earlier this year for a grant from the Federal Government’s EnviroFund Grant and also for an ACT Environment Grant. We hope a positive response will be forthcoming in the next month or so.

Finally, I wish to thank all CIMAG members for their enthusiastic participation in this endeavour, and to Dr Chris Tidemann for his support and guidance. It is because of the efforts of CIMAG members that we can say that 2006-07 was indeed a good year for CIMAG.

Bill Handke
President
CIMAG

20 Aug 2007