Sydney weather: Thursday set to be another scorcher

Thursday is set to be another scorcher. Photo: Kirk GilmourSome parts of world to warm by 6 degreesSydney’s surprise temperature spike

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Sydney can expect another scorcher on Thursday, with temperatures again climbing just shy of the 40-degree mark in the western suburbs.

The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a top of 35 degrees but the mercury may rise further – as it did on Wednesday when the maximum hit 37.5 degrees – if the sea breeze turns to be later or weaker than expected.

Sydney Airport was the hottest place in the city on Wednesday, with the mercury reaching 40.3 degrees.

“A small delay in a sea breeze can make a significant difference,” Peter Zmijewski, a senior forecaster at the bureau, said. Similarly more cloud cover could trim the temperature by a degree or two.

Thunderstorms are expected across the Sydney Basin on Thursday afternoon and evening as the heat builds up.

Parts of the state’s north should again climb into the 40s, the bureau said.

Holidaymakers heading back to Sydney might want to consider an early start as conditions turn less favourable for the beach after Thursday.

Apart from the north-east corner of NSW, most of the state can expect “a showery, thundery and cloudy day” on Friday, Tristan Meyers, a meteorologist with Weatherzone, said.

Rainfall totals are tipped for Sydney to be as much as 6mm on Friday and possibly 15mm on Saturday.

Saturday morning may also include thundery conditions for Sydney as a moisture-laden change moves through, Mr Meyers said.

Conditions should then be mild for a few days before temperatures start to climb by early February, he said.

After a cool start to January, average maximums in Sydney are running almost one degree above normal for the month.

On current forecasts, it is likely the city will record its 49th consecutive month of warmer-than-average temperatures, according to bureau data.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

10,000-year-old fossil marks oldest evidence of human warfare, scientists say

This skeleton of a man with “multiple lesions on the front and left side of the skull, consistent with wounds from a blunt implement, such as a club”. Photo: Marta Mirazon Lahr The skeletons were discovered near Lake Turkana in Kenya. Photo: Marta Mirazon Lahr

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The skeletal remains of a group of hunter-gatherers killed in a brutal slaughter 10,000 years ago has been uncovered, with scientists believing it is the oldest known example of human warfare.

The remains of 27 people, including six children and eight women, were found on the border of an ancient lagoon at Nataruk, near Lake Turkana in Kenya, in 2012.

Ten of the 12 complete skeletons excavated appeared to have been of people killed violently with crushing blows to the skull and fatal arrow wounds.

Several others appear to have died with their hands and feet bound, the scientists said.

The fossilised remains of a six- to nine-month-old fetus were discovered in the stomach cavity of one of the female skeletons.

None of the bodies had been buried; they were found scattered around the lagoon, often face down in the mud.

The international research offered “a rare glimpse into the life and death of past foraging people”, according to the findings.

Radiocarbon dating researcher Rachel Wood from the Australian National University estimated the bodies were between 9500 and 10,500 years old, by measuring radioactive traces of uranium in the bones.

“It is a highly emotional find. It is hard not to be moved by the intentional killing of a group of men, women and children, even if it did happen 10,000 years ago,” Dr Wood said.

Arrowheads found near the bodies were made of obsidian, a black volcanic rock not used by the tribes in the region, which suggests the group were killed by external parties.

The origins of human warfare are highly controversial among scientists, the report said.

Previously, evidence of large-scale warfare between hunter-gatherer groups was “extremely rare”, but was more typical of settled societies.

Scientists remain uncertain as to the motivations behind the massacre, but speculate that it was either a raid for resources on a newly settled tribe, or a “standard antagonistic response” to a meeting between two hunter-gatherer groups.

Rainer Grun, director of Griffith University’s Research Centre of Human Evolution, said the findings were one of the “earliest indications of humankind’s propensity for group violence”.

“Not only does this broaden our knowledge of early human behaviour, it raises questions about whether the capacity for organised violence is elemental to our nature or a product of circumstances and opportunity,” Professor Grun said.

“In either case, the deaths at Nataruk are testimony to the antiquity of inter-group violence and war,” the study reported.

The research was led by the University of Cambridge and published in the scientific journal Nature on Thursday.

Rio Olympics 2016: Olyroos miss out on Games after goalless draw with Jordan

Disappointing tournament: Olyroos coach Aurelio Vidmar. Photo: Getty Images Australia’s Olympic soccer dreams are over following the Olyroos failure to break down a stubborn Jordan in the final pool game of their qualifying tournament in Doha, Qatar, overnight.

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The Australians could only manage a scoreless draw when a victory was needed to progress to the knockout phase of the qualifying tournament. Jordan, at age group and senior level, are fast becoming a bogey side for Australia, and Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos will have to be on their mettle when they meet the Jordanians in a final World Cup qualifying pool game in Sydney in March.

In the end the disappointment came down to an own goal five minutes from time in the opening 1-0 defeat against the UAE – and the fact that coach Aurelio Vidmar was missing more than half a team of players who would probably have been first choice selections in his starting XI.

A number of those – players like Lazio’s Chris Ikonomidis and Ross County’s Jackson Irvine – have already played for the senior national team, and their experience and talent would have been vital in such competitive circumstances.

Though the Olyroos had beaten Vietnam 2-0 in their second pool game, it was not enough: the failure to beat Jordan overnight meant that the Olyroos finished the group with four points – a decent return, but not enough to overhaul Jordan (five points) or the UAE (seven points), both of whom were unbeaten in the four-team pool.

The Australians might have controlled possession, but they could not break down a well-drilled Jordanian rearguard. The closest they came was in the dying moments, when Brisbane striker Jamie Maclaren’s lob came back off the crossbar.

It’s impossible not to speculate on how Vidmar’s side would have fared had he been able to pick the players he wanted.

Irvine, Brad Smith (Liverpool), Kenneth Dougall (Sparta Rotterdam), Ryan Williams (Barnsley), Milos Degenek (1860 Munich) and Awer Mabil (Midtjylland) were all candidates who were not released by their clubs.

Smith was, in fact, in action for Liverpool early on Thursday morning when the Reds beat Exeter in an FA Cup third round replay.

Ikonomidis, currently on loan to Salernitana from his parent club Lazio, was originally in the squad but was later withdrawn, as was Roda JC’s Danny De Silva.

For Australia, with so many young players at overseas clubs, these tournaments will always be a challenge as they are not on FIFA designated match days and clubs are under no obligation to release any players selected.

Melbourne Victory, who had five players in the Olyroos squad, will at least benefit, as they will get their players back earlier than might have been the case, perhaps in time to be considered for the Australia Day clash with Sydney FC.

Former Liverpool star Luis Garcia vows to repay Central Coast Mariners’ faith

“I feel very good and I’m confident that I can give things to the team, and hopefully at the weekend I can play a little bit”: Luis Garcia, pictured at Sydney Airport on Thursday morning. Photo: Twitter: @luchogarcia14It was the airport arrival of a high-profile star many Central Coast Mariners fans waited years for and then the sudden jolt of reality none of them wanted to hear. When former Atletico Madrid, Liverpool and Barcelona star Luis Garcia emerged from the gates of Sydney Airport at sunrise on Thursday morning, the Mariners’ new marquee was quickly swamped by about 50 fans that made the long trip down the Pacific Highway to welcome him to the A-League.

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But no sooner than the cheers die down did the 37-year-old Spaniard provide an honest assessment of his role at the bottom-placed club and their fortunes for the season.

“I don’t think I can lift them up, I think I can help to put something good into the team,” Garcia said. “After that the club is mainly going to be there for bringing new players and trying to change the situation of the team. All together, I think we can do something good.”

What he did promise, though, was to repay the faith of the Mariners and help develop their squad full of promising youngsters. After all, the club gave him a chance to resume his playing career after more than a year’s hiatus after he last played in the Indian Super League.

“Garcia In” was the sign raised at by the club’s fans who cheered his arrival and promptly swamped their new star for autographs.

“It’s fantastic to receive that welcome from the people and hopefully I can return that on the pitch,” Garcia said.

He says it took little time for the Mariners to convince him to resume his playing career and abandon his post at global TV network beIN Sports where he had worked as a pundit during his year off field.

The club’s ambition to develop youngsters inspired the veteran to strap his boots on again and he believes he still has a lot to offer and assist particularly with guiding young players.

“Actually they called me. It wasn’t in my mind to come back and play football. I was happy working for beIN Sports … I was alright but I wasn’t missing football so much and when they call me and say ‘listen, come here we have a fantastic support from our supporters, we have a nice place, a nice stadium so maybe you can come out here’. I didn’t think about it too much,” he said.

At his age and having spent a year away from the game, major concerns were held over Garcia’s fitness and ability to compete in a league as physical as the A-League and played during the hot Australian summer.

Garcia acknowledges his pace and stamina is not what it was when he helped Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title – but says he is in good shape and is experienced enough to know how to get the most out of his body.

“It’s alright. I have to take care of some stuff, don’t get crazy, don’t try to think that I’m 25 anymore. I’m not. But I feel very good and I’m confident that I can give things to the team, and hopefully at the weekend I can play a little bit if the coach is alright with that. I’ll be here to help,” he said. Ready for my new journey. Exciting challenge ahead. @CCMariners#[email protected]杭州夜网/tZGuq0eHoQ— Luis Garcia (@LuchoGarcia14) January 19, 2016

Carbon dioxide causing ‘intoxication’ of ocean fish sooner than expected

Ocean fish risk being lost at sea and prone to predators with rising carbon dioxide in oceans. Photo: Eduardo Sorensen/OceanaOcean fish around the world risk becoming lost at sea if carbon dioxide concentrations in seawater continue to rise on current trajectories, a study from the University of NSW has found.

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The study, published in the journal Nature, is the first global analysis of the impact of rising carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels on natural variations in carbon dioxide concentrations in the world’s oceans.

It found that carbon dioxide concentrations could reach levels high enough to disorient and “intoxicate” fish, a condition known as hypercapnia.

“Essentially, the fish become lost at sea,” said the study report’s lead author,  Ben McNeil, of UNSW.

“The carbon dioxide affects their brains and they lose their sense of direction and ability to find their way home. They don’t even know where their predators are.”

Hypercapnia research in fish is relatively new, starting about 6 years ago.

In the case of ocean fish, high levels of carbon dioxide affect receptors for GABA, “the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the vertebrate brain”.

The study suggested the resulting physiological and behavioural impacts could have extensive implications for “population replenishment, community structure, ecosystem function” and, in turn, the world’s fisheries.

“In terms of the problem for fisheries, you’ve got juvenile fish who can’t recognise where their home is or sense where predators are. So obviously they are very prone to being eaten or lost,” Dr McNeil said.

“It is still really unknown how this will manifest in the future … but it’s a bit of a wake-up call for commercial fisheries [who will] have to manage this, because it is going to be likely quite a big problem.”

Dr McNeil said the effect only occurs as humans increase carbon dioxide output, meaning “the only way to mitigate is to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”.

The study found a substantial amplification of the annual oceanic carbon dioxide cycle over the 21st century, recording a five- to eight-fold amplification in regions within the Southern, Pacific and North Atlantic oceans.

While the study only looked at open ocean areas, Dr McNeil said the likely hotspots in Australia would be in southern regions, “south of Tasmania and along the Antarctic”.

For this work the team has developed an algorithm to predict future carbon dioxide levels and have launched a challenge for others to help in the next phase of the research.

“We are challenging other scientists with innovative predictive approaches to download the data set we used … to see if they can beat our approach,” Dr McNeil said.

ARC Centre for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies biologist Professor Phillip Munday said the study had sparked a lot of interest among the scientific community, but he was uncomfortable with the description of fish as “intoxicated”.

“I do not agree with the term from a scientific perspective. Intoxication is a term related to the effects of alcohol, which is not what this is.”

He said a more apt description of what fish experience with elevated levels of carbon dioxide is “behavioural impairment”.

“What this paper really tells us is that the levels of carbon dioxide in open oceans are going to be higher and last longer than we may have expected, therefore we need to get a good handle on how these rising levels could affect open ocean species.”

The UNSW scientists utilised a global database of seawater carbon dioxide concentrations from the past 30 years, allowing them to predict that by 2100, creatures in up to half the world’s surface oceans could be affected by hypercapnia.

The findings come just days after an Ellen MacArthur Foundation report found the world’s oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight) by 2050.

The New Plastics Economy report outlined an alternative approach to reducing the flow of plastics into natural ecosystems and dissociating plastics from fossil feed stocks.

Australian Open 2016: It’s a fine mess as Nick Kyrgios is hit for swearing and Venus Williams for a no-show

Nick Kyrgios has been slapped with the second largest fine of the Australian Open to date after swearing in his first-round victory against Pablo Correno Busta on Monday. Kyrgios was hit was a $US3000 ($A4380) fine on Wednesday for audible obscenity during his straight-sets win against the Spaniard.

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While Kyrgios has a suspended $25,000 fine and 28-day ban hanging over his head, the strict guidelines around verbal and physical abuse are only applicable at ATP events, not grand slams. The suspended sanctions were put in place after his now infamous “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend” sledge at Stan Wawrinka in August last year.

However, the biggest fine of the tournament has been handed to former world No.1 Venus Williams, who copped a $US5000 fine for not fronting a mandatory post-match media conference on Tuesday. Williams was not in the mood for talking following her shock straight-sets defeat to the Sydney-born Johanna Konta, who now represents Great Britain.

Australian Open officials announced the sanction against the 35-year-old, who went down 6-4, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena, on Wednesday. While her sister Serena attended her post-match commitments, she did call a premature end to the conference, saying: “I’m calling it, I’m out” as she left the room.

Venus, the tournament’s No.8 seed, was given the largest fine a female competitor has been given for brushing the media conference, and the second highest since former Australian Open champion Marat Safin was fined $10,000 at the French Open in 2001.

Serena was asked on Wednesday about why Venus did not front the media. “I don’t know. If you want to, you can ask her,” a laughing Williams said sarcastically. “Yeah, I don’t know. I wasn’t here.”

Australia’s women have struggled at this year’s Open, but Konta – who represented Australia from 2008 to 2012 before joining Great Britain – has no plans to return.

“No. Unfortunately, my home is Great Britain,” she said. “It has been for a long time now, over a decade. Yeah, no, that’s where my heart is.”

Don’t follow Daddy

He is likely to be remembered as the greatest in the history of the sport, but Roger Federer admits he does not want his children following in his footsteps.

Federer waltzed into the third round of the Australian Open for the 16th consecutive time on Wednesday morning, but the former world No.1 does not harbour a desire to keep coming back to Rod Laver Arena for much longer.

His six-year-old twin daughters Charlene and Myla have begun playing tennis, but their father is hopeful they do not make a career out of the sport.

“I will support them all the way whatever they want to do, but I don’t see myself doing that right now,” Federer said about the prospect of following his children around the tennis tour for the next few decades.

“I’d rather support them in another sport. Go see them be a super skier. That would be exciting. To go watch tennis matches, I don’t know. [Laughter]. As much as I love it now, I’m just not sure what my excitement level will be in 20 years’ time from now. You never know.”

Sweet smell of success

The scent of Rod Laver Arena sent Victoria Azarenka on a walk down memory lane, reminding her of her success in 2012, when she waltzed back on to centre court on Tuesday night. “I have no idea what it smells like. It takes me a little bit down the memory lane. It just, you know, makes me excited. So I would say it’s less of a smell as much as memories, you know, and the feelings that I get.”

Huge rise in g​ambling

​The allegations of corruption in tennis have done little to hinder interest in gambling on the Australian Open. Tournament partners William Hill, the first betting agency to sponsor a grand slam, have recorded a significant rise in gambling on last year. There has been a 93 per cent increase in turnover compared to the first two days of last year’s tournament. There has also been a 258 per cent increase in turnover on live betting, with total bets up almost 150 per cent.

Serena not so serene

If you listened to some of the questions being asked of Serena Williams in her press conference, you could understand why she looked so disinterested following her second-round victory. There has been no escaping her shock loss to Roberta Vinci at last year’s US Open, nor is there any escaping questions about it four months later. Asked if she has watched the match since, a frustrated Williams said: “Yeah, I watch it every day. Every night to get ready”. She might not have ended her own press conference this time around, but she at least provided warning that her patience was wearing thin saying: “I’m coming apart, though. Do we have any more questions?”

Danny O’Brien says the fight against his four-year ban has only just begun

Suspended: Trainer Danny O’BrienTrainer Danny O’Brien believes the fight against his four-year cobalt disqualification from the Victorian Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board has only just started, claiming he was looking forward to “examining [the case] properly in a real adult court”.

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O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh appealed immediately to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after they were yesterday handed four and three-year bans, respectively,  for cobalt offences. The  trainers said their lawyers would be looking at every level of the process.

“You’ll all be aware that we’ve raised some real issues with how this scenario has played out over the last 12 months before Christmas there,” O’Brien said.

“We still haven’t had any answers from RVL. The chief integrity officer [Terry Bailey] has gone missing for I believe it will be seven weeks when he supposedly comes back on the first of February.

“I guess that’s probably the first time where we’ll get some idea of where they stand on all this but at the end of the day, they’re really only holding back the tide for when we get to VCAT and everything is examined properly in a real adult court.”

O’Brien and Kavanagh’s vet, Tom Brennan, was disqualified for six years, backdated to August 1 last year,  for his part in the cobalt positive swabs taken from  Caravan Rolls On, Bondeiger, De Little Engine and Bullpit from the O’Brien yard and the Kavanagh-trained Magicool in the spring of 2014.

The Championships place in Australian racing continues to be strong with the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and TJ Smith the equal top ranked race in Australia in the world’s top 100 group 1 released on Wednesday.

Australia had the most races in the top 100 with 23, but it doesn’t include the Melbourne Cup as it is a handicap and over 3200 metres. However the Queen Elizabeth and TJ Smith, which is the best sprint in the world, only ranked at number 25.

“It confirms The Championships place as the grand finals of racing in Australia,” Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said. “It was good to see so many races from our autumn carnival in the list.”

The world’s best race according to the list is the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe, ahead of the Breeders Cup Classic and Juddmonte International run at York.

Warwick Farm trainer Louis Baudon chalked up his first Sydney win when Evason came with a late charge to win over 2400m first-up for nine months at his home track on Wednesday.

It was a remarkable training performance by the Frenchman with an imported son of Galileo, which was having his first start since running in France in April last year.

“Him and me are adapting to Australia together. He needs longer, the longer the better with him,” Baudon said.

‘An absolute circus’: Nick Kyrgios changes outfit mid-match because his shorts were too small

Inbetweener: Nick Kyrgios attempts a trick shot against Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas. Photo: Joe ArmaoNick Kyrgios is used to his short temper getting him in trouble, but it was his short shorts that caused problems during his second-round Australian Open clash on Wednesday night.

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The Australian tennis star dispatched with Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in straight sets at Hisense Arena in front of a supportive crowd.

Kyrgios did, however, have to contend with a challenge more familiar to AFL players: his shorts were too small.

The 20-year-old appeared bothered during the first two sets by his white shorts, which weren’t big enough to hold an extra ball for his second serve.

While a snug pair of shorts never held back the likes of Warwick Capper, it became too much for Kyrgios, who was allowed to change into a roomier black pair late in the second set.

It’s unclear exactly what happened, but Kyrgios was clearly displeased about the wardrobe malfunction.

“Mate, it was an absolute circus,” he said during the post-match interview.

“I’m not going to talk too much about it, but it was just a massive mix up and that’s just part of the challenges you face.”

Asked if he would be wearing different shorts for the next match, he replied: “I’m hoping so, I hope I get that right ones, I’m just glad I got through that.”

Kyrgios comes back with different shorts. But your outfit, Nick! It’s ruined! #AusOpen— Max Laughton (@dshban) January 20, 2016

Kyrgios doing a heck of a job promoting Nike Uncomfortable Shorts #AusOpen— Mich (@SurfBumMich) January 20, 2016BREAKING: Nick Kyrgios’ shorts delivery dumped into the Yarra River #AusOpenpic.twitter杭州夜网/vCAWBtKB5t— The Magnet (@mikkithompson93) January 20, 2016I agree that shorts that have no room for balls are frustrating. It shouldn’t happen. @NickKyrgios— Dave Hughes (@DHughesy) January 20, 2016It’s all about the #[email protected] oh I mean #Shorts live on #7Tennis >https://t.co/jNi2Rxuht2https://t.co/Qgdtw4E5R7— 7Tennis (@7tennis) January 20, 2016C’mon #AusOpen commentators, enough about the #Kyrgios shorts. If I wanted people harping on about trvivialities I’d tune into #AUSvIND— Anthony Sharwood (@antsharwood) January 20, 2016Comms speculating Kyrgios is upset b/c pockets in his shorts are uncomfortable when stuffed w a ball, ie, that outfit is UGLY AND USELESS!— betti w. woo (@bettiwettiwoo) January 20, 2016White shorts. Black shorts. Have I missed something important? #Kyrgios#AusOpen#shorts— Angie Dreese (@writeAngiewrite) January 20, 2016

Byron Bay festival gives koalas the blues as furry neighbours look to escape racket

Crowds flock to the annual Bluesfest Byron Bay. Photo: Edwina Pickles George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at the 2015 Bluesfest. Photo: Edwina Pickles

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A music festival in the Byron hinterland has put some of the furrier locals at an increased risk of disease, a new report has found.

The report, published this month, links the “aversive behaviour” of a number of the koalas observed to Bluesfest Byron Bay, where the koalas moved away from their home-range area, “perpendicular to and away from staging areas where music was played”, the report showed.

“For koalas to get up and leave their home-ranges is quite significant,” author of the report and managing director of Biolink Ecological Consultants, Steve Phillips, said.

“Koalas are very particular about what they eat and where they live so, if they’re bombarded by this low noise, it’s potentially coming from a bigger koala. They’re going to pack up and leave; they fear it,” he said.

The report showed three of the radio-collared koalas whose core home-ranges were within 525 metres of the festival arena moved out of these areas.

Three others located further out also showed movement patterns that led away from the festival but stayed within their home-ranges.

Behavioural observations on the last koala showed signs “morbidity”, including lethargy during the music event. This koala was found dead after the study but the cause could not conclusively identified.

The report suggests the increased stress from the noise created by the festival that causes the koalas to move about could “compromise immunological processes”, leading to increased susceptibility to disease.

“The question the paper asks is, ‘At what cost are the koalas moving?’ And we don’t know what that cost is,” Dr Phillips said.

Sean FitzGibbon from the Koala Ecology Group at the University of Queensland said, “It is commonly known stress predisposes animals to disease, but there is not a lot of evidence to say this occurs in koalas.”

Dr FitzGibbon, who heads the consultancy team for Bluesfest, said the group had made huge progress treating diseased koalas since the five-year-old data was taken when there were very high levels of disease, causing death in local numbers.

“We’ve been monitoring them in the four years since [the study was done] at every festival. At each Bluesfest we track the koalas daily to make sure they’re comfortable, in a normal area and out of harm’s way,” he said.

“The conclusions from Mr Phillips’ study are not supported by the data we have collected in the four years since.”

Dr FitzGibbon also said the koalas’ stress responses from the festival were “minor” because three of the koalas tracked in the study didn’t move out of normal ranges, showing no “aversive responses” and three that did moved only short distances, returning soon after.

“That’s what we hope they would do at a festival site,” he said, and some of them “were in the area we would expect to find them. You can’t know if they moved because of music.”

“I think the main threats to koalas at the site are disease and wild dogs and Bluesfest is making big efforts to mitigate [their] impact,” he said.

Bluesfest director Peter Noble said the monitoring of koalas on the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm property was “best practice”.

“What we’re doing on my site is hard work. We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to create an environment where the koala population can increase,” he said, adding that Bluesfest was the only festival to have a koala plan of management approved by the NSW government.

“Our goal is to have disease-free koalas on our site. We take this seriously,” he said.

Dr Phillips said ongoing monitoring was important to ensure a healthy koala population and performance indicators needed to be used to measure their progress.

“We all want to arrest decline [in koala numbers],” he said. “If the result [from the paper] is that we learn and improve our managing techniques, that’s a good thing.”

Racing’s saddest day just got worse

Trainer Mark Kavanagh (pictured) said he remained confident of having the findings overturned. Photo: Pat ScalaRacing’s cobalt saga has now claimed the careers of two more top trainers and a once-distinguished veterinary surgeon after the Racing And Disciplinary Appeals Board disqualified them on Wednesday.

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Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Mark Kavanagh was given three years, fellow Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien four, and vet Tom Brennan five, All sat quietly as the sentences were announced.

The cobalt doping case is the biggest in Victoria’s long racing history. In fact, the scourge has wracked the sport nationally since cobaly was first introduced from the United States three years ago.

Cobalt has now all but ended or threatened the careers of five Victorian trainers. Lee and Shannon Hope were disqualified for three and five years respectively last December.

Peter Moody, once Australia’s leading trainer, has his own cobalt case returning to the appeals board next month and he too could face three years in the racing wilderness.

Cobalt was outlawed by Racing Victoria in April 2014 after intelligence was gathered that cobalt doping was occurring overseas and in harness racing in New South Wales.

Cobalt causes the body to produce more of its own EPO, so cobalt abuse is akin to EPO doping – the drug of choice for cheats.

The drug was put on racing’s totally banned or zero-tolerance drug list, meaning a positive swab would result in a mandatory three-year disqualification.

Disqualification means a person is banished from the sport, not allowed to go onto race courses, stables or have interaction with any licensed people.

While the penalty may seem harsh it is in keeping with doping penalties in other sports such as cycling and athletics where minimum bans of two years are given.

For the first time, veterinarians have been heavily implicated. Brennan has been associated with cobalt positives across two states and involving three trainers.

However, he has maintained that he did not know that the vitamin mix he was injecting into horses contained 170 times the normal concentration of cobalt in commercial vitamin mixes.

Before Christmas, Moody’s hearing was told that his vet, Peter Angus, routinely injected Moody’s horses intravenously with syringes yet he did not know the contents of the syringes.

There have been payments declared at the last minute from private bank accounts to individual veterinarians yet never put through any business account.

There have been denials of any treatment, the blaming of feed supplements but anything other than an admission of doping.

The trainers found guilty have said they will appeal to Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. But their reputations are forever tarnished as they have been found guilty of cheating by the RAD board, racing’s independent court.

O’Brien and Kavanagh briefly told the media after their guilty verdicts that they remain confident at having the findings overturned at VCAT later in the year.

These decisions must be seen as a massive victory for Racing Victoria’s integrity team headed by Terry Bailey and vet Brian Stewart, who embarked on a change of culture just four years ago.

Racing Victoria’s chairman David Moodie said that he and his board fully supported Bailey and his team and maintained respect for the RAD board.

Bailey confirmed to Fairfax Media on Wednesday that he was on annual leave and would return on February 1.