Wednesday, 26 May, 2021

Herd immunity explained; Crabs v. ants on Christmas Island; Sally Fitzgibbon surfs to victory; and how bin chickens and crocs are ganging up on the Gold Coast.



March of the red crabs


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We’ve spoken a lot in these past six months about vaccines – and you may have heard the expression ‘herd immunity’ thrown around in the news in the last few weeks.

So what does it mean? And why are working towards it? 

‘Herd immunity’ might sound like something that would only be of interest to a cattle farmer – but it’s actually a medical term to describe where all countries of the world hope to be at some stage soon with respect to the coronavirus.

It’s the point at which enough people in a community have been vaccinated so that not only are they less likely to get the disease, they’re also less likely to pass it on to others. 

So why is that important? Because eventually we want to be in position where no matter how hard the COVID virus tries, it finds it really difficult to find anyone in Australia – or anyone in other country of the world, for that matter – to infect. 

That’s how in years gone by we’ve managed to beat other contagious diseases like smallpox, polio, diphtheria, rubella and many others. Diseases that happily, you will most likely never have to worry about because of worldwide vaccine programs that happened long before you were even born.

So yeah. In a nutshell. It is a bit like a cattle farmer doing what he or she has to do protect their herd. And I say moo to that. 

On the subject of herd immunity .. Melbournites were yesterday getting reacquainted with their masks after new cases of COVID were detected in a suburb north of the Victorian capital. There’s been no lockdown declared yet – and fingers and toes crossed there won’t be – but as a precaution, everyone in Greater Melbourne has been told to wear masks again when indoors. That means primary school teachers in Melbourne will be teaching from behind a mask – but students are not required to wear one. But just because your mouths aren’t covered, it’s not an invitation to talk in class whenever you want. Am I right, teachers?




Each day we give the world globe a spin and find a news story from wherever it stops. And today we’ve landed on Christmas Island … which despite being 1,500 kilometres away from the Australian mainland, and smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is actually a part of Australia. And it’s there that scientists are carefully watching a battle play out between the Island’s famous red crabs and an introduced species called crazy ants. 

The crazy ants spray acid into the eyes of the crabs, blinding them, before attacking and eating them alive. Gross. The crazy ants are believed to have killed off millions of the island’s iconic red crabs since they were introduced in the early 1990s. Rangers and conservationists are working together now to work out how to control the populations of crazy ants.

Christmas Island red crabs perform an annual migration which has to be seen to be believed … and lucky for you, I’ve stuck a link to an excellent video explainer in today’s episode notes. 




With barely two months to go before the Olympic Games are set to kick off in Tokyo, where surfing will feature for the first time, Aussie champ, Sally Fitzgibbons has set her sights on a gold medal with a blistering win at the World Surf League event off WA’s Rottnest Island yesterday. 

Sally – who’s a proud NSW South Coast girl – has leaped to number 2 in the world thanks to her performance at Rottnest Island – which means she now goes into the Olympics in a strong position to bring home a medal.

Fellow Aussie, Morgan Cibilic came close to winning the men’s event – finally nosed out by World Number 1, Brazil’s Gabriel Medina. 

I think ‘gnarley’ is the word the surfie kids use. Or do I just sound like the biggest dad ever? 




Bin chickens, tip turkeys, scary black-headed dinosaur birds, or just plain ibis. Whatever you call them – ibises living on the Gold Coast are fast developing a reputation for being as smart and savvy as they are ugly. 

Animal control officers on the Goldie – who have been trying to control the number of ibises there – report that the birds are going to greater lengths to avoid being caught.

Some have taken to building their nests above busy freeways – where they know animal control officers cannot reach them. Others have taken it a step further and built their nests above the crocodile enclosure at a local zoo. Knowing that no animal control officer in his or her right mind is going to crawl into a crocodile enclosure to get them. 

While the birds are native to Australia, their population on the coast had grown to 10,000 before control measures were introduced. And because they are so good at scavenging for food, and sticking their long beaks into garbage bins, the ibis has also pushed lots of other native birds out of their habitats. 

An ibis stole my potato scallop at a picnic the other day. Not a fan… 




Don’t forget tonight is blood moon and lunar eclipse night. From about 9pm if you’re on the east coast of Australia, 8.30pm in the NT or South Australia, and a very respectable 7pm in WA. If the skies are clear, it’s a spectacle you won’t want to miss. 




This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening …

  1. What’s the name of the island where red crabs are locked in battle with acid-spitting crazy ants?
  2. Name the Aussie surfer who just won a big competition on Rottnest Island?
  3. What sort of bird is nesting above crocodile enclosures on the Gold Coast to avoid being caught? 




It’s May 26 … National Sorry Day .. a day to remember the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities, which we now know as ‘The Stolen Generations’.

It’s also a special day for these Squiz Kids celebrating a birthday today …  Charlotte from Glendenning, Lucy from Oran Park, Sophie from the Sunshine Coast, Mason from Wantirna, Abhay from West Ryde, Alex and Ruby, both from Abbotsford, Lexi from Panorama, Kellan from Jindalee, Henry from Perth and Ayden from Sydney. 

 And a belated birthday shoutout to Ping Hui from Wheelers Hill.

And today’s classroom shoutouts go to Mr Place’s Year 5 class at St Francis Xavier Primary School in Geraldton, 5TW at West Ryde Public, Mrs Mitakos’ class 6.2 at St Mary’s in Karrinyup, the 7/8  classes at Nelson Park School in Geelong, Mrs Berry-Porter/s 5SB at Albany Hills State School, Mrs White’s class 5W at Baulkham Hills North, and 3/4 Blue at St Johns Catholic School in Richmond. Phew ! 


The S’Quiz Answers:

1 .Christmas Island

2. Sally Fitzgibbon

3. Ibis .. or bin chicken, or tip turkey.