Regarding the reporting of Emus... and 'Ripper'

To: 'Don Fletcher' <>, 'Con Boekel' <>, "" <>
Subject: Regarding the reporting of Emus... and 'Ripper'
From: Chris Davey <>
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2016 10:33:07 +0000

Thanks Don for the clarification regarding the origins of Ripper. It is interesting that Jonathon promulgated the myth about the origins of Ripper for the story I related in my email is certainly what he told me.




From: Don Fletcher [
Sent: Sunday, December 18, 2016 5:14 PM
To: 'Con Boekel';
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Regarding the reporting of Emus... and 'Ripper'


Great image Con!  It is rare to be able to get shots like that of wild Musk Duck.


Oh Dear!  Perhaps unwisely, I am going to try and undo this oft repeated myth about Ripper and his geographic provenance.   In fact the name ’Ripper’ was bestowed by Jonathon Munro who hand-reared him from an egg as Chris says, in the former Animal House which was destroyed by the 2003 bushfire.  Jonathon brought the egg from Eastern Victoria with my help I think in about 1983.  I thought the egg had almost no chance of hatching but when it did I excitedly cried out ‘You bloody ripper’. I found out weeks later that was where the name everyone was using had come from. There was a spring loaded door near the makeshift rearing pond that Jonathon had created in the Animal House.  A few years later Peter Fullagar and Ed Slater pointed out that Ripper had added the sound of that spring mechanism into his display.  This is an illustration of one way this hand-reared individual was not the same as a wild bird, and his boldness in attacking people was another.  However he did have significant conservation potential, through public education and his contribution to several generations of Musk Ducks which went back to Victoria. Ripper – perhaps the first hand-reared Musk Duck - taught us how easily this species imprints and the need for a more arms-length approach in future. 


I agree that Ripper and Son-of-Ripper help inform the emu question.  Increasingly introduction, reintroduction and population supplementation are being used in conservation management. And larger and larger fenced and unfenced  ‘mainland islands’ are being attempted. Thus a knowledge of the origin of an individual or a population is unlikely to provide COG or anyone else with consistent systems for record keeping.  For example it would be impractical to distinguish a vagrant Bush Stone-curlew (BSC) in Gungahlin from the re-introduced population based at Mulligans Flat.  That individual should be recorded as a wild BSC and so should all BSC other than ones that have been prevented from flying away.  Even if we somehow could tell that bird was from outside the ACT, it may still be a captive-reared bird reintroduced somewhere else because there are many such attempts being made.  Applying that approach to emus, they are wild emus wherever they occur in the ACT (unless behind an emu proof fence).  The number of records is beside the point. Presumably there are many more records of other species, Crimson Rosellas for example.


The challenge at Tidbinbilla is with other bird species than emus which are captive by virtue of wing-clipping or pinioning as this may be unknown to the observer.  (However they are visibly different even when the wings are folded because the primary feathers are present on one side only.)  It should also be easy to obtain a list of captive birds outside aviaries from Tidbinbilla, updated at appropriate intervals.  Of course some species may be present as both wild and captive individuals, as indicated with Magpie Geese.


I hope this has been helpful.

Cheers, Don Fletcher


From: Con Boekel
Sent: Saturday, 17 December 2016 5:08 PM
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Regarding the reporting of Emus... and 'Ripper'


Thank you for all the folklore regarding 'Son of Ripper'. Most enjoyable.

For interest, I have attached an image of 'Son of Ripper' doing his water display. His starboard leg, still curled from creating a water wall fountain effect, is visible.

I nurture an ambition to take the perfect Musk Duck shot with Son of Ripper as the subject but am finding it very challenging. It was only on my last trip out that I realized that just one the reasons a lot of my images were blurring was because the head feathers are vibrated very rapidly during parts of the display.




On 12/17/2016 4:19 PM, Chris Davey wrote:

Con, actually the Musk Duck is the son of Ripper. The original Ripper was raised at Tidbinbilla by Jonathon Munroe (an ex work colleague who then went to work as manager of the waterfowl collection at Tidbinbilla). From memory the egg originally came from a nest along Yarramundi Reach, LBG. The original Ripper would lie in wait until an unsuspecting  handler came to feed him. As the handler bent down to place the food on the ground he would leap out of the bushes and grab the back of the knee causing much pain and the exclamation you bl..dy ripper. Also Jonathon being a recently arrived Pom I think liked the word.



From: Con Boekel [m("","con");">]
Sent: Saturday, December 17, 2016 2:09 PM
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Regarding the reporting of Emus... and 'Ripper'


The Tidbinbilla Musk Duck's name is 'Ripper'.

I was told recently that 'Ripper' has been there for 16 years. I do know that Ripper enjoys his mince treats. Ripper is also ferocious when it comes to defending what is his. He swims under water and attacks Pacific Black Ducks physically. I assume that small ducklings would not survive Ripper's attentions. Ripper does all the male Musk Duck things including spectacular water displays, inflating his dewlap, and arching his tail in a most becoming fashion.

While I cannot possibly know for sure I would suggests that Ripper may well be the most photographed male Musk Duck in the world.




On 12/17/2016 1:37 PM, Ryu Callaway wrote:

I think all Tidbinbilla records need to be treated with caution. 

While things like the Musk duck and Brolga are more obvious, distinguishing the captive little pied cormorant from wild visitors would not necessarily be easy. I don't know if they get wild pelicans, but if so, care would need to be taken to separate from the 2 or so captive individuals. 

I reported Freckled Duck on the ponds one time- and then I found out when talking to one of the Volunteer Interpreters that they had been released some time earlier (I think with feathers trimmed) but were free to fly off since their feathers should have grown back. Do these count? Would the average observer or even all the volounteers have known? Who knows what else they may have released there. 

It may be worthwhile to get in touch with Tidbinbilla on a regular basis to be up to date on what they have been doing there, and perhaps posting updates and a list (with counts) of captive birds or birds to be treated as such to the chatline.

In the meantime, I just report everything (as do a number of others), and trust that someone in the data analysis process knows what counts and what doesn't.






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