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Santa might bring a devil to Hunter homes

VITAL ROLE: Scooter the Tasmanian devil at the ark in the Upper Hunter. – Picture by Jonathan CarrollLOOKING for a devil of a gift this Christmas?
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The Newcastle Herald, in partnership with the Australian Reptile Park, is launching a community campaign to raise funds for the Devil Ark conservation project.

Almost a year after it was established on a 500hectare site in the Upper Hunter, the ark is playing a vital role in ensuring the survival of the Tasmanian devil.

About 90 devils are expected to live in the sanctuary, which is free from the deadly facial tumours that have ravaged the Tasmanian populations, by the end of this year.

But while it’s good news for the devils’ future, their food and upkeep doesn’t come cheap.

It costs about $2 a day to feed a devil and $200 a year to treat it for parasites, ticks and worms. All up, it costs about $900 year to keep each devil healthy.

‘‘It’s great news that we have all these devils being born and more will be arriving from Tasmania soon, but on the other hand that impacts on our costs,’’ Devil Ark campaign manager Monique Ryan said.

A range of options can help people to support the program.

For $2000 a year you can literally adopt a devil. The package includes naming rights, plus regular updates and photos of your devil.

For those wanting to incorporate a devil’s welfare into their Christmas gift list, a devilish Christmas card might fit the bill.

‘‘The card’s recipient will receive a personalised card saying that a donation has been made on their behalf,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘Companies can also make a donation instead of sending Christmas cards and we’ll provide an e-card they can send instead.’’

Support Devil Ark

www.devilark南京夜网.au or phone 1300 553 565

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Word of Mouth: Al Gators

LET’S DO LUNCH: Ian Markwell works his magic at Al Gators in Newcastle East. – Picture by Ryan OslandIt is 2.30 on a sunny Monday afternoon and the phone at Newcastle East eatery Al Gators is persistently ringing. Owner Ian Markwell sits down at one of the six small tables to eat a quick lunch of some hot chips and a sandwich while co-worker Kerry Irwin – ‘‘Her husband’s name is Steve’’ – answers the phone.
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Markwell has been here since 5.30am chopping up vegies for the salad bar and crumbing chicken schnitzels, which are the star ingredient in the popular Mexican chicken burger that also features melted cheese, salsa and guacamole – the perfect hangover salve.

But Al Gators’ loyal customers, who include police, surfies, barristers, office workers, and fluorescent-shirted tradies, prefer Greek and falafel rolls this early in the week. My favourite is the jaw-expanding vegie burger featuring an array of salads, salsa and a fried patty. Markwell’s stepson Shane Davis, who has worked with him for the past 20 years, is charged with making the patties, which consist of ‘‘vegies, oats and a few sauces’’.

Everything except the seasoned beer-battered chips, pies and sausage rolls is made on site.

Markwell’s interest in serving vegetarian food harks back to the 1980s when he owned Cafe Gritz on Darby Street, before moving on to Eccles in the Civic Arcade and Al Gators’ early incarnation, Crusties, which was around the corner on Hunter Street.

‘‘We had to change the name from Crusties because it wasn’t registered,’’ Markwell recalls. ‘‘I saw a crazy T-shirt in Hawaii advertising Al Gators Cajun Cafe San Francisco. It had a picture of an alligator smoking a cigar – I’ve still got the original at home – and I thought it was funny.’’

Markwell, who is 68 on New Year’s Eve, has observed the transformation of Newcastle’s food scene since opening his first establishment, the Coffee Urn, in Cooks Hill in 1982. Back then, Darby Street had perennial favourite The Bistro, Taco Bills, a hamburger joint and a steakhouse. Thai food was yet to make an appearance and the takeaway food explosion was still on the horizon.

Tastes have changed and Darby Street has been transformed.

‘‘I like the vegetarian stuff – it’s what I eat myself – but you can’t make a living out of just vegetarian food now,’’ Markwell, who taught himself to cook because his mother couldn’t, says. ‘‘We also used to do hot food – pasta and curries – but there was a change of clientele so you go with the flow. You serve up what people want.’’

The inner-city apartment boom has been great for business, with construction workers and other tradies lining up out the door for the 10 o’clock morning tea break, though since the completion of The Royal development, the once brisk weekday breakfast trade has dropped off.

Markwell, who also employs a third assistant, Chriss Cross, works six days a week, taking just a couple of weeks’ holiday a year. It’s for this reason the business, and the two-storey building he also owns, is for sale. He has already knocked back one offer because ‘‘they were going to come in and change everything’’, and will only sell to ‘‘the right person’’.

He’s been thinking about slowing down for a while; he’d like to finish work on his house.

If he doesn’t get the right offer, Markwell will consider winding back his shifts to just three days a week next year, though customers are crying out on Facebook for extended opening hours, including Sundays.

For someone who has always responded to the desires of customers, Markwell is clearly in a bind.

Rosemarie Milsom

Al Gators, 12 Pacific Street, Newcastle East. Phone 49291386. Open Monday to Saturday for breakfast and lunch.

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Two critical after mushroom poisoning

CANBERRA – Two people hospitalised in Canberra after eating poisonous mushrooms at the weekend remain in a critical condition and were yesterday en route to a Sydney facility for treatment.
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A third person who was with them was being treated at Canberra Hospital.

The trio, who cannot be named, went to Calvary Hospital on New Year’s Day after becoming ill from eating death cap mushrooms, a spokesman for ACT Health said yesterday.

Two of the three were in a critical condition and were yesterday being transferred to a Sydney facility.

The third, whose condition has not been disclosed, was taken to Canberra Hospital from Calvary Hospital.

A spokesman for Calvary Hospital said admissions involving mushroom poisoning were rare.

ACT Health said death cap mushrooms were usually found in Canberra in autumn, near oak trees, but recent summer rain had encouraged their growth.

Fully grown versions have silky smooth caps, and the colour varies from white to greenish-brown.

Michael Hall, director of Canberra Hospital’s emergency department, said: “The gills are white – unlike the pink or brown gills of the common field mushroom.”

He said people should not eat any mushrooms unless certain that they were not poisonous.

In the past decade, there have been three fatalities associated with death cap mushrooms in the ACT.

In the same period, there have been around a dozen reported cases of poisoning.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Emotional wheel win

An ecstatic Jake McMahon raises his arms in delight after streeting the field to win yesterday’s Burnie Wheel at West Park.JAKE McMahon was an appropriate winner of a Burnie Wheel named in memory of fellow Launceston rider Will Robinson.
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The teenager has been staying at the Robinson family’s caravan at Ulverstone to contest this week’s carnivals series and said it was as special to receive the Will Robinson Memorial Trophy as it was the $6000 first prize.

Robinson won the Burnie Wheel in 2010 but died in a training accident later that year.

“You have no idea how much this means to me, it just means a helluva lot and I’m so stoked,” McMahon said.

“I only got a chance to ride home with Will a couple of times and did not know him too well but I’ve become good friends with Tom and James so it’s so special that this is in memory of their brother.”

The 17-year-old Pure Tasmania rider established the biggest winning margin in the event’s 95-year history having started the 3000-metre event off 210m and was swift to thank his coach Jamie Perry and team manager Nigel Baker.

The carnival’s only two scratchmen, Ben Kersten, of New South Wales, and Swiss Franco Marvulli, both made the final and worked with German Marcel Barth to get into contention.

Four-time world track champion Marvulli led the pack home in second but was barely within direct sight of McMahon. Tasmanian Tim Walker, who started alongside the winner off 210m, finished third.

“We had a lot of good backmarkers coming at us so I’m stoked to hold on to the win,” McMahon said.

“I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure I had it won. I had to double-check before I put the arms up in the air.”

Asked what he would do with his winnings, he added: “My mum will probably make me put it in the bank.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Ross return is on track

FORMER Australian 100-metre sprint champion, Athens Olympian and dual Stawell and Burnie gift winner Joshua Ross was run out in the semi-finals of yesterday’s men’s gift but gained some consolation by winning the backmarkers invitation 120m.
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Running from the scratch mark where he won the 2004 and 2007 Burnie gifts, Ross put in an impressive run to beat home Hobart’s Charlie Leek (5m) and Victorian Chris Hargreaves as he continues his comeback to athletics, chasing a London Olympics berth.

Bruny Island school teacher Michelle Davis earned her seventh victory of the Tasmanian Athletic League season with a great run to win the women’s 400m handicap.

Running from the frontmark of 36m she beat home South Australian Claire Ashman (35m) and Victorian Stephanie Mollicka (18m) in a time of 53.08.

Launceston’s Andrew Robinson continued his good form to win the men’s 400m with a strong run from a mark of 28m.

Robinson won the Latrobe Gift last Tuesday over 120m and gained his fourth victory of the season.

He beat home Hobart’s Max Waldron who was the backmarker off 15m and the ACT’s Tom Burbridge (18m).

In other results, Victorian runner John Hilditch took out the 90m open handicap from Highclere’s Edward Gates and South Australian Tom Sclander.

The Encourage 1600m handicap was won by the Mick McKenna-trained Kade Seaman from South Australian Ryan Hage and Burnie’s Damon Overton.

Burnie’s Daniel Reeve backed up from his Devonport Gift win to take out the Tasmanian 1600m handicap.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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