Environment

Dozens of birds dead, sick following botulism outbreak in Perth

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Dozens of birds have died and others are seriously ill following an outbreak of botulism in several lakes across the Perth area.

WA Seabird Rescue spokeswoman Fiona O'Sullivan said outbreaks had been identified in Kardinya, Mandurah and Lake Claremont, and the group had removed more than 50 dead birds in the past week alone.

She said the organisation was expecting other affected areas to be identified in the upcoming days.

WA Seabird Rescue spokeswoman Fiona O'Sullivan is urging people to keep an eye out for botulism infected birds.

WA Seabird Rescue spokeswoman Fiona O'Sullivan is urging people to keep an eye out for botulism infected birds. Credit:Kim Frost

Botulism is a bacterial disease that causes a gradual paralysis of body muscles.

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It typically starts in the wings and legs of the birds and extends to the rest of the body, causing them to drown or suffocate.

"The birds are conscious but paralysed, and very distressed," she said.

Botulism outbreaks typically occur after the first autumn rains of the year, when warmer waters are combined with low levels of oxygen and high levels of bacteria found in decomposing plants and animals.

Ms O'Sullivan said the outbreaks were natural, but better council management of the wetlands was crucial in reducing the risk of infection.

She said water testing should be carried out regularly in botulism prone areas and oxygenators used to increase dissolved oxygen levels.

"It is important to get aerators into wetlands known to harbour outbreaks and when outbreaks happen council staff should be out there at least twice daily picking up sick and dead birds," she said.

"Other birds can also become sick by eating the maggots on rotting carcasses of affected birds that have died."

In order to reduce the risk of an outbreak, she advised people to use phosphate-free fertiliser in their lawns, avoid feeding ducks and other wild birds, and keep dogs on a lead to prevent them from feeding on infected carcasses.

She said sick biRead More – Source