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previous news articles...
Don’t forget the wildlife in the Queensland floods - 5 January 2011

Floods cover much of Queensland
Photo © WPSQ

Day after day the media shows us shocking scenes of the devastation that the floods have had on towns, cities and rural areas across Queensland. It’s not only people and their properties affected by floods: many of our native animals will also be impacted.

Wildlife Queensland is receiving enquiries about the plight of wildlife during the current flood crisis.  It is too early to ascertain the exact situation and we will provide updates on this website as information comes to hand.

If you have any information about wildlife caught up in the flood crisis, please email or phone us on 07 3221 0194.

We will update our website regularly as news comes in – so please check back with us.

Reports coming in confirm that many species will have found higher ground but ground-dwelling fauna such as reptiles and small mammals, particularly those reliant on burrows for their shelter, will be highly impacted. Many will drown - others will become easy prey as they become stranded and exposed.

The longer it takes for the floodwaters to recede, the harder it will be for the surviving animals to find food and shelter. As with the horrific fires in Victoria, the aftermath may be significant and drawn out. Foraging for food will be difficult and most species cannot go for long without nourishment especially at this time of year when many animals have dependant offspring.

Vast tracts of riparian vegetation has been submerged or swept away. Even aquatic wildlife such as water rats, freshwater turtles and platypuses may struggle for survival in some areas.

At this stage, it is too soon to know the extent of the impact on wildlife. Currently, in early January, the people who could help are themselves stranded, and transport systems have come to a halt in the worst hit areas in central and southern Queensland. We hope that as soon as people can become more mobile, we can all start supporting those involved with rehabilitating rescued animals.

Use the following tips to help your local wildlife during this difficult time.

  • If you live in or near a flooded area, please keep a lookout for injured or orphaned wildlife and call your nearest wildlife rescue or your local vet. Be patient – they may be inundated by emergencies calls.
  • Take care and keep yourself and your family safe. Be wary of disoriented, stressed and stranded wildlife, especially snakes.
  • Never attempt to relocate wildlife yourself. Report it to your local Qld Parks and Wildlife Service office or the Dept of Environment on 1300 130 372.
  • Water is important. You might think there’s water everywhere - but safe drinking water is vital to wildlife; put out a safe source of clean water for native animals.
  • Feeding wildlife. If you need to put out emergency food for your local animals, give food that’s as close to a natural diet as possible and put it out in a safe environment. Check our website for more information.
  • Immediate help. If you find an animal or bird in distress here’s how you can help it:
      • Keep children and pets away.
      • Don’t handle the animal – it might need to be left alone to recover.
      • If you do need to move native wildlife, keep them warm in a quiet, dark place, such as a cardboard box, so that you don’t add to their stress.
      • Call your nearest wildlife care group or vet if animal is injured.

What is likely to be the long-term impact of the extreme weather on wildlife?

Although this flooding is a natural disaster, coupled with the pressures that native fauna already face due to human activities, it could mean a local population decline for many, maybe just temporarily. However Australian wildlife is resilient. We will be monitoring the situation as best we can and reporting back through this website as soon as possible.

On a more positive note, Luke Jackson, from the Far North Quoll Seekers Network is confident about the resilience of North Queensland wildlife. ‘Flooding is part of the natural cycle in North Queensland. Naturally some animals do get caught in the floods. On the other hand, the flooding brings a great amount of life with large numbers of frogs spawning and the creation of wetlands for birds.’

Luke points out the pluses of the after-effects of flood devastation and 1-in-10 year rains. ‘When the water recedes, the conditions can be better than ever so what was lost is pretty quickly replaced as the animals go into a breeding cycle while there is high availability of water and food. In many cases, some animals are much more abundant after a flood than they were before.

Freshwater Turtles
Photo © WPSQ

Freshwater turtle researchers in north Queensland have reported that they may have lost their survey gear and will not be able to return to their survey sites until the water levels are stable again. However it is likely that unhatched nests will have been lost along with any young hatchlings.

Wildlife Queensland’s PlatypusWatch Program will be keen to hear back from monitoring groups across flooded Queensland so we can assess areas pre and post flood periods. Where rivers fluctuate quickly it is possible that platypuses are able to ride out such conditions and not necessarily drown. Some researchers believe that platypuses may in fact benefit from the rush and freedom of flood waters where the habitat has been opened up and the increased water flow changes the creek food cycle dynamics – as long as they can stay out of the main flow stream of rushing water. Despite the fact that some platypus deaths have been attributed to flooding and drowning, it is possible that platypus are able to bunker down and survive a flooding episode. Most likely though it will just change territory and population dynamics. In January most juveniles should be out of their burrows and therefore have a greater chance of survival.

More Information

For more information contact Wildlife Queensland, 07 3221 0194 or email.