Birds found dead at suspected botulism site

The City of Melville have placed signs at Frederick Baldwin Park to warn the public. Picture: Joe Rifici
The City of Melville have placed signs at Frederick Baldwin Park to warn the public. Picture: Joe Rifici

WARNING: Graphic image

A SECOND case of suspected botulism in less than a year has killed 50 birds at a Kardinya park.

WA Seabird Rescue (WASR) and Native Arc volunteers were at Frederick Baldwin Park on Monday dealing with the aftermath of the potential outbreak, which may be linked to aerators in the lake not working during the weekend.

Testing is needed to confirm whether this outbreak is botulism, which is described as a naturally occurring soil bacteria that causes paralysis in the birds.

Eurasian coots and ducks were among the dead birds.

WASR treasurer Fiona O’Sullivan said along with the 50 dead ducks, coots and great crested grebes that were retrieved, more than 40 sick birds were picked up and taken to Native Arc.

“We had volunteers there for about six hours on Monday and we’ll continue to monitor the situation two or three times per day,” she said.

“The lake is known as a botulism hot spot and the water at the north end of the lake is disgusting.

“The outbreak has happened a bit earlier this year compared to previous, I’m not sure of the cause.”

She urged park users to not feed birds and keep pets on a lead while at the park.

About 15 birds were killed following an outbreak of botulism during Easter 2019, with WASR volunteers again working with Native Arc to help the wildlife.

The City of Melville responded by trying to improve the water quality at the park by removing pollutants through the installation of plants and it also re-homed some of the ducks and geese who were eating that vegetation.

City chief executive Marten Tieleman said the WASR and Native Arc volunteers had done an incredible job of rescuing sick birds and the council’s environmental team would visit the park daily as needed.

“Signage has been placed on site for the benefit of notifying the community, and we will continue to work with the volunteers from Native Arc and WA Seabirds – we are greatly appreciative of their efforts,” he said.

“Botulism is a naturally occurring soil bacteria which is likely to have been exacerbated by the environmental conditions at the lake, including warmer water temperatures, higher nutrient levels from decomposing vegetation, fertilisers or other causes.

“All of these things can contribute to an increase in bacteria levels which then leads to an outbreak, however we suspect this may have been made worse due to the lake aerators not working properly over the weekend.

“While the aerators are now operational they will continue to be monitored.”

The City has recommended these ways to help improve the water quality in wetlands:

  • not feeding birds or wildlife – it’s often not the right food for them, it makes them dependant on being fed and can add to nutrient loads in the water.
  • reducing the use of fertilisers and chemicals used in their gardens
  • not allowing fertilisers or household chemicals to enter stormwater drains
  • washing vehicles on their lawn, not their driveway
  • sweeping up lawn clippings and garden waste
  • backwashing pools into a soakwell, not the stormwater drain
  • picking up dog litter

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