Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Wildlife becoming stressed in sustained heat

Kookaburra, Animals Australia, December 2016

The Daily Examiner, 6 February 2017, p.12:


EARTH Charter, Principle 2: "Care for the Community of Life with understanding, compassion and love."

Early January 2017 was for many people a joyous holiday period with family reunions and New Year resolutions but for all of us it was a time of temperatures of 40 degrees or more. Most of NSW experienced an oppressive heat wave and the people of the Clarence Valley sweltered.

Even night temperatures became difficult to bear and people needed to be careful to avoid dehydration. Some newspaper reports suggested the heat wave posed a threat to human health, especially to older people and the very young.

But in the midst of our discomfort did we consider the impact that the heatwave was having on our biodiversity?

Mid-afternoon on January 14 a king parrot suffering from the extreme temperature sought some relief in a shady porch behind our house. Even here the temperature was close to 40.

Her beak was repeatedly opening and closing and her wings were drooping. We were careful not to disturb her and she stayed in that position for at least two hours.

At the front of the house two more king parrots were perched in similar shady positions, again with beak and wings conveying distress.

Do such images have an important communique for our human community?

If we fail to limit our greenhouse gases urgently, if we go ahead with the massive Adani coal project, if the Donald Trump presidency ignores climate change, if... the list goes on.

Will this image of a king parrot suffering from heat wave conditions become a symbol for all life on our planet?

Big questions are looming and the future of our Earth Community - our biodiversity and our grandchildren - will be greatly influenced by our answers.

-- Stan Mussared, Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition

W.I.R.E.S. 2 December 2016:

While most native animals are well adapted to changes in climatic conditions they can still suffer during heatwaves.  Animals can cope with extremes in temperatures they are used to, but if these extremes are unusual for a particular area the animals there will struggle. 
If you can, please put fresh, cool water out for wildlife. Make sure you have a few sticks or stones in bowls or containers so that if small creatures fall in they can make it back out. Where possible refresh the water frequently throughout the day.

Flying-foxes are particularly susceptible to several days with low humidity and very high temperatures. This year with severe food shortages already a factor many populations up and down the coast are already suffering fatalities. If you see flying-foxes, young or old, on the ground or low to the ground in trees please call WIRES 1300 094 737 or use our report a rescue form to report. If you see flying-foxes moving to lower branches or to the ground below their roost trees please call WIRES. It is important that only trained and vaccinated carers rescue distressed and injured flying-foxes or bats.

If you are on a rural property and are concerned about water bowls attracting snakes near the house then you can choose to place shallow bowls around the perimeter fences. This can also assist in providing a water source to deter reptiles from seeking water from dripping taps closer to the house.

Animals with health issues, or are very young or old, will find it harder to cope - just like in people. The increasing loss of suitable habitat including the loss of leafy vegetation and older growth trees with hollows for shelter means more animals are at risk in the heat. 

Tree hollows are particularly essential for our native parrots and many of our marsupials and as less and less are available for shelter it means more creatures may suffer from exposure and more animals may seek refuge in unusual places e.g. garages, sheds or houses.

Please keep an eye out for animals exposed to the elements, but remember DO NOT approach snakes, monitors, flying-foxes, microbats, large macropods or raptors. These animals require specialist handling and MUST be rescued by trained wildlife rescuers. 

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