Monday, March 4, 2024

Birds of paralysis in Clarence Valley

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Thousands of rainbow lorikeets throughout the Clarence Valley have been taken into care during the past week, suffering from a mysterious condition which is continuing to baffle scientists, researchers, and Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Services (WIRES) volunteers.

Referred to as Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome (LPS), the main symptoms include lethargy, an inability to fly, walking with a wobbly action, impaired vision, and being unable to swallow.

First identified in rainbow lorikeet populations across Northern NSW and Southern Queensland within the past 20 years, LPS is considered a seasonal condition.

Most cases are reported between October and June, with December, January, and February recording the highest number of affected parrots.

Robyn Gray, Clarence Valley Avian Coordinator for WIRES, has been with the local rescue organisation for 14 years, and describes the latest outbreak of LPS as the worst she has seen since 2020 when an estimated 1500 rainbow lorikeets lost their lives.

With close to 200 parrots affected by LPS presently in her care, and other local WIRES volunteers inundated with calls to assist others, Ms Gray said there is no way of knowing how many rainbow lorikeets have been struck down by the condition.

“We don’t know how many have been taken straight to a vet as we only have our numbers as a reference,” she explained.

“Within the last week, we have received upwards of 700, possibly more.”

While rainbow lorikeets with LPS are being reported in Yamba and Maclean, Ms Gray said a majority of cases are located in Grafton with many affected parrots being found in areas close to the CBD and the Grafton Showground.

Ms Gray also said a number of rainbow lorikeets with LPS being presented to WIRES are malnourished and severely dehydrated.

While treatment for the condition involves rehydration via a subcutaneous injection, followed by the administration of glucose, recovery can take several weeks or longer.

After recent wet weather decimated large portions of their usual food sources including eucalypt blossoms, rainbow lorikeets have been seeking alternative food supplies, with many being sighted feasting on mangoes, in fruit trees and on the ground.

One theory that the birds are becoming intoxicated by eating too many mangoes has been disproved, with Ms Gray confirming the presence of alcohol was not detected upon further investigations.

However, as a precaution, she is urging residents to discard any mangoes on the ground.

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) have also confirmed their teams are removing fallen mangoes as part of their regular maintenance routine.

Research conducted so far has been unable to identify an infectious agent or human-made toxin as the cause of LPS, but the possibility the condition may be linked to a toxic plant that occurs in Southern Queensland and Northern NSW is still being explored.  

While LPS remains a serious concern, Ms Gray said there is no indication the condition is contagious and can be transmitted to humans or pets.

To accommodate the high numbers of rainbow lorikeets requiring treatment for LPS, a drop-off centre has been established by WIRES volunteers at 8 Kemp Street, Grafton.

The drop-off centre will be open between 9am and 4pm daily, subject to change.

Anyone who locates a rainbow lorikeet with LPS is urged to refer the bird to the drop-off centre immediately.

What do I do if I find a rainbow lorikeet with LPS?

  • Gently scoop the parrot up with a towel and place it safely in a box, (mind your fingers as they can bite). Keep it in a cool, quiet place. Ensure the rainbow lorikeet has access to water in a dish. Do not attempt to feed it. Refer the parrot to the emergency drop-off centre in Grafton, details in the article above, or contact WIRES on 1300 094 737.
Clarence Valley Independent 7 February 2024

This article appeared in the Clarence Valley Independent, 7 February 2024.

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