Botulism blamed for duck deaths

PEOPLE visiting Marriott and Harry Sawkins parks in Nowra have been warned not to touch or feed any wildlife following an outbreak of avian botulism in the local duck population.

Avian botulism is caused by the bacteria clostridium botulinum, a naturally occurring organism living in lakes and ponds.

Outbreaks occur when there is a combination of low water levels, warm temperatures and lack of oxygen in the water.

Council rangers had been investigating the death of ducks in both parks since early December.

Wildlife Rescue South Coast volunteer John Meany has picked up about 20 dead or dying birds from Marriott Park.

“I got a call to the park about a month ago to a duck that was almost dead,” he said.

“Then a couple of weeks later I was called back and found two sick ducks and 13 carcasses.”

Mr Meany said the sick animals were lethargic and often had paralysed necks that could not support their heads, resulting in the birds drowning.

“I took it to a Nowra vet, who said they had sent samples off to be tested. They had reports of about 200 dead ducks.

“After the vet got the diagnosis back that it was botulism I warned Wildlife Rescue volunteers to be wary about being exposed to sick or dead animals in the parks,” he said.

Council staff have carried out water testing in Harry Sawkins Park and found water quality within the pond to be at satisfactory levels.

Director of City Services and Operations Bill Paterson said council had been working alongside the Department of Primary Industries in putting practices in place to minimise any further outbreak of the disease.

“Council has put in place measures to ensure any deceased animals are quickly removed from the area and we will continue to work with the DPI in dealing with the outbreak,” he said.

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