Historic Wildlife Health Incident Reports

Every three months information submitted to the national electronic Wildlife Health Information System (eWHIS) is collated and submitted by WHA to a quarterly publication called Animal Health Surveillance Quarterly (AHSQ), which is produced by Animal Health Australia as part of Australia's national animal health information program. AHSQ contains a section on the main wildlife disease incidents that have occurred around the country for that quarter. Follow the link to read and search publications in the AHSQ Library New window icon or select a WHA report below.

WHA Reports in AHSQ

 
Jan-Mar 2021 - AHSQ 26(1)    
     

Oct-Dec 2020 - AHSQ 25(4)

Jul-Sep 2020 - AHSQ 25(3)

Apr-Jun 2020 - AHSQ 25(2)

Jan-Mar 2020 - AHSQ 25(1)

Oct-Dec 2019 - AHSQ 24(4)

Jul-Sep 2019 - AHSQ 24(3)

Apr-Jun 2019 - AHSQ 24(2)

Jan-Mar 2019 - AHSQ 24(1)

Oct-Dec 2018 - AHSQ 23(4)

Jul-Sep 2018 - AHSQ 23(3)

Apr-Jun 2018 - AHSQ 23(2)

Jan-Mar 2018 - AHSQ 23(1)

     

Oct-Dec 2017 - AHSQ 22(4)

Jul-Sep 2017 - AHSQ 22(3)

Apr-Jun 2017 - AHSQ 22(2)

Jan-Mar 2017 - AHSQ 22(1)

Oct-Dec 2016 - AHSQ 21(4)

Jul-Sep 2016 - AHSQ 21(3)

Apr-Jun 2016 - AHSQ 21(2)

Jan-Mar 2016 - AHSQ 21(1)

Oct-Dec 2015 - AHSQ 20(4)

Jul-Sep 2015 - AHSQ 20(3)

Apr-Jun 2015 - AHSQ 20(2)

Jan-Mar 2015 - AHSQ 20(1)

     

 

Historic Incidents

For information on health incidents involving wildlife in your state or territory contact your WHA Coordinator

Bushfires 2019-20

 
 Advice from Wildlife Health Australia (WHA) for Enhancing Australia’s Native Wildlife Bushfire Response identified by the WHA Bushfires Emergency Response Task Group and provided to the Australian government.

 Bushfire emergencies now impacting one billion Australian native animals - 10 Jan 2020

 How you can support wildlife during the bushfire emergency - 7 Jan 2020

 Information and Resources for Veterinarians, Vet Nurses, Registered Carers and the Community

 Supplying water and food for free-living wildlife after natural disasters

New window icon Assessment, Triage & Treatment of Bushfire Affected Wildlife 
- E-Learning module for vets & vet nurses - Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Grey-headed and black flying-foxes
2019

  September 2019: There have been reports of a significant number of sick and dead grey-headed and black flying-foxes on the north coast of NSW and south-east to central Queensland.

Flying-foxes are being found emaciated, and both juveniles and adults are affected. There have also been reports of unusual behaviour such as flying-foxes roosting alone during the day, and flying and foraging in unusual areas. The cause is believed to be a starvation event due to a food shortage associated with ongoing drought conditions. Carer groups are working very hard to rescue and rehabilitate sick flying-foxes.

Members of the public should not handle flying-foxes due to the risk of exposure to diseases such as Australian bat lyssavirus. If you find a sick, injured or abandoned flying-fox, contact a licensed wildlife care organisation or local veterinarian. In the event of a bite, scratch or other significant contact with a bat, seek medical attention urgently. Contact your local Public Health agency for further advice. Pet owners in affected areas should take steps to prevent direct contact between their pet and a bat e.g. keeping the pet confined at night. If your pet has interacted with a bat, seek prompt assistance from your local veterinary practitioner.

Mortality event in flying-foxes
2016-17

  Spring/Summer 2016-17: From September 2016, there were reports of increased numbers of sick and orphaned flying-foxes, as well as adult mortalities, at camps distributed along the eastern seaboard of Australia. Primarily, there was evidence of abandonment and starvation in flying-fox pups. There were also reports of unusual behaviour in adult flying-foxes such as day roosting and flying and foraging in unusual areas. Although total numbers are not known, reports indicate many hundreds of animals affected.


Carer groups worked very hard to rescue and rehabilitate abandoned, sick and injured flying-foxes. 

A group was convened to monitor and explore the event, including representatives from the state government agriculture and environment agencies in affected jurisdictions, Wildlife Health Australia, the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health and the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment. Possible causes were considered, such as an acute food shortage and/or disease, but unfortunately no common underlying cause of the events could be found.

A report on the event is available here (V2 - updated November 2017).

If you have further information on this type of event, please contact the WHA Coordinator in your state or territory.

Members of the public should not handle flying-foxes due to the risk of exposure to diseases such as Australian bat lyssavirus. If you find a sick, injured or abandoned flying-fox, contact a licensed wildlife care organisation or local veterinarian.

Bellinger River Snapping Turtle Event

 

A severe mortality event involving Bellinger River Snapping Turtles (Myuchelys georgesi) was investigated after dead and dying turtles were reported in February 2015. Over 430 turtles are estimated to have been affected with clinical signs including swollen eyes, blindness, emaciation, clear nasal discharge and hind limb paresis, and a very high case fatality rate. Diagnostic investigation was conducted by multiple agencies and organisations. A wide range of potential infectious aetiologies were excluded by laboratory testing and no evidence of pesticides was found in river water samples.


A novel nidovirus was identified as the likely cause of these mortalities (Zhang et al 2018). M. georgesi is a unique species of freshwater turtle found only in small sections of the Bellinger and Kalang rivers and total numbers are estimated to be  extremely low. A small number of healthy M. georgesi were therefore removed from the river for a captive breeding program, and have remained healthy.

[This is a summary of the report in Animal Health Surveillance Quarterly, Volume 20, Issue 3]

Related links:


Rotavirus mortalities of pigeons

  Since mid-2016, high levels of mortalities in kept pigeons (racing and fancy) have occurred in lofts across some states of Australia (Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia). Clinical signs in affected birds have included depression, vomiting, diarrhoea, regurgitation and hunched postures. Birds that appeared sick usually died within 12 to 24 hours. A rotavirus (a member of the reoviridae family) was confirmed.

Feral pigeons are likely to be susceptible to the virus. In Western Australia, feral pigeon (rock pigeon; Columba livia) mortalities occurred in a location close to an affected loft, with gross and histological findings consistent with the disease in the racing and fancy pigeons. In addition, rotavirus has been detected in faecal samples of several feral and native wild bird species overseas. 

For further information developed in consultation with relevant State, Territory, Commonwealth Government agencies and Wildlife Health Australia, please see the summary document below.

Information on Rotavirus mortalities of pigeons Feb 2017 

Please be alert to any signs of disease that are unusual or clusters of deaths in wild birds (feral or native); please report incidents to your state or territory WHA Coordinator.

For more information see information provided by each state or territory biosecurity authority:
McCowan C et al (2018) A novel group A rotavirus associated with acute illness and hepatic necrosis in pigeons (Columba livia), in AustraliaPLoS ONE 13(9): e0203853. 

Zika virus

 

Zika virus is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes. It first appeared in 1947 in Africa, originating from non human primates. In humans it has caused sporadic disease in tropical areas inhabited by the mosquito vector (Aedes aegypti). In recent times, outbreaks of the disease have been seen in the Pacific and now in Brazil and other countries of South America. In humans, most infections are asymptomatic but around 20% of people may develop mild and short lived clinical signs. Recently Zika virus infection in humans has been linked to auto-immune disease and microcephaly in babies. Only a handful of imported cases have been reported in humans in Australia, although the vector mosquito occurs in parts of Queensland. There is no evidence that Australian wildlife are involved in the epidemiology of Zika virus.

For more information see the following links:


Australian bat lyssavirus in juvenile bats

 

One adult and three juvenile grey-headed flying foxes rescued from a NSW Central Coast flying fox roost on 9 November 2015 have tested positive for Australian bat lyssavirus. A NSW CVO Bulletin to Wildlife Carers has been issued.

Additional information for NSW can be found at the end of the CVO Bulletin. Links to ABLV information in other jurisdictions are available on the (Expand 'Diseases and disease agents’ in the Categories list, select 'Australian Bat Lyssavirus’ and look for ‘Australian Bat Lyssavirus Resources’ for your state/territory).


Paramyxovirus in pigeons

  Pigeon paramyxovirus (Avian Paramyxovirus 1) has been detected in loft pigeons and free-ranging feral pigeons in Victoria and NSW and domestic pigeons in Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia. There are currently no reported unusual disease incidents in Australian commercial or backyard poultry flocks associated with this disease. Please be alert to any signs of disease that are unusual or clusters of deaths in wild birds; please report incidents to your state or territory WHA Coordinator.

 

Related links: 


Shearwater Mortalities

Image Courtesy of A Silcocks

   

In October 2013, dead shearwaters (Puffinus spp.) were washing up along beaches and coastlines from Queensland to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The majority of the birds were short-tailed shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris). Short-tailed shearwaters are a widespread, abundant seabird species, with a worldwide population in excess of 18 million animals. They spend approximately six months in Australia nesting and breeding before returning to their wintering grounds in the northern hemisphere in April. A number of other shearwater species were also been reported washed up on beaches, including: wedge-tailed (P. pacificus), fluttering (P. gavia) and flesh-footed (P. carneipes).

The conclusion was that this is a ‘natural but unfortunate event, with birds having died from exhaustion and starvation, following their long annual migration from the northern hemisphere to nesting areas in the southern hemisphere. Birds are often in poor condition and have limited energy reserves, having travelled over 15,000km. Die-offs occur annually, however this year has seen an extensive and widespread number deaths. Severe weather and difficulty finding sufficient fish stocks during their migration are considered to be contributing factors. 

Potential for diseases to be involved a part of the cause of the mortalities was investigated; a number of birds were submitted for necropsy from a number of locations in Qld, NSW, Vic, Tas and WA. All have showed similar results, including muscle wasting, emaciation and evidence of starvation. Some infectious diseases including avian influenza and Newcastle disease were excluded by PCR in the events in NSW, Vic, Tas and WA. Infection with West Nile Virus was also excluded by PCR in birds from NSW.

If you see a large number of dead birds on a beach, you can report the incident to your state or territory WHA Coordinator. If you find any live birds that are obviously unwell or injured, please contact your local veterinarian or wildlife carer group for advice.  

 

Shearwater mortalities -  Summary 11.12.2013 [PDF; 432 KB; 1pg] 

Note: WHA would like to thank all those who submitted information, including our subscribers, state and territory WHA coordinators, university researchers and zoo veterinarians. 


Rainbow lorikeet deaths
 

 

 

In early March 2012, a number of wild rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) were report as dead or sick at a number of sites in the eastern and north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Sick birds were showing signs such as diarrhoea, vomiting, regurgitation, and lethargy. In some cases, hand feeding of lorikeets had occurred at the sites where birds were found. Investigations were undertaken by veterinary staff at the University of Melbourne Faculty of Veterinary Science and Victorian Department of Primary Industries.

More Information: 

NSW OEH - The dangers of feeding lorikeets 

Necrotic enteritis in free-living rainbow lorikeets [summary in AHSQ Vol. 17 Issue 1] 


Skin lesions in southern bent-winged bats

 

 

Nodular skin lesions were observed on the wings of critically endangered southern bent-winged bats (Miniopterus orianae bassani) in a breeding colony at Naracoorte, South Australia in September 2009. Approx. 50-60% of adults of an estimated population of 26,000 bats were affected. Similar skin lesions had been observed at lower prevalence in previous years.

Histological examination (McLelland et al, 2013) found the lesions to be granulomas with a nematode at the centre. The nematode was identified as Riouxgolvania beveridgei, which had previously been reported in the eastern bent-winged bat (Miniopterus orianae oceanensis) (Bain and Chabaud, 1979). The lesions did not appear to have a significant impact on the affected bats or the population, although the reasons for the oubreak were not determined (McLelland et al, 2013).

References:

Bain O & Chabaud (1979) Sur les Muspiceidae (Nematoda-Dorylaimina). Anneles de Parasitologie Paris 54, 207-225.​

McLelland DJ et al (2013). Outbreak of skin nodules associated with Riouxgolvania beveridgei (Nematoda: Muspiceida) in the southern bentwing bat (Miniopterus schreibersii bassanii), South Australia. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 49(4), 1009-1013.