Botulism outbreak killing ducks

DIRE DUCKS: Lyn Macdonald with two of the sick ducks that have been brought into the Bird Rescue Trust in Greenbay.
VANITA PRASAD
DIRE DUCKS: Lyn Macdonald with two of the sick ducks that have been brought into the Bird Rescue Trust in Greenbay.

Dozens of dead ducks have been found in Waitakere's waterways in the past two weeks because of an outbreak of the paralysing botulism toxin.

Roy Williams' property backs on to a stream running from the Glendale pond. He has found 26 dead ducks near his home in the past six days.

"It's awful to see these poor birds suffer like this. I put a piece of wet bread not even 10cm away from the mouth of one but she couldn't even move to eat it."

Botulism causes ducks to lose control of their head and necks before the paralysis spreads to the rest of their bodies.

Auckland Council stormwater manager Grant Ockleston says warm water is a breeding ground for bacteria.

"It's been hot in Auckland in the past few weeks which has heated up water temperatures and reduced water flow, a perfect breeding ground for the botulism-causing bacteria."

The council put barley straw into the water to neutralise the botulism bacteria in September.

Lyn Macdonald runs the Bird Rescue Trust in Green Bay and says she has received ducks with botulism symptoms from streams and ponds in Glen Eden and Henderson's Riverpark. She's also cared for more than 30 sick birds found at Western Springs.

"People need to stop polluting the waterways by throwing away their grass clippings, dead branches and rubbish because it blocks the flow of the water which creates these conditions," she says.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service medical officer of health Simon Baker says avian botulism is a very low risk to humans but people should clean their hands well after being in contact with sick and dead birds.

Anyone who finds dead ducks should contact the Auckland Council to have them removed. Sick ducks can be taken to the Bird Rescue Trust.

Western Leader