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25 May 2022

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: When disease and blight strikes our wildlife

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: When disease and blight strikes our wildlife

Picture of a green finch (not diseased) taken by D Camier

The common frog lays thousands of eggs each year but it is estimated that only one to five percent of these actually reach maturity.

The low mortality rate can be as a result of the weather, predation, habitat loss, natural causes, pollution and infections. A recent call from a member of the public reminded me that, just like us, our wildlife can get sick and today I share with you some of the diseases that can affect wildlife in your area.

Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is a parasite that affects amphibians and has caused frog and toad population declines throughout the world since the 1980s. The fungus destroys the skin pigment keratin in amphibians. Frogs infected appear emaciated and lethargic, often with abnormalities of the skin or eyes. Treatment is possible with an antifungal wash and this has proven successful for those frogs in captivity.

According to BirdWatch Ireland, a condition called Trichomonas gallinae, a protozoan (unicellular) parasite has been around for a long time and can affect a variety of finch species. The parasite affects the bird’s ability to eat and eventually this results in the bird’s death. BirdWatch Ireland recommends that if you suspect birds in your garden to be infected to cease feeding and leaving water out for your visiting garden birds for at least two weeks, as this will help to disperse the birds feeding in your garden and in turn reduces the risk of them coming into contact with an infected bird.

A well-known parasite that affect both our wildlife, and indeed us, are ticks. Any wildlife with a serious tick infection is subjected to blood loss, infection at the bite site and will appear lethargic, which can lead to an increase risk of predation.

Changes in Ireland’s climate may lead to new diseases affecting our local wildlife. In 2019 rabbit haemorrhagic disease was first recorded in Ireland and recent news headlines has provided information on the risk that Avian Bird Flu poses to Ireland native birds species.

Don’t forget if you come across a wildlife species that you would like help identifying I would be happy to help.

Contact me at bogs@ipcc.ie.

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