Stranded wildlife is continually washed up on coastal and island regions throughout the state and a routine part of coastal ranger business. A variety of species, from marine mammals, turtles and birds, are routinely recorded by QPWS staff and volunteers. In most instances this allows for reporting of cause and trends to advise management of best possible practice and influence legislation, such as concerning go slow zones and fisheries.
In significant cases specimens are provided for necropsy for cause of death or current research into issues such as plastic ingestion or disease that may be affecting a broader population. On occasion, interesting finds are made that have the potential to influence the broader community into conserving species that they may have never seen or even heard of.
One such case has resulted in the conscious decision by a Gold Coast shopping centre to ban helium balloons after their branded balloon was found in a beach-washed carcasses of an endangered Grey-headed Albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma collected by rangers from Fraser Island (K’gari). As a threatened species, it was sent to EHP and University of Tasmania PhD researcher Lauren Roman, who has been studying the effects of ingested plastics in seabirds.
The albatross had also ingested a plastic straw, the first such record of ingestion by an albatross recorded for the Southern Hemisphere. The general condition of seabirds that wash in are poor, with no body fat and wasted muscles—not an appetising meal for beach scavengers.
Although not so good for the albatross, this is a good outcome for conservation and highlighting the impact humans inadvertently have on a species that very little is known about. The message in this is that the notes, records and authorised collections taken from the field can have valuable outcomes for conservation.
Article contributed by Linda Behrendorff (RIC NRM), Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Great Sandy National Park