Rising floodwaters in Queensland have been described as the state’s worst in 100 years. Authorities say the widespread floods now cover an area the size of both France and Germany combined.

Media has widely reported that the unfolding tragedy has claimed the lives of 20 people, with dozens still unaccounted for. The losses of pets, farm animals and wildlife remain untold. Continual emergency broadcasts are urging South-East Queenslanders to seek higher ground amidst further devastating rises in flood levels, but for millions of animals in affected regions there can be little or no warning.

 

Massive loss of habitat

While courageous rescue efforts have led some lucky kangaroos to safety, it is believed that roos haven’t been hit as hard as other species. In most cases in rural areas the water has risen relatively slowly, allowing the animals time to get away. Concerns are rising however for smaller macropods, especially wallabies. Bandicoots, native rats and mice, smaller animals and invertebrates will all be heavily affected.

It is feared that large areas of habitat including scrub and grasslands may not withstand the long periods underwater and may take months to recover even after the waters have receded.

Wildlife rescue

Wildlife rescuers are working in difficult conditions to help any animals they can — rescuing the orphaned and injured, and feeding marooned animals. Dangerous conditions and road closures are hampering efforts to assess the worst affected regions.

It is expected that floodwaters may take weeks to recede. As flood-ravaged scrub and grasslands slowly recover, provisions of food and shelter for displaced animals will be needed for some months.

The Wildlife Protection Association of Australia has established an emergency wildlife flood appeal, supported by Animals Australia. Funds raised will directly assist wildlife carers to rescue and assist wildlife flood victims over the next few months by covering costs of fuel to reach affected areas and for food and care of wildlife.

Keeping pets safe [UPDATED]

UPDATE 21-01-11 Animals Australia member society Quest Equine Welfare is providing aid for flood affected horses in the form of feed, health care products for the treatment of physical injuries and skin conditions, and other essential horse related supplies..

19-01-11 Council pounds have been inundated with lost animals following the floods in Brisbane and Ipswich. Both councils have announced a temporary freeze on euthanasia, which usually occurs after five days. Both councils have temporarily waived recollection fees, but shelter is scarce and residents have only days to collect animals before they risk being put down. If your pet is still missing, make sure you register the details on www.lostfound.rspcaqld.org.au

Companion animals are members of the family and need special care in the event of an emergency. Some evacuation centres will not accept animals so it is critical for residents in low-lying areas to plan ahead to ensure there is a safe place for their animals at friends’ or family’s houses if evacuation becomes necessary. Anyone who can provide a foster home to animals displaced by floods should contact their local animal shelter.

Stranded farm animals

Much of the devastated rural regions have affected agricultural lands, which is bad news for crop farmers, but reports indicate that relatively few farm animals have been affected. The Queensland government is offering flood assistance grants for animal feed and is conducting aerial surveillance to identify and help resolve any animal welfare issues. Fortunately they are reporting that there is not a large number of stranded farm animals at this stage.

Fears for the Great Barrier Reef

Grave concerns have also been raised for the Great Barrier Reef when the silt, containing mud, manure and farm chemicals, pours out of the rivers and onto the coral. 1991 floods in Rockhampton left a suffocating layer of silt in its wake. Another siltation period now from this flood event may be devastating to remnant coral … and devastating to those marine species that depend on it.