RSPCA Seasonal Impact Update: March 2024

Animals Animal Welfare Rescue Wildlife Posted Mar 20, 2024
A hectic start to 2024 with large numbers of koalas in care, Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome, wild weather, volunteer recruitment and global feline vaccination shortages.

It has been a very busy start to 2024 with a lot of RSPCA programs and services continuing to have a positive, lasting impact on the lives of animals in need thanks to our incredible supporters, staff and volunteers.

Firstly, a massive shoutout must be given to our Wildlife teams, having one of the busiest starts to a year with Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome (LPS). Our vet staff, nurses, wildlife carers and local vets have been run off their feet dealing with this deadly disease that’s been impacting lorikeet populations from Northern NSW to South East Queensland.

2024 has been the worst year on record for the number of birds affected by LPS in the wild. To date over 3,800 lorikeets have come into our Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre since January, with the cause of the disease still unknown. This is more than the total number of lorikeets our Wildlife Hospital would see in a full year!

Receiving over 100 sick birds per day has been a challenging situation for our wildlife vets, staff and volunteers to navigate.

We have once again been raising awareness about LPS so more of these birds can be identified in the wild and receive the urgent veterinary care required to treat the illness. We’d like to thank those in the community who have taken note and helped birds in their local area and to those that have donated towards research.

The future challenge, even once a cause has been determined, is how to prevent LPS having such devastating impacts on our lorikeet populations.

release of Lorikeets in Ipswich

This week, our rescue and wildlife staff and volunteers released 49 lorikeets back into the wild in Ipswich after the birds made a 6-week long recovery from the disease in RSPCA care. It’s been a glimmer of hope in what has been an exhausting start to the year.

LPS has been on top of an already busy summer for our wildlife teams. Over the past eight months, 572 koalas have required our care. This is certainly a concerning trend as 599 koalas came into RSPCA care over the full 12 months of 2023, and so this year looks to be a big year for koala care.

Harry the koala

Koalas like Harry. He was found sick in a backyard in Logan. He required ongoing treatment for ocular chlamydia. After successful rehabilitation, Harry was returned to the wild after 39 days in care at both our Brisbane and Eumundi centres.

This trauma season has certainly impacted our beautiful wildlife and we’re thankful to our teams for doing a fantastic job under immense pressure.

While our Wildlife team have been run off their feet dealing with increasing critical care patients this year, our domestic veterinary teams have also been challenged since late 2023 due to the global feline vaccination shortage.

The vaccine shortage has resulted in lower overall ‘herd immunity’ in Queensland’s broader cat population. This significantly puts at risk kittens, sick cats and unvaccinated cats who are susceptible to becoming ill with Panleukopenia, which can be fatal.

RSPCA QLD volunteer with cat

The vaccine shortage has directly impacted our ability to admit unvaccinated cats into RSPCA care and has required our team to adapt intake as the situation changed regularly, while still managing the limited supplies of vaccines available to felines in most need of protection.

The shortage has also resulted in a change of adoption process for our cats and kittens. Continuing to adopt cats and kittens throughout this period has been a considered approach by our veterinary team with the best interests of shelter cats and cats already in the home in mind.

The end of 2023 certainly brought challenges for our far north Animal Care teams with Cyclone Jasper significantly impacting our Cairns shelter and animals in the region. But our resilient team were well prepared for impact - evacuating all RSPCA animals on site and boarding client animals to safer areas in the region well in advance.

Our staff, volunteers and foster carers were safe and with it, every animal spent Christmas in a home while Mother Nature took hold.

RSPCA Cairns Animal Care Centre flooded

Sadly, our Cairns team is still dealing with the aftermath of Cyclone Jasper. Significant flooding in the region put a close to operations, and contaminated water has meant a lengthy rebuild is ahead for our team. Currently, our Cairns team are operating out of the Cairns Regional Council Pound and while surrenders of animals to RSPCA are on hold until we can get back to our shelter in the coming months, our Community Outreach team continue to support people and pets through Community Days in the region and our Inspectors continue to investigate animal welfare concerns.

Our Townsville team were also very busy in the lead up to Cyclone Kirrily, getting all RSPCA animals offsite and safely into foster homes, sandbagging the store and going over emergency plans. Some of our team were without power for days, but our Townsville site was safe to return to after two days. Thankfully, no major damage impacted the store, just minor roof leaks.

Our sites in South East Queensland also saw damage at a number of sites as a result of the storms. Our Moorooka Op Shop had the internal roof cave in, our Mount Tamborine Op Shop lost their power for an extended period of time and had many roads cut off, our Stones Corner Op Shop flooded due to external drainage issues and the immense volume of water. We also sadly saw damage caused by humankind with vandals smashing the front window of our Rockhampton hub, our new Townsville hub having a break in, and a number of intrusions at our New Farm Op Shop. It has been a busy time, making sure our facilities are open to care for the animals and raise much-needed funds that enable us to do so. We are grateful all of our staff and volunteers were ok during these weather events and that we were able to continue to take such wonderful care of all the animals. We’re glad to report that all of our Op Shops are back up and operating with our Cairns shelter due to reopen in June or July this year.

RSPCA Cairns Animal Care Centre team cleaning up after the floods

As we continue to navigate challenges associated with the rising cost of living and rental crisis, our generous volunteers have taken on extra shifts to fill the gaps while we actively recruit more community members to lend a helping hand when they can.

Our volunteers make up 80% of our workforce and their dedication is not taken for granted, but the need to recruit more boots on the ground is great, so we can continue to provide vital care to animals and services to the community. Pleasingly, 951 volunteers have reached volunteering milestones with RSPCA Queensland this past year and we recognise their incredible contributions to our cause.

RSPCA QLD volunteer

Throughout all of the challenges that present, our RSPCA teams continue to work hard to positively impact the lives of animals in need.

No matter how you’ve helped RSPCA Queensland in 2024 so far - whether you’ve found an injured animal and reported it, volunteered your time at your local RSPCA, donated whatever you can spare to our cause, or even adopted an animal - we’d like to thank you for your kindness and love of animals.

Emma Lagoon
Share this article
Find the perfect pet