Reports of thousands of reef fish, plus tropical birds, wallabies, echidnas and other animals washed up dead on Far North Queensland beaches in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Jasper have highlighted the devastating impact of extreme weather events on Australian wildlife.
These huge numbers came from a 10-kilometre stretch of coastline south of the Daintree River, surveyed by Albatross conservation biologist and Daintree local, Nigel Brothers, after the cyclone, suggesting far greater numbers across a larger area.
“The toll on the wildlife can’t be accurately measured, but if you walked along the beaches in the week following the rain, you could see and smell the impact, especially an estimated 30,000 dead reef fish,” he said.
“Thousands of tropical seabirds, including frigatebirds, red-footed boobies, and countless other wildlife, exhausted, many fatally succumbing to the storm.
“The cyclone coincided with the breeding season of some 80,000 breeding pairs of Torresian Imperial Pigeons in the region, nesting on Low Isles and Hope Isles.
“These birds are likely to have been heavily impacted, and at the very least, all of this year’s eggs and chicks would have been washed away.”
The Australian Conservation Foundation’s nature campaigner, Peta Bulling, warned that species loss from extreme weather events will become increasingly common as the full effects of climate change worsen.
“Wildlife in Australia is already under pressure from land clearing and invasive species; we have the highest rate of deforestation in the developed world, and the highest rate of mammal extinction in the world. More frequent and extreme weather events, driven by climate change, increase that pressure.
“We need resilient ecosystems and resilient species populations to give our unique wildlife the best chance of survival as we work through the challenges of the climate crisis.
“Nature is amazingly resilient when given the opportunity, but governments need to invest in restoring and strengthening the health of our environment to give it the opportunity to overcome ever-worsening extreme weather events.
“The Albanese government has an opportunity right now, with the rewriting of our national nature laws, to strengthen protections for nature and address the urgent threat to nature from climate change and extreme weather.”
Debris on Wonga Beach following the cyclone
An echidna washed up on Wonga Beach
Reef fish washed up on Wonga Beach