For Rehabilitators

Information for Rehabilitators

Understanding Bird Flu dynamics in Australia

A new study of bird flu dynamics in Australia’s wild birds has revealed the virus strains present and how they spread.

Last winter the northern hemisphere saw some of the worst outbreaks of avian influenza, or ‘bird flu’, ever experienced.

Canada and the United States reported more than 400 outbreaks of severe bird flu affecting more than 40 million poultry and wild birds. These outbreaks came after the same virus strain swept through Asia, Africa and Europe in late 2021. It caused widespread outbreaks and millions of deaths in poultry and wild birds.

What might this mean for Australia? Will we see similar outbreaks? Whilst the risk of the same strain arriving in Australia is lower than in the continents affected so far, we need to remain vigilant to the possibility of incursions because the virus continues to evolve and change.

Until recently, studies of waterbirds in the northern hemisphere provided most of our understanding of the ecology and evolution of avian influenza viruses in Australia’s wild birds. But Australia’s wild waterbirds, like ducks and geese, face different environmental conditions and don’t show the same migratory behaviour as their northern hemisphere cousins.

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Guidelines for the initial treatment and care of rescued sea turtles

Hi turtle rescuers & carers, please see the link below to recently published resources relevant to the inital treatment and care of rescued sea turtles.

Guidelines for the initial treatment and care of rescued sea turtles

The purpose of this document is to provide licensed wildlife rehabilitators in New South Wales with guidelines for the initial treatment of sea turtles requiring rescue or rehabilitation.

Guidelines for the initial treatment and care of rescued sea turtles

Helping wildlife in times of emergency

There has been an update to web content to include ‘Helping wildlife during floods’.

It is linked directly to the ‘Helping wildlife in emergencies’ information.

It is still applicable in areas where displaced wildlife turns up injured, sick or disoriented.

Please see the links below.

Helping wildlife in emergencies

Helping wildlife during floods

Updated – DPIE/NPWS Macropod rehabilitation resources

Hi Macropod carers, please see the links below to recently published resources relevant to macropod rehabilitation.

These have been developed in consultation with the sector and veterinary experts.

Guidelines for the Initial Treatment and Care of Rescued Macropods:

Link to the guidelines for the Initial Treatment and Care of Rescued Macropods on DPIE website
Click the image above to go to the guidelines for the Initial Treatment and Care of Rescued Macropods

Macropod Training Standards and Trainers’ Guide for the Volunteer Wildlife Rehabilitation Sector:

Click the image above to go to the guidelines for the initial treatment and care of rescued macropods

There’s a Fungus Among Us

Deadly Fungal Disease Could Threaten Australia’s Iconic Lizards

A team of scientists have announced the discovery of a deadly fungal disease affecting wild lizards across Australia.

The condition, sometimes referred to as ‘Yellow Fungus Disease’, is dreaded by captive reptile keepers across the globe, who know all too well how contagious and deadly the infection can be. This research, published overnight in Scientific Reports, describes the first cases of the disease detected in the wild anywhere in the world.

The cause of the outbreak is a fungal pathogen, Nannizziopsis barbatae, which feeds on keratin, the main protein in skin. Infection causes severe skin lesions and can progress to systemic infection. Affected lizards have been identified in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, with focal outbreaks in Brisbane parklands.

The research was led by USC Science Honours student Nicola Peterson, who worked as part of an interdisciplinary team that included USC academics Associate Professor Celine Frere and Dr İpek Kurtböke, Dr Karrie Rose of the Taronga Conservation Society, Dr Stephanie Shaw of the Department of Environment and Science, Dr Tim Hyndman of Murdoch University, Professor Lynne Sigler of the University of Alberta, and Brisbane-based veterinarian Dr Josh Llinas.

“It’s awful to see what this infection does to reptiles,” said Ms Peterson. “The lizards we examined presented with extensive skin lesions, severe emaciation, and loss of toes and tails. They were in terrible condition and clearly suffering.”

Sadly, the infection usually leads to death, even with treatment. Professor Sigler, a world-leading mycologist, said, “The presence of this contagious fungal pathogen in free-living Australian lizards poses a serious conservation threat.”

Reptiles are comparatively understudied and often elusive, so there is real potential for population impacts to occur undetected. Public vigilance can play an important role in identifying and limiting impacts of the disease. Dr Karrie Rose, who is the manager of Taronga’s Australian Registry of Wildlife Health said, “This research highlights the importance of monitoring and investigating emergent disease to protect our iconic species and environments.

The community has a role in this process and can report unusual signs in wildlife to the Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888, or their Wildlife Health Australia State Coordinator.” (

This group of fungi, Nannizziopsis species, includes several species known to cause disease and death in reptiles. Although rare cases of infection have also been reported in humans, the species affecting reptiles and humans are different. Ms Peterson’s research showed that Nannizziopsis barbatae was not able to grow at human body temperature, largely mitigating concerns that the fungus could pose a threat to humans. Nonetheless, it is important that only trained individuals using appropriate biosafety measures should handle reptiles with suspicious skin lesions.

Dr Frere said the USC-led study described the first cases of Nannizziopsis infection in free-ranging reptiles, details a new method to culture fungi, and highlights characteristics of the fungus that makes it a high-risk threat to wild reptile populations. “This was the first step in our research into this novel fungal pathogen,” said Dr Frere, who recently received a $967,439 Australian Research Council Future Fellowship for further research into fungal diseases in animal populations. “USC will continue to lead research into how the social behaviours of animals contribute to the spread and transmission of infectious fungal diseases.”

Q fever factsheet

Q fever is a bacterial infection that can cause a severe flu-like illness. For some people, Q fever can affect their health and ability to work for many years. The bacteria are spread from animals, mainly cattle, sheep and goats. Even people who do not have contact with animals may be infected. A safe and effective vaccine is available to protect people who are at risk. Screening is required to identify who can be vaccinated.

What is Q fever?

Q fever is a disease caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii. It is spread to humans from cattle, sheep and goats and a range of other domestic and wild animals. Even people who do not have contact with animals may be infected. (more…)