Green turtles and dugongs who call the Great Barrier Reef home could die as a consequence of the recent Queensland floods, a Senate committee has heard.
Acting chief executive officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Bruce Elliot said the influx of water into the reef could lead to freshwater bleaching events and impact seagrass.
Previous severe weather events have led to the “dramatic increase” in mortality rates of green turtles and dugongs – who feed on seagrass – and the authority is monitoring the health of the marine creatures, Mr Elliot told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Monday.
Townsville residents on ‘crocwatch’
North Queensland residents are on “crocwatch” as wildlife officers work to capture reptiles displaced by the recent floods and return them to the safety of the Ross River.
The freshwater crocs, which were washed into Townsville’s drains and waterways by monsoonal rains, have been hiding in plain sight on roads, backyards and even in a swimming pool.
Northern Wildlife Operations manager Michael Joyce said more reptiles could be lurking near sports fields, drains and the mangroves.
“Wildlife officers have already received a number of reports about freshwater crocodiles taking refuge in the suburbs of Townsville,” he said.
Crocs have been spotted as far downstream as the Port of Townsville.
Residents have been warned not attempt to capture, feed, harass or provoke the timid reptiles.
“They are likely to flee at the first sight of people or pets, although they may show defensive behaviour if they feel cornered or threatened,” Mr Joyce said.
One mother had a terrifying encounter with a crocodile earlier this month while clearing her property in Ingham, about 100k north of Townsville.
The three-metre crocodile lunged out of the water three times, sending her kids running and screaming into the house.
Cost to cattle industry exceeds $1 billion
Across northern Queensland the clean-up is underway as floodwaters recede and the graziers and farmers take stock of the massive scale of devastation.
Conservative estimates reveal more than 500,000 cattle have died, along with 30,000 sheep.
The cost to the cattle industry alone is expected to exceed $1 billion.
Receding floodwaters following Queensland’s once-in-a-century monsoonal deluge have left authorities racing to dispose of hundreds of thousands of dead animals that are posing a health risk.
Cattle, sheep and wildlife perished in the unprecedented two-week rains, which left large swathes of the state underwater.
The putrefying carcasses pose a health risk to clean up crews and to local water supplies in flooded communities.
The growing hazard comes as Townsville health authorities warn residents to take precautions when cleaning flood-affected buildings.
Alongside the cattle industry, the Insurance Council of Australia said there had been more than 15,500 claims lodged with losses to about $606 million.