Simple solution to massive swimming pool problem: 'I was panicked'

Simply saving a drowning animal from a pool may not be enough to save its life because of the damage chlorine can do.

Onlookers have filmed as a woman hurriedly fished a struggling reptile out of her workplace pool. During the 10-second clip, people can be heard marvelling that the blue-tongue lizard is initially able to swim, but they later become concerned it will drown.

“I was panicked, because I love animals and I didn’t want it to die,” Belinda Lea Agius said. “I know chlorine can also be a killer.”

How the animal entered the indoor facility at an apartment accomodation complex in Victoria last week remains a mystery, but it has prompted its amateur rescuer to commit to buying an “animal saver” so drowning creatures can step up onto land. She believes doing so could provide a simple solution to what can be an all too common problem. You can see examples of wildlife saving devices here.

Chlorine not only bleaches clothes and makes hair brittle, it can also make wildlife extremely sick. Source: Getty/Belinda Lea Agius
Chlorine not only bleaches clothes and makes hair brittle, it can also make wildlife extremely sick. Source: Getty/Belinda Lea Agius

Wildlife frequently discovered drowning in pools

While the swimming pool incident was handled by members of the public, more often it's an occurrence that wildlife rescuers are expected to respond too. And it's a problem Yahoo has been highlighting for years:

Dry weather in some parts of the country has led to reports of increased numbers of native animals seeking water inside swimming pools, sinks and even toilets.

Pat Lazaro from Reptile Rehabilitation Queensland told Yahoo News Australia while his group hasn’t been rescuing any more than usual, there is always a steady stream of calls for help.

“Over the last seven years the number of creatures that I’ve pulled out of pools would have passed the 100 mark, and that’s just me. We have 30-odd people in the group,” he said.

How pool chemicals can damage Aussie reptiles

While some pool owners think they can simply place wildlife found in their pools back in the garden, that's not always a good idea. If the animal poses no danger to humans, Lazaro still wants members of the public to continue to fish animals out of the pool. But they also need to call for assistance, because creatures that come into contact with chlorine often need further help.

That's because while it's well-known that prolonged exposure to chlorine can fade clothes and make hair brittle, many people don't know it can also make wildlife extremely sick.

“They think they’re doing the right thing, but if they’ve been in the pool for a long time, the chemicals and salts can go through their skin and do damage to their scales which can cause infection and it affect their organs. They can also become sick from drinking it,” he said.

“It’s quite common for reptiles, especially snakes to get out. But blue tongues aren’t real good swimmers and all too often they’re already dead when we get there.”

Pat agrees that buying an “animal saver” or “frog rescuer” for your pool is the best way to stop wildlife from drowning or having prolonged exposure to chlorine. Frogs are particularly affected, because they absorb a lot of water through their skin. Its quite toxic to them so they usually need an urgent veterinary trip.

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