Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome

Rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) in the western Australian states New South Wales and Queensland are becoming paralyzed, often resulting in death.
Researchers from the University of Sydney identified the prevalence, distribution, and manifestation of the Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome. It is a seasonal disease, occurring between October and June, with the highest number of cases happening between December and February. It affects thousands of rainbow lorikeets each year in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland.

The syndrome can cause limb, neck, and tongue paralysis, and an inability to blink or swallow, rendering birds unable to fly and feed, and therefore, survive.

Not only can the syndrome prevent them from feeding and flying—it can render them prone to injury and predation," Professor David Phalen said. "This means they are more likely to run into objects or be hit by cars and be attacked by cats than those without the syndrome."

To make matters worse, severely diseased birds are not responding well to treatment. Affected lorikeets only have a 60 percent chance of recovery, and their treatment requires intensive care followed by extensive rehabilitation. The prognosis is better for milder cases, which have a good (up to 84 percent) chance of recovery. An effective treatment could involve restoring kidney function, correcting electrolyte abnormalities, and relieving pain associated with muscle injury.

"The number of cases each year varies from hundreds to thousands, making it one of the most important wildlife diseases and animal welfare concerns in Australia," professor Phalen explained

The researchers are now calling on the public to help identify the likely source of the disease—a plant toxin.

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