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12 Apr 2019

Just bin it

We share Centennial Parklands with not only other human beings but with many other species both introduced and native. Native urban-dwelling wildlife species found in the Park are diverse and include:

  • Goulds wattled bat. Photo by Michael Pennay
    Goulds wattled bat. Photo: Michael Pennay

    Marsupials such as the common brushtail (Trichosurus vulpecula) and ringtail (Pseudocheirus peregrinus) possum.

  • Megabats or old world fruit bats like the grey-headed (Pteropus poliocephalus) and black (Pteropus alecto) flying fox. 

  • Microbats including Gould’s wattled (Chalinolobus gouldii), Eastern bentwing (Miniopterus orianae) and eastern broad-nosed (Scotorepens orion) bat.

Plus a myriad of other native bird (140 + species sighted in the Park in 2017), reptile, amphibian and fish species which call the Park home. As such, it is up to us to minimise our footprint on the valuable habitats that these beautiful creatures inhabit.

Sharing their home

Rubbish has a major impact on the species in the Park and the simple act of taking a few extra seconds to stroll over to a designated bin to discard it makes a world of difference in minimising our impact on these creatures.

Barnowl Dickens Dr-Lachlan Reserve Dominic Gonzalvez
Barn Owls can be spotted near Dickens Drive by Lachlan Reserve. Photo: Dominic Gonzalvez

Impacts on urban wildlife 

We all are aware of the devastating impact rubbish and plastic have on our oceans, however do we know about how it affects our urban wildlife species?

As a veterinarian, I am no stranger to foreign body obstructions seen in small animals. These often occur due to ingestion of largely indigestible foreign material commonly including; large pieces of hard bone, bits of rubber toys, socks and fibrous soft toy fillings to name a few. You name it, we have found it!

The physiological impacts of foreign body obstructions are serious and often life-threatening if early intervention, regularly involving surgical retrieval is not undertaken.

baby turtle in centennial park
A baby turtle at Centennial Parklands. 

Little lives on the line

In light of this what can we say for our native species when they ingest rubbish that has not been dealt with accordingly?

Unfortunately, these animals are often not afforded the same prompt veterinary attention and treatment as our domestic species and one of the many reasons for this is that they often recluse when unwell and go unnoticed for some time before being picked up by a licensed wildlife rescuer or member of the public.

By the time a veterinarian sees the animal, it is already severely debilitated and veterinary intervention may not be successful.

possum at centennial park
Possums live in tree hollows and artificial hollows at the Parklands.

Other environmental impacts of rubbish on wildlife in the Park include:

  • Eutrophication or water fouling events occur when excessive organic material is disposed of in the water systems, it is readily broken down by bacteria, fungi and protozoa in the water resulting in the accumulation of organic waste compounds.

    This promotes the excessive growth of algae (Blue-Green algae or Cyanobacteria). This algal overgrowth strips the water of valuable oxygen and results in the production of algae-specific toxins.

    Long fin eel at Centennial Park
    Eels at Centennial Park can live up to 80 years.

    Reduced oxygen levels in the water negatively impacts the respiration of aquatic species which can lead to death. Algal toxins if ingested can cause significant physiological compromise often affecting the liver and nervous system and may eventually lead to death.

    The species which may be impacted by this water fouling process in the Park include; native freshwater fish – long finned eels (Anguilla reinhardtii) and Australian bass (Macquaria novemaculeata), frogs and tadpoles and the vast majority water birds – including pelicans, ducks, grebes, stilts, spoonbills, cormorants, egrets and herons (to name a few).

  • Interference with nest building of many of the ground-dwelling bird species, particularly of the water birds and waders.

  • Entrapment or entanglement of some of the birds, possums and flying foxes that may opportunistically forage though rubbish for food.

  • Dietary indiscretion or the tendency of animals to eat items not commonly encountered in their natural habitats may lead to illness.

So in the context of rubbish and wildlife in our parks and reserves, don’t risk it, prevent the visit to the vet and just turf it!

Care for our green spaces

Centennial Parklands is one of Australia's largest and most popular public spaces, hosting more than 31 million visits every year.

People aren't the only ones who visit so we encourage everyone to Share the Park with the animals and wildlife who rest, nest, eat and live in the Parklands.

Whether you visit as cyclist, pedestrian, dog walker, horse rider or a motorist, you can do some things to help us Share the Park:

Pick up your rubbish or someone else will. Help protect our wildlife and waterways by disposing of your rubbish thoughtfully.

Watch out for your dog. Our ponds can be very tempting for dogs to run into, for the safety of your dog and for our wildlife we ask that you keep dogs on leash when inside Grand Drive.

There’s plenty of ways to contribute to an environmentally sustainable Parklands, but feeding the birds is not one of them. Don't give a duck (bread) - watch our video to find out more! 

Animals are most active around sunrise and sunset. Take extra care around these times when driving and cycling. The speed limit in the park is 30kph.

About Dr Grima


Dr. Michael joined the team at Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic in early 2019
after studying Veterinary Medicine at the University of Sydney before which he completed a Graduate Certificate in Veterinary Studies focusing on wildlife health and population management.
He has a science background having majored in immunology and microbiology and has worked as
a medical scientist at a number of research institutions in Sydney including the Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology and the Heart Research Institute.
He has a particular interest in all things pathology, both clinical and anatomic, as well as internal medicine, dermatology, oncology, ophthalmology, exotic and wildlife medicine and aquatic medicine, and would be delighted to see your scaly, feathered and slimy friends.
In his free time, Dr. Michael loves to spend quality time with his beautiful wife Renee, family and friends. He enjoys relaxing by the coast and is an avid snorkeler who considers himself somewhat of an amateur marine biologist. He fills up his free time with bush walks, caring for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife, loves cooking up a storm, gardening, singing and caring for his tropical freshwater and marine fish and invertebrates, tree frogs and his cheeky feline son Chartreuse.

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