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Wildlife hammered by floods

One of the KwaZulu-Natal dwarf chameleons found in a tree that was being cut down after the bank it was growing on was washed away in eMdloti. Picture: Supplied

One of the KwaZulu-Natal dwarf chameleons found in a tree that was being cut down after the bank it was growing on was washed away in eMdloti. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 23, 2022

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Durban - Wildlife has also been devastated by last week’s floods.

According to the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife director Clint Halkett-Siddall, the centre has been receiving endless calls to help rescue and care for stranded animals.

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“The sad reality is that many do not survive. Those that do may find their homes destroyed or like those crocodiles that were reportedly missing last week from the Crocodile Creek Farm in Tongaat, find themselves displaced far from their original homes or suitable habitat,” Halkett-Siddall said.

“A large number of birds have been hit by cars. We assume it is because of the conditions on the roads. A lot have been coming in mainly because they have been affected by the weather conditions and end up not being able to fly.

“We have been able to treat some of the birds with fluids and other things that need to be done to help them get back on their feet again,” Halkett-Siddall said.

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He said high winds and the cold weather caused them to become very weak.

He said two fresh water terrapins had been brought in after being picked up on the side of the road.

“It is quite strange because they are freshwater animals, which means they usually occur in dams or rivers, so to find them on the side of the road is rare. They probably got washed up and tried to find their way to the river again,” Halkett-Siddall said.

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He believed the floods had a large effect, and that most wild animals did not find a way to the centre.

Durban snake rescuer Nick Evans said a few interesting creatures had been popping up on the beaches after the floods.

“There was a dead young southern African python found on Umdloti Beach and spotted shovel-nosed frogs, a rarely seen species, were also found on the same beach.

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“There were few other snakes but they were all alive. One was a highly venomous vine snake on a beach in Umzumbe,” Evans said.

He said there was no doubt there were still more creatures wandering around after the floods.

He said during the beach clean up this week, he was delighted to find two dwarf chameleons amid the rubble and refuse that washed on to Blue Lagoon beach.

He said he had also seen a tree being cut down because it was on the verge of collapsing onto a home, and the bank it was growing in was largely washed away in the floods.

“As I went to check if there were any movements among the logs, I spotted a KwaZulu-Natal dwarf chameleon,” Evans said.

He added that he had been called on to rescue mambas in strange areas.

“One was next to the N13 near Pinetown. It is a very strange place for a mamba; I’m assuming it is because of the floods,” Evans said.

He said there was a high chance that wildlife had been negatively affected because many animals had been washed away from their natural habitats.

Crocworld Conservation Centre reptile curator, Wade Kilian, said floods have “profound effects on wildlife”.

“Besides the obvious drowning of animals, especially the smaller, more immobile species which aren’t easily capable of evading the rushing water ‒ like chameleons and tortoises ‒ the extreme volumes of water destroy or alter many habitats.

“Trees and vegetation used as food sources or nesting sites have been washed away. Animals such as rodents or other small mammals may have been displaced as their burrows would have been washed away or closed.

“Some animals will migrate temporarily to avoid floods, resulting in animals popping up in some very weird places. Even fish are affected by floods because they often get washed out onto submerged banks and become stranded once the flood waters subside,” Kilian said.

“Fortunately, the vast majority of animals will survive, and the removal of those animals from the ecosystem will inadvertently reduce intra-specific and inter-specific competition for food and space in those affected habitats.

“This will allow survivors more access to these resources (potentially including mating opportunities) and boost their species’ populations.”

The Independent on Saturday

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