Passenger Pigeons, who hasn’t heard of them? Probably the most well known bird species in the world, certainly the most abundant according to records. John Audubon the great American ornithologist, described the flight of the migrating flocks of Passenger Pigeons as darkening the sky for hours and making a sound like the distant rumbling of thunder.

The flocks were said to cover an area 1 mile wide and 300 miles long. Numbers estimated at 2 billion. The birds were slaughtered in huge numbers until the killing of the last flock estimated at 250,000 in one day in 1896. The last pigeon died in the Cincinnati zoo in 1914, a female named Martha.

In a book I have, printed in 1967, there is the thought that despite the massive slaughter of these small doves over the years, their actual extinction occurred within the single year when the birds who survived the mass slaughter were wiped out in the wild by an epidemic. Whichever story is true, for a species of such incredible numbers to be wiped out in the blink of an eye by humans is difficult to believe, or understand. Have we learned anything? I think probably not.

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On Saturday 6th April, 2013, rather than our usual general meeting we will be hosting Dr Anne Fowler who will be conducting a full day bird workshop. As it has just been organised cost has not yet been finalised but make sure you keep the day free. You will not be disappointed. Anne is one of those speakers/educators who can keep you on the edge of your seat all day and still want more at home time. You will leave having learnt many aspects of bird care and with the enthusiasm to go home and want to put everything into practice asap. Start time is 9am, finishing at 5pm. Tea and coffee and some food will be provided but please bring a plate. Feel free to bring along friends who are interested in birds. Many topics will be covered including – initial first aid; hand rearing; feeding; orphans; common diseases [viral, fungal, bacterial, parasitic, etc]; fractures and wounds; zoonoses. Questions will be most welcome.

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Cape Tulip is a toxic weed known to cause death to all types of grazing animals. Our wildlife species are pretty smart when it comes to not eating what isn’t good for them, but, this doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Many years ago a wallaby I had in care suddenly became ill. She had arrived on a scorching hot day as an 800gm dehydrated pouch joey whom I christened ‘B’ [her story is on the WRIN website]. Always considered very special, B was never your ordinary wallaby and I was known to mutter more than once that in a previous life I was sure she had been a human. ‘B’ eventually became a free-ranging outside wallaby, not quite to release stage but very much her own mistress, doing everything a wild young wallaby should be doing. One day I found ‘B’ at the door, which I opened, she came inside without hesitation which was unusual and moved to the kitchen cupboards then gracefully slid to the floor, just like you see in films where a drunk person leans on a wall then slowly slides to the ground. “Get the car, we’re going to the vet” I screamed and within minutes we were on our way with me cradling the semi-conscious ‘B’ in my arms.

The vet was waiting for our arrival and immediately the examination began, after checking eyes, heart, lungs and bowel sounds then checking for any signs of bites I was asked what she had been doing during the morning. Being a free-ranging animal I was unable to say much, I hadn’t followed her around, only spied her from time to time doing all the natural things wallabies do. Poisoning came up, as far as we knew there were no toxic plants within her ranging area, cape tulip was mentioned amongst other things and yes, in our paddocks [out of her range] we had found an occasional cape tulip leaf in the past but I was unaware of any within her ranging area.

‘B’ was taken home and put near the fire wrapped in a blanket. As soon as she had been settled on our return from the vet I went outside and checked all the places I had seen her during the morning and what a surprise when I found cape tulip growing quite close to the house. There were 2 corms with leaves, the leaves had been chewed to about half normal size. Although it is impossible to say that this was the cause of the problem, it is assumed. ‘B’ did recover, the corms were dug out of the ground and although there were only the 2 sprouting corms, I was amazed to find each had many cormils around the corms.

After her initial settling down ‘B’ was offered fluids and her temperature was monitored, later she was put onto a heat blanket. It is vital that any sick animal be placed on heat, no matter their size or age, a body that isn’t functioning at its PBT [preferred body temp] will not have the capacity to overcome illness or injury. Of course an animal suffering hyperthermia is an exception to this rule. ‘B’ was monitored throughout the night [I always sleep on the floor next to sick animals that have arrived for care], fluids were offered regularly, small amounts were lapped. Food was occasionally offered but never taken. She lay still throughout the night, was dull and lethargic, her eyes were dull and partly closed. The following morning she appeared brighter and by days end was pretty much back to her usual self and had begun eating. I do believe she had sampled cape tulip and luckily had decided it wasn’t for her before ingesting a lethal amount. Since the floods we have found many different weeds on our property as has anyone we have spoken to. Some were never seen prior to the flooding, so now we are even more vigilant than usual, not only because of the risk of toxic plants but some may take over and prevent the growth of grass and other browse that is so important for the wildlife we have in care.

The following is from a DPI article :

It is time to find and manage two-leaf cape tulip. The Department of Primary Industries [DPI] is urging landholders to treat infestations of two-leaf cape tulip [Moraea miniata] before it begins to flower in September.
A DPI Biosecurity Officer said all parts of the plant are known to be toxic to all types of grazing animals. “It causes loss of appetite, weakness, depression, blindness, dysentery, scouring, paralysis and even death. It’s estimated that within an established infestation of two-leaf cape tulip there may be up to 200,000 dormant plants within the soil per square metre, ready to germinate under favourable conditions.
Although two-leaf cape tulip is not recorded widely throughout the region, it is capable of spreading quickly from the few known infestations if not treated adequately, or through inadvertent importation of fodder, soil, contaminated equipment and vehicles from affected areas.”
The Biosecurity Officer is urging landowners to keep an eye out for two-leaf cape tulip and to treat infestations before they produce viable corms and cormils. He said DPI is also ensuring that known infestations are managed, with the aim of preventing further spread and eventual eradication.

Under the Catchment and Land Protection Act, 1994 it is the responsibility of the landowner to take all reasonable steps to eradicate regionally prohibited weeds on their land. The officer said its paramount the community work together in preventing further spread of regionally prohibited weeds.

For further information or to report sightings of two-leaf cape tulip please contact DPI customer service on 136 186 or visit Weeds on the DPI site.

DPI media release.


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At this time of year and at least half a dozen times a week I receive calls regarding echidnas. Most calls are from members of the public who have found an echidna in their garden and want it removed. Under the rules of our Code of Practice we are not allowed to relocate any wildlife species, of course there are shades of grey in everything, with the echidna it may be the family dog, or sometimes the family, causing grief to the poor creature who has inadvertently wandered into the garden or other unsafe area. Of course there are lots of other questions also.

To all rescuers, carers, etc. please remember that from October, perhaps a little earlier, until sometime as late as the following February, females may have secreted a puggle in a safe burrow which may be quite a distance from where the echidna has been spotted. Therefore if you must move an echidna, then it must never be moved more than a short distance from where it was found, injured echidnas that need only short term care must also be taken back to as close as possible from their pick-up location. Failure to do this may result in the death of a puggle that has been left in its maternal burrow.

you cannot with 100% accuracy externally tell the sex of an echidna unless you are fortunate enough [and the echidna is unfortunate enough] to receive one that is carrying an egg or is still carrying the puggle. Unfortunately eggs or puggles generally are dislodged from mum under any type of stress. The pouch is not the ‘typical’ type. You may see a depression on the lower area of the abdomen, it is bounded by two vertical ridges of muscle that run along the mid-line of the animal and can be seen in both males and females. Pregnant females enlarged mammary glands thicken these ridges and form the pouch. Once the puggle has been deposited in a burrow the ridges may lessen in size and it once more may become difficult to accurately tell the sex.


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Years ago I received an Eastern Grey joey for care, she was a pink, 660gm, very cold and dehydrated. Supposedly she had just been found on a pile of rubbish at the local tip. The story didn’t seem right, at least not the part that she had just been picked up. Her poo indicated something much different, no diarrhoea was present but the colour and consistency were wrong for a newly found joey – always the poo.

Poo is the basis of everything with wildlife. New carers soon find out the world revolves around poo.

The decision to do what we could for the small joey was made instantly as the family who had brought her were very upset and her stage of development showed she was probably a little older than her weight indicated – using weight charts to age macropod joeys [almost any species in fact] is unreliable to say the least, there are many other things to consider. In the case of this joey her state of dehydration naturally resulted in her registering a lower weight than if she was fully hydrated. She was put into a warmed pouch and as soon as fluids, needles, syringes, etc were organised, warmed fluids were given under the skin, she was then allowed to rest and warm through. Several hours later she eagerly drank her first bottle of formula. With such a suspicious sounding story, it seemed appropriate to christen her ‘May-be.’

Time passed and May-be grew quickly. One Christmas Day late afternoon Garry was outside minding May-be, she was now 3kg and at the stage of needing to go outside for short periods of time but needed constant supervision. I was inside washing dishes when I heard an almighty noise outside – in those days I could move pretty quickly and was outside in the proverbial flash – a truck had blown a tyre, which had disintegrated and the truck was moving down the road on the metal wheel rim. Garry was on his feet with May-be in his arms.

At the instant of the noise May-be had taken off around the house and in seconds had negotiated the house and was back with Garry who had picked her up. He said to me he thought she had hurt her foot. I felt it and said I thought the main toe was broken. I called my vet who said we should go to his home. On arrival the foot was checked and it was considered the toe was not broken but perhaps there was damage to the growth plate in that area but to make sure, the following morning I was to take May-be to the clinic for x-rays. The x-ray confirmed a break which was splinted and strapped by the vet with the very tongue-in-cheek comment “well, you weren’t planning on releasing this one were you?” Kris knows me well and knows keeping May-be was not a consideration, I told him she could be soft released from home with the mate she had grown up with, by doing this we would be able to assess just how well the break had healed and how competent the animals are at surviving after major accidents. After the appropriate amount of time x-rays confirmed a good result, the break had healed well.

Over the ensuing months May-be continued to grow and appeared to be coping well. May-be and her mate, Jo, had joined others in care at home and when frightened our mob of half dozen joeys, including these two would take off into our bushed area, first having to cross a good area of cleared land. May-be was able to keep up with the others for a short distance and then gradually would get further and further behind. When punting May moved well although the damaged toe did not flex as it should. She was able to clear 3ft fences easily from a standing start.

May-be was soft released with Jo, that is, gates between our cleared paddocks and our bushed area were opened. Our bushed area joins state forest, the boundary fence is very low which ensures no risk of getting caught. Both would go into the state forest.

At first both would turn up most days then we began seeing them less and less. Both produced joeys which grew well. Both eventually produced a second joey. The 4 would turn up only occasionally and graze in our cleared paddock which allowed the opportunity to check how everyone was going, this was always done from a distance as the mothers did not bring their joeys close to us. One morning when the ‘at foot’ joeys were almost weaned Jo and both joeys arrived. May-be was not with them. May-be was never seen again.

Searches over a long distance and period of time found nothing. I feel she came to grief possibly chased by a dog/dogs and was unable to move fast enough to evade them or maybe she went over a fence and stumbled, causing severe damage and was unable to get back to her home ground. If this was the case then she was most likely eaten by predators and quite possibly whilst still alive. Watching May-be over the time she was with us and seeing her inability to keep up with the mob and her mate Jo as a result of what seemed such a simple problem was a real eye opener and has ensured very special consideration is given to any joey arriving for care with broken bones, even if it is ‘only’ the main toe. I have heard similar stories from some other carers as well as repaired breaks re-fracturing whilst still in care.

I mention being eaten by predators while still alive, not to appear gruesome but to ensure great care is taken when making the choice to repair breaks to legs. Once one of those major leg bones has been broken and repaired there is always the risk of an eventual re-break in the original break area. It may never happen but should we take the chance? More than once I have attended injured kangaroos, still alive and very much conscious that have had arms/legs chewed off by foxes or dogs. Many rescuers have been faced with the sight of a kangaroo or wallaby with one or both legs broken but the instinct to evade predators [that’s us] is so strong they can move for very long distances on stumps moving faster than able bodied rescuers. It is an horrific sight. Please, think long and hard before choosing to repair some of the injuries you may be faced with. Never hesitate to seek advice and always be prepared to make decisions you may find difficult.


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Disease Alert

A new disease known as Pigeon Paramyxovirus, is now in Australia. It is thought it could possibly have been brought into the Country via smuggling of racing pigeons [from Iraq]. Quarantine does not screen for this disease.

On September 2011 sick pigeons were taken to a clinic in Melbourne. A 60% mortality has been reported. It spread to wild pigeons [feral pigeons] within 28 days. Racing and practice flights of racing pigeons was halted for 3 months.

May 12th 2012 the disease was found in a hobby flock of pigeons.
June 27th in a racing flock in NSW.

It is a notifiable disease. It is not Newcastle Disease, but is from the same Family.

Neurological signs : head tremor; ataxia [failure of muscle co-ordination, irregular muscle action]; not flying; weight loss; not able to land well.

Species know to have been affected : Sparrowhawk; Crested Pigeon [both native species]; Turtledove.

DO NOT REHABILITATE OR RELEASE FERAL PIGEONS AND DOVES, it is already illegal to rehab. and release these non-native, feral species but now releasing these species presents a very real danger to our native species. Also choosing to keep them or give them to others adds to the risk of wild native birds succumbing to the disease as well as birds, native and non-native already in captivity.

If you think you may have a bird suffering this disease, call the animal disease hotline on 1800 675 888 [24hr service].

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The wildlife conference this year took place in Townsville beginning on 17th July and finishing 20th July. We arrived in the evening of 15th July, Denise had hired a car which was great. Our accommodation was also great. On the Monday we went shopping, Denise had a GPS in the car which was a great help? With a few giggles and many wrong turns we managed to get to the shopping centre.

Monday night we had our registration which was fabulous, meeting the delegates from previous conferences. Tuesday the conference was in full force, each paper presented was very interesting..

On the Wednesday we had morning presentations then broke off for our selected workshops. Brenda and Jenny did ‘poo’ research; Denise did kangaroo rehabilitation and I went off to the Turtle Hospital. We all enjoyed our individual afternoons. The highlight of my workshop was seeing a sea turtle which had been in rehab. taken out to sea and released. This was an incredible thrill, seeing such a magnificent creature being lowered into the water then its obvious joy at being home in its own environment. Wow.

The conference finished on Friday 20th. All over for another 2 years, but we’ll be back for the next one in Tassie.

On Saturday our little group went across to Magnetic Island, we hired a car and Denise did the driving again. Another fantastic day on the island. We saw rock-wallabies which was exciting, Brenda took heaps of photographs, the only one who had the sense to take a camera. Denise and I took photo’s with our mobiles.

A handy hint is to always remember to take a needle and thread with you when you go on holidays as it comes in handy, very handy, such as when mending undies [not allowed to mention whose undies]. Good also for sewing up shopping bags so they can be loaded on the plane.

It was a most enjoyable week with many laughs, interesting adventures and the catching up of friends.

Congratulations far north Queensland on your wonderful conference. Will say it again, looking forward to Tassie in 2 years.




The 8th conference has been and gone leaving, as always, wonderful memories of time spent with those we see only spasmodically as well as having the chance to live in a small space with those we see regularly but often don’t have the time to spend getting to know each other well.

The cocktail party to welcome delegates the evening prior to commencement of the conference was well attended and enjoyable. This time the WRIN contingent had plenty of opportunity to eat and drink, not like the last one when, no matter where we went in the room, the waitresses carrying the trays of finger food went in the opposite direction. As always it was the perfect chance to see faces we recognized. Wearing name tags gives us all the opportunity to sneak a peak before the hello in an attempt to fool everyone that we remember who we’re talking to.

The keynote speaker was Professor Rick Speare and after almost 30 years I had the chance to say a very personal thank you to him for his work with joeys all those years ago. I spent some time talking to Rick on the last day and will remember our exchanges for a very long time. At long last my quest to have a chat with him has been achieved.

The saddest bit was the unfortunate non-appearance of vet Dr Sarah Brett, I have mentioned Sarah in previous newsletters and was eagerly looking forward to chatting to her once more. Sarah was to be presenter number 2 after Anne Fowler, unfortunately she had become ill several days earlier so her presentation on radio tracking reptiles to determine home ranges and numbers to examine causes of death and the impact of cane toads was read by one of her assistants. The most interesting piece of the talk was about Sarah operating on 2 snakes – a King Brown and a Black-headed Python – who had eaten Blue-tongue Lizards that had been fitted with radio trackers. The transmitters survived well, the lizards unfortunately did not. The transmitters were successfully removed from both snakes who made full recoveries and were released over the following months. The power point presentation on the surgery and recovery were fabulous. Sarah was also booked to do another presentation on the final day and sent word that she hoped to be well enough to be in attendance for that, unfortunately she was unable to shake off the illness in time.

In place of Sarah’s First Aid presentation we had several short rapidly organised presentations. First, initial details of the National Koala Conference which will take place on 17th, 18th and 19th May, 2013 at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. Sounds great, anyone interested in koalas should think about attending. Details should now be available on their website. Also Anne Fowler gave details of a new disease [noted in this newsletter], Pigeon Paramyxovirus, now found in Australia that, in the future, could have grave consequences for some of our bird species.

A total of 36 presentations were given over the 3 and a half days, most kept all delegates eagerly waiting for the next words of wisdom, but as always there were one or two that didn’t quite hit the mark.

Eleanor and Jim Pollock headed a team of ever enthusiastic workers over the 2 years it took them to organise every facet of the conference. There was not a hiccup, if there was the delegates were kept totally in the dark. Everything ran completely to time. Jim brought back the hands up to ask a question at the end of each presentation, so much better than writing a question then hoping the presenter would choose yours to read. Also back on the agenda was written notes for everyone rather than a brief outline and purchase of a disc of the presentations. Jim also ensured every presenter had their full notes prepared and on hand prior to the conference start so our folders were complete. At the end of every break we had lucky door prizes. More than 60 gift packs had been prepared and wrapped and despite being in attendance at every draw, as always my number was never drawn. Not a thing came my way. Probably just as well as I had problems trying to jam everything into the expandable suitcase come home time, if not for dear Jenny who filled her case with my stuff and carried most of her own on board in hand luggage I would have been up for a fortune in overweight. The main offender was the Vet a Farm sale table, I bought almost a case full of products I find difficult to obtain locally, most of it for debilitated or recovering reptiles, the best bit was the discount of course. CSIRO books also had a sale table offering a 20% discount on all purchases as well as free postage, I took advantage of the free postage and organised to have the books posted home.


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A New Experience in Rescues

On 16th June, 2012 I received a call from the WRIN emergency rescue phone with a request for me to attend an adult wombat which appeared quite ill. It had been on the side of the road for some time approximately 5.5kms south of Metcalfe. I phone member Myree and she immediately offered to assist. I had been told the wombat was quiet and the eyes looked red and sore, it also appeared to have sores on its body.

I rang Brenda for some advice regarding a knowledgeable wombat person and she had a recommendation straight away. The lady recommended is regarded as an expert in the care and handling of wombats and has cared for many over the years.

On arrival at the scene, the wombat was wedged up against a pigwire fence in heavy thistle and thick scrub. He was not happy about being disturbed let alone being netted. We were able to tie a wide belt around his midriff and with a bit of tugging we managed to achieve control of the animal and with great care slide him into a large size roo bag.

When we rang the recommended carer with a description of the animals poor state of health she recommended he be euthanised. His head and flanks were heavily riddled with scabs. One of his ears was missing and the wound bleeding. From my description she concluded that he had SARCOPTIC MANGE therefore we should take great care handling him as the disease is highly contagious. Further, she advised special care be taken when disposing of the carcass as any other animals coming into contact with it could also become infected. Options were burying it deeply, burning or obtaining a special bag from the vet and have it disposed of through him. In this case we opted to dispose of the body down a local deep mineshaft where it could not be retrieved.

Through this experience I have learned :

Sarcoptic mange is a severe infection that affects the host in several different ways. The irritation caused by the mite burrowing under the skin causes the wombat to scratch incessantly which in itself causes irreparable damage to the skin including mutilation and hair loss. From the constant scratching, skin layers are taken off and raw flesh is exposed. The blood serum seeps through the mites’ ‘tunnels’ to the exposed flesh creating wounds and scabs. Ulcers and deep lesions develop which cause secondary infection and blow fly strike.

Other visible symptoms of this disease are skin thickening and crusting over the body including the eye and ear areas causing blindness and deafness. The animal becomes too weak to search for food and malnutrition and dehydration occur. The immune system becomes depleted and the wombat looks emaciated. In advanced stages, Sarcoptic Mange also has a devastating affect on internal organs including heart, liver, lungs and reproductive organs. Respiratory problems and pneumonia can deplete the wombat further. Left without treatment the animal will die a slow and painful death.

Entire colonies of Bare-nosed Wombats [Common Wombat] are being lost to this terrible disease, however an infected wombat can completely recover if it is found and treated early enough.

Two points I have learned from the exercise are :

1. Do not underestimate the weight and strength of a wombat.

2. Take great care when handling a wombat with Sarcoptic Mange and in the disposal of the carcass.


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BIRD                                        BREEDING TIMES               NUMBER CLUTCHES

Chestnut-rumped Thornbill              June-Dec                               1 , 2 or more

Brown Thornbill                                June-Dec                               1 or 2

Buff-rumped Thornbill

Yellow-rumped  Thornbill                                                                1, 2 or more

Brown Treecreeper                           Aug-Jan 1

Fuscous Honeyeater                        July-Dec                                may nest other times 1 or 2 or more

Most of our common honeyeater sp. nest as for Fuscous and produce 1 or 2 clutches, exceptions are

White-plumed                                      June-Dec                             1 or 2

Blue-faced                                          June -Jan                              1 or 2

Noisy Minor                                        May -Dec                              1 or 2

New-holland Minor                   also March-May                             2 or 3 or more

Painted Minor                           Oct-Dec occasionally later depending on mistletoe fruiting

Eastern Spinebill                            Aug-Dec                                    1 or 2

Yellow-rumped Pardalote              Aug-Dec 1

Spotted Pardalote                          Sep-Jan 1

Striated Pardalote                          July-Dec 1

Silvereye                                       Aug-Jan                                  1, 2 more depending on food and conditions

White-winged Chough                   Aug-Dec                               1 per bird but entire group will produce2, 3 or more per year

Masked Lapwing                          June-Dec, often anytime        1-3

Crested Pigeon                             Sep-Dec, anytime depending on rainfall   1 or more

Galah                                              July-Dec 1                            maybe 2

Long-billed Corella                          Aug-Dec                                   1

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo            Aug-Jan                                     1

Musk Lorikeet                                Aug-Dec                                    1

Eastern Rosella                             Aug-Jan                                      1

Red-rumped Parrot                       July- as late as Dec                    1,2 or more

Southern Boobook Owl                 Sep-Nov                                      1

Barn Owl                                        May-Aug but will breed anytime food is abundant, often up to 3 per year. Will not breed if conditions bad

Tawny Frogmouth                            Aug-Nov                                        1 or 2

Laughing Kookaburra                   Sep-Dec, occas Aug & Jan              1

Sacred Kingfisher                          Sep-Jan                                            1

Welcome Swallow                        July-Jan                                    up to 3

Tree & Fairy Martins                    July-Dec                                        1 or 2

Superb Fairy-wren                        Aug-Jan                                           2 or more

Aus Magpie-lark                          Sep-Jan, anytime                            2-4

Aus Magpie                                  June-Dec                                          1 or 2

Aus Raven                                  July-Sep                                            1

Little Raven                                 June-Sep                                             1


For breeding time of other species, please call and I will try to oblige [check bird books, many have this info], remember, this is a guide only, most birds have never read the books! Over the last 10+ years, many species breeding times have altered, we believe this is possibly due to the change in weather patterns. Sadly many birds will go into breeding mode when weather conditions are appropriate only to have the weather change drastically causing their nestling young to die.

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Nobody can deny that plastic is one of the most useful materials ever developed. It is used for all sorts of things, from wrapping food to making automotive components. Unfortunately plastic has two major disadvantages; it comes from a non-renewable resource, ie petroleum, and it is basically non-biodegradable. An item from the Journal of the Natural Heritage Trust reports that Australians use about 6.9 billion plastic bags annually, enough to stretch around the world 37 times if tied together. Unfortunately up to 80 million of these bags end up as litter – in our streets, parks and waterways. Plastic bags can take years to break down after use and, because they are so lightweight, they easily blow out of rubbish bins and travel large distances. It is estimated that more than 100,000 animals and birds die every year as a result of plastic bag litter. One way of reducing plastic litter is to recycle your plastic bags. Another option is to take your own calico or string bag when shopping.


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