Vehicles, pets, and diseases, oh my! Causes of reptile rehabilitation admissions in a city using volunteer records from wildlife rehabilitation centres. (#524)
Urbanisation has the potential to influence some species through increased food, water, shelter, and predator release. However, living in a built up environment also poses threats to the survival of species with low behavioural plasticity and high susceptibility to being killed. These threats include, but are not limited to, predation by both invasive and endemic species, displacement through human activities such as land clearing and gardening, and being struck by motor vehicles on roads. Reptiles are abundant in Perth, Western Australia, and often brought into wildlife rehabilitation centres (WRC) by concerned citizens following discovery of injury or disease, commonly as a result of negative human interactions. Through volunteer efforts, these WRCs keep records of reptile admissions, including the reason for admission and the final outcome for the animal. We collated data from three WRCs in Perth to investigate the most common causes for reptile admissions and, where possible, the average recovery rate for each factor. Admissions of reptile type differed between WRCs, most likely due to reputation; for example only one centre frequently received snakes and monitors, which contributed 40% of admissions for that centre. On average, more reptiles are admitted for treatment of wounds sustained from dog attacks than any other cause, although cats more frequently attacked small or long-bodied reptiles than dogs. In 2010-2011 upper respiratory tract infection in Tiliqua rugosa peaked in 1 in 5 reptile admissions, briefly overtaking dog attacks as the most frequent factor. Each WRC manages these sick skinks differently, and mortality rates differ significantly as a result. Understanding why reptiles are admitted to WRCs will help drive conservation efforts and awareness to local governments, but the accuracy and consistency of these records must be improved to ensure the data is useful.