Oral Presentation 64th International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association 2015

Variations in plasma lead concentrations in urban North Island Kaka (Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis) chicks suggests multiple pathways of exposure (#36)

Aditi Sriram 1 , Brett Gartrell 1
  1. Massey University, Hokowhitu, PALMERSTON NORTH, New Zealand

Lead toxicity adversely affects health and reproduction in birds and is a recognised concern to wildlife globally. Lead is naturally present in the environment, however its extensive use in society increases the risks of toxicity to wildlife, in particular wildlife in close proximity to urban areas. In recent years there has been an increase in the prevalence of lead toxicity in North Island Kaka (Nestor meridionalis septentrionalis), an endemic New Zealand parrot. The inquisitive nature of these birds, an expanding urban population and increased availability of food in the urban environment are the primary factors implicated in their dispersal into urban areas where there is increased exposure to anthropogenic sources of lead. We studied two populations of North Island Kaka, urban and rural, and investigated the prevalence and biological effects of lead exposure in both chicks and adults. We examined concentrations of lead in blood samples from live birds and tissue concentrations of lead in deceased birds. Lead levels in egg shells and yolk samples were investigated to identify the pathways of exposure in chicks. Preliminary results indicate a high prevalence of lead exposure amongst nestling kaka in an urban environment, that showed no detectable neurological deficits associated with early lead exposure. Early exposure of a proportion of chicks suggests a maternal transfer of lead, although the exact pathway is yet to be investigated. The pattern of lead exposure in other chicks is indicative of direct parental feeding of lead. This study presents evidence that suggests multiple pathways of lead exposure in kaka nestlings and examines the prevalence and biological effects of lead toxicity in kaka. We have detected significant concentrations of lead in both urban and rural populations of kaka in New Zealand that has the potential to contribute significantly to the morbidity and mortality of this species.