The mystery illness threatening Australia’s rainbow lorikeets and what you can do to help

Feb 19, 2024
For concerned citizens who encounter lorikeets displaying symptoms of LPS, immediate action is crucial. Source: Getty Images.

Australia’s vibrant skies are facing a threat as the much-loved rainbow lorikeets, known for their kaleidoscopic plumage and lively personalities, are falling victim to a mysterious illness called Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome (LPS).

Wildlife enthusiasts and bird lovers across the nation are left wondering about the cause of this alarming syndrome that has left hundreds of these iconic birds paralysed.

LPS is a debilitating condition that renders wild rainbow lorikeets unable to fly. The birds experience varying degrees of paralysis, affecting their legs, wings, and even their ability to hop or move steadily. In severe cases, lorikeets may face complete paralysis, impacting essential functions such as blinking and swallowing. Despite the visible distress caused by LPS, the exact cause of the syndrome remains unknown.

According to Tim Portas, the Wildlife Veterinary Director at RSPCA Queensland, the syndrome is treatable when detected early. However, treatment is an intensive process, requiring four to six weeks of dedicated care for the affected birds.

“Every summer we treat hundreds of lorikeets with LPS. The syndrome is mainly present in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and some in Gympie,” Portas told Starts at 60.

Treatment methods involve frequent rehydration with fluids, pain relief, and the application of Systane in the lorikeets’ eyes to act as a lubricant.

Once the birds regain their ability to fly, they still require additional weeks of care before being released back into the wild.

Source: Getty Images/RSPCAQLD.

Despite the alarming numbers, experts suggest that the syndrome is unlikely to have a significant impact on the overall population or the ecosystem, as rainbow lorikeets are a common species, particularly in urban environments.

For concerned citizens who encounter lorikeets displaying symptoms of LPS, immediate action is crucial.

The RSPCA’s 24/7 Animal Emergency Hotline (1300 ANIMAL or 1300 264 625) is available for reporting cases, or individuals can contact their nearest wildlife carer. Alternatively, the affected bird can be taken directly to a local vet or wildlife hospital.

As communities rally to address this mystery illness, the collaborative efforts of wildlife organisations and concerned citizens play a pivotal role in ensuring the continued vibrancy of Australia’s skies. By staying vigilant and taking prompt action, individuals can contribute to the preservation of these iconic rainbow lorikeets for future generations to admire and cherish.


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