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Toxic Algae Linked To Dog Death In Waipoua River

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A dog has died after coming into contact with potentially toxic blue-green algae in the Waipoua River. The dog, a young Pointer Cross, died shortly after coming into contact with the river at Bentley St in Masterton on Monday afternoon. The symptoms experienced by the dog indicate poisoning by toxin producing blue-green algae as the most likely cause of death. Growth of blue-green algal mats is currently very widespread in the lower reaches of the Waipoua River and Greater Wellington and Regional Public Health are asking the public to avoid contact with this part of the river. Warning signs advising people to avoid contact recreation and dog walking have been in place along the Waipoua River from Opaki Rd downstream since mid-January when widespread growth of blue-green algal mats first became evident. Masterton District Council has also placed warning signs at river access points from the railway bridge downstream, including Bentley St. Warm and dry weather combined with low river flows has caused the mats to proliferate over the past two weeks. In some places blue-green algal mats have come loose from the river bed and washed up on the river's edge where they are easily accessible to dogs, stock and recreational users. Greater Wellington undertakes weekly assessment of blue-green algae cover at 21 river sites throughout the region and together with Regional Public Health and territorial authorities communicates the risk to river users with a protocol based on the recently released New Zealand Guidelines for Cyanobacteria in Recreational Fresh Waters. Blue-green algal mats are actually a dark brown or black colour and grow attached to rocks on the river bed. Algal mats can come loose from the riverbed and form floating "rafts" in shallow areas. They should not be confused with the harmless bright green algae which grow in fluffy patches or long strands. Regional Public Health advises everyone to avoid contact with toxic algae in rivers or on their banks. Contact (skin contact, swallowing) can cause rashes, skin and eye irritation, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset, and other effects in humans. The toxins can be fatal to dogs and they are particularly at risk because they like to scavenge near water. If any person or animal in your care exhibits signs of illness after being near the river/s, contact your doctor or vet immediately. More information about toxic algae and current warnings can be found at www.gw.govt.nz/toxic-algae. If you see any blue-green algal mats, contact Greater Wellington (04 384 5708) or an environmental health officer at your local council.

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