Balloons that kill wildlife
By guest writer Amy Motherwell
For years we’ve seen the balloons go up at big events in news stories. In times of celebration and in sadness; hundreds of colours released into the air, seemingly no one considering what lies beyond that moment. If they knew the journey a balloon takes once it has floated off into the distance, surely they’d think twice?
A balloon can travel many kilometres before it reaches a height at which it bursts into fragments and falls back to the earth as litter where it becomes a danger to our wildlife.
Balloons are easily mistaken for food by many species of wildlife and when ingested they can block the digestive tract causing the animal to starve resulting in a slow and painful death. Animals can also become entangled in the balloon and/or its ribbon rendering them unable to move or eat and, again, slowly starving to death.
Sea turtles are especially vulnerable as they naturally prey on jellies which balloon fragments can easily be mistaken for. Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle occur in Australian waters three of which are considered to be critically endangered.
But it’s not only sea life that is at risk, many terrestrial species are also falling victim to this threat.
On June 14th, 2014 the Australian Platypus Conservancy reported on the death of a platypus which had become entangled in the streamer of a deflated helium balloon. Birds too are extremely susceptible to entanglement as well as many other animals. Penguins and even seals have been documented as being injured or killed by becoming entangled in a balloons ribbon.
Latex balloons marketed as biodegradable are unfortunately misleading as they take months, if not years, to degrade and even then they never entirely break down.
So is it time to start treating balloon releases for what they are, deliberate littering, detrimental to wildlife, marine life and the overall environment?
If you believe in this cause and would like to sign the petition it can be found at: https://www.change.org/p/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp-ban-ceremonial-balloon-releases-due-to-the-negative-impact-on-marine-and-wildlife