Impact of Fracking on Animals


Veterinarians ask Federal and Northern Territory governments to put animal health and welfare above fracking for gas in the Beetaloo Basin



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 Fracking for gas in the Beetaloo Basin

August 2023

Leave the gas in the ground and save lives

The decision by the Federal and Northern Territory Governments to proceed with a massive new gas field in the Beetaloo Basin will obstruct Australia’s progress to Net Zero and hinder global efforts to avoid a climate catastrophe. The large number of gas wells will significantly increase Australia’s emissions and contribute to further global warming, more severe weather events, health impacts and loss of lives, both animal and human.

Beetaloo ecosystems and native wildlife are irreplaceable

A recent baseline assessment conducted in the Beetaloo area recorded 353 vertebrate fauna, 691 invertebrate fauna and 1818 plant species. The area includes valued rivers, springs, thermal pools and wetlands. Fifteen species of fauna are listed as threatened in the EPBC Act 1999. The Beetaloo area is about to become industrialised. A landscape of wells needing quantities of water and sand for fracking, hazardous chemicals, the construction of new roads and an extensive network of pipelines, will inevitably threaten biodiversity: ecosystems, fauna and flora. Biodiversity is essential for the processes that support all life on Earth, including humans.

Mega emissions mean more and more animals will suffer as the temperature rises

The Northern Territory is valuable cattle country – prolonged heatwaves will reduce available pastures and water sources may dry up, putting livestock production at risk. Elsewhere in Australia, sustenance for koalas, eucalyptus leaves, will become drier, and this endangered species will risk leaving their trees to find water. Walking our dogs on hot pavements burns their feet and can result in heat stress, even death.

One Health, the connection between human and animal health and climate change

Climate change brings new disease challenges, especially when vectors are involved. In the past two years mosquitoes moved south in Australia, carrying Japanese Encephalitis virus, infecting piggeries and resulting in cases and deaths in humans. Fruit bats are likely to migrate to more suitable areas. Hendra virus, found naturally in fruit bats, has had a huge impact in Queensland and NSW, affecting horses and people. The virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic is thought to have originated from bats, possibly with pangolins as an intermediate host.

We urge political leaders to develop strong emission reduction programs that align with climate science, and to have the courage and morality to withstand pressure from international fossil gas companies.

Australian animals have suffered and died due to climate change

An Australian rodent in the Torres Strait Islands, the Bramble Cay melomys is the first mammal to become extinct due to climate change. Rising sea levels and storm surges resulted in loss of habitat. 

Coral on the Great Barrier Reef has been killed by successive mass bleaching events due to rising ocean temperatures. This brings long term risks not only to the reef itself but to the diversity of marine fauna living within the reef, including dugong and marine turtles. 

Green turtles are at risk of extinction as their gender ratio becomes distorted. The sex of a sea turtle is determined by the temperature of the sand incubating the eggs. Warmer temperatures of 29.1 degrees Celsius and above produce females and cooler temperatures produce males. Global warming means more females are born, disturbing the natural gender ratio. It’s possible that sea turtle hatchlings could be completely female in the near future. 

Nearly three billion vertebrate wild animals – mammals, reptiles, birds, and frogs – were killed or displaced in the mega bushfires of 2019-20. ‘This ranks as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history,’ reported the WWF. Wombats and echidnas were trapped and drowned in their burrows during the severe flooding in eastern Australia in 2022. Grazing animals were swept away, while others starved when dirty water contaminated their pastures. Even marine species, turtles and seabirds were displaced when floodwaters reached the ocean.

More than 23,000 spectacled flying foxes were killed in far north Queensland, when temperatures were over 42°C, equating to almost one in every three individual animals in the population. 

An estimated 500,000 head of cattle were lost in widespread floods in northern Queensland in February 2019. 

Dogs or other pets can develop severe heat stress, brain damage and die in as little as 4 to 6 minutes if left unattended in a vehicle. Risks of this are increasing with more heat waves, as is the probability of dogs burning their footpads when walking, as roads and footpaths heat up so much more than the air. 

A United Nations report has determined that about one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history. Biodiversity is essential for the processes that support all life on Earth, including human life. 

An average 69% decline in monitored wildlife populations has been recorded around the world between 1970 and 2018.


  1. Scientists reported that the average global temperature reached a record high in July of this year.
  2. SREBA Baseline assessment in the Beetaloo
  3. The Pepper Inquiry
  4. Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health
  5. 625,000 head of cattle lost in Queensland floods 
  6. Lumpy Skin Disease
  7. Pets and climate change
  8. Racehorses and heat: Brownlow MA, Dar AJ and Jeffcott LB (2016) Exertional heat illness: a review of the syndrome affecting racing Thoroughbreds in hot and humid climates. Australian Veterinary Journal 94: 240–247
  9. Spectacled flying foxes killed by the heatThe Lab of Animal Ecology, The Flying-Fox Heat Stress Forecaster
  10. Koalas and heatwaves
  11. Bushfires in 2019-20 kill wildlife
  12. First mammal extinction from climate change
  13. Gender of green turtles affected by warming sand
  14. UN report on biodiversity loss 
  15. Japanese Encephalitis
  16. Hendra virus
  17. COVID-19 origin
  18. The impact of heatwaves on Australian wildlife
  19. Climate change and Australia’s wildlife