Telstra has fingered prolific numbers of cockatoos as the potential culprits behind damage to a temporary fibre cable put in place after floods in the Kimberley region last month.
ABC Rural News first reported that animals had contributed to internet and phone outages in the region by 'munching' on the telco's infrastructure.
The floods had earlier caused a major backhaul link to break in a remote area on the Fitzroy River, causing problems for residents north of Broome and in the Kimberley, according to Telstra area manager Tony Carmichael.
Carmichael said Telstra had diverted some internet traffic onto diverse paths and also run a temporary cable above ground to add capacity on the route.
However, the temporary cable also suffered a break when animals – thought to be cockatoos – managed to penetrate the sheathing and access the glass fibres.
"There's definitely evidence of animals causing some damage," Carmichael told iTnews.
"Looking at the cable we believed the damage was caused by cockatoos - simply because there were a lot of marks along the sheath length, which I guess is typical of a cockatoo going up and down the length of the cable."
Carmichael said there were some freshwater crocodiles in the area – some had floated downstream between Telstra technicians working in waist-deep water – but suspected they were unlikely to have been the culprits.
"If one got tangled up [in the fibre] you'd expect it to tear [the cable] to bits by rolling around," he said.
Carmichael said the blue sheath surrounding the cable was "quite hard and there [are] layers inside that also protect the inner glass fibres".
"It is quite robust," he said. "But I guess something that has sharp claws or teeth [can penetrate it] with a bit of assistance."
Animal-inflicted damage to internet cables was rare, particularly because the cables were usually placed underground and therefore not accessible.
"This is a bit of a one-off," Carmichael said. "I've been at Telstra for 30 years and I've worked in the field [and not seen anything like this]."
Carmichael described the flooding – which occurred during the wet season – as "just phenomenal".
He said that five Telstra technicians had worked around the clock to restore services to affected residents.
"We did recognise this cable was a very important part of our network and that it affected people in the Kimberley. Our number one priority was getting services restored," Carmichael said.
He said that Telstra had maintenance crews scheduled to conduct a repair of the original cable break, which can only be accessed once the water subsides.
"Hopefully we're getting towards the end of the wet [season] now," he said.
"[The repair] is the highest priority job we have in the area. But for now, [the temporary cable and redundant paths] are secured and providing services."
He paid tribute to field crews that had worked on the cable and to the remote communities and emergency services that had pitched in to assist.
Carmichael also indicated that Telstra would conduct a "complete review" of the fibre path into the north to make it more resilient in future to flood events.
"It's important for us to provide the cable and services to people up north," he said.