Western Ground Parrot conservation effort intensifies

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has praised dedicated volunteers and organisations involved in the conservation effort for the Western Ground Parrot, following a bushfire that destroyed 6,300 hectares of the endangered bird’s habitat.

Lightning strikes on Sunday, January 13, caused a bushfire in the Cape Arid National Park – the only location in which the 150 remaining birds still exist in the wild.

Five of the parrots were fitted with GPS collars as part of a recovery program led by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions in late 2018.

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A ground search was undertaken by the department last week, with located one of the five birds located alive and signals from two other birds detected from the air. 

It is understood another ground search will be underway this week will establish if they also survived the fire. 

The conservation effort was stepped up last year, with five wild birds transferred from Cape Arid National Park to Perth Zoo in a bid to safeguard the species, learn more about the birds and their reproductive biology and determine if a captive breeding program could help reverse the decline.

Mr Dawson said he was grateful that a prescribed burn undertaken by the department’s Parks and Wildlife Service in 2017 helped to limit the further spread of the fire.

“The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions will continue to undertake fox and feral cat baiting to protect the birds, and monitor the occurrence and abundance of the ground parrot through listening surveys,” he said.

“In the meantime, birds brought to Perth Zoo late last year are being monitored by CCTV cameras and have settled into purpose-built aviaries exceptionally well.

“I appreciate and welcome the combined efforts of the dedicated volunteers and organisations in the conservation of this rare and unique species.”

Whilst welcoming the conservation effort being made by Parks and Wildlife, Wilderness Society WA state director Kit Sainsbury said the issue required emergency funding to protect the remaining birds in the wild.

“The plight of the critically endangered western ground parrot further highlights the need for immediate emergency funding to protect the remaining wild population in situ,” he said.

“Suggestions that captive animals will assessed for 'release viability' is merely an extinction backstop which maintains the survival of the bird but does little to resolve the on ground issues which has caused this steep population decline.

“Work must be undertaken immediately to remove all remaining threats to this endemic species, including pending hazards like the state barrier fence extension which has the potential to remove any remaining wild numbers completely.”

In 2017, Esperance-based documentary film makers Dave and Jennene Riggs released ‘Secrets at Sunrise’ – a documentary shedding light on the work by scientists from the Parks and Wildlife service trying to safeguard the remaining Western Ground Parrot population at Cape Arid.