Group calls for greater support ahead of Threatened Species Day

Photo: Alan Danks.
Photo: Alan Danks.

A charity dedicated to raising awareness of the critically endangered Western Ground Parrot has called for greater funding and support to protect the bird on the eve of national Threatened Species Day.

The day is commemorated across the country each year on September 7, the same day the last known thylacine died in the 1930s.

The Friends of the Western Ground Parrot, which was established in 2003, is volunteer-led and has assisted the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions in its recovery plan and offered more than $500,000 in funding support.

The national Threatened Species Strategy 2015, developed by the federal government, identified the parrot as one of two bird species that required emergency intervention.

However, a recent review of the strategy found there had been no increase in the parrot's population, which is estimated to have been less than 150 birds back in 2017.

In 2018, the Threatened Species Recovery Hub identified the bird as the fourth most likely to be extinct in the next two decades.

Lightning strikes in January this year saw a bushfire destroy 6,300 hectares of the Cape Arid National Park - the only location in which the remaining birds still exist in the wild.

Monitoring, undertaken by WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions in March, found a reduction in parrot calling rates versus prior years in remaining habitat areas.

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot chair Paul Wettin praised firefighters for their efforts in tackling the fire and confirmed the group would continue to lobby the federal government for greater funding and support.

"If not for some sterling firefighting efforts, particularly by an expert crew from Esperance who constructed a fire barrier by hand on Mount Cape Arid, it is likely even more key parrot habitat, and birds, would have been lost," he said.

"The Friends have been lobbying the federal government intensively over the past two years about serious shortfalls in funding for the Recovery Plan after the cessation of a significant grant in 2017 and loss of expert DBCA staff."

It is understood the federal government is investing $100 million from 2019-23 through the Environment Restoration Fund in a bid to help protect threatened and migratory species and ecological communities and Ramsar wetlands.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the projects would be delivered through a mixture of discretionary grants and direct procurement.

It is anticipated that 44 projects will be funded this financial year, including 20 specific grants, and potential grantees will be invited to apply for funding once the program guidelines are published later this month.

Although the program is fully subscribed for this year, the spokesperson confirmed there would be other funding opportunities over the life of the program.

As the Western Ground Parrot is one of 20 birds targeted for recovery under the Threatened Species Strategy, the spokesperson confirmed it was one of the priorities for funding under the National Landcare Program's Regional Land Partnerships.