Western Ground Parrot search to start in Fitzgerald River National Park

Hanging on: The endangered western ground parrot. Photo: Jennene Riggs
Hanging on: The endangered western ground parrot. Photo: Jennene Riggs

A search this summer, using innovative technology, could provide new hope for the critically endangered Western Ground Parrot.

There have been no signs of the parrot in the Fitzgerald River National Park since 2012. However, a network of solar-powered acoustic recording monitors is set to be used for the first time to survey unexplored wilderness areas of the park.

The Friends of the Western Ground Parrot recently donated $20,000 to WA Parks and Wildlife to purchase 10 of these monitors.

The funds will also go towards installing the units, which must be done by helicopter because of the remote location.

Friends group chair Paul Wettin said the park was a stronghold for the parrot until the past few decades.

Concerns were voiced over land clearing in the area about 20 years ago and, today, the only confirmed wild populations of the parrot exist in the Cape Arid National Park and the adjacent Nuytsland Nature Reserve.

"The wild population in Cape Arid is under constant threat," Mr Wettin said.

"There is only a small number of birds there and the fires seem to be almost an annual hazard and emergency."

Mr Wettin said fires in January and February, 2019 had burnt 6000 hectares of known prime habitat area and initial surveys had indicated "a significant reduction" in calling rates.

The Friends group hopes to fund a translocation plan to create an insurance population in the wild.

Mr Wettin said the Fitzgerald River National Park may be an ideal location, but a study required to confirm whether this was the case had not yet been funded.

The group aims to eventually double the number of monitors in the park.

"The issue is surveys have been done where you can get access via tracks and vehicles," Mr Wettin said.

"The park is huge and a lot of it is quite remote.

"So there are large areas of the park that still have not had surveys done and there may still be ground parrots resident in some of that wilderness area."

Mr Wettin said the department spent more than $1 million per year on the Western Ground Parrot Recovery Plan, but it was made up of many interconnected projects.

"There is basically about a million dollar gap for a whole range of activities under the recovery plan," he said.

"One of these is to take further surveys in the wilderness of Fitzgerald River National Park and they don't have funds for that.

"One of the roles of the Friends is to raise money and provide those funds to Parks and Wildlife for elements of the recovery plan."

To donate to the Friends group, visit www.western-ground-parrot.org.au.