Emergency bushfire recovery plan to protect western ground parrot

After the fire: Efforts to protect West Australia's rarest bird have intensified after 6,000 hectares of the parrot's native habitat was destroyed by fires. Photo: Alan Danks.
After the fire: Efforts to protect West Australia's rarest bird have intensified after 6,000 hectares of the parrot's native habitat was destroyed by fires. Photo: Alan Danks.

The state government has launched an emergency recovery plan to protect the critically endangered western ground parrot after bushfires ravaged parts of the species' last remaining habitat.

There are less than 150 wild parrots remaining, with the habitat of the last known population located in the Cape Arid National Park and the Nuytsland National Reserve.

A bushfire starting at the Nuytsland Nature Reserve on December 20, tore through an estimated 49,0000 hectares of park land, destroying about 6,000 hectares of known western ground parrot habitat.

As part of the action plan, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions in collaboration with the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot are taking additional measures to protect birds remaining in the area from introduced predators such as cats and foxes.

Feral cat baiting around core habitat areas is set to relieve pressure on the species, which was intensified after the fire due to a reduced habitat size.

Further actions will include the protection of unburnt habitat, replacement of permanent audio recording units used to determine parrot population and the development of a translocation strategy.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the the impact of the bushfire was reduced thanks to the efforts of firefighters.

"DBCA identified early that an immediate response to the fire would be critical to protect the remaining habitat from introduced predators and further fire to ensure the recovery of the species," he said.

"Although it is a complex task, DBCA is working closely with volunteers and partners, including the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot and BirdLife Australia, to conserve the small wild population," he said.

Friends of the Western Ground Parrot chair Paul Wettin said the group welcomed the action plan.

"It is desperately needed, the parrots would be subject to quite intense predation pressure following the recent fires in Cape Arid," he said.

"In our participation within the recovery team, we have emphasised that particularly after the event of a catastrophic fire, getting on top of the predators is the number one priority.

"That population of parrots is in peril, this is the third major fire in Cape Arid in four years and their habitat has shrunk every time, we really don't know how many birds are there."

Mr Wettin said a translocation strategy was a critical next step.

"The birds are at such risk in that one location, these four years have proven how risky Cape Arid is, we should absolutely be trying to find another home for the parrots," he said.

"There is prime ground parrot habitat in the Fitzgerald National Park, so that would be a logical place where they could potentially be translocated, but quite a lot of science has to go into that research."