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Conservation efforts intensify for WA’s rarest bird

A western ground parrot with a GPS collar in Cape Arid National Park. Photo - Alan Danks
A western ground parrot with a GPS collar in Cape Arid National Park. Photo - Alan Danks

Efforts are continuing to protect the western ground parrot, following a bushfire that burnt through some of the critically endangered birds' habitat this month.

Lightning strikes on January 13 caused a bushfire in Cape Arid National Park on the south coast, which burnt 6,300 hectares. Western ground parrots only exist in the wild in Cape Arid National Park and the adjacent Nuytsland Nature Reserve.

In spring 2018, five parrots were caught in Cape Arid National Park - fitted with GPS collars - and returned to the wild so their movements could be studied as part of a recovery program led by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).

A ground search by DBCA last week located one of these five birds alive, and signals from two other birds were detected from the air. A ground search this week will establish if they also survived the fire. One location where birds were found in the spring season was burnt in the fire.

Last year, five wild birds were also transferred from Cape Arid National Park to Perth Zoo as part of efforts to safeguard the species.

The two males and three females joined four other western ground parrots at the zoo to help learn more about the birds and their reproductive biology, to determine if a captive breeding program for release is viable and could help reverse the species decline.

Construction of new purpose-built aviaries at Perth Zoo has been supported by the Australian Government's Threatened Species Recovery Fund, and the recovery program has been assisted by valuable contributions by the Friends of Western Ground Parrot, as well as funding from the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots e.V.

Comments attributed to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:

"Thankfully, a prescribed burn undertaken by DBCA's Parks and Wildlife Service in 2017 to protect western ground parrot habitat helped to limit the further spread of the fire.

"DBCA 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.

"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."