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Conservation Matters

Peter Valentine | Conservation Officer

At the start of 2024, where do I begin! There are many ongoing threats to nature in Australia (and elsewhere) and some of those threats are manifest in their potential impacts on our birds. To begin the year on a positive note we might want to remind ourselves of some good conservation outcomes for birds before contemplating a bigger picture.

One pause for positive reflection is the Orange-bellied Parrot recovery program in Tasmania, where this critically endangered parrot is being supported by a combination of habitat management and captive breeding to add additional birds to the wild population. At the end of last year, 81 birds made the journey back across Bass Strait to the natural breeding sites in Tasmania: a new record number. Equally important perhaps, the captive breeding facility reports that already there are 77 nestlings emerging from breeding boxes this year with more to come! We might all take heart from this level of success despite it being early days in the larger scheme of things.

Orange-bellied Parrot. Photo by Peter Valentine.

And while in Tasmania, just now the Courts have imposed a temporary ban on logging in breeding habitat for the critically endangered Swift Parrot near Hobart. This is a result of the ongoing and outstanding work done by the Bob Brown Foundation, but the outcome will remain unclear until the Court hearing. Even so, there is hope that such steps might halt the decline of this wonderful species protected by Federal Law, but threatened by avaricious logging interests in Tasmania. A shout out to Bob Brown and the many volunteers trying to reform the logging industry in Tasmania and to achieve greater protection for the unique forest habitats.

Swift Parrot. Photo by Peter Valentine.

Closer to home I think there is scope for hope in the case of the Golden-shouldered Parrot, given the work done by the Artemis Nature Fund. Many of us have visited Artemis Station and learned of the long-running work of Sue and Tom Sheppard to better protect this outstanding species. With the current work being done to increase understanding of the ecology of the species and the interaction with various habitat changes, there is a chance for long-term survival of yet another critically endangered bird species. BirdLife NQ was an early supporter of this work and members continue to support the efforts. It would be tragic if this gorgeous species was to disappear like its sister mound-nesting species the Paradise Parrot. This is a fine example of practical conservation in our region, and we might take heart in the progress to date. These comments do not discount the fact that the conservation status of these parrots deteriorated between the two most recent Action Plans for Australian birds, and we need to increase the pressure for much greater investment in conservation of our birds by our governments.

Golden-shouldered Parrot. Photo by Peter Valentine.

It is great to see BirdLife CEO Kate Millar making strong statements directed at the Federal Government to try and stop the devastation proposed for the Toondah Wetlands near Brisbane. This magnificent Ramsar Site has become a focus for migratory species survival, including the critically endangered Far Eastern Curlew. The Walker Corporation, a body simply interested in profits, has enjoyed high levels of political support from Queensland and Federal Governments. But their plans are going to heavily impact on this Ramsar site and through that, on migratory birds, against the clear legal obligations of our nation. There is at least a whiff of corruption when donors to political parties seem to get decisions going their way.

In our local wader hotspot, the Cairns Esplanade, not only does the Far Eastern Curlew occur, but also two other critically endangered wader species (Curlew Sandpiper and Red Knot) and another dozen or more threatened species. While BirdLife NQ (BLNQ) continues to try and work with Council to enable less disturbance to these long-distance migrants, we have not always had the success we hoped for. However BLNQ members are continuing the good work of monitoring the situation and appealing to Council for more responsible actions. This requires an appreciation for our birds in the hearts of the elected Councillors and the concomitant actions by the Council. It is somewhat surprising to me that such globally significant habitat and birds, the cause of much tourism appeal, is scarcely on the current agenda. Perhaps it is time for a change. There is an election ahead and Cairns voters might like to consider this when looking at the candidates. Even though these birds have international significance and national and State protection, we do need to have a strong local awareness and conservation. Local action is the key.

Far Eastern Curlew. Photo by Peter Valentine.

At our recent BLNQ Committee meeting we were joined by the new CEO of BirdLife Australia, Kate Millar and it was great to see enthusiasm and concern being expressed. It is important that BirdLife continues its high level professional engagement with senior Government officials and continues to urge Governments to act with greater care for birds. Even good governments need to hear from the community about proposals and about policy. From my perspective it is important to have that national voice for bird conservation. It is a critical reason for me to be a member of BirdLife. We ordinary members can assist in campaigns and issues, and we can support BirdLife in its conservation actions. There is a potential future in which our birds can star, but we need to work now to make that happen.


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