Orange-Bellied Parrot needs ‘drastic intervention’ to survive, ornithologist Mark Holdsworth says

Drastic and unorthodox intervention is needed to save the orange-bellied parrot from extinction, an expert says.

This season just two wild-born female parrots returned to Melaleuca in the state’s south from the birds’ annual migration to Victoria, out of a total 14 wild birds and one captive-bred.

Ornithologist and parrot expert Mark Holdsworth said he was lobbying the state government’s orange-bellied parrot conservation program to bring this year’s juvenile birds into captivity to stop them migrating and give them time to mature.

“The loss of any of those [juvenile parrots] during the summer would be a huge setback,” Mr Holdsworth said.

“By allowing them to migrate … we’re just condeming them to, quite possibly, a death.”

Noting such intervention was a drastic and untried measure, Mr Holdsworth said further proactive support to protect the vulnerable parrots from predators was also needed.

He said he was calling for such strong intervention due to only four out of 20 juvenile birds returning to Tasmania this year.

This is the third year in which the number of birds returning from Victoria has decreased.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown also recently called for urgent federal intervention, pushing for funding of $1 million per year for five years to save the parrot from extinction.

Parks Minister Elise Archer said she was satisfied the orange-bellied parrot project was attaining its goals and the state government had invested significant funding into the project.

The state government’s $300,000 conservation program has been criticised by Mr Holdsworth and other supporters of the orange-bellied parrot for a perceived restriction of information about the progress of the conservation project.

This year volunteers at Melaleuca monitoring the birds’ migration were told only to provide information to the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.

The change in policy was followed by the conservation program’s official social media page announcing they would no longer accept comments on public posts.

A DPIPWE spokesperson said questions about the project could email obp.program@dpipwe.tas.gov.au.

“The Tasmanian Government is doing everything possible to ensure the survival of the Orange-bellied Parrot,” Ms Archer said.

“That’s why we have invested more than $300,000 per year towards ensuring the species survival that will support a range of actions, including the care and release of additional birds, and development of innovative partnerships with researchers.”