Paruku Indigenous Rangers and elders recently hosted a workshop on night parrots for other rangers and conservation groups from the southern Kimberley
and northern Western Deserts. The TSR Hub’s Nick Leseberg from The University of Queensland went along to learn from the rangers about
the night parrot population in the Great Sandy Desert, the Paruku Rangers’ work with the bird, and to share findings from his research on the bird
in western Queensland.
The Paruku Rangers, supported by the Kimberley Land Council, have achieved something few people in Australia have. Since mid-2017, Ranger Coordinator Jamie Brown, and rangers Abraham Clayon, Lachlan Johns and Hanson Pye have confirmed (now multiple times) the presence of night parrots on Walmajarri Country in the Great Sandy Desert.
Night parrot. Photo: Steve Murphy
Finding the endangered nocturnal parrots the first time was a collaborative effort between Paruku Rangers, Paruku Indigenous Protection Area (IPA), the Kimberley Land Council, WWF Australia and Environs Kimberley. Together they analysed very old records from the region, identified potential habitat and spoke to elders. Confirmation came during fauna surveys, when a camera trap image and then an audio recording were captured.
Discovering the bird on their country has opened up new opportunities for the Paruku Rangers, including receiving a grant from the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Commissioner to manage threats to the bird, including fire and feral cats. Other Indigenous groups in the Kimberley and Central Deserts may also have the rare and elusive bird on their country and are interested to learn more about it.
The location of the workshop was the Handover Site, a patch of scattered woodland close to the shores of Lake Gregory, where Tjurabalan Native Title was handed down. The lake shimmering in the distance and covered in thousands of water birds provided a spectacular backdrop to the workshop.
Paruku Ranger Coordinator Jamie Brown (centre) leading fire management discussion at the workshop. L-R: Paruku Rangers Abrahm Calyon and Lachlan Johns, Jamie Brown, Alexander Watson from WWF Australia and Malcolm Lindsay from Environs Kimberley. Photo: Jaana Dielenberg
The heat of late October (45C in the shade) was no deterrent to the enthusiasm of Rangers and Traditional Owners from nine different Native Title groups who attended the workshop. They came to share information about the bird and the best ways to detect, monitor and care for it.
Insights from Paruku elders showed that the bird has been heard in the region in past decades. Some of the old people recognised the sound of the call when it was played to them and could recall where they had heard it as children. Rangers from other groups attending were enthusiastic to take recordings of the calls back to play to their own old people. This may yield valuable information on former (and possibly still active) night parrot locations.The workshop was also an opportunity to exchange information with scientists from other regions who are also studying the rare and elusive bird. Nick Leseberg’s research in western Queensland is improving understanding of the parrot’s preferred habitat, what threats impact their populations, and how those threats can be managed. Nick was able to share his findings with the rangers and to provide some training on the use of acoustic monitoring and analysis. Other scientists from the Broome Bird Observatory and Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions also shared insights gained from other populations.
The Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the National Environmental Science Program expresses our sympathy to everyone whose life has been impacted by these horrific fires, and acknowledges the heartbreak of families who have lost everything, including loved ones.
Many landscapes in Australia are fire-prone, and increasingly so. Altered fire regimes can have a serious negative impact on threatened plant species and ecological communities. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project is working to better understand the effects of different fire regimes on threatened flora in order to improve fire management strategies and conservation outcomes.
Almost a quarter of Australia’s possums and gliders are listed as threatened under Australian environmental law, and many more are showing signs of decline. Dr Rochelle Steven from The University of Queensland believes people in the community can do a lot to support conservation, especially in urban areas.
The detection and monitoring of threatened species have been a strong area of research in the National Environmental Science Program and also the two national environmental research programs which preceded it. Hub Director Professor Brendan Wintle takes a look at what we’ve been achieving and why it is so important to the conservation of Australia’s threatened species.
In 2009, the Christmas Island blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko were headed for imminent extinction. Parks Australia acted quickly to collect remaining wild individuals in order to establish captive breeding programs on Christmas Island and at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, which have been highly successful. A Threatened Species Recovery Hub project team is working closely with Parks Australia to help secure a future for the two lizards beyond captivity.