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 is receiving an additional $2 million to deliver research and scientific advice to help support wildlife and habitat recovery efforts following Australia’s bushfire crisis. The rapid rollout of meetings and expert workshops that were planned as part of this response now faces the added and acute challenge of COVID-19.
Predation by cats is a key threat to at least 123 threatened species in Australia. Better understanding and reducing the impact of feral cats on susceptible wildlife has been a major area of research for the Threatened Species Recovery Hub. Hub Deputy Directors Professors Sarah Legge and John Woinarski take a look at our research to address Australia’s cat problem.
The 2019–20 bushfires have been extensive and – in some areas – of very high severity. Many threatened species have had most of their distributions burnt, and fire is likely to have imperilled many species not previously considered threatened. One of the post-fire challenges to population recovery that many native species will face is increased risk of predation, including by introduced foxes and cats.
Australia has many unique small- to medium-sized mammals, which are vulnerable to predation by cats and foxes, two carnivores introduced to the continent with European arrival. For many of these species, effective conservation means heavy or total suppression of cats and/or foxes.
Oliver Tester from the Office of the Threatened Species Commissioner tells us about the Australian Government’s action on feral cats.