What’s Up Now, Skip?

Who’s that you’ve got with you, Skip?

An OBP. What’s that, an Ordinary Bloody Parrot?

Sorry, an orange bellied parrot. Handsome fellow. Why is he looking so glum?

Because there are only 36 of his friends left in the wild (http://www.theage.com.au/environment/conservation/no-flight-of-fancy-this-rare-bird-needs-to-be-caught-to-survive-20120901-257ji.html).

But there has been a captive breeding program going for nearly 20 years. Hasn’t this program been breeding birds to release back into the wild?

I see. The captive parrots have poor fertility, possibly because the founders are descended from only six birds. Why weren’t birds brought in from the wild to increase their genetic diversity?

Oh, permission to do exactly that was sought several times but wasn’t given until now. A bit like shutting the gate after the parrot has bolted, eh Skip?

But I thought they were doing okay in the wild? Weren’t there at least 150 birds as late as 2006? So what’s caused the population crash?

No one knows? But I read that there are plans to release birds into the wild this summer (which has been happening most summers for over ten years now). If we don’t know why numbers have declined so dramatically, and prior releases have failed to increase population numbers, and a lot of the captive birds are inbred then that doesn’t seem like such a great idea does it? Why are you looking at me like that?

Hold on. Who is that over there? It looks like an eastern barred bandicoot. Some of them have been released onto French Island. Unfortunately that is turning into a bit of a debacle too. While French Island is meant to be fox free it certainly isn’t feral cat free. There’s even a picture of a cat with a bandicoot in its mouth (http://bird.net.au/bird/index.php?title=Eastern_Barred_Bandicoot). Despite that bandicoots have still been released onto French Island and (surprise, surprise) they are being predated by the cats that live there (http://bird.net.au/bird/index.php?title=French_Island_Eastern_Barred_Bandicoot_Trial_Release). The New Zealanders did not start returning birds to their offshore islands until every last cat and rat had been eradicated from them. You would think the Australians would have learnt something from that. You are still looking at me strangely, Skip.

Dr. F. Bunny



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