Thursday, 25 June 2015
The swift parrot is a small, fast-flying, mostly green parrot with a blood-red head, exclusive to Australia. According to Birdlife Australia's head of conservation, Samantha Vine, it is on track to extinction at a faster rate than almost any other Australian bird. Swift parrots spend their winters foraging across Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and Queensland. Indeed, they have recently been sighted at the MacLeod railway station in my home city of Melbourne.
The less than 1,000 pairs of remaining swift parrots rely on Tasmania's mature eucalypt forests to breed. As stated in the 2011 National Recovery Plan for the Swift Parrot, the persistence of this species is mainly threatened by loss and alteration of habitat from forestry activities. Documents obtained under Tasmanian freedom of information laws show that the Tasmanian environment department sought specialist expert advice regarding five proposed logging coupes within an identified swift parrot important breeding area in the southern forests. The expert advice warned that logging in the coupes would result in the loss of critical breeding habitat and interfere with the recovery of the species. Despite the advice, the department approved logging in three of the five coupes for which information was provided.
If this was not bad enough, last year scientists from the Australian National University published their discovery of a new threat to swift parrots—sugar gliders. Introduced to Tasmania and small enough to enter the tree hollows where swift parrots nest, the gliders are eating not only swift parrot eggs and nestlings, but also adult females. On the Tasmanian mainland most swift parrot nests are currently failing as a consequence of sugar glider predation. Fortunately, Bruny Island is free of sugar gliders. It is a critical refuge for swift parrots. Nevertheless, swift parrot breeding habitat on the island is currently being logged. Logging is now proposed adjacent to the beautiful Inala Private Reserve. Forestry Tasmania has served a notice of intent to clear-fell the neighbouring property identified as Coupe SB016B in October this year. In April, local businesses and landowners called for the immediate cessation of logging Bruny Island coupes known to contain swift parrot nests.
I support the call by BirdLife Australia that logging of swift parrot breeding habitat on Bruny Island free from sugar gliders should cease. The swift parrot belongs to all Australians, just like koalas or the Great Barrier Reef. A federal safeguard should exist and be used so that a state government cannot allow a beautiful species such as the swift parrot to die out and never be seen or heard again.