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In the Fight to Save Western Australia’s Rarest Bird, Conservationists Are Winning

posted: 11/17/15
by: Danny Clemens
Western Ground Parrot
Brent Barrett/Flickr

Without the action of a group of concerned citizens, one of Australia's rarest bird species could very well only exist in the history books.

Once widespread across Western Australia, the critically endangered western ground parrot (Pezoporus flaviventris) is now teetering on the brink of extinction. Unlike other birds, the parrot spends much of its time on the ground, leaving it vulnerable to predation by the growing local population of feral cats.

Over a decade ago, a group of local birdwatchers took notice of the parrot's race against extinction. Ravaged by non-native species, the dwindling population had reached an all-time low of fewer than 140 birds that lived in an area continuously throated by bushfires.

United by their commitment to save the parrot, the group decided to take action, forming a group that would eventually come to be known as the Friends of the Western Ground Parrot.

"At that time no western ground parrot had ever been photographed in the wild, so we didn't even possess a photo of the bird we were determined to save," FWGP secretary Anne Bondin tells Discovery via email.

"We were desperate to get some attention for the plight of the Western Ground Parrot and started to talk to pretty much whoever would listen. We lobbied politicians, wrote articles for newspapers and magazines and talked on local radio."

Western Ground Parrot
Brent Barrett/Flickr

The group's media campaign captured the attention of many, including a local Australian entrepreneur who was moved to make a "substantial donation" to support western ground parrot conservation efforts.

"His generosity encouraged us to become incorporated and register as a charity to allow us to accept donations," Bondin adds.

For a rare animal that wasn't photographed until a decade ago, the western ground parrot is now getting quite a bit of exposure. FWGP recently produced a short film about the plight of the Western Ground Parrot that was shown on national television.

Just last year, the group contributed $15,000 AUD to a western ground parrot breeding program at the Perth Zoo to ensure the survival of the species. In a newly refurbished aviary, experts will attempt to breed a small western ground parrot population for ultimate release back into the wild.

"The Friends of the Western Ground Parrot are to be commended for their commitment to this species. It is pleasing to see such co-operative arrangements between government and the community to achieve positive conservation outcomes," Environment Minister Albert Jacob remarked.

Despite their continued successes, FWGP isn't slowing down any time soon. The group continues to work with local authorities to protect the small population of wild birds, and is currently producing another documentary about the bird on the brink:

We need to take a stand for our planet before it's too late.
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On Wednesday, December 2nd, Discovery will present a global broadcast of Racing Extinction, a powerful eco-thriller that exposes issues of endangered species and mass extinction. Visit RacingExtinction.com for more information.

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