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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

29 August 2006

$3.2 Million to save the Orange-bellied Parrot

The Australian Government will invest $3.2 million to ensure the future of the Orange-bellied Parrot, the Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, announced today.

This historic investment is the largest Australian Government investment in a threatened species, equating to $1.6 million per annum for the next two years.

"The Orange-bellied Parrot is considered to be one of the world's rarest and most endangered animals, with only about 50 breeding pairs known to exist, which puts it in the same position as other iconic species such as the Giant Panda and Siberian Tiger," Senator Campbell said.

"Very substantially increased Australian Government support will increase important work protecting, enhancing and expanding key habitat across the parrot's range," Senator Campbell said.

The new funding from the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust will increase the parrot's chances for recovery by protecting and expanding habitat in all the areas the parrot uses during the year, through:

This funding will build on the $1 million already spent by the Australian Government since 1989 to conserve the Orange-bellied Parrot and habitat vital to its successful migration and breeding. A further $5.5 million has been spent on regional biodiversity conservation across the species' range.

The Orange-bellied Parrot faces a number of major threats, including habitat loss and modification, predators, mortality caused by collision with structures and catastrophes such as storms.

Twice a year this small parrot traverses its own incredible journey in a hazardous migration across Bass Strait between its Tasmania breeding areas and wintering habitat on the Australian mainland in coastal Victoria and South Australia.

In February-March, the birds leave south-west Tasmania and head north, taking up to two months to complete the journey to the mainland. They then disperse widely across coastal wetlands and grasslands from as far east as the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria to the Coorong in South Australia, and occasionally as far as far Port Augusta.

They return in September-October to breed on the button grass plains of the World Heritage listed wilderness area of south west Tasmania.

"One of only a very small number of migratory parrots in the world, this bird is a real battler. Every year it undertakes the ornithological equivalent of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race — it's every Australian's responsibility to help this bird survive for future generations," Senator Campbell said.

Captive breeding of the parrot provides a valuable insurance policy for the species and has provided valuable information to assist its conservation. It is clear that after almost ten years of releasing captive breed animals the population is not increasing.

"It is clear that that the future of this bird depends on us doing much more to protect its habitat," Senator Campbell said.

"Captive breeding continues to provide insurance against catastrophe, but safe habitat that is free of threat is the key to the survival and recovery of the Orange-bellied Parrot."

"I would hate to think that my grand children might only be able to see and appreciate this animal in a Zoo," he said.

A breakdown of works to be supported with these Australian Government funds is attached.

Information about Australia's threatened species and ecological communities is available from the Department's web site at:

Media Contact:
Rob Broadfield 02 6277 7640 or 0409 493 902

Works to be supported with these Australian Government Funds

Four elements of work will focus on practical action and outcomes that protect, rehabilitate and expand breeding and wintering habitat and migratory habitat/roosts in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. The work will include action on habitat and food competition and the control of predators in key areas like King Island. The advice and input of the Orange-bellied Parrot Recovery Team will be sought.

A. Breeding Areas: Expand investment in improving breeding/nesting habitat at Melaleuca and Birch's Inlet in the South West World Heritage Area of Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government will be an important partner in this element.

B. Migratory Areas: Expand investment in migratory habitat protection and improvement in Tasmania and King Island, including predator control in key migratory habitats on King Island such as Lavinia Nature Reserve at Sea Elephant, King Island.

The Tasmanian Government and the King Island community will be an important partner in element.

C. Winter Habitat: New investment to create new, and improve the quality of existing, wintering habitat on private land and wetlands throughout the wintering range in Victoria and South Australia. There is potential for expansion and enhanced management of habitat on private land immediately adjacent to existing important habitats throughout the winter range. Possible locations include Swan Bay (Queenscliff, Victoria); Lake Connewarre (Barwon Heads, Victoria); Andersons Inlet (Inverloch, Victoria); and the Coorong and Lake Alexandrina (South Australia).

A partnership with non-government organisations and private landholders would be sought to deliver this element. Non government conservation organisations may also be able to attract and inject privately raised philanthropic funds to boost the work.

D. Commonwealth Lands: Potential new investment to enhance and expand habitat on key Australian Government lands in the winter range of the species. For example some of the internationally significant wetlands in the Port Phillip area that provide habitat for the bird.

This would be carried out in partnership with relevant Government land managers, eg. the Department of Defence.

Commonwealth of Australia