WWF-Australia and BirdLife Australia have urged Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg to immediately intervene over the continuing loss of food trees for endangered Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoos in Perth.
In a letter to the Minister, WWF-Australia said Mr Frydenberg should use his ‘call in’ powers under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to stop the West Australian Government harvesting the area’s pine plantations.
“This is an unusual situation: to save native birds we must save non-native trees, at least in the short term,” said WWF’s Southwest Australia Species Conservation Manager Merril Halley.
When much of their natural habitat was cleared, Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoos began feeding on non-native pine plantations in the 1940s. The birds tear open the pine cones to eat the seeds inside, and also roost among the pines.
For decades these plantations provided about 57% of the total food resource available to Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoos on the Perth-Peel coastal plain.
But since 2004 replanting of pines has ceased (except for 2,000 hectares), and of the original 23,000 hectares of plantations only about 8,500 hectares remain.
WWF-Australia today released dramatic satellite imagery to show how the pines have been harvested without replacement.
The clearing has coincided with a dramatic drop in bird numbers. BirdLife Australia’s Great Cocky Count documents a 53% decline of the Perth-Peel Carnaby’s cockatoo population since 2010.
“The continuing harvest of the pines must be stopped until there is agreement on how to properly address habitat loss for Carnaby’s cockatoos,” said Ms Halley.
“The satellite images show that dense stands of pines have vanished. We believe this has resulted in many Carnaby’s dying from starvation while others have left in a perilous search for food elsewhere. It’s likely none is available,” she said.
BirdLife Australia has also expressed alarm. “It’s simply outrageous that the Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo faces the very real risk of being lost entirely from this region within a decade,” said Adam Peck, BirdLife Australia’s Great Cocky Count Coordinator.
“If our government continues to clear the cockie’s vital feeding areas without any sensible plan for the future, they will condemn the Perth population of WA’s favourite bird to the history books,” he said.
Both organisations hold deep concerns over elements of WA’s Perth & Peel Green Growth Plan.
Under this plan, the West Australian government wants to clear the remaining pine trees and replant less than a third of the 23,000 hectares felled since 2002. Any replanted pines would take a decade to become a productive food source.
The Plan also allows 9,700 hectares of Banksia Woodland habitat to be cleared - removing yet another food source.
Overall, it adds up to a serious net loss of habitat for Carnaby’s with an analysis prepared for the WA government projecting these measures will wipe out nearly 50% of the area’s remaining Carnaby’s.
The WA government’s motive for clearing the pines is to stop them draining an underground aquifer as the city’s demand for water grows.
But WWF and BirdLife Australia say the price for refilling this aquifer should not be the possible death knell of one of the west’s most loved birds – there must be another way.
Mark Symons, WWF-Australia Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571, firstname.lastname@example.org