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Newsupdate no. 41 – March 2010

Tackling feral cat predation of the Western Ground Parrot By Cameron Tiller Years of deliberation by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and the South Coast Threatened Birds Recovery Team have identified feral cat predation as likely to be the primary key threatening process for the survival of the Western Ground Parrot. It appears likely that the long-running fox baiting program has been so successful that the reduction in the numbers of foxes has resulted in an increase in the number of feral cats in those areas due to lack of competition and predation on their young. This is termed ‘meso-predator release’ – where reduction of one predator results in the increase in another. Due to the differences in body size and hunting techniques, these two predators will target a different suite of animals. Unfortunately, it is more likely that feral cats predate Western Ground Parrots more effectively than foxes do. Thankfully through funding made available by DEC, South Coast NRM Inc. and State NRM, efforts are now being made to address this threat. Trials of a soft, sausage-like bait specifically targeting feral cats have been conducted over the past few years, both on the south coast and other regions of the state. Difficulties have arisen in developing a suitable bait as feral cats are generally fussy eaters and are not likely to take the dried meat baits that are currently used on the long-running Western Shield aerial baiting program against foxes. However, there are a number of native species (some threatened themselves) that may also be susceptible to this more palatable bait, particularly in the Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP). The Dibbler (Parantechinus apicalis) is a small native mammal (classified as Endangered) that is endemic to the South Coast. It was presumed extinct until the late 1960s and is now known only to exist only in the FRNP, a couple of offshore island populations and a couple of other reserves to which they have been translocated. However, the FRNP is the stronghold of this species. Recent dry years have badly affected the breeding of this species, particularly in populations in the east of the FRNP whilst the habitat of populations on the western side of the park have been subject to recent wildfires.

FRNP also contains populations of other threatened species that may be susceptible to the baiting, including the Red-tailed Phascogale (Endangered), Chuditch (Vulnerable), and Heath Mouse (Vulnerable). Cape Arid National Park (CANP) has no recent history of the capture of threatened species that are likely to be susceptible to the bait. During recent trials on the South Coast, the bait has been delivered without 1080 but with the Rhodamine-B biomarker that shows up on animals that have consumed the bait. None of the threatened species in these parks showed any sign of eating the bait, although a small percentage of a couple of more common species (i.e. bush rat and brush-tailed possum) have shown signs of bait uptake. However, these species have a natural tolerance to 1080. For example, a brush-tailed possum would need to consume a minimum of 30 baits in a single night to receive a lethal dose. DEC plans to introduce the cat-bait to large areas in both the FRNP and Cape Arid National Park by aerial delivery during mid autumn 2010 and monitor the effects of this baiting on all species. DEC has established 80km of sandpad transects within the FRNP and 40km within Cape Arid NP. These will be used to identify the activity levels of animals (particularly predators) before and after both the cat baiting in autumn. These sandpads have been monitored around the Western Shield summer baiting program to provide baseline data prior to baiting for cats. We have also established trapping transects that include 50 trap sites (Elliot and cage traps) and a grid that includes 15 pitfall traps, 15 Elliots, and 9 cage traps, The spring monitoring of these transects and grids has been completed at 3 sites in the FRNP and 2 sites in Cape Arid NP. These will also be monitored in autumn. Support from DEC’s Science Division base will provide the expertise required to monitor feral cats and each of the threatened species in more detail to determine the effects of the baiting on each species. Feral cats will be captured, have tracking collars attached and will be followed before and after the bait drop to identify the effectiveness of this

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control treatment. Dibblers, Chuditch and Bush Rats (the most susceptible common species) will also be captured and have radio collars attached to identify the effect of the baiting on individuals within these species. And, whilst spending so much time out in the field, it enables us to spend time with Abby, Jeff and the Ground Parrot team whilst they monitor Western Ground Parrots at each location. Cameron Tiller is the leader of the DEC Integrated Predator Management Project Editors Note: A recent online article which includes a photo of the bait can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yl2kxqd

Fitzgerald River Monitoring Trip 2-11 March 2010 By Jeff Pinder, DEC Western Ground Parrot Recovery Project At the start of this season’s forays into the FRNP, I viewed our chances of success of locating WGPs with a sense of diminished hope. Hope is always there – afterall it’s a prerequisite of the job to have a disproportional sense of optimism – but based on the alarming rate of disappearance from previously healthy populations there was a certain inevitability of slim pickings. One of the questions at the forefront of the project team thinking is, ‘Where have known populations of WGPs gone?” From 1965 through to 1989 survey for WGPs in Cape Arid National Park (CANP) resulted in very few occurrences of the parrot. The parrot then eluded survey, despite considerable effort, until it was re-located in 2003. Recent survey of CANP through the project has located significant numbers of parrots. The impact of predation on WGPs is a constant concern. The long term movement of birds from one area to another is an area that needs further investigation. This latest 10 day trip was a vast improvement on 2009 in terms of weather. Listening surveys were conducted in good or very good conditions for the majority of sessions. Now we have a saying in ground parrot world that “if you don’t hear WGPs it doesn’t mean they’re not there!” However, I think in this instance it is highly likely that the 2-3 birds that occupied this area 3 years ago are no longer present. The area surveyed was relatively small with a lot of unsuitable or marginal habitat around. Practically all the available habitat in this locality was surveyed so if the habitat was occupied, the likelihood of hearing WGPs should have been high. Other areas outside of the monitoring grid were also surveyed combined with flushing and playback techniques. Unfortunately we returned to Albany with no calls heard and over 90 person days of listening. I would like to thank volunteers Ben Atkinson, Mike Bouette, John Barnett and Ginny Barnett for all their efforts and enthusiasm. The photo shows Jeff, Mike, John, Ginny and Ben at Twin Bays hut during some time out.

Volunteer opportunities We are searching for volunteers for WGP monitoring in Cape Arid National Park. This involves listening for WGP calls, so good hearing is essential. No experience is necessary as we will train you to detect WGP calls. The survey work involves bush camping and all food and most camping gear is provided. Transport from Albany is supplied and we provide some assistance with travel expenses to Albany. Dates of the survey trips are: 27 April – 7 May Cape Arid NP 24 May – 4 June Cape Arid NP If you would like to volunteer for one of these trips, or if you would like more information on the WGP project please contact: Jeff Pinder –ph: (08) 9842 4519 or email: jeff.pinder@dec.wa.gov.au

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Friends of the Western Ground Parrot Inc. news Becoming a deductible gift recipient The committee decided at its recent meeting to seek deductible gift recipient status for the organisation. As a first step we need to amend our constitution by special resolution so it complies with the tax office's guidelines. At the upcoming general meeting members will be asked to decide whether to add an additional clause to our constitution which spells out the requirements for setting up a public fund for donations. Once the special resolution has been adopted we can seek entry to the Register of Environmental Organisations and ask to be endorsed as a deductible gift recipient by the tax office. After we receive approval most donations made to our group will allow the donor to claim a tax deduction.

Help from the other side of the world We were recently contacted by Dr Pat Latas, a vet from Tucson in the United States. Dr Latas had learned about the plight of the Western Ground Parrot and felt compelled to do something to help. A keen artist, she painted an image of the parrot and put it on a wide variety of merchandise ranging from T-shirts and caps to mugs and calendars. All items are for sale through her online shop at cafepress.com. All sale proceeds will be made available to our group. To visit the shop, goto http://www.cafepress.com.au/antshrikestudio/7013222

General Meeting in May The Friends of the Western Ground Parrot will hold a general meeting on Tuesday, 4 May from 4 – 5:30pm. It will be held at the Board room of the South Coast NRM at 39 Mercer Rd, Albany. The room will be open half an hour before the meeting and we hope you can join us for afternoon tea. We are going to provide information on how the group is progressing, answer questions, seek advice (input) on issues facing the WGP recovery project and how our group can best assist the project. We plan to have a guest speaker from the project and will give an update on the captive management project. Members as well as everyone with an interest in saving the Western Ground Parrot are invited to attend the meeting. A separate Notice of Meeting and the agenda will be sent out to members in approximately three weeks. The AGM will be held in September. Membership fees fall due on 1 July. Anyone wishing to make payment is welcome to do so at the meeting. We also encourage those of you who are currently not members to join up. Membership numbers will be a deciding factor in being granted deductible gift recipient status by the tax office.

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New Committee Member: Colin Heap has been appointed to fill the vacancy on the committee.

For Sale Card

* CARDS and POSTCARDS * $1.00 each plus postage Postage: Cards 1 - 4 5-9 10 - 15 Postcards 1 - 8 9 - 20

.65 cents $1.30 $1.85 .65 cents $1.30

Or 5 cards and 5 postcards for $ 10 Postage free

Contact: Val Hack 0409 443 331 or email: wgparrot@gmail.com There are also various shirts in stock. Postcard

Card and Postcard shown here in low resolution

Contacts: Brenda Newbey (Chair). Phone (08) 9337 5673 Anne Bondin (Vice Chair). Phone (08) 9844 1793 Deon Utber (Secretary) Phone (08) 9844 8863 Address: PO Box 5613, Albany, WA 6332 Website:

Email: wgparrot@gmail.com

www.western-ground-parrot.org.au

Archive: Previous issues of our newsletter are available online at Editor: Stephen Fryc Email: pwazzx@gmail.com

http://wgpnewsletters.blogspot.com/ Next issue:

May 2010

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March 2010 Western Ground Parrot Newsletter  

Contains news updates on this critically endangered bird.

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