Move sparks fresh hope for endangered bird

·2-min read

A select group of VIPs were treated to an overnight, first-class trip from NSW to southern Victoria where they enjoyed their own compartments, and ... grass.

The passengers were 17 eastern bristlebirds, a critically endangered species that faced extinction in parts of Victoria during the Black Summer bushfires.

Their relocation from Booderee National Park and Jervis Bay National Park in NSW to Victoria's Wilsons Promontory on Saturday is the result of a joint effort between the NSW, Victorian and federal governments.

Eastern bristlebirds are ground-dwellers known for being timid and poor flyers.

They are suffering under the impacts of climate change, feral predators and a lack of genetic diversity.

The birds have been relocated to the southernmost tip of the Australian mainland, where it is hoped they will fall in love and increase the species' genetic diversity.

Victoria's only other remaining population of eastern bristlebirds is at Howe Flat in East Gippsland. That population had to be temporarily evacuated from the area during the 2019-20 bushfires.

Seeing the birds relocated was a career highlight for La Trobe University emeritus zoology Professor Mike Clarke. He has been studying birds at Wilsons Promontory for about three decades.

"They're singing, they've all survived the trip well, so we couldn't hope for better as a start," he said.

"This is a really finicky, easily stressed bird, so it got absolutely Rolls-Royce treatment, and when I saw them shoot out of the boxes, it was just such a relief."

The relocation effort follows the recent State of the Environment report which showed the devastating neglect of Australia's natural environment.

The country has one of the world's highest rates of species extinction, and federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the report detailed the importance of taking action to protect endangered species.

The head of the rehoming project, Beau Fahnle from the environment department, said relocation of populations was only ever considered as a last resort.

"For the eastern bristlebird, translocation is necessary despite the risks," he said.

"Through this operation, it is hoped that the eastern bristlebird can flourish in a location where such challenges (leading to potential extinction) are less prominent."

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