Call to arms: Collect cockatoo poo to save species


Female Carnaby’s black cockatoos at Zanthorrea Nursery Maida Vale, credit: Murdoch University

Researchers have issued a call to arms to the Perth community to help save a native cockatoo species fighting for survival.

For the first time, researchers, indigenous groups and local governments are collaborating to install drinking stations and revegetate Carnaby black cockatoo habitat across WA.

Members of the public are asked to collect stool samples from black cockatoos to help scientists determine what the birds are eating in the suburbs.

The $1.5M Keep Carnaby’s Flying project is the first time so many different groups have collaborated to help the species, which is critically endangered species from years of land clearing for urbanisation.

Murdoch University Harry Butler Institute and Birdlife researchers say they are using tracking data collected from released cockatoos to document threats – such as vehicle strikes – and roost sites to then revegetate the right areas.

Birdlife project coordinator Merryn Pryor says action plans, that include the most important areas to safeguard, are part of a long-term approach.

“Providing these conservation action plans will kickstart our revegetation plans to help replace all the land that they’ve lost,” Ms Pryor said.

Murdoch University veterinarian Kris Warren says the clearing of foraging land poses as a major threat.

“Without more food, we are watching them slip into extinction.”

Prof Warren says everyone can help simply by slowing down in areas largely populated by Carnaby black cockatoos.

Although, Prof Warren admits that vehicle strikes are not the biggest threat to the cockatoos, road signs have already been installed in the Great Southern region to remind the public to keep a look out.

“Up to 60 per cent of banksia woodlands have been cleared in the Swan Coastal area,” Ms Pryor said.

“This is a prime foraging habitat for Carnaby’s”.

The birds, called Ngoolarks in the Noongar language, are native to Western Australia’s South-West but have suffered a 50 per cent decline in the past 50 years. They are now confined to the Perth and Peel regions, with less than 15,000 left in the wild.

“We need to implement stronger nature laws to protect what remaining vegetation and habitat we’ve got left. This is a threatened species we’re talking about here,” Ms Pryor said.

“These offsets were developed as a last resort, but clearing applications are always expected to be approved now.”