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Researchers are crowdfunding in a last-resort to save the orange-bellied parrot

The orange-bellied parrot has long been threatened with extinction in the wild, but it’s only recently researchers realised just how much trouble the species is in.

Each year, researchers keep track of how many of the birds return to their breeding spot, Melaleuca, located in the remote southwest of Tasmania in Australia. The birds make the long trip to the area after spending their winter on the warmer coasts of Victoria and South Australia.

“If we don’t intervene now, it’s totally possible none will return next year.”That’s why researchers from the Difficult Birds Research Group at the Australian National University have jumped into action, launching anemergency crowdfunding campaign to help save the bird.

“It’s always a bit of a lottery … there’s really never any way to predict who’s going to survive, and that why there’s this sudden emergency,” one of the group’s conservation biologists, Dejan Stojanovic, told Mashable.

“We’ve just realised there’s only three pairs left and if we don’t intervene now, it’s totally possible none will return next year.”

While there is a large captive breeding program aimed at increasing the orange-bellied parrot’s wild population, such measures have been unsuccessful in stemming the species’ decline.

The orange-bellied parrots breed within a short window of a few weeks. They get in while the weather is nice in Melaleuca, then leave shortly after.

It means Stojanovic and his team have to work quickly. The birds started guarding spots for breeding last week, and the first eggs are expected to be laid this week. It’s also why the team has turned to crowdfunding, as typical funding processes are too slow.

“All the traditional forms of funding that could get used to deal with a situation like this just take too long. The timing is really tight,” he explained.

“Tomorrow we’re going down to Melaleuca to do the first check. See who’s nesting, how many eggs they’ve got, what do we have to work with for this emergency situation.

“That’s why crowdfunding is important, because we’re basically paying for our trip tomorrow on credit — and there is no money to do what we’re doing. So if we can crowdfund it by next week, then we should have the money to pull in the resources for a rescue effort.”

Stojanovic explained the crowdfunded money will go to intervention in the wild birds’ breeding process, bringing in people with a “niche skill set” to do work that’s never been done before.

“Basically you have to be a biologist that knows how to climb trees, knows how to feed baby parrots, knows how to identify if a baby parrot is going to struggle, can do things like swap eggs around, and support the breeding females to raise as many as possible,” he said.

“Those people are obviously pretty scarce and pretty busy, so it’s all about making sure there’s enough resources so we can share the load and pull something together quickly.”

The team will also have access to Tasmania’s captive breeding program for the orange-bellied parrot, which currently houses 310 birds. If successful, it paves the way for a larger programme next year.

It’s not too late, people.


The orange-bellied parrot might be pretty, but it’s in a lot of trouble. IMAGE: DIFFICULT BIRDS RESEARCH GROUP



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