Swift parrots’ future being cut down


More than 50 swift parrots have been sighted in Canberra over the past week, as the critically endangered bird migrates from Tasmania to mainland Australia looking for food. 

Research by ANU has found that there are fewer than 300 swift parrots left in the wild, so while the sight of 50 of these beautiful parrots in Canberra is a welcome one, the reason they are here tells a story of national environmental devastation that needs to be reversed urgently,” Minister for the Environment Rebecca Vassarotti said.

“The swift parrot breeds in Tasmania and migrates to the mainland each winter, turning up anywhere in the south east, sometimes as far north as Queensland.

“Outside the ACT, their habitat is under attack, with their breeding grounds in south east Tasmania and important winter habitat on the NSW south coast both being logged.

“The ACT has taken proactive steps to conserve habitat for these parrots and other woodland dependent species. We are managing and conserving the most intact woodland in Australia, including critically endangered Yellow Box - Blakely’s Red Gum Woodland.

“Logging represents the single biggest threat to the survival of the swift parrot in the wild. If there's no change, the species is on a 10-year track to extinction. We need to see leadership from the Federal Government – including a plan to improve environmental standards rather than accept ongoing environmental decline and destruction.”

Minister Vassarotti said the plight of swift parrots is a real-life example of why the Federal Government needs to urgently improve the national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

“Graeme Samuel, who led a once-a-decade review of our national environment laws, has said the EPBC Act is failing to stem an extinction crisis,” Minister Vassarotti said.

“Logging is largely exempt from the EPBC Act under a series of regional forestry agreements between Federal Government and states.

“Scientists and conservation groups have said the forestry exemption is one of a series of failures in the design and implementation of the legislation that favours industry over environment.

“The Federal Government needs to strengthen protections for native forests, removing the logging industry’s special exemption from national environmental law.”

The following can be attributed to swift parrot expert, Dr Debbie Saunders:

“The harvesting of timber within swift parrot habitat on the NSW south coast and in Tasmania is significantly impacting the long-term viability of the species. Swift parrots prefer foraging in big, older trees with natural hollows, so the logging of mature habitat reduces both the availability and quality of food resources for swift parrots. This increases pressure on the population to travel further for less food, reducing their overall fitness and ability to return in good condition to their breeding areas.

“Unless decisive action is taken to stop the destruction of their habitat, swift parrots face extinction within 10 to 15 years. Every piece of its habitat is now precious. The review of EPBC Act is a crucial moment to strengthen protection for swift parrots so they never cease to amaze us.”