Conservation groups say the State Government is not taking enough action over findings that show numbers of the endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoo are dropping rapidly.
Birdlife Australia recently released the findings of the 2014 Great Cocky Count, estimating that the current rate of decline for the Carnaby’s black cockatoo is about 15 per cent per year, two percent more than last year.
The 2014 count was the sixth, involving almost 600 registered volunteers who surveyed 290 sites across the state’s Southwest.
The Carnaby’s black cockatoo is listed as endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
The report also found that the Gnangara pine plantation sustained up to 10 per cent of the Carnaby’s cockies during non-breeding season, and that land clearing in the area is threatening the endangered species.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob says he is aware of the importance of pine trees as a food source for the Carnaby’s, but that clearing of non-native pines was not the only cause of declining cockatoo numbers.
“The decline in the number of Carnaby’s cockatoos in the Perth metropolitan area is a cause of concern,” Mr Jacob said.
“However, a number of factors could be driving this, including drought, car strike and clearing of pines.
“This is a highly mobile species, occurring over a large area of the Southwest, so we don’t know whether the birds are utilising other habitat and resources that were not surveyed.”
Shadow Environment Minister Chris Tallentire said the results were “distressing”.
“Not only are their numbers dropping, but the ages of birds counted are uncertain,” Mr Tallentire said.
“It’s extremely worrying that remaining birds might not be of breeding age.”
Chair of the Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre, Trish Brennan, said the findings were very disappointing.
“It means action has to be taken now,” Ms Brennan said.
“There is no time left for indecision.”
Mr Tallentire said the Barnett Government had done nothing to stop destruction of the cockatoos’ habitat.
“It is allowing more urban sprawl and more destruction of native vegetation in rural areas,” he said.
“Environment Minister Albert Jacob has changed the law to allow property owners to destroy five hectares per year per property of native vegetation without any assessment.”
Ms Brennan says the biggest threat to the Carnaby’s population is land clearing, and while people revegetate some areas, it can take up to 100 years for trees to develop the hollows for the big, black parrots to breed in.
“With an estimated 20 years left, it just doesn’t work,” she said.
“We need to stop clearing in areas where animals have habitat and continue to revegetate to stabilise the numbers.
“If we don’t make the situation any worse right now, we could stabilise the numbers of Carnaby’s, which is the best option we have.
Mr Jacob said the government was taking a “strategic approach to planning that quantifies the impact of the pine removal on Carnaby’s, along with other proposed developments, and identif[ies] a range of offset measures that seek to minimise the impact to Carnaby’s cockatoo”.
However, Ms Brennan said the declining numbers of black cockatoos was not on the government’s radar and more needed to be done.
“The way we look at it, cockatoos are [Australia’s] version of a lion or tiger,” she said.
“If we don’t do something in our backyard, they will be gone.
“We are the only ones who can save these magnificent birds, because having them extinct within 20 years is horrifying.”