New hope for critically endangered Night Parrot as national parks set to expand

Conservationists have welcomed the purchase of two cattle stations in north west Queensland in the spectacular Channel Country.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has bought Tonkoro and part of Melrose near Winton, adding about 200,000 hectares to expand existing national parks in the area.

Queensland Conservation Council protected areas campaigner Ms Nicky Moffat said:

"One of these new properties in particular, once dedicated as national park, has the potential to make a big difference to the recovery of the Night Parrot, a bird previously thought to be extinct. 

"It’s a much needed good news story for Queensland's nature. 

"The properties also contain unrepresented regional ecosystems, artesian springs and a rare wetland system. 

"The properties will connect nature reserves and national parks; it's exactly what's needed for nature to thrive in the region.

"We have more unique plants and animals in Queensland than any Australian state but the smallest area protected and dedicated to their survival, at just 8.3 percent. 

"Queensland needs to double its protected areas to 17 percent by 2030, and this new national park is a great step toward achieving that."

Ecologist Nick Leseberg did his PhD on the elusive Night Parrot. Dr Leseberg said: 

"We still don't really know how many Night Parrots there are. They went missing, and while we were confident they were still out there somewhere, no-one could actually find them. 

"There had always been a trickle of plausible claims that people have seen them, and eventually dead ones were found in western Queensland in 1990 and 2006, then the live ones at what is now Bush Heritage Australia’s Pullen Pullen Special Wildlife Reserve in 2013.

"The birds in Queensland are known from a fairly small area in the Channel Country of western Queensland, centred on Pullen Pullen SWR and also Diamantina National Park.

"Nationally, the population is probably in the order of hundreds of birds rather than thousands. We currently know of one population in QLD, the one that occurs in the Pullen Pullen SWR / Diamantina NP area, that probably numbers in the tens of birds. There are historical sightings from other sites in NW QLD where there could still be birds, but we haven’t been able to confirm that.

"The initial work done in QLD which developed survey protocols for Night Parrots has resulted in several populations being discovered in WA. These discoveries have mostly been by Indigenous Ranger groups, with a few also by resource companies doing Environmental Impact Studies.

"We can't be certain, but I estimate about 80-90% of the national population occurs in WA, and about 10-20% in Qld. There may be some birds in SA, or the NT, but we haven’t been able to confirm that yet."

Image credit: Steve Murphy