Private breeders could save the Swift Parrot

Tasmania’s Swift Parrot has become critically endangered in recent years due to habitat destruction and predation from the introduced sugar glider. It is believed that fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs remain in the wild.

Swift Parrot by Dave Curtis</a
Swift Parrot by Dave Curtis

The plan

European breeders may hold the key to preserving this iconic Aussie parrot. The German Society for Species Conservation in Aviculture (Gesellschaft für Arterhaltende Vogelzucht, or simply ‘GAV’) have introduced a breeding program for the species to increase the number of captive birds in private European aviaries; with the eventual goal of re-introduction into the wild.

Getting the birds to Australia

The GAV intends to use genetic analysis to determine the viability of the breeding population. Although strict testing for illnesses is expected, the project will likely encounter significant issues getting the birds to Australia if they’re needed. Australia has notoriously strict bio-security laws that may prove too difficult to overcome, however it’s still comforting to know that the Europeans will have a strong “backup” population should Australia’s conservation efforts fail.

Swift Parrot by Jade Craven
Swift Parrot by Jade Craven

It might not be enough

If the swift parrot’s native habitat is not adequately preserved, the breeding program would prove pointless irrespective of how many birds they’re able to breed. Tasmanian forests continues to be logged and there are currently no efforts being made to reduce the sugar glider population.

The suitability of captive European stock for reintroduction also needs to be called into question. Australia has not exported parrots for many decades, so the European stock are far removed from the wild cousins. Similarly, the captive birds have no experience foraging for food or avoiding predators.

Can you help

If you’re a parrot breeder in Europe and are interested in helping the effort, get in touch with the GAV through their website.

Australians who are similarly interested in the plight of the swift parrot can contact their federal representative or contribute to environmental conservation groups operating in Tasmania.