PEARCEDALE’S Moonlit Sanctuary is playing a key role in preventing the extinction of an extremely rare species of parrot.
The Tyabb-Tooradin Rd sanctuary is leading a captive breeding program of orange-bellied parrots, as numbers in the wild are thought to now be less than 70.
Keeper at the sanctuary, Lisa Tuthill said the birds were among the most endangered in the world.
“With so few in the wild, we are lucky to have 10 in our breeding program and an additional seven on display in our public aviary,” Ms Tuthill said.
“The speed at which their numbers have declined has been alarming. They are native to this area and 30-40 years ago there were a lot of them.
“The big decline here and elsewhere appears to have occurred during the last 20 years and seems to be the result of a number of factors, including loss of habitat, disease and even wind farms interfering with their migratory paths.”
Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews said the captive breeding program at the sanctuary was critical to the survival of the species.
Sanctuary director Michael Johnson said he hoped to boost the breeding program with government help.
“We want to provide aviaries for up to 50 birds, from which some could be released each year to breed in Melaleuca, on the south coast of Tasmania,” Mr Johnson said.
“We’re fortunate to have the perfect habitat for orange-bellied parrots near the native saltmarsh they feed on.
“Hopefully, in the future we will be able to offer a winter release site for increasing numbers of these appealing birds.”
The parrots are green with a distinct orange patch on their bellies.
They are slightly larger than a budgerigar and weigh only about 45 grams.
“They are one of only three migratory parrot species in the world. They make long journeys across Bass Strait each year to breed, returning to the southern coastline of Victoria and South Australia, including the shores of Western Port Bay,” Mr Johnson said.