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A Proof of Concept Trial: Satellite Tracking of Baudin’s Cockatoos

Dr Kris Warren, Associate Professor Mike Calver, Dr Hugh Finn and Dr Jill Shephard – Murdoch University; Dr Peter Mawson and Dr Simone Vitali – Perth Zoo; Rick Dawson and Christine Groome- Department of Environment and Conservation; Dr Denis Saunders - CSIRO

This study is being conducted by Murdoch University as a collaborative project with Perth Zoo and the Department of Environment and Conservation, with support from Newmont Boddington Gold and BHP Billiton Worsley Alumina.

Aim:

To undertake a “Proof of Concept” trial for satellite tracking of Baudin’s black cockatoos.

Significance and General Description

Baudin’s cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus baudinii) is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia, and faces population declines as a result of several threatening factors, including habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching for the pet trade, competition with other species for nesting hollows, vehicle strikes and shootings.  The EPBC Act lists Baudin’s cockatoos as vulnerable, and the species fits the international IUCN (2001) Red List criterion for Endangered, due to a projected 10-year decline of 50%.  At State level, Baudin’s cockatoos are listed as Endangered under Schedule 1 (species that are rare or likely to become extinct) of the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act (1950). The National Recovery Plan for Baudin’s cockatoos highlight the importance of research (DEC 2007); as their populations decline across WA, information is required urgently on key aspects of their ecology and health, to inform assessments of proposed land uses, and enable proponents to deliver best-practice land use for cockatoo protection. 

This project involves a ‘proof of concept’ trial for satellite tracking of Baudin’s black cockatoos.  Members of this project’s research team from Murdoch University are collaborating on UWA PhD student Christine Groom’s satellite tracking program for Carnaby’s black cockatoos on the Swan Coastal Plain (Perth area).  Several Carnaby’s black cockatoos have recently been released from rehabilitation with satellite transmitters attached (Le Soeuf et al. 2013), and tracking of these cockatoos and their flocks is progressing successfully.  However, satellite tracking of forest black cockatoos such as Baudin’s cockatoo, which can migrate into heavily forested areas of the south-west, is likely to pose additional challenges.  It is therefore essential to investigate the viability of satellite tracking for forest black cockatoos.  

This project involves the satellite tracking of two wild Baudin’s black cockatoos (a male and a female), which were undergoing rehabilitation at Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Rehabilitation Centre. These two birds were considered ideal candidates to receive satellite transmitter attachments prior to release, followed by a monitoring trial to evaluate the effectiveness of tracking forest black cockatoos once they rejoin wild flocks, which return to heavily forested areas after winter.  The first part of this project – transmitter attachment – has been completed successfully; and tracking and data analysis are ongoing.  This tracking is a world first: these two birds (and the flock they join) are Australia’s first forest black cockatoos to receive satellite transmitters and to be satellite-tracked in the wild. 

Our planned flock follows of all three species will enable us to obtain extensive behavioural, habitat and other ecological information which has been previously unavailable, including identifying key food resources; critical feeding/watering and breeding sites; use of remnant vegetation, corridors and multiple land-use areas; and other vital habitat-use data essential to meet EPBC Act requirements and the Recovery Plans for all three species (DEC 2007, 2012). This will enable direct, positive recovery actions to be undertaken for the three species, including better rehabilitation outcomes and better landscape-scale assessment of feeding requirements for successful breeding.  These outcomes are listed as priorities in the EPBC Act Referral Guidelines for threatened black cockatoos (SEWPaC 2012).

It should be noted that all aspects of the field work are covered by DEC and Murdoch University ethics permits.

References

  • Australian Government. 1999. Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC Act). Canberra, Australia.
  • Department of Environment and Conservation, 2012, Carnaby’s cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) Recovery Plan, Department of Environment and Conservation, Perth, Western Australia.
  • Department of Environment and Conservation, 2007, Forest Black Cockatoo (Baudin’s Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus baudinii and Forest Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii naso) Recovery Plan, Department of Environment and Conservation, Perth, Western Australia.
  • Groom, C., Warren, K., Le Souef, A. and Dawson R. (in prep.). Attachment and performance of Argos satellite tracking devices fitted to black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus spp.).
  • Le Souef, A., Stojanovic, D., Burbidge, A., Dawson, R., Heinsohn, R., Vitali, S., Warren, K. (in press) Retention of transmitter attachments on black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus spp.). Pacific Conservation Biology.
  • SEWPaC 2012.  EPBC Act referral guidelines for three threatened black cockatoo species: Carnaby’s cockatoo (endangered) Calyptorhynchus latirostris, Baudin’s cockatoo (vulnerable) Calyptorhynchus baudinii, Forest red-tailed black cockatoo (vulnerable) Calyptorhynchus banksii naso, Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC), Canberra.

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