This is Matilda, one of the few orange-bellied parrot chicks that survived in the breeding grounds in the deep south of Tasmania this year.
Too few of the hatchlings were raised by the 17 birds that managed to make the journey across Bass Strait to Melaleuca this Spring and the stunningly beautiful birds are plunging inexorably towards extinction.
While there are about 330 OBPs in captive breeding programs conducted by the Tasmanian government at Taroona and zoos at Adelaide and Melbourne, the wild bird population has fallen below the number considered critical for survival and there are serious concerns that we may never see them at Melaleuca again.
I spent last week at Melaleuca, Port Davey and Bathurst harbour on a ‘bucket list’ trip, flown in by Par Avion and well looked after aboard the wonderful Tasmanian Boat Charters’ vessel Odalisque.
Within minutes of arriving we were watching OBPs being fed as part of the rescue plan and then our guide, former parks ranger and authority on OBPs, Mark Holdsworth, got us up close and personal with Matilda.
As part of Mark’s volunteer activities he climbs trees and retrieves hatchlings every three days from breeding boxes, then gingerly brings them back to ground level where they are weighed and measured.
When the oohing and aaring and photographing subsides the colourful chicks are returned to their homes.
Mark has also spent this season searching locations in the inhospitable country surrounding Melaleuca in the hope of finding a wild group, but alas, he now believes there are none.
While earlier it was planned to introduce eggs from the captive breed in the end hatchlings were introduced and few survived, some abandoned and others died from a disease carried in the auxiliary feed. It was the last thing these little parrots needed, but spreading disease to the wild population was always a fear.
The crowd funding for the program is still running and is more than double the target of $60,000. You can find it here: