Zoos Victoria released 18 critically endangered captive-bred Helmeted Honeyeaters into their only viable habitat on the doorstep of Melbourne. Photo: Jason South Despite the encouraging signs, it still takes significant leg work to keep the species from going extinct. Photo: Jason South

The stronghold for Victoria’s disappearing emblems

It might be hard to notice but there is a boom of sorts occurring in Helmeted Honeyeaters, Victoria’s critically endangered bird emblem.

But when only 150 remain in the wild, a boom is a relative concept.

On Wednesday scientists and conservationists gathered in the last remaining home of the critically endangered species – the tiny Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve on Melbourne’s northern doorstep – and released a precious cargo of 18 birds bred in captivity, giving the wild population a boost.

Bob Anderson, from the group Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater, said this year’s release follows several successful breeding seasons. The wild population is on the rise, having been as low as just 60 just a few years ago.

Helmeted Honeyeaters now appear to be returning to newly revegetated areas within the Yellingbo reserve, Mr Anderson said.

Despite the encouraging signs, it still takes significant leg work to keep the species from going extinct. For instance, volunteers are helping feed the remaining wild birds within the Yellingbo reserve.

In captivity Zoos Victoria staff are also trying to boost survival rates by predator training the honeyeaters before they are released. This involves exposing them to goshawks about six times a week, testing and honing their alarm response.

More common for mammals and fish, captive predator training is a relatively rare concept for birds, with only six to eight others programs for different species occurring around the world, according to researchers at the release.

James Frazer, also from the honeyeater “friends” group, said alongside the predator training there has also been more extensive modelling of release sites to ensure the birds will take. Survival rates of released Helmeted Honeyeaters have risen to 90 per cent in recent years as a result.

Yellingbo is a gated reserve that stretches just 661 hectares. It is closed to the public, and access is tightly controlled, because alongside honeyeaters it is also home to the last wild population of lowland Leadbeater’s Possum, another state animal emblem.

Zoos Victoria keeper Karina Cartwright said finding new sites to release Helmeted Honeyeaters was a priority with the prospect of fire or disease knocking out the last wild population a real risk.

The short-term goal is to have three sites with 100 birds each. But finding suitable habitat is harder than it might seem.

Given its importance to two of Victoria’s iconic species, state governments of both stripes have committed to further protect the area under a new conservation network. But a promised management committee to oversee the area’s protection, first agreed to 18 months ago by the Napthine Government, is yet to be put in place.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲美睫培训学校.