Old mines offer new hope for Carnaby’s

Rehabilitated mining pits are providing a surprise food source for WA’s threatened Carnaby’s black cockatoo.

Murdoch University researchers have documented the birds’ feeding habits over three years at the Newmont Boddington Gold site, 120km south-east of Perth.

“The pits we studied had been revegetated with native trees and shrubs less than 15 years ago,” says PhD candidate Jessica Lee.

“We were able to confirm that cockatoos were feeding at these sites after about seven years, when the plants began producing flowers and seeds.”

Once so numerous the skies would be black, the birds’ population has plummetted by more than half in recent years due to exploding human population growth in WA’s south-west, which has ravaged habitat.

The birds are an increasingly rare sight in metropolitan Perth—they were as recently as 10 years ago common in south Fremantle, Cockburn and Melville—and the Boddington research is unlikely to have any impact on that.

Dr Hugh Finn, from Murdoch university’s school of veterinary and life sciences says the research provides a base to rebuild the population but emphasises that once a species is extinct, it’s gone for good.

“The ideal option for native animals is to preserve the natural habitat wherever possible,” he says.

“Food is important, but it is also critical to preserve big, old trees across the forest.”

by SOPHIE MITCHELL

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