night parrot conservation

To: Stephen <>, "" <>
Subject: night parrot conservation
From: Kim Sterelny <>
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:45:33 +0000

The problem with taking a group into captivity to breed is that the breeding 
biology might well require special stimuli or special foods that we can find 
out about only through a lot of trial and error (and the errors we cannot 
afford) or a good knowledge of the bird's natural history and breeding cycle. 
The kiwis seem now to have cracked the kakapo cycle, but it took a lot of 
doing, especially to avoid producing all male chicks (the female kakapos 
interpreted plentiful food as a signal to invest in male offspring; they have 
evolved a lek breeding system, so a successful male, when populations were in 
their more natural state, cleaned up big time; so females made males when times 
were great; girls when times were leaner, but still good enough to breed.  So 
to successfully induce female chicks took a lot of research, and a lot of 

Of course, no course of action, even with the best will in the world is 
risk-free, once populations fall to critically endangered levels, as one 
assumes must be the case with the night parrot. 

I agree with the general line of response in support of Young and his efforts 
over the last day or so, and the general reluctance to place too much trust in 
the parks authorities, given how much under the thumb they are from current 
political imperatives; they are civil servants; they are bound to follow 
official policy whether they like it or not. But I do agree with the remark 
that the audio files should be released so others can search for other 
populations; even a single other one could be precious, especially as I assume 
we know very little about the genetic diversity, age structure, or sex ratio of 
the ones that Young has found. 


Kim Sterelny, School of Philosophy, Research School of the Social Sciences, 
Australian National University, Acton, 0200, ACT, Australia


From: Birding-Aus <> on behalf of Stephen 
Sent: Wednesday, 25 February 2015 4:53 PM
Subject: night parrot conservation

Good post, Stephen, and an ideal approach to conservation of the species.
Idealistic, perhaps, given the agencies involved.

I wonder if it isn't wise at this stage to take some night parrots into
captivity to ensure the survival of the species; as has happened with
Orange-Belly Parrots. Controversial, certainly, but I'm reminded of a story
by an old birder of someone who advocated capturing Paradise Parrots when it
was possible. Allegedly, the responsible Qld minister told him he'd rather
see the species extinct than in captivity - and he soon got his preference.

Stephen C

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