It seems that I was writing this at the same time as Stephen, and we have had similar thoughts. I’m also not defending Rio but think this may be an over-reaction.
I am an environmental consultant, I’ve worked on similar projects with other endangered wildlife, though like Greg I am in no way involved with this project or Rio.
I’d like to make a few comments on this as I’m assuming that the majority of people reading this don’t realise that threatened species projects are run
by mining companies all the time. The Queensland Government haven’t just handed over responsibility for the controversial project to mining giant Rio Tinto, it’s a joint project by Rio, DES and Australian Wildlife Conservancy. So you can’t just assume
the worst, that it’s all doom and gloom.
Mining companies have legal obligations for threatened flora and fauna, which at time involves management and usually some mitigation measures being put
in place but almost never research based projects, so in some ways this is a massive step forward for a mining company! One of the reasons, amongst others, that these projects aren’t just given over to independent researchers is because of timing. Rio is a
business, they can’t wait the 5 years it takes to find a PhD student, come up with a project design, do a PhD, and publish the results in a scientific manner.
There seems to be some concern that the project is being done in secrecy as no data has been shared…It’s a research project no-one shares information
on their research projects until they are finished. It is also extremely common for companies to have employees sign forms to say they will not discuss any parts of the projects, I’ve had it many times whilst doing baseline surveys before work has even started
to see what flora and fauna may occur on a property. In many cases, the reason no information is shared is because articles published may put out some information, potentially not all the information, and on occasion misinformation which may reflect badly.
How many people are fully aware of what is being done on night parrots? Where is their data? Probably being maintained so that proper peer-reviewed articles
can be published. All companies own the data they collect and it is almost never released until the project is finished.
I don’t know when the birds are being caught, but if it is during the nesting season, then that is because it has been approved by a ethics board, and
everyone who is involved with issuing permits through regulatory government bodies. As mentioned the birds are “presumably netted during the nesting season because they would be widely dispersed and difficult to catch at other times of the year”. Which makes
sense, in terms of resources, which in all research projects are an extremely limiting factor. So
whilst we as the public may be against the idea of it, those considered to have an expert opinion on the matter have deemed the methodology used by Rio et al. to be suitable and not to the detriment of Red Goshawks.
would be the exact same process for a university or any other research team doing the project. It appears that
all the techniques used are widely accepted in raptor research. If Bow nets which “are often used to catch raptors” are being used it is possible the birds could be injured,
however, it was failed to be mentioned that they could also be caught injury free.
Therefore we can only hope, as Greg has said that the “netting and tagging can provide valuable information about the movements“
and as it is the only project being done on cape York at the moment that it is “conducted in moderation and with great care”. As it seems Rio have suggested, there methodology hasn’t been perfect but they have “been able to refine it’s tracking and trapping
techniques”, theoretically to the benefit of the birds.
This happens in all research projects. It’s why you have to report to an ethics board every year. Update them of your project and they have the ability to stop the project at any point if they deem it
unethical, so unlike Michael suggested, you can’t be certain that they are killing at least some of them.