Re:Australian Bustard Decline

To: "Scott O'Keeffe" <>
Subject: Re:Australian Bustard Decline
From: Peter Cheuwon <>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2001 00:55:34 +1030
There does isn't much evidence that Bustards have actually declined recently or 
during the past 40 years, except perhaps near the extremity of their range 
close to
denser, human population areas.  It is more likely
that they are holding their own in most areas although I agree, we must be ever
vigilant.  What are the Atlas comparisons?

>From one observation by Robert Reid re a possible decline of Bustards near 
Springs, in just a couple of days there has been a rapid acceptance that they 
are in
crisis nationally.  Is it possible that the herd mentality not only exists in
financial markets?

Throughout the Kimberley and Top End there are vast areas where access is 
and impacts from hunting and even grazing is minimal. This applies also to the 
Tanami, Gibson, Great Victoria, Simpson, Tirrari, Strzelecki and Sturts Stony 
as well as the Channel Country, Cooper Basin and also the Barkley Tableland. 
In these places there are vast reserves of protected breeding habitat where 
is not permitted or is insignificant and the only real limiting factor are 
climatic conditions.  Yes Scott, Bustards are "slow breeders".   Normally a few 
old before they are successful, they lay only one egg when good seasonal 
occur, so their reproductive potential is low compared to many other birds, 
such as
most other waterfowl.

Its possible that increased predation is occurring where rabbits have declined 
due to
the introduction of Caleci Virus.  The recent biological control of rabbits has
removed a major food source for foxes, cats and dingoes, but lets not jump the 
here, lets have a proper look first.   What actions are you suggesting Scott 
when you
say to apply the "precautionary principle" to Bustard conservation?  How about 
us some examples.

Peter Cheuwon

Scott O'Keeffe wrote:
> I think it is probably likely that we have insufficient knowledge of Bustard
> population dynamics to quantify the impacts of cars, land clearing, hunting,
> poisons, etc.  Are bustards slow breeders?  As long as they continue to
> decline, we should be trying to gather information, while adopting the
> precautionary principle.  We should not be encouraging anything which
> reduces Bustard numbers until we have a very good picture or the relative
> importance of each of the impacts. Although we can make some good guesses
> about what may be contributing most to bustard declines, I have seen nothing
> on this list so far which is in any way conclusive.  The most insistent
> statements in this discussion have been strong opinions, undoubtedly based
> on personal preferences, but they are not ecological "fact".  I have my own
> ideas about what factors may be most important in the decline of bustards.
> Irrespective of how much attachment I have to these pet ideas, they still
> need to be tested. Bustard conservation will necessarily need to be based on
> good ecology.
> Scott O'Keeffe
> -----Original Message-----
> From: 
>  Behalf Of stannard
> Sent: 13 March 2001 01:39
> To:  Russel Woodford
> Subject: [BIRDING-AUS] Re:Australian Bustard Decline
> G,  Day  Birding - auser's,
> Further to what Michael Todd has said [B.aus 11.3.2001] I know from
> personal experience that  parts of Lakefield N.P. has good numbers of
> Bustards, especially on the Northern section where I was based. On the
> Ex Cattle Station Kalpowar, across the Normanby River from Lakefield
> N.P, where I worked in the early 80's, we had to muster the Bustards
> [40+]   from the Airstrip every Monday before the mail plane landed.
> This property is now Vacant Crown Land and subject to native title. When
> visiting the same airstrip and area in Sept 2000, I never saw a Bustard.
> Until 1995, I had been in Cape York for 17 years, and before living
> permanently at the Tip of Cape York, [9 Years] and in my travels around
> Cape York, before, and while working with N.P'S, part of my duties were
> at other Parks in the Cape, this involved a lot of travelling. In the
> early days [1978 on] I always saw Bustards at every camping site,
> tracks, roads, and private property that I visited. The Bustards, Emus
> and Cassowary's were shot out of Bamaga, the Northern Peninsula Area,
> [N. P.A.] in the early seventies, more as a supplement to food supply's
> and feasts rather than sport. In January 1999 and September 2000, my
> family and I spent two weeks travelling and camping in Cape York on the
> way to Bamaga,[ N. P.A.] during that time we saw only one Bustard for
> the whole trip and that was on our friends Cattle Station  on the East
> Coast. I do not believe we can put all the blame for the decline in
> Bustard numbers on habitat change, especially in Far North Qld, up there
> it has not changed very much, what has changed is the amount of
> travellers and vechiles that now visit the N. P.A  and a great majority
> of these travellers are hunters after feral pigs whose mentality is, if
> it moves shoot it. Closer to home we have a healthy population  of
> Bustards at two areas that we visit near the Township of Mt Molloy, Nth
> Queensland.
> Good Birding,
> Ron  Stannard   K.P.B.W.L.
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