FW: Simon Mustoe Fig / Night parrot

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: FW: Simon Mustoe Fig / Night parrot
From: "Bill Stent" <>
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2007 14:48:21 +1100
Relayed from Simon Mustoe, who seems to be having a little trouble


To whom it may concern,

Along with the Night Parrot piece, an article on fig parrots again
appeared in The Australian. For my part, I am appalled that the
situation calls for national publicity in a newspaper and staggered that
a consultancy stating claim to such a significant finding, could not
present a 'paper trail'. If as suggested in the article, the original
photographs were deleted, this beggars belief. More tellingly, there
appears (from what I have read) to have been talk of other evidence
including other photos, feathers for DNA analysis, nest sites and so
forth. It is all too easy to claim the need to conceal sites to conserve
birds but in this case, that does not deny someone opportunity to
further critique the claim. Other physical evidence is said to have where is it?

This belies a much bigger problem. Readers and contributers to this
forum (and many others) excepted, Australian society and culture largely
believes that we present a shining example of conservation throughout
the world. It is the widely held belief that the lowland rainforest
habitat for Coxen's Fig Parrot is all but gone. Nevertheless, the domain
is huge and it is always possible that somewhere, tucked into an
isolated forest remnant, exists a few birds. At this stage, I hardly
need to draw birding-aussies attention to the ivory-billed woodpecker
situation in the US. However, in that case complete transparency and the
highest level of peer-review has not confirmed for certain, one way or
another. We can learn a lot from this. Where the discovery / rediscovery
of thought-to-be-extinct species is concerned, there is a need to
exercise caution. Hanging hopes on the continued presence of an extinct
species lulls us into a false reality in terms of conservation, stifling
funding for recovery plans, and simultaneously detracting existing
attention and funds from more tangible issues.

Here we have an example of where a huge amount of our money - tax payers
money - is earmarked for work on a bird, for which there is absolutely
no firm evidence in the public domain. Whatever we may think, the
available evidence available is seriously compromised and largely
circumstantial. At the same moment in time, another species that is 'on
the brink' of extinction (night parrot) has been found and a reliable
specimen lodged. Why on earth isn't the money used for this?

I hope that I never have to read about this type of situation again.
Funds should be appropriated for studies on the grounds of complete
independence and transparency. The Queensland government simply cannot
be expected to enter into contracts where data collected by the
consultant is not divulged to the client. When consulting on behalf of
the government, and therefore the public of Australia, all resulting
environment data after all should be available through freedom of
information. As a consultant myself, anything less would in any case be
a serious breach of professional standards of the institutions to which
I am accredited as a practising ecologist. It is hardly surprising
therefore, that everyone is highly reticent about further involvement.


Simon Mustoe.

Full text of article,20867,21232602-30417,00.htm

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