Good point Andrew, I think you're right. This does need some debate. Without
wanting to understate the seriousness of this issue and for the sake of debate,
here are some really quick thoughts.
After an earlier debate on the price of wild parrots I looked up the commercial
price for wild parrots in Australia and came across this document -
The prices really surprised me. It puts the price of adult pair of Princess
Parrot at $80. By contrast the price of a pair of Rainbow Lorikeet is $100 a
pair, Mulga Parrot $120 a pair, Crimson Rosella $150 and interestingly
Scarlet-chested Parrot is only $60. The price of the Port Lincoln race
(zonarius) of the Australian Ringneck is $120 a pair. On pure commercial terms
this means that it's more profitable to target nesting Ringnecks in the trees
in downtown Alice Springs than to target the Princess Parrot west of Alice
Springs. The fines for "unauthorised action with significant impact on listed
threatened species" according to the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are $550,000 (individual)
and $5,500,000 (body corporate), and an offence relating to threatened species
the fine of $46,200 and / or seven years imprisonment (individual). The
Princess Parrot west of Kings Canyon are (relatively speaking) under
significant surveillance from interested groups, such as the Northern
Territory Natural Resources and Environment Dept and the CLC. This makes the
chance of being caught for illegal actions relatively high. It appears to me
that the costs (financial or legal) of illegal procurement of the parrots in
this particular case doesn't add up. I'm more than happy to be contradicted on
this - as mentioned my thoughts are purely speculative and the hole in my
argument may be so large that you could drive a mining truck through it!
Perhaps your second point is more important. The impact of large numbers of
visitors with 'positive' intentions (such as birders and photographers i.e. you
and I, although I'm a hopeless photographer :) may have far more serious
implications for the birds and their environment. As you mention, for example
through the spread of weeds, social and habitat disturbance, increased
potential for fire, etc. Therefore limiting birders and other interested people
from the site, in the way that the CLC, has done is easily the best plan of
action. As an aside it's also worth noting that Santos, one of Australia's
largest oil and gas production companies, is operating very near to the area
that the parrots have been found.
From: Andrew Stafford
Sent: Thursday, December 16, 2010 2:43 PM
To: Tim Dolby; net. au
Subject: Re: Princess Parrot Trips Wrap-Up
Tim and all,
There is one other extremely important matter that has come out of the Princess
Parrot situation that urgently needs to be addressed. It has come up on
birding-aus on many occasions before: the divulging of nesting locations of
On my visit to the site on 3 December I was shown 4WD tracks that led off road
(really, off-track) straight to an advertised GPS location for the birds - in
fact, straight to a nest tree. Those tracks were made by a person who has
inquired about Princess Parrots on this site before.
I am glad to say this person was "sprung" and his vehicle photographed by
someone from the NT's Natural Resources and Environment Dept, who was studying
the birds. I have seen these photographs and on his vehicle was a large ladder.
Although he says he is a photographer himself, the implications and dangers
should be clear to all (quite apart from the extraordinary environmental and
cultural insensitivity involved). The fact that Princess Parrots are common
aviary birds doesn't mean that poachers won't attempt to capture eggs/specimens
of wild birds in an event such as this.
One other matter. Buffel grass is an environmental menace in northern
Australia. It is a weed spread via soil, and is common around Alice Springs.
Since almost everybody who went to see the birds would have come through Alice
the potential for birders being a vector for the spread of the grass (which is
otherwise uncommon in the area where the parrots were breeding) is a legitimate
concern. Our vehicle was not checked for this before our entry to the area -
it's something I became aware of after the fact - and it's something I hope the
CLC will endeavour to guard against in any future trips. I think it's fair to
say, though, that there is a better chance of infestations being controlled if
they know who is heading out there!
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