Rare Plains-wanderers released back into the wild

Rare Plains-wanderers released back into the wild

#Conservation, #Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Posted on 19th October 2021 by Media Relations

Eight critically endangered Plains-wanderers bred at Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo and Taronga Zoo Sydney have been released into the Northern Plains of Victoria as part of the National Recovery Program to help bolster wild populations.

Wild populations of Plains-wanderers have declined dramatically (>90%) over the past 20 years. Estimates suggest there are fewer than 1000 individuals across the two remaining wild habitats in the Northern Plains of Victoria and the Riverina in New South Wales.

This release is part of a collaborative research trial with Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Zoos Victoria, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Parks Victoria, Trust for Nature and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE).

“The release of Taronga-bred Plains-wanderers into Northern Victoria is a momentous milestone for Taronga and the dedicated teams working across both of our zoos to ensure a future for this critically endangered species,” said Taronga CEO, Cameron Kerr.

“Taronga has been involved in the National Recovery Program for the Plains-wanderer since it commenced in 2016. To have zoo-bred birds being released within five years of the program commencing demonstrates the important role that zoos are playing in securing a future for species under threat of extinction.”

“Extensive planning was required for this release with the teams from the partnering organisations overcoming challenges such as border closures. It is a testament to all partners involved that we have been able to work together to ensure this important release could take place despite the challenges,” said Cameron.

Prior to departing Taronga Western Plains Zoo, the birds underwent a pre-release health check to ensure they were all in optimum condition for release into the wild. The birds were then transported to Victoria via a special charter flight, acclimatised on arrival for two days, and then released by Zoos Victoria’s team of conservationists.  

This is the second release of Plains-wanderers into this area of Victoria, with eight birds from Werribee Open Range Zoo released in April this year.

“Bolstering a wild population of a critically endangered species is always an exciting milestone,” said David Parker, Chair of the National Recovery Plan for the Plains-wanderer, and NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment Senior Threatened Species Officer.

“What releases like this remind us of is to have faith and confidence in our conservation work and that through research and science we can and are making a difference for the future of our threatened species.”

Prior to release, all eight Plains-wanderers were fitted with leg bands and radio transmitters to allow researchers to closely monitor the birds and add more data to the knowledge library about this unique species, as part of this release research trial. 

The Plains-wanderer Recovery Team is a collaboration of government and conservation organisations who are working together to save this important native grassland bird from extinction. This includes the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Bush Heritage, Elanus Consulting, Open Plains Ecological Services, Featherdale Wildlife Park, Government of South Australia, NSW Local Land Services, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Northern Plains Conservation Management Network, Parks Victoria, Queensland Department of Environment and Science, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Trust for Nature Victoria, University of Sydney, Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Zoos South Australia, Zoos Victoria and Victorian North Central Catchment Management Authority, and Museums Victoria.

Plains-wanderer released in the Northern Plains of Victoria
Plains-wanderer released in the Northern Plains of Victoria