Posted on 15th January 2019 by Media Relations
On the back of Australia Day we want to celebrate a little known Australian - a native bird known as the Plains-wanderer. Whilst you may not have heard about this critically endangered species before, it is very unique. It is the only species in the family Pedionomidae, so if it does become extinct not only will it mean the loss of a species, it will mean the loss of an entire animal family.
Normally with birds the males have the pretty appearance and the females raise the young. Keeper Denyell Woodhouse said for the Plains-wanderer, things are a little different.
“Plains-wanderer females have the stunning appearance and the males are plain brown,” Denyell said.
“When it comes to raising chicks, the females generally have little to nothing to do with egg incubation or rearing the chicks.”
Plains-wanderers may also not be well known because many Australians may mistake the birds for other ground-dwelling birds like the Quail. As numbers drop the chances of seeing Plains-wanderers in the wild decreases and so does awareness.
Plains-wanderers were once found across four states but now have two strongholds in the Riverina area of New South Wales and Victoria. Their numbers have declined due to over grazing by livestock, human intervention of hunting and trapping as well as invasive species such as feral cats and foxes. Droughts and floods with severe storms have also impacted numbers.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is part of the National Recovery Plan for the Plains-wanderer to help save the species from extinction.
“Currently Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to seven Plains-wanderer individuals and is helping to conserve the species with a behind-the-scenes conservation breeding program,” said Denyell.
The Zoo has established a conservation breeding program on site and it is currently breeding season for the species.
“It is nerve racking to have such a big responsibility of looking after such a small and fragile species, literally their future is in your hands.”
“There is nothing more satisfying though in this line of work than being part of the establishment of a conservation project.”
“Hopefully one day I am part of the release program back into the wild, giving this species and its family a fighting chance,” said Denyell.
One way Australians can help wildlife like the Plains-wanderer is if you have a pet cat don’t let it roam outside day or night. Use aviaries, cat runs or even leads to let your cat outside, this will not only protect bird species but reptiles and insects as well.