Record-breaking year for conservation at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Record-breaking year for conservation at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Posted on 07th September 2023 by Media Relations

Celebrating National Threatened Species Day at Taronga Zoo

It’s been another record-breaking year for conservation at Taronga Western Plains Zoo as Australia celebrates National Threatened Species Day today, Thursday 7 September.

Greater Bilbies, Plains-wanderers and Chuditch are all thriving behind the scenes in the Taronga Sanctuary, a 110-hectare feral predator-free area which is home to these key conservation breeding programs.

A recent population survey estimated a record 136 Bilbies now call the Sanctuary home, a 658% increase from 2019 when 18 founders were introduced. In 2022, 32 Bilbies from the Sanctuary were released into Newhaven Sanctuary in the NT.

Greater Bilby during population survey
Greater Bilby during population survey

Earlier this year, Taronga Western Plains Zoo and partners released 12 zoo-bred Plains-wanderers onto the Hay Plains, and last year, 15 Chuditch bred in the Taronga Western Plains Zoo Sanctuary were released into South Australia’s Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park.

“Taronga Western Plains Zoo is a real powerhouse for conservation,” said Manager, Taronga Conservation, Recovery and Restoration Andrew Elphinstone.

“The success we are seeing is a testament to the high-quality care and management of these species in the Taronga Sanctuary, strong partnerships with Government, like-minded zoos and conservation organisations. The future is looking bright with releases being planned for all three species over the next 12 months.”

Greater Bilby release during population survey
Greater Bilby release during population survey

In addition to the Taronga Sanctuary programs, Taronga Western Plains Zoo also hosts a breeding program for the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater, as part of a conservation partnership between the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program and BirdLife Australia.

This program alone has welcomed 107 chicks in just three breeding seasons, with the fourth season currently underway. It is estimated there are as few as 300 Regent Honeyeaters in the wild.

One Dubbo-bred regent honeyeater has set a record of his own, flying 350 km in just 3 months.

The bird, known as OG-Bling due to the four identification bands on his legs (orange, green, pink and metal) was one of 50 regent honeyeaters released in November 2022 in the Lower Hunter Valley, on land owned by Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council.

OG-Bling was found and photographed in the same region in March and April by citizen scientists in Werakata State Conservation Area, near Kurri Kurri.

He was observed socialising with 3 other zoo-bred Regent Honeyeaters and 5 wild honeyeaters.

OG-Bling and the group then left the region, and after a record journey, he was photographed north of Coffs Harbour at the end of July.

The record was previously held by a Taronga Zoo bred bird which was released in Victoria and later sighted 470 km away in south-western Sydney, however 2 years had passed between its release and the sighting in New South Wales.

Taronga Wildlife Conservation Officer Dr Monique Van Sluys was thrilled to hear one of the birds she’d helped through the breeding program is thriving in the wild.

“So much care and effort go into breeding and caring for these birds in Dubbo and Sydney, as well as ensuring we use conservation science to optimise their survival post release,” she said.

“After more than two decades working with this iconic species, we’re continually making improvements and seeing significant resighting results post release and association with wild birds are good signs the programs working, it motivates us to keep working with our partners to ensure this beautiful bird flourishes.”