Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Near-extinct birds are released back into wild

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Eight critically endangered birds have been released from captivity into the wild to bolster its population after a 90 per cent decline in the past two decades.

Plains Wanderers — small quaillike ground-dwelling birds with yellow legs and bills — are classified as Evolutiona­rily Distinct and Globally Endangered by the Zoological Society of London.

Since 2001, the number of Plains Wanderers in the NSW Riverina and northern-central Victoria has dropped by 90 per cent, with estimates suggesting there are less than 1000 birds left in the wild.

A breeding program to help save the species began at Taronga Zoos in Dubbo and Sydney in 2016.

Eight birds underwent health checks before being taken to Victoria via a charter flight and then released into grasslands in Victoria’s Northern Plains near Torrumbarr­y on October 14.

The birds have been fitted with leg bands and radio transmitte­rs to allow researcher­s to closely monitor them.

The cross-state initiative includes Taronga Conservati­on Society Australia, Zoos Victoria, as well as Victorian and NSW government department­s.

‘‘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,’’ Taronga chief executive Cameron Kerr said.

‘‘Extensive planning was required for this release with the teams from the partnering organisati­ons overcoming challenges such as border closures.

‘‘It is the second release into North Central Victoria this year after another eight birds from Werribee Open Range Zoo were released in April.’’

 ?? ?? ■ RIGHT: One of Australia's most endangered birds — the Plains Wanderer.
■ RIGHT: One of Australia's most endangered birds — the Plains Wanderer.

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