With fewer than 1,000 pairs left in the wild, the Critically Endangered Swift Parrot is predicted to go extinct within the next 14 years. Each year, Swift Parrots breed along the east coast of Tasmania, and each year, around half of the female Swift Parrots that nest in Tasmania are eaten by introduced Sugar Gliders.
Another significant threat to this gregarious bird’s survival is the loss of its breeding habitat as a direct result of continued logging and clearing in Tasmania.
Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) are 20-year plans negotiated between Federal and State Governments that allow logging in certain areas of native forest. RFAs are exempt from national environmental protection laws, which removes national oversight for protection of threatened species within areas covered by RFAs.
This legal exemption is a huge problem for the Swift Parrot because all of its breeding habitat is in areas covered by the Tasmanian RFA. So even though it’s Critically Endangered, Swift Parrot habitat has been regularly felled over the past 20 years, with the Tasmanian Government approving logging in areas that its own scientists identified as important habitat. Even as recently as 2017, the Tasmanian Government has continued to allow felling of Swift Parrot nesting habitat.
Such a lack of national oversight only compounds the issues for the Swift Parrot which, after breeding in Tasmania, migrates across the Bass Strait as far north as Queensland, crossing multiple jurisdictions. Effectively, any recovery actions taken in one State may be completely undermined by destructive practices in another.
And to add insult to injury, in 2017 Tasmania extended its RFA with the Federal Government, effectively endorsing another 20 years of Swift Parrot habitat destruction and a devastating impact on this species’ future.
The proposed new Environment Act would cover all industries without exception. Logging of native forests will be treated the same as any other activity which impacts on environmental values, for which the Federal Government is responsible.
The new National Sustainability Commission would provide the national leadership required to develop and implement plans to tackle complex and cumulative pressures such as habitat loss and degradation across species’ range.
The Commission would also develop enforceable national species-level conservation plans; ensuring efforts to recover wide-ranging species like the Swift Parrot are coordinated across jurisdictions and removing the capacity for actions taken in one jurisdiction to be undermined by actions elsewhere in the species’ range.
Above: Swift Parrot by Chris Tzaros
Below: Swift Parrot by Andrew Silcocks