Tracking Fig-Parrots With A Wonder Dog
The Coxen’s Fig-parrot is one of Australia’s most endangered parrots. It is an elusive, small green parrot with large patches of blue above its beak and red-orange cheek patches trimmed with maroon-blue. It has a small tail which gives it an almost stumpy appearance. To the untrained eye, it may be mistaken for a lovebird.
There are three sub-species of Fig-parrot in Australia with the Coxen’s being geographically discreet from its north Queensland counterparts. Found in eastern coastal Australia from Gladstone in Queensland south to Port Macquarie in New South Wales, there is very little known about this species. It is believed this little parrot feeds mostly on the seeds of ficus and other native and non-native trees and shrubs and nests in the dead and decaying branches of trees.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has been an integral member of the Coxen’s Fig-parrot Recovery Team since its inception in 1992. Over the past 20 years, Currumbin keepers have worked with the closely related Macleay’s Fig-parrot (Cyclopsitta diopthalma macleayana) to establish breeding and husbandry protocols that will be used in the event that the Coxen’s Fig-parrot is brought into captivity.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary’s newest employee saving endangered species is an English Springer Spaniel named Penny. Penny is a specially trained canine detection dog used by the Sanctuary to detect the Critically Endangered species such as the Eastern Bristlebird.
This canine superstar has already detected individual birds in 5 minutes that have eluded researchers for almost 15 years.
Detector dogs are becoming increasingly popular with conservation organisations to successfully locate either threatened or pest species of animals and plants. Penny trained at Steve Austin’s Conservation K9’s school which set her up as a threatened species hero. At only two years of age, Penny is already proficient in discerning between various target scents and signalling to her handler that a species is present.
Penny’s home is with wildlife officer Shannon Harriden who accompanies her to work throughout the week for ongoing training with colleagues Amy Hamilton and Clancy Hall. Schedules are tight with obedience training, mock scent runs, grooming and exercise, but Penny has already proved her worth.
“We are very happy to be involved in this wonderful program working with the NSW department of Environment and Heritage, and the important work that Penny will do over the time that she will be here working with us at Currumbin” said Director of Sales and Marketing at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Greg Daven
“This is one of a number of endangered species programs that Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is involved in and we are proud to be doing our part for the protection and conservation of some of our most beautiful native animals, as a not for profit organisation and with our hospital we often see the end effects of what happens to our native animals, however programs like this one put us in front of any conflict with animals and humans allowing us to be proactive in the management of the species.” said Daven.